Meatloaf vs Margot Timmins

In a bizzaro world universe where taste and trends and high vs low mean nothing– I should really hand off to Carl Wilson here– ‘Bat out of Hell’ by Meatloaf would be considered as important a record as ‘The White Album’ or ‘Blood on the Tracks’ or ‘Nevermind’ or ‘1999’. To say that the record exploded on the scene– the ‘scene’ being mostly FM radio and summer tours and whatever cool t-shirts were selling at the mall– would be to understate the effect of the Meat and his tour de force: a Jim Steinman-written fantasyscape of men chased by cartoon lionesses riding minotaurs across a post-apocalytpic middle America. ‘Bat out of Hell’ is the musical equivalent of van art; an airbrushed rock and roll masterpiece that’s part West Side Story, part radio drama, part Trans Siberian Express, part Zeppelin IV, and part what-if-Bruce-Springsteen-loved-prog-theatre-as-much-as-50s-rock-and-roll (why ‘Bat Out of Hell’ isn’t yet a Broadway musical is beyond me). It was also a hit machine, produced two legendary summer radio songs: ‘Two out of Three Ain’t Bad,’ and this one, ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light,’ which piggybacked on the 50s retro of ‘Happy Days’ and ‘American Graffitti.’ Meatloaf, himself, was also iconic in the sense that he looked as if having burst, Hulk-like, from his coveralls: a regular dude who had rock and roll dreams, and whose dreams were realized as America’s waistlines widened and excess was still the focus of middle-class celebration. The album, and the live show, had a recurring cast (including Creem Dream Karla de Vito, although it’s Ellen Foley on the 45) and if Bruce Springsteen coming back for one more song after playing for four hours was the hood ornament of American rock and roll at the time, Meatloaf collapsing drenched in sweat– waistcoat open, tie undone, pants crawling down his ass– was its grille-face. To poach from what people used to say about Trudeau vs Levesque, if Springsteen was how America saw itself, Meatloaf was how it actually was. And like America, the Meat could not hold. None of his other albums came close to ‘Bat out of Hell’s’ mighty sound and air-sick dips and dives. I’ve never met the Meat– I want to meet the Meat– but Cowboy Junkies’ Margot Timmins did, at the MLB all-star game. The story, according to a technician friend, is that Margot was singing ‘O Canada’, and Meat was singing ‘God Bless America.’ Margot was terrified having to perform for 60, 000 people, but Meat couldn’t understand why. Margot said something like, ‘It’s my country’s anthem, and there’s all those people.” Meat said, “But you’ve got a tape, right?” Margot said she didn’t. “Oh, man!” said the Meat. “Those people, this stadium! You’ve gotta have a tape!”

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