I have come to the conclusion that Meat Loaf, the musician - not the food, is a genius. Or at least, a really talented artist. I may be alone in this estimation, but I have decided that's okay. This is about giving credit where credit is due. I think many people who were in high school when Bat out of Hell was released might agree. Maybe they wouldn't. For me, nearly thirty years later I need only hear the first few lines of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" and I am right back in high school.
Actually I am at my parents' house, my house - the one I grew up in, the one they still live in - and we are having a party. It's what we called a "barn party" since my parents would agree to let us have a party - keg and all - as long as we kept it to the barn and the driveway. Was it the fall of '79? Anyway it was fall and it was a bit chilly and the barn wasn't heated - besides the big doors being wide open - and we didn't care one bit. We were having a party, we were drinking our beers out of plastic cups, we were hanging out with our friends and life was just so great. Nothing else mattered at that moment. And some of us had crushes on others. In some cases they were returned and in some they weren't. But they were secret crushes, so no one knew if they should be elated or devastated. They only knew that possibilities were out there that made the evening seem sort of electric.
We had managed to plug a turntable into an outlet somewhere in the barn so that we could have music, and of course, we were blasting it. Someone put on the Meat Loaf album and when "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" came on, we began to pay more attention to the music. It wasn't just in the background, we were listening intently - some sort of mumbling the words, some not. And then, when it came to the part where the baseball announcer is announcing the guy's moves as he and his girlfriend go from first to second and almost to third base, everyone was completely quiet - until the moment when the announcer says that the guy is just about to make it to third base and suddenly the voice of a woman - accompanied by the voices of everyone at our barn party - screams out "Stop right there, I gotta know right now..." We were teenagers with hormones. We thought we knew what love was. We thought we knew what life was. And while really we didn't know all that much, somehow we knew that that song hit the nail on the head. We laughed when he came to the verse "So now I'm praying for the end of time..." because it was funny. It was also incredibly sad, and deep down we knew that. But we were young and strong and OUR lives were all going to have happy endings. That was part of the genius of the song. As sad and poignant as the story it told actually was (even prophetic for some of our friends), it had the ability to make us laugh away the pain.
Now, since out of nostalgia I have purchased a number of Meat Loaf's songs for my i-Pod, I listen to them and realize how many chords they still touch. "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" will always bring me back to our barn party, but the others are timeless. "For Crying Out Loud," "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" - these are incredible ballads that are about real gut feelings not just sappy feel good crap. Anyway, that's my opinion.