by Gabi Watkins
Over spring break I visited Florida with my mom and younger siblings. During the 42 total hours on the road I listened to a lot of NPR and classic rock. From epic ballads about love gone wrong to ventures of sex and drugs, the era of Rock ‘n Roll was a defining and crucial point in the evolution of music. Throughout my car ride I heard some songs that stuck out to me not only as a fan of this genre, but as a music lover in general:
Part 1: “Paradise By the Dashboard Light”
Michael Lee Aday, better known by his stage name, Meat Loaf, started his musical career in high school through theater productions. After graduation he made his way to Los Angeles where he formed his first band “Meat Loaf Soul”. The band opened for various artists including Janis Joplin, the Who and The Grateful Dead.
Meat Loaf then went on to record for Motown Records, where he released his debut album, Stoney & Meatloaf in September 1971. Despite the album’s moderate success, he was unhappy with Motown and left shortly after to audition for various parts in musical theater. It was during one of these auditions he met his future collaborator Jim Steinman. He had success in the theater, starring in the production of Hair on Broadway and earning a part in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
All the while he was working with Steinman on creating his second album and left theater in 1974 to pursue his music career exclusively. In 1977 he signed with Cleveland International Records and had his big break that October with his sophomore album and claim to fame, Bat Out of Hell.
Bat Out of Hell contains some of the most revolutionary and iconic tracks of the 1970s. Composer, Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf brought together aspects of hard rock, pop and spoken word lyrics, tied together by one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s key elements – sex.
“Paradise By the Dashboard Light” highlights the album; a three part, eight minute long epic, telling the tale of high school sweethearts about to take their relationship to a physical level in a car. Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley embody the suspense and desire of young lovers at the beginning of the song, with Meat Loaf proudly proclaiming “we’re gonna go all the way tonight”.
The first part then cuts to a metaphoric play-by-play done by New York Yankees’ shortstop, Phil Rizzuto. This transition is part of what makes this song so iconic as listeners feel the excitement resounding through commentary as the player reaches first base, is nearly thrown out at second, steals third base and sprints for home plate leaving Rizzuto to proclaim, “Holy Cow I think he’s gonna make it!”
Foley then stops the run short, making it clear that she won’t go any further until she knows they’ll be together forever. The male and female vocals intertwine as Meat Loaf pleads with her to let him ‘sleep on it’, promising to tell her in the morning. After their banter makes it clear that she needs confirmation now, he gives into frustration and reassures her that, “I’ll love you ‘til the end of time”.
The song ends with an ironic twist as Meat Loaf exclaims, “now I’m waiting for the end of time, to hurry up and arrive”. Despite the relationship turning bitter and the couple clearly not being able to stand each other, they keep their vows to stay together and reminisce of their first time, remembering how the spark that was once there is now but a distant memory.
The well thought out story line and sarcastic undertones portrayed in these lyrics mash together with an experimental pop-funk tune and the heavy guitar that this era is known for. The song itself peaked at 39 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the album has sold over 43 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best selling records of all time.