With the possible exception of Tiny Tim, Marvin Lee Aday, the man who became Meat Loaf, was probably the most unlikely rock star ever to grace the world’s stages. An overweight, stringy-haired eccentric with a flair for the theatrical, and with a leather-lunged bellow that could topple bricks, he spent the first few years of his musical career scraping the bottom of the charts as part of underrated soul-rock duo Stoney And Meatloaf.
He then made a minor but memorable inroad into pop culture history with his turn as motorcycle maniac Eddie in both the 1974 Broadway production and the subsequent ’75 film of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Then two years later he suddenly and shockingly went supernova.
Meat Loaf is 50 per cent responsible for 1977’s Bat Out Of Hell, one of the biggest-selling rock albums of all time – to date it has stacked up sales in excess of 50 million copies – and truly one of the greatest. Meat and his half-mad, black-gloved songwriting partner Jim Steinman were an unlikely but unforgettable act.
Bat Out Of Hell was the pinnacle of bizarre but majestic 70s rock’n’roll excess, and will probably never be matched. Which doesn’t mean Meat didn’t try. The ensuing decades found him delving into everything from acting (let us never forget his star turn as a big-tittied revolutionary in Fight Club, or the ever-suffering bus driver in Spice World), to short-fused reality TV star (the Trump-starring The Apprentice) and best-selling author.
He also continued making music, sometimes with Steinman back in the fold, including a surprise early-90s comeback with the ear-worming, lyrically confusing pop-goth power ballad I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). It was a hell of a ride.
Meat has had many highs and lows in his six-decade career, but he will certainly be most remembered as the gutter-operatic, sopping-wet, horny man-mountain who carved his own bombastic scarf-rock niche into the culture and made rock’n’roll even bigger and weirder in the process. Here we take a look at the wild world of Meat Loaf albums. And while we may wince here and there, let’s also give the guy who sang Bat Out Of Hell his due.
11. Blind Before I Stop (1986)
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Although there are some truly deplorable albums near the tail end of Meat’s career, when his voice was thoroughly shot and his choice of collaborators went all goofy (let us not forget that he did a song with Lil’ John and the Sugar Ray guy in 2011), this album is still worse.
Desperate to find some niche to survive the 80s, an on-the-ropes Meat teamed up with Milli Vanilli producer Frank Farian and created a pastel-coloured collection of synth blasts and funky bass pops. There are a couple of minor highlights – the muscular Masculine and the raucous Rock N’ Roll Hero – but for the most part this one’s junk.
12. Braver Than We Are (2016)
Let’s just get this mess out of the way first. While it was touted as Meat’s first Steinman-dominated album in a decade, it should be noted that most of it is decades-old scraps from abandoned musicals, as well as songs previously flopped by Bonnie Tyler and Sisters of Mercy.
Compounding the tired material was Meat’s increasingly weak voice, a squeaky shadow of its former grandeur. It’s bad, man. Of course, everybody was still on Meat’s side, blah-blah-blah, but if you get through it all in one sitting you are definitely braver than I am.
11. Hell in a Handbasket (2011)
At the time Meat was making this record, he was the belligerent star of Celebrity Apprentice and during the course of that season he recorded a charity single with some of his “all-star” teammates, Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath, country singer John Rich (Big & Rich) and rapper Lil’ Jon. It’s featured here. It’s called Sand In The Storm and it’s a terrible mish-mash of clashing styles.
Elsewhere Public Enemy’s Chuck D shows up for a rap cameo, and Meat butchers California Dreamin’ for what seems like an hour. None of this would even be that bad if his voice held up, but he was already struggling to hit notes. And with no Steinman on deck, Meat utilises a handful of songwriters who have no idea what do with him. Just a mess.
10. Couldn’t Have Said It Better (2003)
Wherein Meat goes it alone, eschewing any Steinman songs completely and employing a handful of writers (including Nikki Sixx) to create tepid soundalikes. Meat was riding high on sold-out greatest hits tours at this point and wanted to create some new classics to add to the repertoire. It did not happen here.
9. Midnight at the Lost and Found (1983)
Another album created during a rift between Meat and Steinman, Midnight features a crack studio band that included Rick Derringer and Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington, but the songs (many co-written by Meat himself) are weak and lack the pomp and circumstance of classic Meat Loaf.
To make matters worse, two of the songs Steinman originally slated for the album and sold to other performers became massive hits. Both Air Supply’s Making Love (Out of Nothing at All) and Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart would have been on Midnight had the fellas not been feuding.
8. Welcome to the Neighbourhood (1995)
Two years after the massive success of Bat II, Meat offered up this relationship-gone-awry concept record. And while it failed to produce any real hits of note, it went platinum anyway.
Seven-minute single I’d Lie For You (And That’s The Truth) is primo to-the-limits Meat Loaf, but the album is fairly bristling with pleasantly hooky hard rock from beginning to end, and the songwriting credits are stuffed with legends including Steinman, Sammy Hagar and Steven Van Zandt. It was not the heart-stopping follow-up anyone hoped for after Bat Out Of Hell II, but it’s still a solid collection of crunchy AOR.
7. Bad Attitude (1984)
Much like Alice Cooper, Meat has always been one to follow the prevailing trends in rock music when concocting his latest album. Created during the relentless glam-metal wave of the mid-80s, this is Meat’s hardest-rocking record, a veritable orgy of shredding and whooping.
Buoyed by the storming single Modern Girls (which went nowhere, but everybody was pretty busy with Billy Idol and Van Halen at the time), Bad Attitude featured guitars by Bruce Kulick (Kiss) and a duet with Roger Daltrey on the title track. This was Meat’s attempt to keep up with the kids. And for the most part he did.
6. Stoney and Meatloaf (1971)
Proof that pre-Steinman Meat was just as theatrical and pleasantly overblown as post, this minor gem was concocted while Meat and Shaun “Stoney” Murphy were both cast members in hippie musical Hair. Signed to Motown’s short-lived rock subsidiary Rare Earth Records, S&M is very much in line with Motown’s vision, a frothy stew of brass and thunder, full bluesy R&B and sexed-up gospel-rock.
The highlight, in title alone even, is opener (I’d Love to Be) As Heavy As Jesus, which has to be the most Meat Loaf-y phrase of all time. The album was re-released with a shuffled tracklist and the ugliest cover imaginable in ’78 to capitalise on Meat’s ascent.
5. Bat Out of Hell III (2006)
The title is sorta disingenuous. Steinman and Meat were in a legal battle over ownership of the Bat Out Of Hell phrase, so Steinman relinquished production to the slightly less bombastic Desmond Child. And we do mean slightly, as this is still an incredibly over-the-top album. Most of the songs were written by Steinman, but not as a continuation of the Bat Out Of Hell theme (whatever that is).
Still, it’s a solid collection of overwrought Meat-jams, with another monster power ballad (It’s All Coming Back To Me Now) and a zingy metallic opener, The Monster Is Loose, written by Nikki Sixx and John 5.
4. Deadringer (1981)
In 1980, Meat was nursing his tour-ruined vocal cords and starring in low-budget comedy Roadie. His partner, Jim Steinman, recorded Bad for Good, the follow-up to Bat, without him. But while working on that album, he wrote this one. When Meat’s voice kicked back in, he bashed out this fine return-to-form.
More low-key and less concept-y than Bat, it nonetheless satisfies the itch for epic, Wagnerian rock’n’roll and is anchored by three strong singles, Read ‘Em And Weep, I’m Gonna Lover Her For The Both Of Us, and the title track, a duet with Cher. Like a lot of his non-Bat albums, this one got sorta lost in the shuffle, but it’s one of his best.
3. Hang Cool Teddybear (2010)
Another concept album. Each song on the album represents the dreams of a wounded soldier. Or something like that. Meat really went all-in on this one. No Steinman but instead of hiring murky background songwriters, Meat hired high-impact types like Justin Hawkins, Jon Bon Jovi, Desmond Child, and Foxy Shazam’s Eric Nally and peppered the album with cameos from Brian May, Steve Vai, and Jack Black, among others.
The result is a flash-fire of fevered visions colliding in an audacious, ramshackle, wonderfully ridiculous collection of bombastic theatre-rock that really needs to be heard to be believed. This might be Meat’s most ambitious – and most over-the-top – album. And obviously, that’s saying something.
2. Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell (1993)
If the success of Bat seemed unlikely in ’77, what hope (in hell) would Bat II have during the height of “alt-rock”? The last thing anybody in 1993 wanted was to hear some bullshit album from creaky old dinosaurs like Meat and Steinman.
And yet, seemingly out of nowhere, the constantly feuding duo pulled it together and created their second-greatest album, a collection of truly breathtaking rock’n’roll grandeur including the most beautifully absurd and almost grotesquely over-inflated power-ballad perhaps of all time, I’d Do Anything for Love (But I won’t Do That). The rest of the album is just as nuts. What a comeback.
1. Bat Out of Hell (1977)
The combination of whacked-out songwriter Jim Steinman’s horny pocket symphonies and Meat Loaf’s leather-lunged operatic howl was unstoppable and untoppable. The hits will continue to resonate for the next thousand years. Your children’s children’s children will know all the words to Paradise By The Dashboard Light and Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad.
A perfect melange of 1950s teenage death ballads, Broadway pomp and head-caving hard rock, Bat was created in a long-gone world where rock’n’roll gods stomped the earth and no one stomped heavier than Meat Loaf. The term ‘classic rock’ was practically invented for this record.