Bat Out Of Hell At 40: What The Hell Explains Its Appeal?

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Bat out of Hell

Of life’s great mysteries, surely among the most impenetrable is how Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf’s adolescent wet dream of an album that was released forty years ago today [October 21, 1977], came to be one of the best-selling albums in the history of the record industry, cracking the top five in some rankings, and out-selling nearly all the pillars of the rock canon.

I pose the question not out of cultural disdain from atop a critic’s ivory tower. On the contrary (and in the spirit of full disclosure), I adore Bat Out of Hell. It is like a treasured family heirloom I have carried with me through every life stage. My love of Bat Out of Hell borders on the unnatural. I own Bat Out of Hell in four different formats. I have watched documentaries on the making of Bat Out of Hell. I have even read Meat’s autobiography, To Hell and Back. And I am left wanting more helpings of Meat Loaf.

An Extremely Close Reading of Pop Song Duets

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MOST SONGS give you only one perspective: She will always love you. Billie Jean was not his lover. You can check out of “Hotel California” but you can never leave.

Pop song duet singers

But popular music history is studded with the occasional duet that serves more of a purpose than simply an excuse for the existence of cool harmonies, or to provide an opportunity for Paula Abdul to dance around with an anthropomorphized rapping cartoon cat—no offense, MC Skat Kat (and Posse). These duets actually use the form to explore two different, often dueling, perspectives on the same relationship…often, relationships in which men are getting called out on their bullshit.

Let’s assess!

Carry Fire

I’ve just listened to Robert Plant’s new album, Carry Fire. It’s pretty good.

A long while after my dad’s death five years ago, I’d meant to write a blog post about the experience of grief in a digital age. As I’ve clearly become increasingly terrible at ever getting draft posts complete, the short of it was this: my dad’s mobile phone was never recovered and soon after its battery went flat any calls to his number would go straight to voicemail. He’d recently switched to a pay-as-you-go phone for his personal mobile, and so the number (and its voicemail) outlived him for many months. I know I’m not the only one that, in those months, called it a few times, just to hear his voice in the outgoing message. I’m fully aware that there are recordings of his voice elsewhere, but I guess there was something ritualistic about “trying to call him”, just as I would have before his accident.

The blog post would have started with this anecdote, perhaps spun out a little better, and then gone on to muse about how we “live on” in our abandoned Inboxes, social media accounts, and other digital footprints in a way we never did before, and what that might mean for the idea of grief in the modern world. (Getting too caught up in thinking about exactly what it does mean is probably why I never finished writing that particular article.) I remember that it took me a year or two until I was able to delete my dad from my phone/email address book, because it like prematurely letting go to do so. See what I mean? New aspects of grief for a new era.

Rob Plant's "Carry Fire"
Thanks, Rob.

Another thing that I used to get, early on, was that moment of forgetting. I’d read something and I’d think “Gotta tell my dad about that!” And then only a second later remember why I couldn’t! I think that’s a pretty common experience of bereavement: certainly for me at least – I remember distinctly experiencing the same thing after my gran’s death, about 11 years ago. I’m pretty sure it’s been almost a year since I last had such a forgetting moment for my father… until today! Half way into the opening track of Carry Fire, a mellow folk-rocky-sounding piece called The May Queen (clearly a nod to Stairway there), I found myself thinking “my dad’d love this…” and took almost a quarter-second before my brain kicked in and added “…damn; shame he missed out on it, then.”

If you came here for a music review, you’re not going to get one. But if you like some Robert Plant and haven’t heard Carry Fire yet, you might like to. It’s like he set out to make a prog rock album but accidentally smoked too much pot and then tripped over his sitar. And if you knew my dad well enough to agree (or disagree) that he would have dug it, let me know.