The whole world was talking about Meat Loaf in 1977. And not the one your mom whipped up for dinner on Tuesday nights.
It was the hulking, sweating figure who shamelessly made out on stage with Mokena, Ill., native Karla Devito while swearing to his God and on his mother's grave that he would "love her 'til the end of time."
That song — "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" — was the cornerstone of the Meat's breakthrough album "Bat Out Of Hell," the best-selling rock album of that year. It was a global AM and FM radio hit despite clocking in at eight-and-a-half minutes, nearly three times the length of most singles.
While Meat and his then songwriting partner Jim Steinman first began working on the songs for what became "Bat Out Of Hell" in 1972, the project languished until Todd Rundgren stepped in as producer and brought along the members of his famous band, Utopia, as session players.
Prior to that pairing and "Bat Out Of Hell" taking off up the global charts like its very title, Meat Loaf (real name Michael Lee Aday) was best known in classic rock circles as the guy who stepped in to help Ted Nugent finish his "Free For All" album in 1976.
Success has followed him since, through the course of such platinum and multi–platinum releases as 1993's "Bat Out Of Hell II," 1995's double–platinum "Welcome To The Neighborhood," 2003's "Couldn't Have Said It Better," and 2006's "Bat Out Of Hell III."
Today, Meat Loaf is one of the most recognized rockers anywhere, not only because of his albums, but because of his dual career as a film, television and stage actor. Who can forget his turn as "Eddie" in 1975's "Rocky Horror Picture Show," as "Travis W. Redfish" in 1980's "Roadie," as "Tiny" in 1992's "Wayne's World," or his freaky portrayal as the psychotic killer truck driver "Jack" in 2000's "Black Top."
Meat has spent the last year working on his newest and 11th studio album, "Hell In A Handbasket," that has him back on the road for the "Mad, Mad, World Tour" which stops tonight at The Venue in Hammond.
Though backed on the new recording by his longtime band, The Neverland Express, there are some surprising guests on board giving Meat's new music the ability to cross genres. Those unlikely contributors include rappers Chuck D and Lil' Jon, country star Trace Adkins and alt–rock pretty boy Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray.
"We've got a new album and we're playing songs from that and doing a couple of songs from other albums that we've never done live before," said Meat Loaf, who these days is healthy and half the size of his '70s self. "People know to expect a real rock 'n' roll show. It's a Meat Loaf show. It's dramatic and funny. They're gonna get full–on energy with the best rock 'n' roll band in the world. That's not an opinion, that's the truth."
Meat Loaf is rightfully proud of his live band. "You can put together a football team full of superstars, but they might not gel," he said. "We do. We're all down to earth. There are no egos. When you have a band this good behind you, you can't be bad. And my voice is stronger than ever."
Creativity and the evolution of things from tour to tour is what keeps things fresh for him, the band and his audience. Meat Loaf stresses change as a good thing.
"I'm always trying to increase the drama and tension," he said. "You don't need 58 lasers to be dramatic. The drama comes from the delivery and the simplicity. The lasers might be fun to look at, but I deal with drama. I'm a closet stand up comedian. There's a lot of funny stuff in the show. It's eclectic like the records. It's everything from in–your–face rock 'n' roll to stand-up comedy."