On September 27, 1947, Marvin Lee Aday was born in Dallas, Texas. As the boy grew up, his interest in acting and music led him to adopt a new name that, according to some sources, came from a dish his mom made, Meat Loaf.
I have confessed on this blog about my love of a lot of Meat Loaf’s songs. Of course, his greatest album remains 1977’s Bat Out of Hell. The popular album had several hits that you still hear today, such as “Two Out of Three” and, of course, “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” But the song on the album that I loved the most, which apparently is also the favorite of writer Jim Steinman, is “For Crying Out Loud.”
The song appeared as a B-side to the second single released from the album, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.” The single was released July 31, 1977, and the album would follow on October 21, 1977.
Before Meat Loaf’s album, the song appeared in a 1975 play starring Christopher Walken called Kid Champion. Steinman wrote the music for the play, which is about a rock star. Steinman’s demo version of the song for the play is below.
Of course, nobody can match Meat Loaf’s chops. In the video below, Meat Loaf performs “For Crying Out Loud” with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra from 2004. While Meat Loaf’s voice may not be what it once was, it is still pretty amazing in this performance.
In the video, Meat Loaf introduces “For Crying Out Loud” by saying he had not attempted the song live since 1978 in New York City. I do not know if it is true that so much time had passed, and I can’t remember if he played it when I saw him in the 1990s.
Today’s song of the day is Jim Steinman’s “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through.” The song is one of my favorite pop songs of the early 1980s, although it has a bit of a tortured history.
After Jim Steinman found success writing the songs for Meat Loaf’s album Bat Out of Hell, the two planned to team up again. But the plan encountered various problems, including Meat Loaf’s injured vocal cords. So, Steinman set out to record the follow-up album himself.
Bad for Good
In 1981, Steinman released Bad For Good, an album that I love largely for nostalgia’s sake. Many admire the songwriting for the album, believing that if Meat Loaf had recorded the songs, it would have been a worthy follow-up to Bat Out of Hell.
But Steinman’s straining vocals cannot match the power of Meat Loaf’s voice. Meat Loaf’s voice perfectly suits the bombast of Steinman’s songs. Yet, I still find Steinman’s struggles on the songs make them more vulnerable and, well. . . human. I wish Steinman — who was born November 1, 1947 — would record another album with him singing his songs.
When I bought the record album back in 1981, the album came with a small record that had two additional songs. One song was an instrumental and on the flip side was “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through.”
“Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through”
“Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” clearly appeared as a song added for radio play. It was a more typical pop song than the over-blown songs on the record, lacking some of Steinman’s teenage-style humor.
Still, “Rock and Roll Dreams” stands out on the album. I loved it. The song went to Number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100.
But something was different about Steinman’s voice. I wondered how producers got Steinman’s voice to sound so much better on “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through.” Many years later, though, I learned that it was not Steinman singing the song, even though it was credited to him. The singer was Rory Dodd.
Here is Steinman’s video for the song, where he is lip syncing over Dodd’s voice.
Dodd was a Canadian singer who sang backup on many of Meat Loaf’s songs through the years. He also is the voice singing “Turn Around Bright Eyes” on Bonnie Tyler’s mega-hit recording of another Steinman classic, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” One may wonder what might have happened with everyone’s careers had Steinman handed over the whole album for Dodd to record.
Critics and fans never complained about Steinman’s singer deception the way people became upset about Milli Vanilli at the end of the decade. Perhaps fans did not care because Steinman’s real voice appeared on the album, or perhaps they just enjoyed the song.
Steinman even appeared on television to lip sync and promote “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through,” featuring an interesting ballet dance accompaniment to distract from his mouth movements. (Note that the video looks like it is not available, but it plays when you press the play button.)
On September 26, 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in the United States, following its August 14 release in the U.K. Despite doing well in Los Angeles, the film initially did not do well elsewhere, resulting in the cancellation of a planned Halloween night opening in New York City.
Executives at 20th Century Fox, however, noted that some films were doing well at midnight showings, so the following April, the movie began running at midnight in New York, soon spreading to other locations. The rest is history, as the studio has never ended the 1975 distribution, making the movie the longest-running release ever and Meat Loaf’s greatest big-screen appearance.
It was a long road, but the counterculture movie written by director Jim Sharman and actor Richard O’Brien (Riff Raff) stuck around long enough to become mainstream. Brad Majors, played by Barry Bostwick, spoke for the movie when he sang to Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon), “The future is ours/ So let’s plan it.”
So, to celebrate the anniversary of the film’s release, get out your toast, spray guns, and toilet paper. Below is the original trailer for the film that became a cult phenomenon.
For more on The Rocky Horror Picture Show, check out this rare Tim Curry interview from the time of the movie’s release. Also, for the fortieth anniversary of the film, Fox News interviewed cast members Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn, and Nell Campbell.
What is your favorite song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Leave your two cents in the comments.
It is really hot today in New York, which has me thinking about songs about the summer heat. For example, if you flip through the radio stations you are bound to run across Buster Poindexter’s “Hot, Hot, Hot!” But one of my favorite songs about the heat, which is not as well known, is “Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire,” written by Jim Steinman and recorded by Meat Loaf.
I discovered the song when it appeared on Bad for Good, the 1981 album Steinman made after Meat Loaf’s voice problems prevented him from recording the follow-up to his mega-hit album Bat Out of Hell (1977). I probably am one of the few people who bought Steinman’s album and still will listen to it. I love his version of “Out of the Frying Pan” as well as every moment his voice strains to reach the high notes, perhaps because that is how I first heard it. I grabbed anything related to Steinman and Meatloaf for awhile, and I bought all of Meat Loaf’s 1980 albums before his big comeback with Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell (1993), which featured Meat Loaf’s version of “Out of the Frying Pan.”
While through the years my music tastes went in other directions, I still play some Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman music out of my archives. And today is a good day to listen to their overblown song with double entendre meanings and lines such as, “The subways are steaming and the skin of the street is gleaming with sweat.” Here is a grainy video of a young Meat Loaf performing the song in 1988 on a small stage in Flushing, New York before his 1990s comeback.
For a more high-quality video performance, here is an older Meat Loaf on a much larger stage in 2010. While the singer no longer has the great voice he once had, you can still tell he gives his all.
The state of South Carolina had seceded from the United States in December 1860 soon after Abraham Lincoln was elected president. By the time he took office in March, the situation at Fort Sumter was nearing a crisis and seven states had seceded.
Once the bombardment of Fort Sumter began on the morning of this date, it continued for 34 hours. And, on April 13 U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard.
According to David Herbert Donald in the book Lincoln (1995), during the weeks between Pres. Lincoln’s inauguration and the first shots at Fort Sumter, the president was physically exhausted by stress. But there was some relief after this date. Because the first shots were fired by the Confederates, the rebels now had the burden of starting the war, not the North.
And after the first shots of the Civil War, Lincoln’s choices became clearer. Two days later, Pres. Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for volunteer soldiers. Within a week, Virginia voted to secede, and more states followed. The war would rage for the next four years.
Perhaps no song in recent history has attempted to encapsulate the Civil War era like “An American Trilogy,” a song that Elvis Presley performed regularly in concert toward the end of his life. The song was actually three popular American songs arranged by Mickey Newbury. It begins with the unofficial Confederate anthem “Dixie,” followed by the African-American spiritual, “All My Trials,” and closes with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the Yankee marching song.
What is the meaning of “An American Trilogy”? Paul Simpson’s The Rough Guide to Elvis notes that Mickey Newbury’s original intent is unclear, as the combination could have been about America’s lack of innocence or been intended ironically in reference to Pres. Nixon and the Viet Nam War.
For Elvis, “An American Trilogy” might have been about patriotism. But Charles Reagan Wilson wrote in Judgment and Faith in Dixie (1997) that Elvis’s “slow, reflective, melancholy” performances of the song in the 1970s “suggested an emotional awareness of the complex past of regional conflict and Southern trauma.”
In his excellent book Mystery Train (1975), critic Greil Marcus considered “An American Trilogy” to be Elvis’s attempt to combine all aspects of America and bring everyone together in a fantasy of freedom. But Marcus believed that Elvis’s song failed in that goal because the lack of complexity in the song creates “a throwaway America where nothing is at stake.” (p. 124.) For example, Marcus claimed, “There is no John Brown in his ‘Battle Hymn,’ no romance in his ‘Dixie,’ no blood in his slave song.”
Maybe Marcus wants too much out of a four-minute song. Yes, the song is gaudy in its performance, and Elvis’s jumpsuit is a long way from the soldiers and slaves. But as discussed in another Chimesfreedom post, John Brown is inherent in “Battle Hymn,” just as the romance is inherent in “Dixie,” and as blood is inherent in the dying in “All My Trials.”
There is another layer of confusion regarding the meaning of the song today because Elvis sings it. And Elvis, especially since his death, has become a complex American icon, as some consider him a revolutionary, some call him a thief, and some see him as a fat man steeped in excess. Yet perhaps the contradictions of Elvis, like the contradictions of the song, are the only way you can try to sum up the Civil War, in particular, and the complexity of America in general.
Finally, one additional complication is that what Newbury and Presley apparently thought was an African-American spiritual, was not. Many today believe that the center of the trilogy, “All My Trials,” which is also sometimes called “All My Sorrows,” has somewhat muddled origins. Many current scholars believe that the song was assembled from fragments of existing songs in the 1950s and set to the music of a lullaby from the Bahamas to make it sound like a traditional spiritual.
Newbury and Presley were not the only ones who thought it was an actual slave spiritual. In the 1950s, music critic Nat Hentoff wrote that it came from an African-American song, and in the 1960s, Joan Baez and others referred to the song as a slave spiritual.
So, there are more questions in “An American Trilogy” than answers. But on a day that started the deadliest war in our nation’s history, I prefer the people with questions over the armed generals who think they have the answers.
Bonus American Trilogy Version: For you Celebrity Apprentice fans, here is Meat Loaf singing “American Trilogy” at a 1987 tribute to Elvis Presley. What do you think is the meaning of “American Trilogy”? Leave a comment.