Universal Studios, California

Bat Out Of Hell by Meat Loaf

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I'm gonna hit the highway like a battering ram
on a silver-black phantom bike Read full Lyrics
Throughout the history of rock & roll there have been duos not only worth mentioning, but worth elevating to the status of legendary. Some are singers and guitarists, others are lyricists and composers, while even more are simply songwriting teams. Rarely, though, has there been a more prolific and dramatic pairing than the composer and singer partnership between Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf (aka Marvin Lee Aday).

Meat Loaf and Steinman met and began collaborating on their first masterpiece, Bat Out Of Hell, in 1972, but the album wouldn't be completed and released for five years - until 1977. The songs' influence pulled from various sources, including Steinman's previous work in musicals, as well as films, television shows, and real-life events. His songwriting style is reminiscent of Spector's Wall of Sound, with a very overproduced and theatrical quality. In fact, it's been said that Steinman would first conceive of the titles (often over-the-top) and then have to write an epic melody on the level of his amazing titles.

Part concept album, Bat Out Of Hell carries a certain sense of humor about itself – parodying Springsteen's E-Street Band's driving rock arrangements. The opening cut, also named "Bat Out of Hell," is the final result of Steinman's desire to write the most extreme crash song of all time, which tells the story of a boy riding a motorcycle so fast he doesn't notice the road is blocked until too late. While some have affirmed the "Born to Run" sound-alike tune was both an homage and an insult to the Boss, Meat Loaf has stated the influence came from another source.

In the commentary audio track on Meat Loaf Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra DVD, he states that the song was constructed from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho: all the Bates Motel clients wish they had left like a bat out of hell before spending the night there. There are lyrical allusions to Norman Bates as well. In Psycho, the main character, Marion Crane, robs her employer and drives from Phoenix to Los Angeles, yet never makes it there.

Bates Motel, Universal StudiosBates Motel, Universal Studios
The actual Bates Motel still sits on the back lot at Universal Studios, Hollywood, with the mansion standing vigil menacingly in the back. Lilliputian by comparison to what it appears in the film, the house was built for the film's outside background shots, and was built to give the appearance that it's a good deal further away from the "motel" than it actually physically is. If you take the back-lot tour at the theme park, you can see it with your own eyes.

Behind the Psycho set, tourists will be treated also to the set for Jim Carrey's How The Grinch Stole Christmas, a fake-snow covered Dr. Seussian world. And at the risk of sounding like we're getting a kick-back from Universal Studios, we have to applaud the theme park they've assembled. No other working film and/or TV studio ever had the brilliant idea to turn their lots into tourist attractions and rides that compete with Walt Disney's dream child for sheer intrigue alone. Tourists tromp through by the millions to cruise along Wisteria Lane ("Desperate Housewives"), nearly get taken down by dinosaurs a la Jurassic Park, and tour the city courtyard with the broken clock tower that was imperative in sending Marty McFly into Biff's clutches (or those of Biff's offspring and/or ancestors in the Back To The Future series of flicks). It's definitely worth the visit.

And if you're lucky maybe you'll chance to see Marvin Lee Aday - Meat Loaf himself - racing by the Bates Motel on his silver black phantom bike… Mother herself is upstairs in her rocking chair awaiting your arrival.

Justin Novelli
October 3, 2015
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