How meatloaf became a cult favourite: ‘Heaven in the light of the dashboard’

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One such admirer was artist Todd Rundgren, who, under the mistaken impression that Meat Loaf and Steinman had a recording contract, agreed to produce “Bat Out of Hell”. (When the truth broke, he also agreed to fund the recording himself.) In the fall of 1975, the musicians reunited at Bearsville Studio in Woodstock, NY, where they were joined by band members Rundgren’s Utopia, as well as Weinberg and E Street Band pianist Roy Bittan.

Sulton said the band “all contributed” to the way the songs were arranged. “The first time I heard ‘Paradise,’ I remember thinking ‘it’s obvious what the song is,'” he said. “It’s kind of a boogie-woogie shuffle, and then there’s the Phil Spector part, and then there’s a bit of ‘Thunder Road’. The song played out for us in its entirety with just Jim playing piano and Meat Loaf singing it live.

After rehearsals, the band recorded “Paradise” in sections, without vocals. Weinberg said Steinman pushed him to play “like an out-of-control teenager”. “The teen drumming is over the top and very histrionic; it’s like a spice, because it’s not something you want to do all the time,” he said. “But he was telling me to hit these things so hard they fall off, and you can hear that in ‘Paradise’. At the end, I just smack the cymbals.

Foley’s vocal parts were recorded in one take. “I did my part individually, but I brought Meat into the room so I could play and sing for him,” she said. “We were both in character; it was this poor, scared, excited guy. Dodd, who was one of the few people in the room when Meat Loaf recorded his own voice, said Meat Loaf also performed his character while singing. The initial recording was originally longer, clocking in at around 11 minutes; Dodd said about three minutes of background vocals at the song’s outro were cut out.

Even with a completed album, Meat Loaf and Steinman struggled to land a record deal. Dodd recalled record executive Clive Davis telling Steinman “he had to learn how to write rock ‘n’ roll”. But the album was eventually accepted and released by executive Steve Popovich’s Cleveland International Records, and it slowly gained traction when it was released in 1977. Its popularity was boosted by a promotional music video for “Paradise”, in which Meat Loaf and vocalist Karla DeVito – lip sync to Foley’s vocals – performed on stage.

In the 2011 book “I Want My MTV”, Meat Loaf said he got the video placements before the midnight showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. “It’s still the best-selling album in Dutch history, and I’ve never played it,” he said. “All thanks to the ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ video.”

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