Paradise By the Dashboard Light: Rest in Peace, Meat Loaf

On 20 January 2022 Heaven added a powerful new voice to the Heavenly Choir:  Marvin Lee Aday, better known by his beefy stage name, Meat Loaf.  Meat Loaf passed at the age of 74 surrounded by family.

Celebrity deaths don’t usually hit me all that hard, but Meat Loaf left his mark on me.  My older brother played “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” for me when I was in high school—and I initially didn’t like it!  But a friend reintroduced me to Meat in college, and by then I’d come to appreciate the cheeky melodrama of Jim Steinman’s songwriting combined with Meat’s gospel-drenched vocals.

As one of the early members among the ranks of Obese-Americans—now a protected class, I think—and a young man with ambitions to bring panache and humor back to rock ‘n’ roll (which in the early 2000s was moving from angsty grunge to angsty new rock), Meat Loaf left a big—no pun intended—imprint on my musical imagination.  His powerful, sweaty vocals and Broadway-meets-rock-meets-gospel style really spoke to me:  a perspiring, fumbling mass of dough and latent musical ability.  I don’t go in for all that “representation” stuff, but if a dude like Meat Loaf could make it, so could I.  Fat White Guy Solidarity!

The songwriting of his frequent collaborator (and legal rival), composer Jim Steinman, also captured my fervent imagination.  The ironic lyrics (“but there ain’t no Coupe Deville hidin’ at the bottom of a Cracker Jack Box”), the hilarious titles (“Life is a Lemon (and I Want My Money Back)” and—of course—“I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)“), the bombastic composing techniques.  Suddenly, Broadway, rock ‘n’ roll, and even Southern gospel fused into this incredible music that elevated doughy teenaged ennui and youthful passions to Wagnerian heights.

And, think about it—to a teenager, everything does take on operatic significance.  Hard experience and normalizing hormones give adults a sense of perspective, but Meat Loaf’s music captured that sense that everything matters and that life is full of intense experiences.

Everyone remembers their first kiss (presumably); the 300th might be pretty awesome, too, but it’s not as full of Wagnerian intensity as the first (or maybe the second or third—sometimes you need to practice a bit first).

A few days before Meat Loaf shed this mortal coil, I recorded a short version of “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” just for fun (and with quite a few mistakes):

Little did I realize that Meat would be gone just a few days later.  The second video, an abridged version of “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” is my small tribute to the great life of Meat Loaf.

This blog post is another attempt at paying homage, meager though it may be.

Oh, and “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” is now one of my favorite songs.

Rest in Peace, Meat Loaf.  You will be missed.

27 thoughts on “Paradise By the Dashboard Light: Rest in Peace, Meat Loaf

  1. Brilliant Tyler! 🙂

    I like Two out of Three Ain’t Bad but Tina doesn’t.

    ‘I want you, I need you but there ain’t no way I’m ever going to love you but don’t feel sad, cause two out of three ain’t bad.’ Excellent. You wouldn’t have got those lyrics out of anyone else. Tina’s a whole package kind of girl and likes to hear that in her lyrics so she berates Meatloaf for having his cake and eating it! Great stuff! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, Tina is right to want the whole package. That’s the fun and irony of this song. It’s also pretty tragic; he makes it clear that “there was only one girl that I would ever love/and that was so many years ago.” Maybe being wanted and needed is enough; it’s probably the case for most marriages!

      Liked by 2 people

      • She has an issue with I Would Do Anything For Love too. I get where she’s coming from on that – if you’re in love you would do anything. Maybe not kill for someone but I have a feeling that specific isn’t the ‘that’ in the song. Do you ever find out what ‘that’ is?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Again, a classic example of Jim Steinman’s lyrical irony and humor. We never do know what the “that” is. That eternal mystery is part of the appeal of the song.

        I’m sure even in the most loving relationships, there are some boundaries, some Rubicons, that can’t or won’t be crossed. Oftentimes loving someone means telling them—firmly—that you won’t do something, usually for the good of the person asking for it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. She also has an issue with Paradise by the Dashboard Light.

    As she puts it, they make this promise to each other to be together til the end of time (just for a bit of naughty naughty) and then realise they hate each other (praying for the end of time so he can end his time with her) so why don’t they just get a divorce?! It makes no sense!

    Those are Tina’s words not mine. She’s sitting here at the moment with a mischievous grin on her face wailing about the nonsensical aspect of Meatloaf’s lyrics. I do like when she gets creatively agitated! 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Remind Tina of the horny teen’s fidelity: “I’ll never break my promise or forget my vow.” It’s a cautionary song about throbbing teenage romance, but he’s oddly honorable in the end, holding up the end of his lusty bargain.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I need to get Tina on here – let battle commence! She hasn’t commented on anything since before Christmas but she needs to.

        She says that he ‘promised to love her til the end of time’ and broke his promise. Personally, I see it the way you do – teenage love/lust, not too dissimilar to that scene in Team America where the girl puppet says she’ll make love to the bloke puppet if he promises that he’ll never die. Well, you know how that turned out! Teenagers will say anything if it means they’re rewarded, so to speak. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • But he doesn’t break his promise! He says he’s “praying for the end of time/so I can end my time with you,” implying that he IS staying with her, even if he’s miserable. Sure, he makes a bad deal out of sheer horniness—he’s willing to do anything in that moment—but unlike most “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” types, he sticks with her.

        It’s also the ironic humor of the song, a trademark of Jim Steinman’s songwriting: the bliss and ecstasy of fumbling around in the back of his car (the short-term fun and excitement of sin) results in a lifetime of misery.

        Sure, maybe he doesn’t “love” her, but he’s keeping his word to stick with her. That’s how I read it.

        Also, notice how the girl LOVES it _after_ he’s agreed to love her forever. Women love commitment.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Is it insulting if an old lady says you’re a cutie? LOL! Well – you are. Get over it.

    Another good review, Port. I don’t think anybody ever disliked Meat Loaf. I’m surprised you didn’t mention his portrayal of Eddie in Rocky Mountain Picture Show – two of your favorite things; music and horror. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMRl55U0eDw. The AP part (audience participation) sang, “Hot patootie, bless my soul – sex, drugs, and rock and roll” Lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Singing is great for you, mentally and physically. Even if you don’t sing in a karaoke bar, there’s always the shy persons place – the shower. I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who hasn’t used the shower as their personal karaoke booth. 🙂

      Personally, I’d label my voice half and half but I do sing better when I’m playing guitar – for me, when you’re focused on one instrument, the other will ‘play’ itself, so to speak. I’d be interested to know if Tyler has a similar view of it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think you’re right—focusing either the voice or the instrument seems to make the other easier. It lets the reflexes kick in. It is VERY mentally demanding to play and sing at the same time, but it gets easier with lots of practice.

        Indeed, that would be my caveat: it’s easier to just let your hands do their thing IF you have practice well. There are times I’m playing piano and I completely forget that my hands are doing anything, because they’re so accustomed to those chord formations and patterns.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Ah long ago I was a chubby high tenor (these days I’m kind of a chubby baritone 🙂 ). Highlight of my High School week was singing along to “Paradise by the Dashboard light” after youth group to the radio outside with a young lady mezzo that could do Ellen Foleys part to a T. I did a fair job at Meatloaf showing off for the young lady but it did me no good (probably for the best). One of the other guys could do a fair Phil Rizzuto impression. That was not too surprising as we were in CT and the Yankees were on the radio often with Phil doing the play by play, almost every kid could do an impression of the “Holy Cow!” catch phrase. Youth Pastor and his wife thought it was a hoot but hinted perhaps we should make sure we were a little further from the parsonage and the Senior Pastor.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for sharing that great story, tregonsee! When my buddy John and I have attempted the full tune, I will do Ellen Foley’s part in a humorous falsetto. Probably not as good as that girl from your youth group! John can do the Phil Rizzuto commentary almost word-for-word from memory, which blows my mind.

        Here’s to the chubby kids, my good man!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, guess I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead but that clumsy boob owes me thirteen bucks for tickets for a concert that was cancelled when he broke his leg falling off stage back in 1977. Nice vocals Tyler.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Well, what we wanted was to see the concert. The world is very different when you’re young. Luckily I’ve retained my ability to hold a grudge for generations. But if I run into Meatloaf in the afterlife he still owes me and Camera Girl a rendition of the Bat Out of Hell album complete with Phil Rizzuto doing the play by play on Paradise by the Dashboard Light.

        Like

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