Sunday, April 25, 2021

Bat out of hell

    Jim Steinman died in Connecticut Monday, and that evening I held my own little tribute, and didn't even know it.
     I walk the dog three times a day. In the morning, I often listen to a podcast, something like Molly Jong-Fast's "The New Abnormal." In the afternoon, usually Audible, this week George Saunders' "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline." 
     But by evening a little music is often called for. For some reason, Monday, I felt nostalgic, so listened to a few cuts from Elton John's "Blue Moves." 
    "On a bench, on a beach, just before the sun had gone, I tried to reach you...
Bernie Taupin could pen a lyric.
     Then I listened to "Bat out of Hell," all 10 minutes of it. I remember when the album came out in 1977, in the fall of my senior year of high school. The title song was written for 17-year-olds, and it summed up my entire worldview at that point. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, but I sure as hell wasn't going to do it in Berea, Ohio.
     The album had memorable cover art—a pumped-up romance novel cover hero bursting out of a graveyard on an apocalyptic motorcycle. It was produced by Todd Rundgren, who thought the whole thing a hilarious parody of Bruce Springsteen. It kinda was, and a few members of the E Street Band, Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg, actually play on the album.    
     Around that time, Meat Loaf appeared on Saturday Night Life, looking like the the bloated corpse of Elvis, stringy wet hair in his face, drown in sweat, holding a scarf, eyes crazy. I can't say I was a fan, as such. He was weird.
     And no, the New York Times never referred to him as "Mr. Loaf" on second reference. That's a myth. I checked.
     Steinman played piano on the song, and wrote a number of other standards that are big and dramatic and hold up—Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart," sort of the distaff version of "Bat Out of Hell," fate conquered, not through escape, but by powering past confusion into love. "I don't know what to do, I'm always in the dark, living in a powder keg and giving off sparks..."
     "Bat Out of Hell" came to its götterdämmerung conclusion just as Kitty and I padded down the darkened Center Avenue toward our big old house, lit up like a cruise ship. I idly mused that there would be no "bat out of hell" escape for me now. I don't want it, and couldn't figure out how to achieve one even if I did. There's no need; I fled home once, and found this, everything I was ever looking for, and more. With the help of that song. So thanks Jim. Rest in peace.


  1. Since you mentioned SNL, they're having Elon Musk as guest host that night.
    Should be a barrel of laughs.

  2. I think, to be fair to the New York Times and urban legend debunking in general here, that you've got a bit of hairsplitting going on as to whether they ever referred to him as "Mr. Loaf," secondary or otherwise. They did indeed, in 1991, but only in a joking, self-referential way, and a quick Google turns up their own discussion of it in 2007: "The Times has been ridiculed for using 'Mr. Loaf' as a second reference to Meat Loaf, and we did. In 1991, in a headline, on a review that began '"May I call you Meat?" asks an unctuous interviewer who pops up periodically throughout "Dead Ringer," a movie about the travails of being the rock star Meat Loaf,' our headline read: 'Is He Called Just Plain Meat Or Should It Be Mr. Loaf?' In other words, we didn't mean it."


    At the risk of piling on, you had (up until a few minutes ago) "Stedman" (Graham?) rather than "Steinman" as your second reference when talking about who played keyboards, but I know that's an easy fix. Auto-correct is my own worst enema.

    1. I agree with you Andy -- if that's the only example of the NYT using "Mr. Loaf", then it doesn't count since they were making a joke of it. Plus, it's not actually a "second reference" anyway.

      Alas, I'd like to see what reference Neil intended to share, but his link doesn't work.

      That being said, I found your linked article by the Director of Copy Desks quite interesting. On the one hand, she writes that "Copy editors ... have great instincts for sniffing out suspicious or incorrect facts or things that just don't make sense in context." But later she specifically says that "Only The Magazine has people who are employed solely as fact-checkers. For everyone else, we rely on reporters to be their own fact-checkers, so the copy desk acts mostly as a backup, with fact-checking duties varying by desk."

      Though that doesn't do much to explain why they haven't fixed errors in the past, after the fact, that our intrepid host has pointed out to them.

  3. I love those synchronicities.

  4. I have to confess, I never heard of Jim Steinman, but I sure have sung along to Paradise by the Dashboard Lights many times. I remember it playing many years ago and an extended family party, and my kids of been both impressed and horrified by my knowledge of the lyrics. Full disclosure: I don't know the Phil Rizzuto interlude as well as the rest.

    1. Hmmm... Your kids would rather not contemplate their mom ever having been "barely seventeen" and/or "barely dressed?" Odd.

  5. Lessons in teenage angst; Carole King’s ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ and Jim Steinman’s ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Lights’. Many of us had to deal with these situations in our teenage coming of age while our desires battled against whatever moral compass we had installed. Guilt and shame. Love versus lust. Life decisions made at such an early age.


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