This year I reach the mid point of my allotted three score and ten. To ‘celebrate’ I’ve decided to go all year by year and pick out a song from each year that was either significant for me at the time or became so later. The idea is to choose a song that was released in that year but that’s not going to always work. I make no claims for cool. These are just songs that have followed me around. I begin, because I happened to be born then, in 1977.
1977 was the Silver Jubilee. As I turn 35 the jubilee goes Diamond. The Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen may or may not have got to number one but I only even found out about that little controversy much, much later and by then I was far too cynical to see punk as anything other than a ploy to make money. Rebellion, my bottom.
In our house the music from 1977 that was played over and over when I was small was Meat Loaf. My dad is a vicar. He even went on local radio at some point to explain why the music and lyrics of Jim Steinman and the psalms and prayers of church were pretty much the same thing. There’s a cassette of the interview somewhere I think. I was quite surprised to discover as I matured that for other people Meat Loaf was a dish they couldn’t stomach.
Maybe they can’t get past the sight of a guy singing about James Dean-esque doomed heroism whilst looking like a straggly-haired cop after a marathon doughnut session. Maybe it’s the overblown orchestration or maybe it’s the lyrics. Jim Steinman writes lyrics like no one else, or at least he did during this golden period of the mid 70s to mid 80s. Nobody else could write “Like a sinner before the gates of heaven / I’ll come crawling on back to you.” Where there is rebellion in the Steinman/Loaf canon it’s comic book – Love and Death and the American Guitar – but there is soul, majesty, heroism and the promise or rugged men and even ballsier women.
For Meat Loaf the past 35 years have been up and down, up and down. He’s been great when with Steinman, less so without. He’s been bankrupt and in Fight Club. I have no idea what Jim Steinman is doing now but I’ll wager it’s magnificent.
Even now I play Bat Out of Hell all the time. From walkman to iPod to generic MP3 player. Obviously I don’t play it out loud where other people can hear but sneakily, through headphones, with the volume up. And when it plays, even though I have never ridden a motorbike in my life, I rev the engine and head off into the sunset totally aware that I never see the sudden curve till it’s way too late.
Ladies and gentleman, for 1977, it’s Meat Loaf and Bat Out of Hell.