Jack of Many Trades

Bat Out of Hell

Originally posted: 2022-01-23

Thirty-some years ago, I had choreographed an entire elaborate dance routine and storyline to the Bat Out of Hell album. Did I understand what Paradise By the Dashboard Light was about? No I did not. I didn't understand a damn thing about the plot of the album, not really, but I recognized that there was a lot going on. I didn't know who the wolf with the red roses was but damn if I wasn't offering him my throat and asking for his hunger anyway.

I was twelve in 1993 when Bat Out of Hell II came out and blew my preteen mind. I loved everything about it-the orchestration, the dramatic lyrics, the 90sness of the music videos, and Meat Loaf's range was somehow perfect for my alto-singing self. I saw someone say "I don't always listen to Meat Loaf, but when I do, so do the neighbors" and that is entirely correct. Jim Steinman's music and Meat Loaf's vocals go absolutely 200% all the way through and 200% is how I felt all the time in my teens. I shouted along about the virtue of a wasted youth while wondering what the hell I was doing and where I was going in my small town.

A little over twenty years ago, Fight Club came out, and while none of the reasons it stuck with me had much to do with Meat Loaf, well, he sure was there, wasn't he? So it feels weird to leave it out.

Thirteen or so years ago, I was doing lighting for shadowcasts of Repo! and Rocky Horror, and writing fanfic for the former while I was at it, and somewhere in the rock opera supernatural epic mess of the two I started listening to Meat Loaf again, looking for the feeling and the aesthetic of the future Repo! sang about: dark and fucked up and weirdly beautiful.

(Hilariously, I just got a kudo notification for one of those fics; everything circles around.)

Almost five years ago I wrote, in a longer post about the ways I use music in my magic:

[O]nce the baby went to bed I found a playlist of Bat Out of Hell II and started it up. The extended opening of “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” started up, all glitched motorcycle revs and piano and it was like an electrical fucking shock. If I managed to charge some songs by working with them daily for a month or two as a busy 35 year old dad, well, it seems reasonable that the shit I lived and breathed in my teens would still be holding a charge twenty years later.

[...] why am I not using this? I may not remember the original, precise uses of all of these songs, but that doesn’t mean I can’t explore the energy they still hold and figure out how to redeploy them. It’s the same principle as finding a wand in a treasure chest in D&D, right? You figure out what it does and then you get to work with it. And hey, I probably won’t fireball myself in the face with a Meat Loaf song, so bonus!

On one hand, this was a terrible idea, because it’s 1am and I’ve gone through about 3/4 of Bat Out of Hell II and this was not at all the blog post I sat down to write and I am so awake. So awake. And I have to be at work early because of course I do.

Since then I've gotten back into a lot more music-based magic, and yes, I've reclaimed some of the stuff I'd forgotten, and some of it turned out to have new associations and new uses that I hadn't needed when I was a teenager.

I don't think Meat Loaf (or Jim Steinman, for that matter) is the type to ascend directly, like David Bowie or Freddie Mercury. My feeling is that they tapped into a specific something, an energy or a power, that can be traced through their work. A spirit of risk and regret, a spirit that understands violence and story both. A spirit that rides a motorcycle.

Yeah... I'm back at the Wild Hunt, aren't I?

That wasn't actually where I was expecting this to go when I started writing this and tracing the path, but I suppose it's not actually surprising to realize that this music that was woven through a lot of my life tracks thematically with a spirit relationship that I also have realized was woven through a lot of my life. Themes and images form patterns, and those patterns resonate backwards and forwards in time. Objects in the rear-view mirror may appear closer than they are.

I never really know if I'm just grasping at strings or if there's more to it. I'm wired to find patterns, whether it's fate or OCD. Part of the reason I took up having a personal website again is because the code is soothing, seeing it lined up. Maybe the only power in the pattern is the fact that I recognize it; maybe the only power in the song is the fact that I feel something when I see it, and maybe there's nothing greater underpinning it, but either way, there is power in the pattern and power in the feeling.

Two out of three ain't bad.