by Ralph Greco Jr.
As days tick by, especially during the past decade or so, I am reminded that there’s nothing much in the modern world that holds any forward motion for me anymore. I realize at the ripe old age of 60 this is as it should be; machines, as well as humans, become obsolete over time. So, I march on, trying as best I can to distract myself and simply dig in deeper with the people I love.
But then somebody like an Ann Rice, a Charlie Watts (who I wrote about in these pages a few weeks back) Dick Halligan, or Louie Anderson forgive this mortal coil, and even though I didn’t know any of these people (though I met Watts and Rice once, not at the same time though), their deaths hit me especially hard. It’s not only because I was a fan of their work, but I mourn what I consider greats leaving with not so many greats left or coming up that touch me with their output.
Again, this is as it should be. Popular art is generally made for an age group I am well-aged out of now. I get it. The music of this day, movies and television shouldn’t speak to me. They are generally not concerned with themes I can relate to anymore, leaden with technologies I pretty much abhor, milking so far from the source material (or creators) of a franchise that, for me, the well has run dry.
Yes, there are exceptions, I am often surprised to find, but they are few and far between. Could I have done without any of what has come my way since the turn of the century? Sure. What still sends chills up my spine from the ’60s and ‘70s…no freaking way!
But when somebody like Meat Loaf dies, man, I am done in, feel so alone, can’t seem to find my footing.
Why Mr. Meat more than the others mentioned, all of whom I love?
It’s not because Meat Loaf and his most infamous songwriter/partner Jim Steinman created, what is for me, one of the greatest rock albums in “Bat Out of Hell.” Or that Meat Loaf and his band (including Mr. Steinman playing piano) was the very first rock concert I saw. Or that Meat and Jim—as I came to call them because we were that close—epitomized the antithesis of rock and roll stars. What shone through most to endear Meat Loaf and by extension Steinman to me was the tenacity in their often, volatile friendship fueling their rise to stardom not once, but twice, over insurmountable odds and a record business that certainly loathed them the first time around and were all but left with their pants down round their ankles when the duo managed to have a mega success, again, sixteen years after their initial meteoric rise.
The original “Bat Out of Hell” ranks among the top-selling albums of all time and is estimated to sell 200,000 copies annually…and it was released in 1977. “Bat Out of Hell 11, Back into Hell” hit number one in the U.S. U.K. and Australia, spawning five hit singles, and, what seemed at the time, the ubiquitous “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That”) reaching the top in 28 countries.
Hell yeah, there was the music and the incendiary stage shows. The marriage of Wagnerian tropes with 50’s rock and roll dynamism, and there was the humor that so many people missed. But for me, Meat Loaf, standing and growling on stage or peering out from the back of an album cover with a red scarf in his hand, revealed to me that this music, this art, this man and his partner were about something that mattered, beyond the pretty puckered boy guitar players and saccharine pop they were, in no small way, parodying.
I really loved Meat Loaf, and Jim Steinman, for what I imagined they stood for, which is ever in so short supply in my life these days; the hope of Herculean dreams.