“Bat Out of Hell” is the title track of Meat Loaf’s self-titled 1977 debut album, which immediately put the rocker on the industry’s map from the get-go. But how did the song come to be? Here are some juicy facts about Meat Loaf’s pioneering body of work!
1. Meat Loaf was assisted by songwriter Jim Steinman in almost all of his songs, including this debut piece. Steinman said he wrote the song as his ultimate motorcycle crash anthem, with the lyrics referring to a rider being thrown off his bike and having his organs exposed as a result.
2. The song is inspired by the Shangri-La’s song, “Leader Of The Pack”, which tells the story of a girl falling in love with the archetypal bad-boy character who also happens to be a motorcycle gang leader. The song’s story also ends with a tragic crash to the characters’ deaths.
3. Todd Rundgren was responsible for the motorcycle sound effect in the middle of the song. He didn’t like the concept at first but Steinman bugged until he did it anyway, along with the solo, in one take.
4. Steinman wrote the song for a stage production of his called “Neverland”, which he had started on in 1975. The play debuted at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts on April 26, 1977, while the Bat out of Hell album was released on October 21, 1977, and contained two more songs from the play: “Heaven Can Wait,” and “All Revved Up with No Place To Go”.
5. Meat Loaf and Steinman’s falling out worked for the worse when the latter tradmarked the name “Bat Out of Hell” in 1995, which resulted in Meat Loaf suing him in 2006 when he wouldn’t let him use the title “Bat Out of Hell III” in a new album. Steinman was the producer on Bat Out of Hell II, while Desmond Child took care of the succeeding record.
6. According to Rundgren, Bat Out of Hell was influenced by Springsteen but Steinman doesn’t want to admit to this. In an interview with Mojo Magazine in 2009, Rundgren said: “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.”
7. Bat Out of Hell made records in the UK after spending 474 weeks on the album chart while becoming one of the top five bestselling records on the territory.
8. “Bat Out of Hell” was never issued as a single in the US apart from a limited-edition 12-inch record, but was the first song that radio stations played from the album. Clocking in at over 9:56, it wasn’t made for pop radio but Freeform and AOR stations constantly blasted it in their airwaves.
9. Even the musicians who played on the album expected it to flop. In Songfact’s interview with the bassist Kasim Sulton, he said that he considered the project a joke that he was part of. He thought otherwise when he heard the song on the famous WNEW-FM Station of New York, saying: “I hear this track, and I said to myself, ‘That sounds vaguely familiar. Where have I heard that song before?’ 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.”
10. “Bat Out of Hell” sold around 30 million copies which was a surprise, considering Meat Loaf was quite unknown at the time, along with the song sounding nothing like radio standards that was all the rage back in the day. It can be concluded that the inherent uniquness of the record also meant its success.