When my youngest son was in middle school, he loved speaking in accents. One of my favorite questions to ask him was, "What are the top three rock and roll albums of all times?" He would invariably respond with his best Billy Idol impression so thickly laced with a British accent it was barely intelligible:
"The taup hree rok 'n rull albums uf all tim arr:
Bat out uf 'ell 1.
Bat out uf 'ell 1 and
Bat out uf 'ell 1, but maybe not in that order!"
I am not sure that I agree with "Billy's list", but "Bat Out of Hell" was one of the biggest selling rock albums of all time. Meatloaf did not invent rock operas, but he did them as well as anyone and better than most. I had never seen anyone put so much into a performance as he did. It would have been comical if he had not been able to convince you that this music was serious. And because he believed it, he could convince you to believe it too. During a concert in 1978, he broke his leg from a fall off the stage. He completed the rest of the tour in a wheelchair. He passed out during one concert due to dehydration. (To watch him live, there is some question why he did not pass out during every performance).
I woke up this morning to hear that Meatloaf had passed away at the age of 74. I will have to admit I was pretty saddened by the news. I am more of a singer/songwriter kinda guy. Love the music from the British Invasion. I am sucker for horn bands. Meatloaf, for the most part, was not my kind of music, but there was never any denying his place in rock stardom.
Meatloaf (or Michael Lee Aday) was a singer/songwriter/actor/and rock personality. After a little looking on-line this morning, I was shocked to hear that "Bat Out of Hell" was the largest selling album of all time in the UK (the Beatles were from the UK, you know!). It is estimated that he sold over 200,000 albums during his career. He won an award for the best vocal performance for "I'd Do Anything for Love".
He was offered the lead roll in "The Phantom of the Opera". He was offered the lead vocalist position in Foreigner. He turned these offers down. (Michael was the second choice for the role of Bluto in Animal House). He originally turned down the role as Eddie in Rocky Horror Picture Show. He was convinced to try one performance and the crowd's reaction convinced him to continue his role in the musical and the movie (I need to check my memory on this and find a reference, but that is what I remember).
For all the things he accomplished and those he chose not to, he ended up with a substantial catalogue of acting credits in addition to his music career. But, the magic was in his voice. It was always his voice. He held nothing back. Each performance was as strong as the one before. The arrangements were beautiful, the musicianship was spectacular, but they were all there to showcase the performer and his voice.
Performers are salesmen. They have to be in the business of sales. Little Anthony and Imperials knew how to sell a song. When Little Anthony was done with a tune, you believed that it was his story. He felt the joy/pain or what ever the song was about and conveyed it to his audience. He was selling his song.
James Brown . . . I would only do him a disservice by trying to describe him onstage, but he did not get the title of "The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz" for nothing.
Bruce Springstein never lets you doubt for a moment that he knows what he is singing about. If he did not live the song, he knew the person that did. He sings from experience. He is authentic and never lets you forget it. To be perfectly honest, I am familiar with only a few of Meatloafs songs, but "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad", "I'd Do Anything for Love" and yes, even "Bat Out of Hell" are amazing. For these three songs (and I know there are so many others), I never doubted his desire to bring them to life with every fiber of his being. He believed in what he was singing and I was willing to go along with him for the ride.
Anyway, regardless of Meatloaf's place in my personal musical favorites, his passion and stage presence was undeniable. He will be missed.