I remember thinking in 2004 that “his name is Robert Paulsen” might be too obscure for the punchline. In the mid-2000s, it felt like I was the only guy who was really into movies like Fight Club and Idiocracy. If that sounds absurd to you, let me remind you of the fact that George W. Fucking Bush was in office.
Marvin Lee Aday, aka Meat Loaf, was no stranger to the silver screen before Robert Paulsen. In the 1975 film version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Meat appears as the troubled greaser Eddie, an early victim of the nefarious Frank N. Furter. He bursts from the freezer on his steel hog, chucks his helmet to the floor with a BONK, and launches into his big number, completely stealing the entire movie.
Loaf’s vocals are absolutely shredding on that track. Every song in this film is rock-solid, and this is the topper. I bust a gut every time at the sight of vapor rising from the end of Meat’s sax during his solo, and no audience-participation line is more satisfying to bellow than the one that goes in tandem with his four leg-kicks:
One of my first (of way too many) RHPS viewings was when I was 14. It was trial by fire. I was told beforehand to reply in the negative if anyone asked if I was a virgin (meaning someone new to RHPS). Lying about virginity was something I was already doing, so this came easy when some smelly Jersey doof shouted in my face during the show. Nobody threw anything, because you were searched for contraband at the door. The entire experience is funny as hell, especially after you have a chance to view RHPS at home alone, on VHS. (Believe it or not, its appearance on home video was a long, contested process. Many fans considered it a “theater-only” thing.) It’s a truly strange movie, impossible to make today, with a knockout soundtrack and a performance by Tim Curry that no words can do justice. This gent brought Frank Furter, Pennywise the clown and Darkness to life. Surely he deserves every accolade the world offers, in my estimation.
(Before I get back to Meat Loaf, I have to say how fantastic the RHPS soundtrack is. It was written originally as a musical by the great Richard O’Brien, who played the Igor-like Riff Raff, and it shows in the strength of every number. I’m straining to think of a weak tune, and the only one I can recall was cut from the film (“Super Heroes”). Seriously, if you have any affection for camp, musical theater, or B-movies of the 1950s, RHPS is nirvana. A young Susan Sarandon gets felt up, which my pubescent self enjoyed tremendously. And if you take in the live experience outside of New Jersey, it’s a lot less hostile.)
Musically, I don’t believe it’s necessary to go farther with Meat Loaf’s catalog than 1977’s Bat Out Of Hell (songs written by, of course, Jim Steinman, with drums by Max Weinberg).
Believe it or not, there are some great tunes on what is essentially “Blue Balls: The Rock Opera”. And the cover art, by Richard Corben (artist of Heavy Metal’s “Den”, among many other things), is spectacular. I must’ve spent most of 1978 gazing into it.
The title track is a diamond. At 6, I loved miming along with the motorcycle revs dubbed on the bridge. The meaning of the lyric “like a bat out of hell, I’ll be gone when the morning comes” was quite lost on me.
The second track, I honestly feel is the strongest. I tried to do you a favor and trim the cringe-inducing intro with Steinman and Marcia McClain. Ironically, the head of Cleveland Records cut Meat Loaf and Steinman a record deal after hearing the intro alone.
After that it’s pretty mushy. “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” gets the most airplay, which is unfortunate, because I’d prefer not to be murderous when I hear it. The female vocals are provided by Ellen Foley, who was an early love interest on the Harry Anderson sitcom Night Court. She was kind of the Lori Petty before Lori Petty.
If you can stand the syrup, the closer of the album is well worth a listen. Teen horniness is elevated to operatic and splendorous heights. It’s impossible not to laugh at the line “can’t you see my faded Levi’s, burstin’ apart…” because the first thought is now obesity, rather than a raging erection. Still, as boner ballads go, you can do a lot worse than this.
I love how you can hear the piano bench creaking. It’s not Meat on keys, but it paints that picture in your head. That song is so horny it makes my face sweaty.
Like so many wonderful things in 1977, this was lightning in a bottle, never to be duplicated. There would be many numbered attempts, much like an equally popular movie from the same year. But the law of diminishing returns would prove to be particularly harsh on Mr. Aday. At least the cover art remained consistently lush.
By the way, turns out I misspelled Meat Loaf’s character’s name from Fight Club, probably because I haven’t read the novel. There’s a dude who’s been voice acting in cartoons since the 1980s. He provided the voices of Snow Job (G.I.Joe), Yakko Warner (Animaniacs), and Pinky (Pinky & The Brain), as well as literally hundreds more.
His name is Robert Paulsen.