Thursday, 16 February 2012

Paul's Incomplete Guide To Classic Pop 1975-79 Part 3

Meat Loaf - You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) & Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad (1978)

Bat Out Of Hell. A Dickensian dichotomy of a record. The best of times: 'You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth' and 'Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad'. The worst of times: The bloated title track, and the never-ending and ever-dreadful 'Paradise By The Dashboard Lights'.
      The Springsteen connection: Much of the Bat Out Of Hell plays like Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run album beamed in from a parallel universe. And Born To Run's key ingredient (apart from Bruce himself) was Roy Bittan's piano. It is his romantically wide-screen playing that helps elevate the relatively well-worn 'teenage wasteland' concerns of Born To Run songs like 'Thunder Road' and 'Jungleland' to almost mythical status. In these songs, as in all great rock 'n' roll, the musical backdrop implies a profundity that simply isn't there on paper.
      Take this line from Thunder Road: "Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays..."
      Okay, as rock lyrics go, it's not bad; in fact, it's really good. But when combined with Bittan's lyrical arpeggios it is transformed into a thing of almost unbearable beauty (and is there anything more profound than real beauty?).
      What has Bruce Springsteen's piano player got to do with Bat Out Of Hell? Well, a lot as it happens. Meat Loaf and his songwriter Jim Steinman were so keen to make a record that sounded like Born To Run that they hired, you guessed it, Roy Bittan to play piano on every track. And they got Bruce's drummer Max Weinberg to play drums.
      A theory: There is an inverse relationship between the quality of Bat Out Of Hell's songs and their similarities to Bruce. So, the more Meat Loaf tries to play Springsteen at his own game, the worse the result. For instance, the title track 'Bat Out Of Hell' is, in its lyrical concerns, arrangement, and even melody, a thinly veiled 'Thunder Road' re-write; and it's horrible. Whereas, perhaps the album's high point, 'Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad', is the least Springsteen sounding track on the record (as 'Bat' producer Todd Rundgren once pointed out, it could almost have been an Eagles song with its smooth harmonies and vaguely country lilt).
      And another thing: There's a bit in 'You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth' when Meat Loaf sings "You know there's not another moment, not another moment, not another moment to waste" over an ascending chord progression. It's probably my favourite moment in all of music.