Tag Archives: Meat Loaf

Comparison: Telegraph Road and Dry County

I have talked about getting my first album as a present, more-or-less together with my first Walkman. The opening to the album was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Guitars making engine sounds, swirling from one side to the other and back, fading or turning into something different. Kind of a story hinting at the story to come in an instrumental track that I would discover later in the album. Then the piano hits, beautiful but intricate, those fingers might be flying faster than my car. The guitars continue their thing, and it’s still a while before it all calms down and the vocals start.

Meat Loaf’s “Anything For Love”, the first track on Bat Out Of Hell II, was my proper introduction to long songs. I think the Walkman, and that album as it was the only one I had at the time, might not have been my first exposure to listening closely to songs, but it might be close enough, picking out the threads the instruments weaved, examination of background vocals as well as the main ones. And perhaps most of all, my first really close look at song as story.

This post is not about that song. But it kind of sets the background for two songs that I like, that are both pretty long, and both tell stories.

Telegraph Road by Dire Straits clocks in at over 14 minutes. The song starts simply, with just a long, fairly high-pitched sound. Then the music starts, a simple melody that gets more complicated, and played-around, as the song goes on.

The narrative starts simply as well, a guy walking down a lonely path, finding a place to set up a home, then civilisation being built up around him. The independent spirit only lasts a short time: “Then came the churches, then came the schools, then came the lawyers, then came the rules”. As it builds up to present-day, making your own way becomes nigh impossible, the place seems kind of dead-end. A similar sentiment to this quote from another song that I won’t otherwise mention: “The boundaries of this town are closing in just like a noose, the future’s gonna rust if we don’t put it to some use”. Then that wonderful solo, all the way to the end of the track.

Dry County by Bon Jovi is “only” nearly ten minutes long. It starts remarkably similarly, with a chord instead of the one note, and then the tune comes in. The opening lyrics play with associations of hope and despair. Then, “I came here like so many did, to find a better life”. He’d come down the Telegraph Road to the same place, but arrived after the lawyers and rules. All the promise had already drained away from the place.

While Telegraph Road had that throwaway line talking about the churches, Dry County makes more of the religious imagery and wordage: water into wine, a reference to the Eucharist, talk about praying, and about sins. This would fit with the album that Dry County is on: Keep The Faith.

Thematically, structurally, the songs could be twins. Musically, there may be elements in Telegraph Road to place it in its home of 1982. Perhaps something in that distinctive guitar sound. I think Dry County is more easily placed in 1992, from the instrumentation. So perhaps brothers, rather than twins. So it’s fitting that when I listen to one, I usually listen to the other one right next to it.

Best Track On The Album: Meat Loaf, part 2 – 2000-2015

Continued from yesterday’s post I’m talking a little about each Meat Loaf album and my favourite track on it. Yesterday I tackled everything pre-2000, today is everything between 2000 and now (it’s a bit premature to say what my favourite songs from future albums will be).

Again, the links to the winning songs are in the summary, at the end.

Unfortunately, today I must start with the one Loaf album I don’t like. So here goes…

Couldn’t Have Said It Better, 2003:
If I’d Lie For You (on Welcome To The Neighbourhood, discussed in part 1) was trying to be Anything For Love, the title track here was REALLY trying to be Anything For Love, and failing to live up to its predecessor even more miserably. Most of the rest of the album wasn’t any better. It seemed mostly defensive, but the shell was mostly hollow. But there are a couple of shining moments that contrast with the rest of the album. Narrowly missing out on being one of the shining moments is Because Of You, which has a cool chorus, but otherwise has absolutely no substance. Shallow, were Meat Loaf usually manages to run much deeper. The runner-up track is a cover of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young. As a bonus, that song finishes, but the track continues in silence for a couple of minutes before bursting into a hidden song on the same track, a cover of Mercury Blues, which is a lot of fun. The shinier light on the album, though, is Did I Say That (the album version is a bit longer than the music video). It’s the end of a relationship, neither side is innocent, his thoughts are conflicted, switching between giving blame and taking blame… this song feels really honest, and the other songs on the album seem to lack that.

Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose, 2006:
I remember finding out about this album while it was being highlighted by Ken Bruce on Radio 2. The long-awaited Meat Loaf studio cover of Jim Steinman’s Bad For Good hit the radio. Major geek-out moment, and ditching the “God Speed” section was absolutely the right choice. And the rest of the album, what a stunning return to form. Alive reminds me of Bon Jovi back when they were good (no offense, Mr Jovi. Remind me to do a post about Bon Jovi one day). The Steinman-penned tracks In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King, and If It Ain’t Broke, Break It. The absolute highlight of the album, however, hands-down, is Seize The Night.
On Steinman’s solo album Bad For Good, Track 10 was an instrumental called “The Storm”. It sounded like it could be from a movie soundtrack. On the song “Bad For Good”, it was easy to turn the lyric “You can hide away forever from the storm” to “You can hide away forever from Track 10″, for people who perversely enjoy doing such things. Like me.
Anyway, Seize The Night starts out with a redone version of The Storm, which was a total surprise to me when I heard it first. Big geek-out. At a point where The Storm shifts down a gear, Seize the Night transitions into a relatively soft section of singing. Which transitions again, and gears up and gears up, and runs screaming into Back Into Hell, a (technically) instrumental track from Bat II. The rest of the track switches between the song Seize The Night, and Back Into Hell. It’s a treat for fans who’ve followed both Steinman and Loaf over the years.

Hang Cool Teddy Bear, 2010:
A concept album, with the concept being a soldier dying on a battlefield, and possible futures flashing before his eyes, rather than his past. The songwriters weren’t told the concept, lest the songs become too literal, but knowing the concept you can see it. Very interesting. Also features Loaf’s first swear on an album (the word for female dog, in the duet with Jack Black, “Like A Rose”). I like Living On The Outside (very different from Standing On The Outside), the duet in If I Can’t Have You (reminiscent of the altercation with Cher in Deadringer), The Song Of Madness and its mythic imagery. The winner, though, is Love Is Not Real/Next Time You Stab Me In The Back. The character has obviously been emotionally hurt in his relationships. “Next time you stab me in the back, you better do it to my face”, perhaps intentionally quoting Firefly.

Hell In A Handbasket, 2011:
It took me a while to warm up to Hang Cool, Teddy Bear, so I listened to this album before I got it. The first three tracks (All Of Me, The Giving Tree, Live Or Die), were enough to convince me the album was worth getting. Think I like Live Or Die the most of those. I enjoy the antisocialness of Party Of One. I think the track I like most on the album is Stand In The Storm, a collaboration with other contestants on a Celebrity version of some reality show that Mr Loaf was in, but I didn’t see.

And I find out there’s a new album, Braver Than We Are, coming out either later this year or early next year. That one will have to wait…

Summary for part 2:
Did I Say That? music video / full version
Seize The Night
Love Is Not Real/Next Time You Stab Me In The Back
Stand In The Storm

Best Song On The Album: Meat Loaf, part 1 – 1977-2000

I first got into Meat Loaf around Christmas one year, when my uncle gave me a Walkman, and the #1 album at the time to play on it, that album happened to be Bat Out Of Hell II. The album intro to Anything For Love, with the guitar effects swirling around you while you have headphones on, was like nothing I’d ever heard before.

Over the few years following, finishing up at school and then the couple of years at college, I picked up the back catalogue, and have stayed pretty current since then. Thankfully for my wallet, he’s not very prolific.

Today and tomorrow, I’m going to try and pick my favourite song from each of his albums, and provide links where possible. Links will be in a summary at the end. Today I’ll take on the albums pre-2000, and tomorrow post-2000 to the present. Difficult to do much past that…

Bat Out Of Hell, 1977:
The title track is a strong contender, as is Paradise By The Dashboard Light, both with interesting stories. The last 40-ish seconds of All Revved Up are pretty fun, too. Ultimately, however, the winner has to be the beautiful Heaven Can Wait.

Dead Ringer, 1981:
Honorable mentions to Peel Out, I’ll Kill You If You Don’t Come Back, and the one I nearly picked, Read ‘Em And Weep. In the end, though, I’ll go with the almost-title-track, Deadringer For Love. The lyrical to-ing and fro-ing between Mr Loaf and Cher, apart from being hard to catch without the lyrics in front of you, are pretty funny.

Midnight At The Lost And Found, 1983:
Midnight At The Lost And Found is pretty fun, and I like The Promised Land (Elvis Presley sang it before, his version is in the movie Men In Black, it’s what Tommy Lee Jones is singing in the car before he makes it go Ludicrous Speed), but in the end this is a fight between two Songs Of Longing: Keep Driving (I can’t go home, don’t take me home, I can’t go home alone), and If You Really Want To (I can tell by the look in your tear-filled eye, you need somebody you can hold on to, if you really want to, I’d love to hold you…). The latter might be more on the creepy side, and the former more desperate. The latter still triggers a What Instrument Is That? in me. Hang it, this one’s a tie.

Bad Attitude, 1984:
The songs Bad Attitude and Piece Of The Action have a similar sort of theme. Bad Attitude is, paraphrased, “the only people who ever made a name for themselves, good or bad, bucked the system”, and the one with the same name as a TOS episode is more “I don’t want to be stuck in a dead-end job, I want to make something of myself”. I’ve listened to those a bunch, and Modern Girl (the line “Once a beautiful Miss America married Mr Right” stuck with me for years, and turned into my story with my wife, pretty much… though those are the parents of the protagonist and his young lady, in the story the song presents). I think the winner, however, is going to be Surf’s Up.

Blind Before I Stop, 1986:
Quite a few I like on this one, and talking about them all really would get convoluted and take a long time. Rock ‘n’ Roll Hero, One more Kiss (Night Of The Soft Parade) rolling into Blind Before I stop. The Song Of Longing called Standing On The Outside (Now I don’t want to live without love anymore, just want to live my life, and love’s going to open up the door…), which might on another day have one. Today, though, today Execution Day wins. It’s been one of my favourites for a long time. Fun fact: I entered a poetry competition at my college with two poems, one inspired by Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back, and one more loosely inspired by Execution Day. I preferred the Execution Day one, but the Life Is A Lemon one won me a prize. Guess I did get some money back.

Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, 1993:
This one’s been with me the longest, guess it’s going to be harder to choose. Anything For Love with its epic intro? Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through, which I’ve listened to so much I know the backing vocal parts? (Keep on believing, and you’ll discover, baby!) So many others that have years of meaning. I’m going to go with the fun Out Of The Frying Pan (And Into The Fire).

Welcome To The Neighbourhood, 1995:
And this album only has two years less meaning. I’d Lie For You (etc) is running too close to Anything For Love, after a few listens. Where The Rubber Meets The Road is better. Original Sin would make a GREAT song in a musical (along with Sympathy For The Devil). Where Angels Sing is a beautiful song like Heaven Can Wait. I’m going to go with Amnesty Is Granted. The story is about two strong-willed people with relationship difficulties trying to get back together. It would be interesting to hear the other side’s perspective on this reconciliation attempt. Because there’s the possibility she might not take it so well (even with the “sorry” at the end).

Summary for part 1:
Heaven Can Wait
Dead Ringer For Love
Tie: Keep Driving and If You Really Want To (though, what on earth is up with that music video?)
Surf’s Up
Execution Day
Out Of The Frying Pan (And Into The Fire)
Amnesty Is Granted