Meat Loaf gave an entire generation of Indian fans a voice, and sadly lost his own in the process

Meat Loaf burst onto our television screens in 1993 when India's newly liberalised market had just paved the way for cable networks — particularly MTV — to open our world to the experience of consuming music visually.

Lakshmi Govindrajan Javeri January 21, 2022 17:19:02 IST
Meat Loaf gave an entire generation of Indian fans a voice, and sadly lost his own in the process

Meat Loaf

There is a Meat Loaf that the rest of the world knew, and there was one that Indians got to know a good decade and a half after his career debut.

Born Michael Lee Aday (later changed to Marvin), the singer with the stage name Meat Loaf burst onto our television screens in 1993 when the country’s newly liberalised market had just paved the way for cable networks — particularly MTV — to open our world to the experience of consuming music visually.

The turn of 1992-93 were early days, mind you, when all of Guns N’ Roses’ 'November Rain' would merrily share space with Duran Duran’s 'Come Undone,' where the similarities between En Vogue’s 'Free Your Mind' and George Michael’s 'Too Funky' were hard to miss, when Alicia Silverstone made her debut on Aerosmith’s 'Cryin’,' a cherubic bumble bee immortalised Blind Melon’s 'No Rain,' and Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon’s wife rocked our world as the philandering girlfriend in Michael Jackson’s 'Who Is It?' The early '90s was a period of some of the grandest, most spectacular music videos whose directors have gone on to become cult filmmakers. 

Amongst the most extravagant videos was Meat Loaf’s 'I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).' Well over seven minutes (which was a lifetime on television), the Michael Bay-directed video combined the fantasy of Beauty and the Beast with the noir pathos of The Phantom of the Opera, featuring Meat Loaf as the disfigured antihero on a bike, masterfully shot by cinematographer Daniel Pearl, who was until then famous for The Police’s 'Every Breath You Take' monochromatic video. 

Meat Loaf gave an entire generation of Indian fans a voice and sadly lost his own in the process

Meat Loaf

The context of our introduction to Meat Loaf is crucial to his role in the life of an Indian fan because in a year that had runaway hits like Inner Circle’s 'Sweat' and Haddaway’s overplayed 'What is Love,' Meat Loaf’s single was the necessary darkness that separated the boys from the men, the cute girls from the enigmatic women. 

The song (written and composed by the prolific Jim Steinman, who was a frequent collaborator of the Texan musician) was suitably gothic for a generation that was yet to be introduced to death metal, and had not been worn down yet by the existentialism of grunge. It had the kind of grandeur akin to teen bravado disguised as machismo — where an entire generation of young, acned men have sung aloud without inhibition. It was dark, but in a pop-rock kind of way.

It also featured the only other great musical mystery of 1992-93 (the first being over who killed Axl Rose’s on-screen wife in 'November Rain') — what was the “that” that Meat Loaf said he would not do? Spawning memes before memes became a thing, the “that” has captured much of our imagination and inspired innuendoes, obviously. The singer himself has answered that on multiple occasions stating that the lines preceding this refrain, are all the things that the singer would do while the “that” is a promise of what he would not. That did not stop the jokes and speculation even two decades later.

The song featured in Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell, the second and most successful album from his Bat Out of Hell trilogy. The trilogy alone has sold over 65 million copies worldwide. The album re-established him as a formidable voice, releasing 16 years after the highly successful Bat Out of Hell album. His relationship with Steinman has been through many breakups and makeups, yet some of his best works have been the product of this very successful collaboration. With powerhouse vocals to support the anthemic sound of Steinman’s writing and composing, the heavyweight singer-actor mesmerised us, and allowed us to indulge in what was essentially the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll.

His full-throated singing distinguished him as a kind of heroic tenor whose voice could transfix a stadium audience with ease. 

It was his greatest presence in the world of music, but it was also one that he has had to struggle with the most. Soon after the release of the 1977 Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf lost his voice for the first time, as elucidated in Mick Wall’s book Like a Bat Out of Hell: The Larger Than Life Story of Meat Loaf. Over the years, he has lost his voice, developed vocal cysts, and experienced such lows that are hard to digest for a man who achieved so much fame for hitting the high notes with the kind of weight that he did. Over the last two decades, his health too suffered tremendously as news trickled of Meat Loaf fainting on stage multiple times. Once he even got caught in a lip-sync allegation as he passed out on stage, and his vocal track continued to play. 

Meat Loaf had come a long way from his successful stint as Eddie on The Rocky Horror Show before his singing career took off. He has also featured in many TV shows and films such as Fight Club and Wayne’s World. He dabbled with so many films and shows while being a born-again megastar that one cannot help but look back at his life as being a sum total of choices that he determinedly pursued. He lived life on his own terms even though he was often projected as some kind of weirdo in the media. 

Then again, for a man with a moniker like Meat Loaf, he was largely vegetarian. He performed at Bill Clinton’s inaugural ball yet supported George W Bush and had the nicest things to say about the Trumps. It has been hard being a Meat Loaf fan when one has had to be cognisant of his various idiosyncrasies. 

Today, as news of his demise comes in, we are taken back to the time almost 30 years ago when Meat Loaf empowered us all to throw caution and our vocals to the wind, making promises of what we would do and not do for love. In more ways than one, Meat Loaf gave us a voice and sadly lost his own in the process.

An entire generation grieves today.

Senior journalist Lakshmi Govindrajan Javeri has spent a good part of two decades chronicling the arts, culture and lifestyles.

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