That's how Meat Loaf's autobiography starts. Hold on folks, you're in for one hell of a ride.
You discover which category Meat Loaf falls into pretty early on in the book (which is called To Hell And Back, and no, that isn't just a neat pun on the name of his most famous album). The clue is, well, on the first page: 'What day is it?' Meat asks himself. 'Thursday… so I've lost three days. Not good… Maybe I've had another concussion (I've had more than my fair share). Or perhaps I've slipped into another dimension…'
And that's a pretty good description of Meat Loaf World really. Another dimension, a parallel place that seems like a version of the America we know and love from the movies, but somehow isn't quite right. A world, as I may have mentioned before, where everything is permitted but nothing comes for free, where running for a red light will only get you nowhere fast. It's a world populated by jocks and prom queens, lost boys and red-eyed waitresses; a world of small towns and big ambitions; but if rock'n'roll dreams really do come through then it's more than you deserve. Footloose? Yes, as you slip into the gates of hell. What's Eating Gilbert Grape? Probably Mr Loaf…
Like a dark reflection in a rear view mirror, the Meat Loaf World is closer than it seems. It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.
Jim, I hear you ask? No, not James T Kirk, silly. I'm talking Lord Jim Steinman (ahem), the Svengali genius behind the Meat Loaf character and the Meat Loaf World.
Oh, Meat would be very cross if he read that. He's sick of Dr Jim Frankenstein getting all the credit, just as Jim was sick of Monster Meat hogging the limelight when Bat Out Of Hell went stratospheric back in 1977.
But perhaps, to use another Meaty cliché, I'm jumpin' the gun. Let's go back to the beginning, shall we?
Meat Loaf was born Marvin Lee Aday on 27th September, 1947 in Dallas, Texas. And, as the song goes, from the day he was born, he was trouble. Stubborn, lawless and scarily accident prone, he spent most of his childhood in trouble and the rest in hospital.
A sensitive soul trapped in the body of a professional wrestler, he learnt to act tough the hard way, spending school nights cruising downtown bars with his mother, looking for his alcoholic father. The one who so kindly awarded him his nickname, when he was nothing more than a (rather large) baby.
Quickly learning that Texas wasn't big enough to hold him, Meat moved to California, where he got his first break starring in the hippie musical Hair. And yes, he did have to take his clothes off. Hair brought him to New York, which is where he encountered Jim Steinman. Was there thunder in the sky, when the two first met in a deserted audition room in the Public Theatre, circa 1972? Probably not, but there should been.
As a result of the audition, Meat took on the role of Rabbit, a brain-fried junkie in Michael Weller's off-Broadway play, More Than You Deserve. In the show, he got to sing Steinman's deeply wrong title song… and it brought the house down every time.
Realising that with Steinman's lyrical and musical genius and Meat's mighty voice and larger than life presence, the pair were onto a winner, they started collaborating on more songs, and so were sown the seeds of the infamous Bat Out Of Hell.
But before Bat would go stratospheric, Meat had another slice of history to create: the role of Eddie the brain-fried zombie (spotted the pattern yet?) in the Broadway and film versions of Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show. Being a red-blooded Texan, he almost walked out when he discovered that the show featured men in drag, but eventually managed to allow himself to be talked into slipping on a pair of fishnet stockings (the evidence is there on the sleeve of the Live At The Roxy cast recording). The Broadway show was a howling success, frequented by the likes of John Lennon, Keith Moon and even Elvis. No, thank you very much, Mr Loaf.
Meat and Steinman had been working on and off on Bat since they first met in 1972, but by '75 the album was finally deemed complete. But as so often happens with groundbreaking concepts that eventually prove enormously successful (er, Harry Potter?), nobody wanted to know. Meat and Jim touted the album round countless records companies, but none of them could countenance the idea of releasing a bombastic album of ten minute songs sung by a crazy fat man and written by an obsessive compulsive hoarder with serious issues about personal space.
But on 21st October 1977, Bat Out Of Hell was finally released, on the Cleveland International label. And it took the world by storm.
Since its release, Bat Out Of Hell has sold something in the region of 35 million copies, making it one of the best selling albums in the world, ever. And so it should be, because it is without a doubt one of the best albums in the world, ever. Every song is a jukebox classic (and, of course, you always get your money's worth with a mighty Meat track), from the overblown mini rock opera of the title track through the sublime 'Heaven Can Wait', the buoyant sound of summer that is 'You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth', the tragic comedy of 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' and the final, soul destroying epic 'For Crying Out Loud'. 'I know you belong inside my aching heart/ And can't you see my faded Levi's bursting apart?' I mean, who writes lines like that now? Genius! Absolute genius! If I were stuck on a desert island (with or without Captain Jack Sparrow), I could listen to this album forever and never tire of its grandiloquent power, its aching beauty and its cheeky, dirty sense of humour.
Each song on Bat is perfect in itself, but together they make for a rollercoaster emotional ride that can lift you, soaring on angels' wings, to the highest romantic peak, before plummeting you down slap bang into the main drag of a small town in middle America. Heaven and hell, life and death, love, sex, cars and rock'n'roll: like Meat Loaf, Bat Out Of Hell is simply huge.
Never the most balanced of individuals (physically as well as mentally - it takes a special kind of clumsiness to achieve eighteen concussions in one lifetime), the success of Bat went right to Meat's fat head. Over work, over exposure and over indulgence all conspired to tip him every so slightly over the edge. Which I think is where we came in.
However, in 1979, Meat met the love of his life, Leslie. In true rock'n'roll fashion, the pair were married (at Todd Rundgren's house, no less) just 21 days after their first meeting.
Not that Meat would have much time to enjoy his marital bliss: the record company wanted a follow up to Bat, and they wanted it now. But work on Bad For Good, as the new album was to be called, wasn't going well. Jim and Meat were arguing constantly, Meat lost his voice and one of the songs was going to be called 'Dancing in my Pants'… need I say more?
So instead, Steinman recorded the album himself and Meat took some time out to star as Travis Redfish in the ludicrous rock'n'roll road movie, Roadie. Despite starring Meat, Debbie Harry and, best of all, Alice Cooper, it still isn't terribly good, and goes on for far too long, but it does have its moments. The bit where Travis has to fix an alien spaceship is funny - and just about sums up the ridiculousness of the film, really.
1981 saw the release of the second Meat/Jim collaboration, Dead Ringer. Although not quite on the epic scale of Bat, it's nevertheless a monster of an album, featuring all the usual Loaf/Steinman preoccupations: escaping from a stifling small town ('Peel Out'); the wily ways of women ('I'll Kill You If You Don't Come Back' and the classic 'More Than You Deserve'); the Meat superhero rushing to the rescue ('I'm Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us'); and, of course, that karaoke favourite, 'Dead Ringer For Love', a feisty boogie-woogie duet with a pre-plastic surgery Cher.
Speaking of which, have you seen the video for 'Dead Ringer For Love'? (And if so, have you stopped laughing yet?) Well, that's actually a scene from what was to be the Meat Loaf Movie, in which the Mighty Loaf was to play himself and his biggest fan. (Geddit? Dead Ringers? Yuh.) But barely was the film made before it was confiscated by sheriffs as evidence in a case against Meat's dastardly managers - not such a bad thing, he admits, as it was 'a victim of major self-indulgence', which is probably putting it mildly. But, again, we're jumping the gun.
In 1983, estranged from Steinman, Meat brought out his third album, Midnight At The Lost and Found. Meat himself acknowledges it's not the greatest album in the universe: 'Even I wasn't happy with the stupid songs I'd written,' he admits. But really, one slightly crap album (and to be fair, some of the songs, like the title track and a pleasing ballad, 'Don't You Look At Me Like That', are pretty good) was the last of Meat Loaf's worries. A serious fall out with his corrupt managers led to bankruptcy as they sued him for everything he had. Worst of all, Steinman stepped into the ring and sued him as well.
From 1981 to 1991, Meat Loaf really was in hell.
But during all that nightmare time, he never stopped making music. Midnight At The Lost and Found was quickly followed by the far superior Bad Attitude, released in 1984. With input from Steinman and John Parr (of 'St Elmo's Fire' fame), it's a solid, workmanlike and thoroughly entertaining album, featuring a spirited duet with Roger Daltrey as the title track, the hit single and slightly bizarre Nietzschean fantasy 'Modern Girl' and the trademark power ballad 'Surf's Up' (featuring the immortal Steinman line 'Surf's up and so am I').
A pity the same couldn't be said for the album that followed, the abysmal Blind Before I Stop (1985). At least Meat was as horrified to hear a dance beat superimposed on his songs as everyone who bought the album… but then what can you expect when you get the guy responsible for Milli Vanilli (yes, really) to produce a rock album? So don't bother with BBIS - instead, get the Live At Wembley album, recorded at the same time, and check out 'Rock'n'Roll Mercenaries' and 'Blind Before I Stop' as they were supposed to sound.
By the end of the 1980s, the financial and legal nightmares were beginning to recede, Meat was touring with a vengeance and Bat Out Of Hell was as popular as ever, still selling copies by the shed-load. Then the moment Meat fans had been waiting for finally arrived: in 1990 the Big Man made his peace with Jim Steinman and the pair started work on Bat Out Of Hell II, which was destined to catapult Meat Loaf back into the limelight. Magpie-like, Steinman had been hoarding songs for the album since the early '70s and had a huge stock to draw on. He played Meat 'I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)' and that was it: the dynamic duo was back in action.
Like Bat I, Bat II is a real magnum opus, stuffed with lengthy epic songs that each tell their own ever-so-slightly unbalanced stories. 'I Would Do Anything' is beautifully bizarre even by Steinman's standards ('Can you build an Emerald City with these grains of sand?' Nope? Well that's you dumped then…); 'Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are' is a true masterpiece, a series of epiphanies enshrined in song; whilst 'Rock'n'roll Dreams Come Through' simply soars.
Meat toured with Bat II, and I finally got to see the Master perform live. And it's one of the best gigs I have ever been to: pure, uplifting, amazing rock'n'roll, with everything louder than everything else. Meat truly is an awesome showman, throwing himself 100 per cent into performing live and holding his audience utterly spellbound. And as for that voice… it does, almost literally, blow you away.
Since Bat II, Meat and Steinman have again gone their separate ways, although Jim did contribute a couple of songs to Meat's follow up album, Welcome to the Neighbourhood, including the rather wonderful 'Left In The Dark Again'. With contributions from stellar soft rock songsmith Diane Warren (who penned, amongst others, the hit single 'I'd Lie For You (And That's The Truth)'), Tom Waits ('Martha') and Sammy Hagar ('Amnesty Is Granted'), Neighbourhood is not an album to be sniffed at, even if Meat's attempts to drag himself into the '90s by singing about condoms ('When The Rubber Meets The Road') is a wee bit suspect…
2003's Couldn't Have Said It Better is a sort of pale imitation of Neighbourhood, but it's still worth a listen, and it gave us a chance to see the Mighty Loaf again, this time at the Glasgow SECC (you can read my review here). The tour claimed to be the Last World Tour, but with plans for a new Loaf/Steinman collaboration in the form of Bat Out Of Hell III, let's hope that's not the case.
But whilst the musical output may have slowed down, Meat's second love, acting, has come to the fore once more, with a graduation from 'playing himself' roles in the likes of Wayne's World to really rather excellent performances in Fight Club and the vastly underrated 51st State.
Meanwhile, Lord Steinman went on to write for Celine Dion (eek!) and to collaborate with none other than Lord Lloyd Webber, writing the lyrics for the musical Whistle Down the Wind, which I saw a few years ago and, what can I say? Other than, I'm not sure what Andrew Lloyd Webber actually contributed, as the whole musical certainly bears all the hallmarks of a complete Steinman score!
So there we have it: the History of Meat Loaf. But just what is it about the Big Man that makes him so appealing? It can't be his looks, so is it his larger than life personality: passionate, committed and not a little aggressive; verbose, outspoken and clearly stark staring mad? Or perhaps it's his awesome voice, his brilliant sense of showmanship and incredible talent for entertaining? Or is it the magic of the Meat Loaf World, that golden alternate universe that really does offer you a glimpse of paradise… by the dashboard light, at any rate?
Who knows. Tell you what, let's finish with the words of one of the songs from Meat's last album, 'Tear Me Down':
Couldn't have said it better.
Ye gods, who'd have thought it? Monday 23rd October 2006 saw the long awaited (and to some extent, unexpected) release of Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster is Loose. And what a monster it is, a massive, spinetingling, overblown, glorious, gorgeous epic that sends the spirit soaring.
With the majority of the music penned by the mighty Lord Jim Steinman, and additional traxx contributed by those hitmongers supreme, Desmond Childs and Diane Warren, this album is bursting at the seams with aching power ballads, sweeping strings and orchestral majesty, thundering piano chords and guitar riffs that could wring your heart dry. And with special appearances by Bat stalwart Todd Rudgren, and geetar meisters Steve Vai and Brian May, it carries the rock royalty seal of approval.
The title track is a huge powerhouse of a song, an epic blend of Steinman pomposity overlaid with a fantastic heavy rock sensibility, courtesy of Nikki Sixx and John 5, of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie fame. And it's over seven minutes long - hooray! Ballads 'Blind As A Bat' and 'Cry Over Me' are as big as Meat himself while 'Monstro' is Mr Loaf's answer to 'Carmina Burana', if you can imagine that...
And then we have the Steinman traxx. 'It's All Coming Back To Me Now' is a fabulous power ballad originally recorded by Celine Dion but taken to new heights of overblown emotional drama by the Meat Meister and gorgeous, '80s-tastic guest vocalist Marion Raven. 'Bad For Good' (plus unmistakeable lixx courtesty of the inimitable Brian May) is vintage LJS archive material, culled from his 1970s heyday; 'In The Land Of The Pig The Butcher Is King', which begins like Metallica in their symphony orchestra phase, has to win the prize for most crazy song title of 2006, and is a true unhinged Meat epic, while 'If It Ain't Broke Break It' is pure rock'n'roll joy.
Fair enuff, this is not a flawless album like Bat I. A lot of the songs do sound very familiar ('Seize The Night' shamelessly plunders the riff from Bat II's 'Wasted Youth' while 'What About Love' is Bonnie Tyler's 'Have You Ever Seen The Rain?' with different lyrics) but it's an awesome return to form all the same for the indestructible Mr Loaf. All the familiar Meaty themes are present and correct: running fast but going nowhere; stormy nights and long, cold, lonely days; aching nostalgia and a lust for life so huge and all-encompassing it could raise you up on even the darkest day.
Nearly 30 years after Bat I first launched itself into the rock'n'roll record books, Meat is still at the top of his game. To paraphrase the words of 'Alive', Desmond Childs' glorious Steinman tribute: 'that's right, Meat got away with it all and he's still alive'. Phew!