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“Paradise by the Dashboard Light”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 29, 2013

Bat Out of Hell occupies a strange place in music history.  It is simultaneously one of the best-selling albums of all time (43 million copies, according to Wikipedia) and a cult classic.  Hell, in some ways, it’s a cult unto itself.  It featured almost operatic rock, with songs reaching both epic lengths and epic production. Meatloaf possessed one of the biggest voices in rock at the time.  Producer Todd Rundgren was famous for his talent and overblown ego.  Everything about it was just huge.

“Paradise by the Dashboard Light” is one of the biggest tracks on the album.  It features Meatloaf dueting with Ellen Foley (she played Billie on Night Court for a couple of seasons).  The story is all teenage melodrama.  Boy and girl start getting hot & heavy in boy’s car until girl demands to know “Do you love me?  Will you love me forever?  Do you need me?  Will you never leave me?  Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?  Will take me away?  Will you make me your wife?”  Boy, in a lust-induced moment of insanity, pledges to love girl “till the end of time.”  Of course, they end the song praying for the end of time.

The song changes gears repeatedly, the mood swinging from ecstatic to angry to depressed.  It even features a mock baseball play-by-play call featuring Yankee legend Phil Rizzuto, playing beautifully on that old metaphor for how far you go in a make-out session.  It seems to encompass the whole of teenage experience in one song–all the joy and freedom of being “barely seventeen and barely dressed” to the disappointing realization that real life is never going to measure up to fantasy.

I’ve always kind of loved everything about Bat Out of Hell.  It’s excessiveness is part of it charm.  I’m not in the mood for it very often, but when I need a little dose of big guitars and inflated sentiment, I go straight for Meatloaf.

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