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A fight between geniuses and a 12-minute conundrum: when Meat Loaf sang the last great rock ballad

2023-11-29T05:03:42.696Z

Highlights: Meat Loaf's 'I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)' turns 30 years old. The song was the most successful song on the global charts of 1993 that reached number one in 28 countries. 30 years later, in the midst of the era of minimalism, of the instantaneous, of trap hits that do not reach two minutes, Meat Loaf shines as the last great exponent of a way of making music, spectacular, grandiloquent, larger than life.


'I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)' turns 30 years old as an example of everything a big hit couldn't be in the age of Spotify: very long, excessive, mysterious and expensive


"I've traveled all over the universe over the years to find it. Sometimes going all the way is just the beginning." The roar of a powerful motorcycle at full speed, stalked by cars, motorbikes and a police helicopter to an imposing Gothic-style mausoleum where a creature with brutal features has been hiding. This is how the video clip for I would do anything for love (but I won't do that) begins, the song by Meat Loaf (born Michael Lee Aday, Dallas, 1047-Nashville, 2022) that led the rocker to have the most successful song on the global charts of 1993 that reached number one in 28 countries. 30 years later, in the midst of the era of minimalism, of the instantaneous, of trap hits that do not reach two minutes, he shines as the last great exponent of a way of making music, spectacular, grandiloquent, larger than life. And that, in the midst of the dictatorship of the algorithm, will hardly be repeated.

"I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" was the first single from Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, which marked the return to success of an artist who had debuted in 1977 one of the best-selling albums in the history of rock, Bat Out Of Hell, with 43 million copies shipped worldwide to date. The years between the two albums were filled with health problems, legal disputes and a handful of discretely successful releases. They had also seen how Jim Steinman, the composer behind the epic sound and sweeping lyrics of Meat Loaf's debut, had been distancing himself personally and professionally from his great friend.

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Jim Steinman's music has been defined as the result of an eventual collaboration between Phil Spector and Richard Wagner and played everything on theatricality and explosiveness. Steinman's name is behind hits such as Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart and Air Supply's Making Love Out of Nothing at All. As Bonnie Tyler recounted just months ago, Loaf was furious to discover that Jim Steinman had given Total Eclipse of the Heart to Bonnie Tyler, and even more so when it became the worldwide hit he needed to get his career off the ground in the 2021s. He maintained that the song had originally been written for him, but his record company refused to accept Steinman's terms and honorariums as a highly successful songwriter. Steinman (who also passed away in <>) always maintained that Eclipse was intended, from the beginning, for Tyler. Their reconciliation with Meat Loaf, in the early nineties, would allow them to triumph with a power ballad just two years after Nirvana revolutionized the way of relating rock and success with their Nevermind.

Meat Loaf dressed during the filming of the spectacular music video for 'I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)', directed by Michael Bay.Steve Rapport (Getty Images)

The music video was directed by Michael Bay, who was already beginning to stand out for his spectacularity in both music videos and commercials, shortly before inaugurating a fruitful relationship with action and adventure cinema with films such as Two Bad Cops, The Rock, Armageddon or Pearl Harbor. It's a seven-minute frenzy filled with foreshortening, beauty and decadence starring Meat Loaf himself and model Dana Patrick. This seven-minute version is the short one: the one on the album, that is, the one that the 14 million people who bought Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell listened to, lasted 12 minutes. For 12 minutes you can play Rosalía's Bizcochito seven times.

A rock opera in the midst of grunge

Nowadays there are perhaps those who identify 1993 with Creep, by Radiohead, Mr. Jones, by Counting Crows or What's up?, by 4 non blondes. But the truth is that I'd Do Anything for Love (but I Won't Do That), released in August of that same year, found its place in the charts in which Bon Jovi, Def Leppard or Aerosmith did not look out of place next to Whitney Houston and Madonna. Of all of them, Meat Loaf's song is, of course, the most excessive. You'd have to go back to the Beatles' Hey Jude to find a song so long that it was so successful, and you had to wait until almost ten minutes into Oasis' All Around the World to find a successor.

All the imagery shown in Michael Bay's music video is an amplified reflection of what the song has to offer. The fantasy of a character halfway between The Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast, the vampiric gothic or the very charged inks of the impossible love story with dedication beyond the mundane connect perfectly with the parameters in which Jim Steinman liked to place his lyrics. whose fondness for musicals (he even made several, one of them with Andrew Lloyd Weber) is noticeable, and very much so.

Meat Loaf with a young Angelina Jolie, star of his music video 'Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through' (1993). Jeff Kravitz (Getty Images)

Michael Bay directs Meat Loaf and Angelina Jolie in the music video for 'Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through' (1993). Jeff Kravitz (Getty Images)

Steinman would also have been, in his own words, responsible for choosing the interpreter of one of the great successes of the song: the duet coda with which, in the final part of the song, Meat Loaf's impossible love challenges him. Despite the fact that at the time the names of Cher, Melissa Etheridge or Bonnie Tyler would have been considered, it was an unknown British singer with a prodigious voice, Lorraine Crosby, who ended up getting the commission. Crosby was performing with her rock band on U.S. military bases around the world when Jim Steinman decided to sign her to his short-lived artist management agency after hearing a demo. The singer and her husband, Stuart Emerson, were performing arrangements and backing vocals at the recording sessions for Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell when the opportunity arose for her to record the duet "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)". "The idea was never for it to be used, it was just helping at a specific moment," Crosby would say years later. Six months later, Meat Loaf himself suggested that he use the improvised recording.

Her exceptional contribution to the song did not lead her to stardom, as one might first think. On the album she is credited with what was going to be her stage name, Ms. Loud, and in the video clip it is the model Dana Patrick who appears "singing", which made her the one who received offers from several record companies while Crosby saw how her record contract was canceled after the breakup between Jim Steinman and the MCA record label due to the cost overruns of Bat out of Hell II: back into hell, due to the spectacularity of the album's design and also to the very long 22 months it took Loaf to record it. Lorraine Crosby never got paid to participate in the recording session and found out that she was entitled to royalties when it was too late to claim what she had accumulated during the six years following the release of the single. He returned to the UK, where he performed in cabarets, amusement parks, and did not release his first album, self-released, until 2008.

I'd Do Anything for Love (but I Won't Do That) was also the milestone that allowed Meat Loaf to become more than just a musician. "There are few people who sound like that and that, in pop music, is already winning half a battle," says popular culture expert José Viruete about the American singer. A characteristic that, according to the communicator, combined with the fact that it was a very fun type to listen to. "He did some very good interviews and did a lot of late night and other television programs, where he told a lot of little battles," he concludes. One of the most recurrent was to answer what Meat Loaf meant by the "that" he said he didn't want to do in I'd do anything for Love (but I won't do that). The artist, sometimes even making use of a blackboard, explained that the answer was repeated several times in the lyrics of the song itself. It's easy to put an end to this conundrum: among the things the singer says he would do for love, he includes some he wouldn't do, such as "stop dreaming of you", "do better than I do with you". When the female voice suggests that he should realize that it's time to leave her and move on, he also clarifies, "I won't do that." Mystery solved.

To the rhythm of the Royal Guard

Viruete, one of the names behind veteran pop culture podcasts such as Tiempos Bizarros and Campamento Krypton and responsible for one of the historical blogs in Spanish, has a special link with Bat out of hell II: back into hell ("the first album I bought with my own money, remember"), of which he highlights that it was a great calling card for Meat Loaf in our country. "I'd Do Anything for Love (but I Won't Do That) is a reference for Meat Loaf in Spain, because their first big hit, Bat Out of Hell, didn't play much around here," he says. Viruete remembers how the music video was a more than regular presence on MTV and the various music video programs, although he believes that the song takes on real entity in its twelve-minute record version: "If you're going to hear something this bombastic, you have to listen to the full version, the length is part of that majesty."

Finally, the popularizer highlights the transcendence of an artist who knew how to adapt to the times and play with his own person, whether playing extreme characters in films such as Fight Club or letting Seth Rogen convince him to be represented in the form of an animated piece of meat for a cameo in his film The Sausage Party. A figure who, upon learning of his death at the beginning of 2022, at the age of 74, brought back I'd do anything for Love (but I won't do that) to millions of people (including the British Royal Guard, who paraded at Buckingham Palace to the sound of the song as a tribute) and dozens of articles analyzing his genius. This, 30 years after the last great larger-than-life rock ballad, is another one of them.

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Source: elparis

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