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Like all of Meat Loaf's hits, this was written by pianist Jim Steinman. He said he wrote this to be the ultimate "Motorcycle crash song." The lyrics refer to a rider being thrown off his bike in a wreck and his organs exposed: "And the last thing I see is my heart still beating / Breaking out of my body and flying away / Like a bat out of hell." The song "Leader Of The Pack
," which also featured a motorcycle, was a big influence on this track.
The motorcycle sound in the middle of the song is producer Todd Rundgren on electric guitar. Todd hated the idea at first, but Steinman begged him until he did that and the subsequent solo in one take. (thanks, Doodle - St. Augustine, FL, for above 2)
Jim Steinman wrote this song for his stage production Neverland, which he had been developing since 1975. The play debuted at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC on April 26, 1977. The Bat Out Of Hell album was released on October 21, 1977 and contained two other tracks from Neverland as well: "Heaven Can Wait" and "All Revved Up with No Place to Go."
Steinman trademarked the name "Bat Out Of Hell" in 1995, and in 2006, Meat Loaf sued him when Steinman wouldn't let him use the title "Bat Out Of Hell III" for an album. Steinman produced the album Bat Out Of Hell II, but Desmond Child produced the 2006 album.
"Bat Out Of Hell" is an expression meaning very fast.
The Bat Out of Hell album spent 474 weeks on the UK album chart and became one of the top five all time best selling albums. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Producer Todd Rundgren told Mojo magazine February 2009 of Bruce Springsteen's influence on the Bat Out of Hell album. Said Rundgren: "Jim Steinman still denies that record has anything to do with Springsteen. But I saw it as a spoof. You take all the trademarks - over long songs, teenage angst, handsome loner- and turn them upside down. So we made these epic songs, full of the silly puns that Steinman loves. If Bruce Springsteen can take it over the top, Meat Loaf can take it five storeys higher than that - and at the same time, he's this big, sweaty, unappealing character. Yet we out-Springsteened Springsteen. He's never had a record that sold like Bat Out of Hell, and I didn't think that anyone would ever catch on to it. I thought it would be just a cult thing. The royalties from that album enabled me to follow my own path for a long time after that."
Aside from a limited edition 12", this was never issued as a single in the US, but it was the first song many radio stations started playing after the album came out. Running 9:56, it was far too long for Pop radio, but embraced by the Freeform and Album Oriented Rock stations that were all over the airwaves.
Bat Out Of Hell
went on to sell about 30 million copies (give or take a few million depending on whose accounting you believe), but when it was released, its success was anything but a given. Meat Loaf was a very obscure artist and the album was unconventional, with nothing that sounded like a standard radio hit. This break in convention ended up distinguishing the album and prompting the huge sales figures.
Even the guys who played on the album thought it would flop. In our interview with Kasim Sulton
, who was the bass player, he said that while recording it, he thought the album was "the biggest joke that I've ever been involved in." He learned that it was not a joke when he heard the song on the influential New York City radio station WNEW-FM. "I hear this track, and I said to myself, 'That sounds vaguely familiar. Where have I heard that song before?'" Sutton said. "Then it hit me: 'I played on that!' It was 'Bat Out of Hell,' that track. And then after hearing it on WNEW, the record exploded."
In the UK, this was edited down to 6:40 and released as a single, charting at #15 in February, 1979 - 16 months after the album was released. In 1993, it was re-released in the UK (this time cut to 4:50), and charted at #8.
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