The latest extract from my new biography, Like A Bat Out Of Hell, the Larger Than Life Story of Meat Loaf, out now.
The video they shot to accompany the ‘I’d Do Anything’ single was excessive even for those progressively over the top MTV-dominated times. Directed by twenty-eight-year-old Michael Bay, a graduate of the Jerry Bruckheimer-Don Simpson school of production aesthetics and soon to become better-known as the fast-cutting, style-over-substance, explosion-obsessed director of such ‘high concept’ action movies as Armageddon, Pearl Harbour, and the Transformers franchise, the seven-and-a-half minute video for ‘I’d Do Anything’ perfectly mirrored the convoluted, death-or-glory romance of Jim Steinman’s music.
There were two versions of the video – Bay’s extravagant almost-eight-minute spectacular, and a shorter, MTV-friendly version. The concept was based squarely on a cross between the Beauty and the Beast story and that of The Phantom Of The Opera. The full-length version begins with the noise of Eddie Martinez’s motorcycle guitars, the words flashing across the screen, ‘I Have Traveled Across The Universe Through The Years To Find Her…’ and then we’re off. A cloaked Meat-as-Beast-Phantom roaring towards the city limits on his customized Harley Davidson pursued by cops on bikes, in cars and helicopters, the outlaw chasing his destiny. Finally he escapes into his mist-encrusted gothic castle, past crosses and headstones, the cops mysteriously unable to follow up through the gates.
Cut to Meat-Beast-Phantom in profile, his face made-up to look very much like a commander of the Klingon Empire, all warts and ridged forehead, as he croons the opening lovelorn lines of the song, while regarding his long, werewolf-like fingernails. It’s ludicrous, bombastic; laughable even; an overfamiliar, sick-making fairytale we already know the ending to – and that’s just the first 45 seconds.
After that Meat-Beast is back on his bike, riding straight through walls as grand chandeliers crash to the ground, vanquished cops scattered to the four winds as Meat-Beast leaves his bike and begins swinging through a dark forest like an overgrown Quasimodo. The queasy spell only broken by the appearance of the beautiful Dana Patrick, not so much miming to Lorraine Crosby’s vocals as slinking around like the lead actress in a soft porn Playboy shoot.
At the video’s long climax, there is the moment when the goddess-like Patrick holds the beast in her tender embrace and – wait for it – he begins to turn human again. If only the beautiful princess had kissed the ugly frog, the way Karla De Vito had all those years before, the moment might have had at least a semblance of pathos. But she doesn’t of course because that really would have scared the big kids who owned the playlists at MTV.
Filmed on location in LA County in July 1993, the opening chase was shot at Chávez Ravine, with the interior gothic castle scenes filmed at Ned Doheny’s famous old Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. The cinematography was by Daniel Pearl, best known for his work on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, who described the video as ‘one of my personal all-time favourite projects.’ Meat’s make-up took two hours a day to apply and was designed to be scary, yet ‘with the ability to make him sympathetic.’ Filmed over four days in 90-degree heat, naturally, the whole thing went madly over budget. According to one executive, it ‘probably had the budget of Four Weddings And A Funeral’ – the hit movie being filmed at around the same time, which had a reported budget of $2.8 million.
The success of the single – and the album that followed in its wake – more than justified the outlay. Released in September 1993, ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’ went to No. 1 in almost every country in the world that bought pop singles – including spending seven weeks at No. 1 in Britain – and in the rest it went to No. 2. In January 1994, it won Meat Loaf a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, and is now remembered as one of the defining songs of a decade otherwise supposedly hung-up on grunge, Britpop, alternative rock, nu-metal and a dozen other sub-genres that meant nothing to most people. Most people may not have known much about the bleeding edge of popular culture but they knew what they liked and suddenly they all liked Meat Loaf again.
When it reached No. 1 in America, even Jim Steinman had to admit he was impressed. Meat Loaf nearly went out of his mind again. In the sixteen years since his only previous hit single at home in the US, ‘You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth’, Meat Loaf had released 27 singles – all flops. Now with the video in heavy monster rotation on MTV, the song all over every radio station nationwide, the biz was going crazy.
Meat became the must-have guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross, he was asked to give and receive awards at various music, film and comedy shows. He was invited to sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which he breathlessly described as one of the biggest highlights of his career. Even Dana Patrick received several offers for solo record deals from overexcited executives who hadn’t checked the small print and just assumed she was actually singing in the video.
After what felt like a lifetime of no one really seriously believing anything Meat Loaf did or said, now as the singer celebrated his forty-sixth birthday he had the whole world hanging on every word.
Sometimes, Meat Loaf told Rolling Stone in 1993, when he first heard Jim Steinman’s lyrics, ‘I think they’re the funniest things I’ve ever heard.’ Once he started singing them, though, they became as serious and unyielding as night. Because, he explained, he and Jimmy were more like an actor and playwright than a singer and songwriter.
‘I play everything for real. That’s the best comedy.’ He wasn’t a clown though. He was a method actor. ‘I’m different from Bette [Midler] or Cher or Sinatra,’ he declared, as though there was some confusion over the matter. ‘This might be a huge ego thing, but I tend to think of myself as the Robert De Niro of rock. I know that’s absurd, but my idols are either sports figures or Robert De Niro.’
It was as if he couldn’t stop looking in the mirror, asking fitfully as he flipped out his gun, ‘You talkin’ to me?’
And that the answer was and always would be: ‘Well, who the hell else are you talkin’ to?’