So, for the second week running, I find myself having to write about the passing of a legend. Last week I dodged the sadness of Ronnie Spector’s death by passing it to a fellow blogger who had already written a beautiful piece which said all that I wanted to say, but I suspect the love from the blogging community at the news that Michael Lee Aday aka Meat Loaf has died may be a little thinner on the ground.
So here’s the first thing I want to say: Bat Out of Hell is a great record. Just because it’s one of the most commercially successful records ever does not make it a bad record. You know that phrase: 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong? Well, yes they can, but in the case of Bat Out of Hell (and, fair dues, Elvis too) they’re not.
I’ve written about my love for that album before, here, should you wish to check it out.
Although he hasn’t made a record I liked for 40 years or so, and anything he did release which didn’t involve Jim Steinman should really be avoided, I loved Meat Loaf for he was the soundtrack to a part of my youth.
There was a really good documentary on BBC4 last night about him, called MeatLoaf: In and Out of Hell which I can thoroughly recommend. If you’re in the UK it’s currently available to stream on the BBC iPlayer.
But I’ve noticed a worrying trend starting with these two most recent celebrity deaths. Is there a link? Or is this just a way for me to shoehorn a loads of great songs into one post?
April 2021 saw a landslide of celebrity deaths the likes of which we haven’t seen since The Great Celebrity Cull of 2016.
Some of these were absolute shocks to me: Paul Ritter, an actor best known for his role as the father in the comedy, Friday Night Dinner but who I’d also seen in several straight drama TV roles over the years; Bay City Rollers frontman Les McKeown, who I had the pleasure of meeting circa 1990 when we booked the Rollers (in truth, just him and a backing band) to play at the Students Union – I have no stories to tell about him, even if I wanted to speak ill of the dead, which I don’t. What I would say was that I was very popular with a lot of students’ older sisters who attended the gig; most shockingly and out of the blue actor Helen McRory, best known for being Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders, not a show I’ve ever got round to watching, despite the rave reviews, but I’d seen her in so many things and was always blown away by her performances. Somebody can do much better eulogies to each of these than I can manage.
And then there was the news that somebody I had assumed died years ago, hadn’t, but had now obliged.
His name came up on these pages not so long ago, when I mentioned that a Sisters of Mercy record I posted had all the hallmarks of this musician and writer, only to find that he had in fact co-written it.
A composer, lyricist, record producer, and *gulps* playwright, he worked with the likes of Bonnie Tyler, Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, Air Supply, Boyzone – all the greats (sense the tone, readers) – bringing his bombastic, rock opera-esque trademark sound to each of them.
I speak, of course, of Jim Steinman
Steinman was, of course, most closely associated with the work of Meat Loaf, to the point where The Loaf’s solo career was harmed. In the same way as you know not to bother to listen to a Weezer album unless it has a colour in the title, so we learned to avoid anything Mr Loaf released which didn’t have Steinman’s name attached to it somewhere.
It wasn’t a guarantee of quality mind: I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) remains utter dogshit, and if you’re one of those people who says “What wouldn’t he do?” whenever it gets played a) you haven’t listened to the rest of the song properly, and b) you deserve the punishment of going to listen to it again, and pay attention this time will you, or you’ll have to listen to it again and again until you understand. Go on. Now.
I will always remember watching Top of the Pops in the 80s, and this video coming on; my father looked up from the newspaper he was pretending to read (like he wasn’t waiting for Legs & Co to come on) and said: “That’s Cher!” At the time, I had no idea who Cher was, and the next time I would encounter her she would be straddling the barrel of a very large looking phallic rocket launcher on a US Navy ship, dressed in nowt but a set of black net curtains and a black mankini carefully placed to cover of her plastic parts (face excluded).
Dead Ringer For Love remains, in my opinion, one of the greatest two-hander pop records ever. To this day – incoming private joke that I’m not going to explain – it has me tapping the rhythm of the lyric out on whatever table or kitchen worktop is closest, imploring the nearest female friend to join in with the Cher parts:
But the best known collaboration between Mr Meaty and Steinman came at their very first attempt, with an album often much mocked and derided, but which I have loved from the day I first heard it, back in the early 80s.
Released in 1977, Bat Out Of Hell is, of course, one of the best-selling albums of all time, having sold over 50 million copies worldwide. It spent 522 weeks in the UK Albums Chart, the second longest chart run by a studio album.
Every song is a teenage rock opera in its own rights – the title track is practically the Shangri La’s Leader of The Pack told from the dead boyfriend’s point of view – but nowhere are the key Steinman traits more evident than on Paradise By The Dashboard Light, a song which comes in three acts and tells a tale of teenage lust, fulfilment and ultimate entrapment. The middle act, played out to the sound of a baseball commentator describing a batsman reaching various bases, naïve little me didn’t fully understand until a few years later.
It’s weird how things pan out. We have various categories here, where I award points for (nobody’s counting, the points mean nothing, apart from giving a warm glow for the recipient) the following:
Worst/Cheesiest Record of the Week
Showboat Comment of the Week
The Next Record in The Official Chain
Well, this week, we have a suggestion for each of the above. All of them will receive points. Yes: one person correctly guessed the next song in The Official Chain. If I could afford Ray Winstone’s head to pop up to ask you to lay your bets “nahhhhh”, this is where he’d be.
To recap: last week, we ended up with “Bonny” by Prefab Sprout, from their “Steve McQueen” album. Plenty of food for thought there, you’d think? Well, we have the most tunes ever to get through this week, although that’s mostly because I kept thinking of new ones.
Oh and by the way, it was rather pleasing to note that absolutely nobody complained about my deliberate mistake last week, which was to omit the link for the Crazy Frog tune. My faith in humanity is almost restored.
But before we go any further, many of you will know that regular Chain Ganger Badger’s better half was Lorna was involved in a car crash last week. Needless to say, our thoughts and best wishes go out to them. Get well soon.
“Beans often come from sprouts so how about something by Sunflower Bean? Tame Impala perhaps…”
Yes, that’s Tame Impala by Sunflower Bean, rather that Sunflower Bean by Tame Impala. As it says on their Bandcamp page: “Tame Impala wrote a song called Led Zeppelin and now they have a song named after them.” You can’t fault their logic.
“I feel that this is as good a time as any to mention Jasper Carrott and Funky Moped, although I think that a fair proportion of its sales were down to the inclusion of the non-musical Magic Roundabout on the flip side.”
You’re probably right, GG, so let’s stick with the A-Side which is, by the way, the Worst Record of the Week:
And since we’re in Belgium, here’s Charity Chic from Charity Chic Music:
“Plastic Bertrand is the only Belgian singer I’m aware of….”
What, you haven’t heard of Arno before, CC…..? Care to nominate a song by the most famous Belgian (after Hercule Poirot and Jan Vertonghen, both of whom would have done better than our actual defence did yesterday).
In a normal week, the next suggestion, from George, would win the Comment Showboat of the Week. Not this week though, oh no:
“Using the song title, Bonny, to the name Bonnie, which leads to child star of the 70s Bonnie Langford, who appeared on a TV show with Lena Zavaroni, one of Rothesay’s famous exports, and there is no way I’m suggesting ‘Mama He’s Making Eyes At Me’, NO WAY, because I am linking from Bonnie Langford to Jon Langford, founder member of The Mekons, and to the song ‘Prince Of Darkness’, who seems to be having a rare old time at the moment in the UK and the USA. (The Prince of Darkness, that is, not Jon Langford)”
See that? Biting satire as well a great suggestion:
Time for The Robster from Is This The Life? with a bit of a history lesson:
“The only thing I’m coming back to is ‘My Bonnie’, the 1961 debut single by Tony Sheridan. He was backed on this by some young upstarts called The Beat Brothers (as the label credited them). Apparently they went on to become quite famous under a slightly different name…”
Many of you weren’t content at simply linking to Bonnie, plumping for songs which reference, or are just plain about, famous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. Here’s another one of mine to kick this batch off:
Okay, are you all sitting comfortably? Good, because I’m about to go off on a bit of a tangent, and hog the limelight for….oooh…the next five songs.
In the movie about the outlaws Bonnie & Clyde, pithily titled “Bonne and Clyde” Bonnie was played by Faye Dunaway, and Clyde was played by Warren Beatty. Beatty may, or may not have been the subject of this record:
And, of course, her co-star in The Thomas Crown affair was one Steve McQueen, which is, of the course, the name of the album that this week’s source record comes from.
(If I could award myself the Comment Showboat of the Week for that little lot, I would. Guess I’d better give it to one of you lot instead. Harumph.)
Go on then George, do your stuff:
“From Steve McQueen to Alexander McQueen, the designer, whose partner was George Forsyth, which is also the name of a long dead American General, and also of a Peruvian footballer. And also from Peru was Daniel Alomia Robles, who wrote the song El Condor Pasa, which was made famous by Simon And Garfunkel as ‘El Condor Pasa (If I Could)’.”
“Shaun Ryder cribbed the opening to the Happy Mondays’ ‘Step On’ (“You’re twistin’ my melon, man…”) from a documentary about Steve McQueen. ‘Step On’ is, of course, a cover of a John Kongos number that I believe has featured on these pages before [it hasn’t, so we could have it…] Happy Mondays also covered Kongos’ Tokoloshe Man. So that instead, please.”
Fair enough. This featured on “Rubáiyát”, which was released to mark record label Elektra’s 40th Anniversary:
Okay, where shall we go next? I know, let’s have some suggestions relating to Prefab Sprout themselves, and to kick things off, here’s Alyson from What’s It All About, Alfie?
“I always thought that their ’88 hit ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ was called ‘Albuquerque’ as the word comes up so often in the lyrics – Whenever watching the TV show Breaking Bad which was set in Albuquerque I thought of the song ‘A Horse With No Name’ by America (from Ruislip) and sure enough it popped up in the third season (and is my suggestion for this week). A tenuous double link is that the America band members back in the early ’70s would have worn the fashionable trouser of the day – loon pants – and Prefab Sprout’s main man was of course Paddy McAloon!”
“I should go from something by Prefab Sprout to the *original* Prefab Four, i.e. The Rutles, but I’m not actually familiar with their output. ‘Cheese and Onions’ is a mildly infamous song of theirs, though, so I’ll go with that.”
Now, we’ve had numerous links to Steve McQueen, the album that the source record features on, but what about other albums by Prefab Sprout?
“Prefab Sprout’s next album was ‘From Langley Park to Memphis’ and one of the singles from it was aforementioned ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Elvis of course was the KORNR and he lived in Memphis so an alternative suggestion is ‘Walking in Memphis’ by Cher (as she dressed up as Elvis on ‘Top of the Pops’ back in the day).”
No extra points, I’m afraid Martin, but I will take this opportunity to nudge you in the direction of Swiss Adam’s Bagging Area, where he has just finished posting a week of protest songs. Worth a visit, in my opinion.
Anyway, that’s your lot for this week. Except, a little while ago, Rigid Digit mentioned the Steve McQueen film and Blur album “The Great Escape”, but didn’t actually nominate a song from said album. Magnanimous host that I am, I asked him if he had one particular song in mind:
“My choice would be the peerless ‘The Universal’ (despite it’s continuing usage on the British Gas advert)”