Revisiting Meat Loaf’s Troubled ‘Bat Out of Hell III’
Stalled by health problems, nearly halted by lawsuits and plagued with guilty feelings, the road to Bat Out of Hell III was fraught with the kind of melodrama fans were used to hearing in Meat Loaf’s music. Yet the third installment of the Bat series – subtitled The Monster Is Loose – managed to make it out of production hell in October 2006.
Meat Loaf broke through with 1977’s blockbuster Bat Out of Hell, which was created in collaboration with producer Todd Rundgren and songwriter Jim Steinman. The songsmith with a knack for the theatrical even earned a credit on the album’s fantastical cover, a rarity in rock. Steinman re-teamed with Meat Loaf to make Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, which became almost as big of a sensation as the first entry when it came out in 1993. This time Steinman wrote and produced the record and Rundgren arranged the backing vocals.
Meat Loaf and Steinman began working on the series' third entry in 2001, but the producer and songwriter suffered some health problems, which put a stop, at least temporarily, to the pair’s creative process. Meat Loaf decided to go ahead without him.
The singer said his choice to make Bat III without Steinman “was absolutely selfish on my part. He had a heart attack and two strokes; his health was the main concern for me.” Still, it wasn’t something Meat Loaf did lightly.
“It was a hard decision to make, but he had had a second stroke, and ... I didn’t think he was physically ready to do it, to commit to that kind of work,” he told Bullz-eye.com in 2006. “And I was afraid we’d be in and out of the studio for five years ... and I’m not exactly the youngest chicken in the pen either. And so I needed to move.”
Meat Loaf recruited Desmond Child (who had collaborated with Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Alice Cooper) to helm the proceedings, which relied on multiple songs Steinman had written for other projects. One of them was “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” which had been a big hit for Celine Dion in the ’90s. Meat Loaf turned the song into a duet featuring Norwegian singer Marion Raven.
Listen to Meat Loaf's 'It's All Coming Back to Me Now'
“In my mind, it was meant to be a duet,” Meat Loaf told Australian television when making the single’s video. Steinman wrote the song in the ’80s, and Meat Loaf was always annoyed that he didn’t have the chance to sing it first. “It was meant to be on Bat III, and so I’m-a put it on Bat III.”
The remainder of the album was written or co-written by a variety of songwriters, including Child, Nikki Sixx, Diane Warren and Marti Frederiksen. Meat Loaf also had plenty of assistance in recording Bat Out of Hell III. Rundgren returned to help with backing vocals on a few tracks, while other songs feature guest spots from Brian May, Steve Vai and Marilyn Manson/Rob Zombie guitarist John 5.
“I didn’t just want to bring in rock players – I wanted to go to extreme rock people,” Meat Loaf told Billboard. This resulted in a disc that “has all the touches of the other two Bats, but it’s much more of a rock album.”
As Meat Loaf and friends were preparing the album to come out, Steinman sued to prevent its release because he had trademarked the Bat Out of Hell name. The two settled out of court, with the songwriter receiving profit points on the record and Meat Loaf getting the go-ahead. Bat Out of Hell III hit stores on Oct. 20 (in Ireland at first; the U.S. release date was Oct. 31) with a dedication to Steinman.
Sequels often can’t help but disappoint, which III certainly did. It has sold two million copies worldwide – not bad, but nowhere close to the multi-platinum stats of the first two editions. Reviews were mixed, with critics noting Steinman’s absence as well as the incongruity of soft ballads next to metallic rock.
After patching up his relationship with Steinman and returning to work with him again, Meat Loaf decided that the album wasn’t worthy of the Bat name.
“I’m not gonna get into the political aspects of Bat Out of Hell III,” Meat Loaf told Rolling Stone in 2016. “I wanted to strangle somebody, but not Jimmy, trust me. There is no Bat Out of Hell III. That should have never happened. To me, that record is nonexistent. It doesn’t exist.”