It probably comes as no surprise that Meat Loaf got his start in musical theater.
After all, the songs on his 1977 classic album Bat Out of Hell are pretty much big Broadway showstoppers with louder guitars. But before he made his career-defining album, Meat Loaf (born Marvin Lee Aday in Dallas) recorded an LP for a Motown subsidiary in 1971 that no one bought and appeared in the 1975 cult movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
So when he and songwriter Jim Steinman began work on the epic, operatic Bat Out of Hell in the mid '70s, they aimed big. Meat Loaf's career never again reached that milestone peak, but he came close in 1993, when he and Steinman made Hell's chart-topping sequel.
Our list of the Top 10 Meat Loaf Songs spans the '70s through '90s, but you can probably guess which album the majority of cuts come from.
"Not a Dry Eye in the House"From: 'Welcome to the Neighbourhood' (1995)
Written by Diane Warren (the same pop hitmaker who penned Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"), "Not a Dry Eye in the House" plays like a compact version of the massively theatrical songs Jim Steinman composed for Meat Loaf. Still, there's plenty of drama in the piano chords and choir. It's Meat Loaf's final charting single.
"I'm Gonna Love Her for Both of Us"From: 'Dead Ringer' (1981)
After the surprise success of Bat Out of Hell, Steinman had another set of songs all ready for Meat Loaf. But the stresses of touring wore down the singer, who blew out his voice. So Steinman recorded the followup album, Bad for Good, himself. In 1981, he and Meat Loaf finally returned with Dead Ringer. But the four-year break was too long for fans, who pretty much ignored the album and this first single, which stalled at No. 84. Clocking in at seven minutes and featuring the Phil Spectorian production that defined their hit record, "I'm Gonna Love Her for Both of Us" was the closest Dead Ringer got to 'Hell.'
"I'd Lie for You (And That's the Truth)"From: 'Welcome to the Neighbourhood' (1995)
Three years after the No. 1 Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, Meat Loaf returned with a similar-sounding album without Steinman. Like "Not a Dry Eye in the House" (see No. 10 in our list of the Top 10 Meat Loaf Songs), "I'd Lie for You (And That's the Truth)" was penned by Diane Warren, who has written tons of pop hits for everyone from Michael Bolton to Ratt. The album debuted at No. 2; the song climbed to No. 13, Meat Loaf's last big hit.
"Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are"From: 'Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell' (1993)
After a 12-year break from each other, and 16 years since the first Bat Out of Hell album, Meat Loaf and Steinman reunited for the sequel. And they picked up right where they left off, complete with kitchen-sink production by Steinman and songs with titles that read like short stories. The epic "Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are" was the album's third single, reaching the Top 40.
"Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through"From: 'Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell' (1993)
"Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through" was originally recorded by Steinman on his 1981 solo album that was intended to be Bat Out of Hell's followup (see No. 9 on our list of the Top 10 Meat Loaf Songs for details). We actually prefer his version, but the pair dusted off the song for Bat Out of Hell's 1993 sequel, which turns down the theatrics a bit. It hit No. 13.
"You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)"From: 'Bat Out of Hell' (1977)
It's hard to say who's more theatrical: Meat Loaf or Jim Steinman. That's probably why Bat Out of Hell is still so popular after all these years. Between the singer's operatic delivery and the writer's penchant for epic production and song titles, they make quite a pair. "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" is a perfect combination of their chemistry.
"Two Out of Three Ain't Bad"From: 'Bat Out of Hell' (1977)
Bat Out of Hell's big ballad helped make the album one of the all-time biggest sellers (43 million copies worldwide and growing). It stalled just outside the Top 10 at No. 11, but it went gold and stayed on the chart for almost half a year. It's one of Meat Loaf's best vocal performances and Steinman's greatest composition.
"Bat Out of Hell"From: 'Bat Out of Hell' (1977)
The sprawling opening title track to Bat Out of Hell sets the stage. Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes and loaded with Wall of Sound production, as well as instrumental assistance by Todd Rundgren (who produced the album) and the E Street Band's Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg, "Bat Out of Hell" is the album's toughest song, a revved-up rocker that falls somewhere between biker bar and Broadway.
"I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)"From: 'Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell' (1993)
After 16 years, nobody really expected the long-awaited sequel to Bat Out of Hell to be a monster hit. But all the elements were in place on the album's opening track and lead single: the big sound (produced by Steinman this time), the long title, the epic length. Nobody really could figure out what the song is about either. Doesn't matter: Both album and single reached No. 1, firsts for Meat Loaf.
"Paradise by the Dashboard Light"From: 'Bat Out of Hell' (1977)
"Paradise by the Dashboard Light" packs three movements, a half-dozen time shifts and a flurry of musical styles into eight oversized minutes of pop excess. Which is why it sums up Meat Loaf's career better than anything else he's ever recorded. But songwriter Jim Steinman, producer Todd Rundgren, singer Ellen Foley and baseball legend Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto also deserve credit for "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," throwing all of its various pieces into place with equal amounts of sex, sweat and humor.