The moments that made Meat Loaf

Remembering the original bat out of Hell in the songs, albums and live performances that defined his career

Singer, actor, and rock opera legend Meat Loaf has died at the age of 74. Born Marvin Lee Aday but better known as Meat Loaf (turning a cruel nickname given to him by a high school football coach into a rock god alter ego), he started his stage career in 1968 by opening for Van Morrison – using so much dry ice that the venue had to be evacuated. The rest is history… 

The birth of the Hot Patootie

Rocky Horror Picture Show-Hot Patootie-Bless my soul

“I went into the theatre ’cause I hate bars,” Meat Loaf told NME in 1978. “I didn’t want to be stuck in a bar band and go sing Top 40 material. To me that’s as bad as selling out.” Sick of the gig circuit and unimpressed with the record contracts he was being offered at the time, Meat Loaf started his professional career in musical theatre – cast in the original LA production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show as Eddie. Playing the role again for the 1975 film, Meat Loaf gave ‘Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul’ the perfect blend of rock ‘n’ roll edge and musical camp, taking Eddie’s lovelorn goth biker persona with him for the rest of his career. 

Like a bat out of Hell 

Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell (PCM Stereo)

Getting back into music and joining up with composer Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf released his debut album, Bat Out Of Hell, in 1977. Originally turned down by every record label in town, it went on to become one of the biggest-selling albums of all time. Debut single ‘You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth’ joined earnest rock ballads like ‘Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are’ and ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light’, but it was the title track that would go on to become Meat Loaf’s signature song. Released just as the punk scene was exploding, Meat Loaf’s brand of un-ironic, fist-in-the-mouth Broadway rock saw him labelled “the uncoolest man in the universe” by Mojo. “Put it this way,” he told the magazine, “I got used to it quite easily when the album started selling in its millions.”

Doing anything for love

Meat Loaf - I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) (Official Music Video)

Re-recording and expanding Bat Out Of Hell into a bona fide three-disc rock opera, Meat Loaf and Steinman released Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell in 1993 (completing the trilogy in 2006 with The Monster Is Loose). Now opening with the 12-minute power ballad opus ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’, the album became the defining record of Meat Loaf’s career – selling over 14 million records worldwide and winning a Grammy for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance. With a music video directed by Michael Bay and staged to look like The Phantom Of The Opera, ‘I’d Do Anything…’ picked up where Rocky Horror left off to give Meat Loaf the goth musical spotlight he always deserved. 

Getting emotional

Fight Club (1999) Big Bob scene HD

Stepping back into his acting career properly during the 90s and 00s, Meat Loaf appeared in the likes of Wayne’s World, The 51st StateSpice World and The Mighty, but it was his turn as a recovering steroid addict in David Fincher’s 1999 film Fight Club that remains his most memorable. “I hardly spent any time in my trailer for almost 10 months,” he told The AV Club in 2016, remembering hanging out with the famously perfectionist director in the editing suite instead. “Fincher’s average [number of takes] was 44, so we’d sit there and watch 40 takes, and he’d go, ‘Which one did you like the best,’ and I’d say something like, ‘Well, it’s either 24 or 26,’ and he’d say, ‘I agree with you, 26.’”

The legacy

Hanging out on a London street with the UK fanclub!

“Why do I do anything? Nothing is every planned with me. What happens on stage is never planned. What I say to the audience is never planned… I go on stage and I’m playing in a football game. That’s the focus and the energy and the drive.” Earning a reputation as one of the nicest guys in rock ‘n’ roll, Meat Loaf has always been good to his audience – answering random questions on YouTube videos, hanging out personally with the local chapters of his fan club in every city he visited, and always being the warmest, funniest guest on any chat show.

“Getting old is not for wusses,” he joked to the BBC in 2016. “I’ve had 18 concussions. I’ve fallen three stories off a balcony. I’ve been in planes where the landing gear didn’t come down… If I die on stage I want the band to carry on playing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’.  I don’t want to travel and I don’t want to pack, but I do want to keep on doing shows. Two out of three ain’t bad…”