Twenty-five years ago this month Meat Loaf pulled off perhaps the most stunning comeback in rock history when Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell became the Number One album in the country. He’d been almost completely off the cultural radar since his Bat Out of Hell follow-up Dead Ringer flopped in 1981. Most of his other 1980s albums barely saw release in America, and the thought of him releasing a chart-topper at the peak of the grunge movement seemed just as likely as Peter Frampton, KC & The Sunshine Band or Debbie Boone pulling it off.
The seeds for the comeback were planted a couple of years earlier when Meat Loaf made peace with Bat Out of Hell songwriter Jim Steinman and they began plotting the long-awaited followup. Many in the industry were a little skeptical anyone would care by that point, but Steinman wrote an undeniably great song with “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).” It was 12 minutes long, but they chopped it down to five for radio and stations all over America began playing it. Teenagers that had never heard of Meat Loaf flocked to record stores and bought the record. Within just a few weeks it was Number One even though Nirvana put out In Utero weeks earlier.
MTV also got in the game by playing the “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” video all the time. The bizarre Beauty and the Beast-inspired clip, where model Dana Patrick lip-synced Lorraine Crosby’s original vocal parts, baffled some viewers. An MTV special promoting Wayne’s World 2 had the best take on it.
“I can just imagine the pitch meeting,” Wayne said. “’Hey Meat Loaf, here’s the plan. We’re going to make you look like a sewer rat, put you in a castle, have helicopters and detectives searching for you and then we’re going to have this babe levitate around your castle in a bed.’ What did he say, ‘Good, that’s exactly what I was thinking about when I wrote the song?’ ‘Hello!’”
Garth raised a very common question about the lyrics. “What exactly won’t he do for love?” he asked. “What’s the one thing? He won’t wear a dog collar and get ridden like a little pony?”
The Meat Loaf comeback was short-lived. His next album was done without Jim Steinman, and it flopped. He tried to make another Bat Out of Hell in 2006, but it was such a fiasco that Meat Loaf know says he wants it erased from history. He finally got back with Steinman in 2016 for Braver Than We Are, but none of the songs were new compositions and Meat’s voice wasn’t exactly in prime shape. He also couldn’t tour to promote it due to health issues. Now there’s a Bat Out of Hell musical, which is on tour of North America and premiered this week in Toronto. It’s unclear if he’ll ever perform again, but no matter what happens he can always claim that in 1993 he proved every skeptic wrong and brought a new album to Number One.