- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2015

He’s performed at rock venues around the world, sold millions of records and acted in dozens of films, but the one thing Marvin Lee Aday — aka Meat Loaf — will still not do is “that.”

“Go read the lyrics,” Meat Loaf said of his song “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).” “I’m serious, go right now, go on the web and read the lyrics, and read the line before every chorus,” he recently told The Washington Times.

The meaning of that “that” has been the subject of speculation for over two decades since the album “Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell” hit the streets in 1993, with its high-concept video for “I’d Do Anything for Love” that cast “Meat” as a motorcycle-riding quasi-Quasimodo figure in love.

His writing partner on the first two “Bat out of Hell” albums was Jim Steinman. Meat Loaf and Mr. Steinman are now putting the finishing touches on their fourth record collaboration, “Braver Than We Are,” scheduled for release later this year. Despite a somewhat complicated history that entailed a lawsuit between the two men over the use of the title “Bat out of Hell” — Mr. Steinman had no involvement in 2006’s “Bat out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose” — Meat Loaf praises the working relationship the two once again share.

“Jimmy and I, this morning alone I don’t even know how many emails” the duo exchanged, Meat Loaf said.

One way in which his collaboration with Mr. Steinman has changed over the years is the ease of editing and revising compositions in the digital age — allowing ideas to translate into results almost instantaneously.

“I said go to the guitar solo and slide — because now in ProTools you can just move things over — put two verses together, put the guitar solo in, and we played it,” he said of the ongoing gestation of “Braver Than We Are.” “And then I said ‘the bridge comes in,’ and bam!”

Meat Loaf had a grand tour planned for 2015, but major back surgery and ongoing rehabilitation sidelined that particular musical outing.

“I’m not going to move like I did when I was 28,” the rock star, 67, who did a 2014 residency in Las Vegas, said of his age and health. “I put a lot of energy into that show, and if I can get back to that, then I’ll be more than happy.”

However, Meat Loaf will hit the road for a 16-date minitour in October, with “Braver Than We Are” likely to follow on its heels. The tour goes wheels-up in Albuquerque on October 16.

“This fall tour is just putting the band back together and rebuilding an engine and taking the car out for a ride,” the rocker said of returning to the stage backed by guitarists Paul Crook and Randy Flowers.

“I have the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world,” he said. “We’ve retuned the car, we’ve rebuilt the engine, and we’re gonna go out and play.”

As “Braver Than We Are” remains a work in progress, Meat Loaf says none of the songs from the forthcoming album will be performed for any of the October dates, however, fans can expect to hear the new tracks live next summer.

In addition to rocking fans the world over with such staples as “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” “Hot Patootie” and “Everything Louder Than Everything Else,” Meat Loaf has kept up a busy acting career, appearing in over 70 films ranging from his doomed appearance as Eddie in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to Bob, a fellow cursed with man-breasts in David Fincher’s nihilistic “Fight Club.”

In fact, it was his thespian friends, late-night TV comedians John Belushi and Gilda Radner, who pushed him before “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels to get him to perform on the show when “Bat out of Hell” was still struggling to find an audience upon its 1977 release.

“That’s when that record exploded,” Meat Loaf said of his spring 1978 “SNL” performance. (Both Belushi and Radner died in the 1980s.)

Indeed, “Bat out of Hell” has gone on to sell over 43 million units worldwide, consistently ranking it among the most successful records of all time.

“It’s in the top 5 no matter how you look at it,” Meat Loaf said of comparing the various rankings compiled over the years. “Five is great. Nobody will ever touch any of those top records.”

Yet for all of his success and well-deserved bragging rights, Meat Loaf remains remarkably uncomfortable with the notion of himself being labeled a star.

“It actually blows me away that people, when I go out, know who I am,” the artist maintains. “My producer goes, ‘You’re a star.’ I go ‘No, I’m not. I don’t want to be a rock icon, I never asked to be, and I don’t want to be. I’m a worker. I come to work.’

“And he says, ‘It doesn’t make any difference what you want to be, that’s what it is.’”

The Texas native claims he never went into the entertainment business with the dreams of becoming a star, but success nevertheless followed his amazing trajectory. But Meat Loaf says his incredible rock prosperity has more to do with determination than raw talent or luck.

“When I was working so hard to break ‘Bat out of Hell,’ what was going through my mind was to prove all these people wrong,” he said.

The music biz has changed dramatically sine then, with a new album being considered a success even with a few hundred thousand units sold, let alone the 43 million “Bat out of Hell” has notched. Meat Loaf said that without the label juggernauts to support and nurture contemporary musicians, the onus is on aspiring artists to do the heavy lifting themselves.

“It requires even more work than it did in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s or even the 2000s,” he said bluntly. “There really [are] no more record companies. Artists make most of their money from touring and endorsements these days. You used to make an album and you’d tour to sell the album. Now you make an album to tour. Anybody that expects to … get rich on it, they’re dreaming.

“I make music because I still have something to say and I have something to prove,” he said of the demons and angels that drive him. “I have something to prove to myself; my fight is never with someone else — [it’s] to be better than I was yesterday, to improve and to move forward and learn.”

Still, Meat Loaf remains grateful for his rock ‘n’ roll success and the incredible numbers the original “Bat out of Hell” has earned since its recording nearly four decades ago.

“The record doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to you,” he said.

“Braver Than We Are” will be released this fall. The tour begins at Route 66 Casino in Albuquerque October 16.

• Eric Althoff can be reached at twt@washingtontimes.com.

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