In 1974, songwriter Jim Steinman wrote a script for an off-Broadway musical called Neverland, a futuristic dystopian version of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. It performed at the Kennedy Center Music Theatre Lab in 1977. Stienman paired with his National Lampoon Road Show partner, Meat Loaf, and began to search for a record company, which proved to be very hard.
The band spent most of 1975 writing and recording material, and two and a half years auditioning the record and being rejected. They performed the album live in 1976, with Steinman on piano, Meat Loaf singing, and sometimes Ellen Foley joining them for "Paradise By the Dashboard Light." Steinman says that it was a "medley of the most brutal rejections you could imagine." Meat Loaf "almost cracked" when CBS executive Clive Davis rejected the project. The singer recounts the incident in his autobiography. Not only did Davis, according to Meat Loaf, say that "actors don't make records", the executive challenged Steinman's writing abilities and knowledge of rock music.
Todd Rundgren, however, found the album hilarious, thinking that it was a parody of Springsteen. The singer quotes him as saying: "I've got to do this album. It's just so out there." They told the producer that they had previously been signed to RCA. In one 1989 interview with Classic Rock magazine, Steinman labeled him "the only genuine genius I've ever worked with." In a 1989 interview with Redbeard for the In the Studio with Redbeard episode on the making of the album, Meat Loaf revealed that Jimmy Iovine and Andy Johns were potential candidates for producing Bat Out of Hell before being rejected by Meat and Steinman in favor of Rundgren, who Meat initially found cocky but grew to like.
Recording started in late 1975 in Bearsville Studios, Woodstock, NY. Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg, the pianist and drummer from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band played on the album, in addition to members of Rundgren's group Utopia: Kasim Sulton, Roger Powell and John "Willie" Wilcox. Edgar Winter played the saxophone on "All Revved Up". Rundgren himself played guitar, including the "motorcycle solo" on "Bat Out of Hell". Both Steinman and Rundgren were influenced by Phil Spector and his "wall of sound." According to Meat Loaf, Rundgren put all the arrangements together because although "Jim could hear all the instruments" in his head, Steinman hummed rather than orchestrating.
When Rundgren discovered that the deal with RCA did not actually exist, Albert Grossman, who had been Bob Dylan's manager, offered to put it on his Bearsville label but needed more money. Rundgren had essentially paid for the album himself. Mo Ostin at Warner Bros. was impressed, but other senior people rejected them after they performed live. Steinman had offended them a few years earlier by auditioning with a song named "Who Needs the Young", which contains the lyric "Is there anyone left who can fuck? Screw 'em!"
Another E Street Band member, Steve Van Zandt, and Sonenberg arranged to contact Cleveland International Records, a subsidiary of Epic Records. After listening to the spoken word intro to "You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)", founder Steve Popovich accepted the album for Cleveland.
Rundgren mixed the record in one night. However, the mixes were not suitable to the extent that Meat Loaf did not want "Paradise" on the album. Jimmy Iovine, who had mixed Springsteen's Born to Run, remixed some of the tracks. After several attempts by several people, John Jansen mixed the version of "Paradise" that is on the album. According to Meat Loaf, he, Jansen, and Steinman mixed the title track.
Phil Rizzuto's baseball play-by-play call for "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" was recorded in 1976 at The Hit Factory in NYC by Rundgren, Meat Loaf, and Steinman. As an Italian Catholic, Rizzuto publicly maintained he was unaware that his contribution would be equated with sex in the finished song. However, Meat Loaf asserts that Rizzuto only claimed ignorance to stifle some criticism from a priest and was fully aware of the context of what he was recording.
Bat Out of Hell is currently the fifth highest selling album of all time, with over 43,000,000 copies sold. After 35 years, it still sells an estimated 200,000 copies annually and stayed on the charts for over nine years, making it one of the best selling albums of all time. The album is ranked #343 on the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. The album also spent 485 weeks on the United Kingdom charts, making it the album to stay the second longest length of time on the UK charts (the first being Rumours by Fleetwood Mac for 522 weeks, which was coincidentally released the same year). Despite this, the album has also gained mixed to positive reception. Music critic Robert Christgau gave the album a C-. The album has been described by many as "cheesy" and "hilarious." Despite this, Jim Steinman's operatic style (heavily influenced by opera composer Richard Wagner and rock artist Bruce Springsteen) has stayed strong throughout Steinman and Meat Loaf's albums, and has become the key sound of both.
- Meat Loaf – lead vocals, backing vocals (track 6), percussion (track 2)
- Jim Steinman – keyboards (tracks 1, 2, 6), percussion (tracks 1, 2), "lascivious effects" (track 6), dialogue intro (track 2)
- Todd Rundgren – guitar (tracks 1, 2, 4–6), percussion (tracks 1, 2), keyboards (track 1), backing vocals (tracks 1–3, 5, 6)
- Ellen Foley – featured vocal (track 6), backing vocals (tracks 1, 2, 4, 6)
- Kasim Sulton – bass guitar (tracks 1, 2, 4–7), backing vocals (track 1)
- Roy Bittan – piano, keyboards (tracks 1, 2, 6)
- Rory Dodd – backing vocals (all except track 4)
- Steve Margoshes – piano (track 7)
- Cheryl Hardwick – piano (track 7)
- Roger Powell – synthesizer (tracks 1, 2, 5, 6)
- Edgar Winter – saxophone (tracks 2, 4, 6)
- Max Weinberg – drums (tracks 1, 2, 6)
- John "Willie" Wilcox – drums (tracks 4, 5, 7)
- Marcia McClain – dialogue intro (track 2)
- Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto – play-by-play (track 6)
- Gene Orloff – concert master (track 7)
- Members of New York Philharmonic and Philidelphia Orchestra – orchestra (track 7)
- Ken Ascher – string arrangements (tracks 3, 5)
- Steve Margoshes – orchestra arrangement (track 7)
All lyrics were written by Jim Stienman.
- Bat Out of Hell
- You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)
- Heaven Can Wait
- All Revved Up With No Place to Go
- Two out of Three Ain't Bad
- Paradise By the Dashboard Light
- For Crying Out Loud