While Marvin was in high school two things happened that had a lasting effect on his life. Encouraged by his mother, who was a singer in the Gospel quartet known a Vo-di-o-do, he performed in high school musicals. His Thomas Jefferson High School football coach, ribbing him for being overweight, called him Meat Loaf. The name stuck for the rest of his life. What surprised me when I met him, while he was a bit overweight, he wasn’t as big a person as you’d expect to meet.
After high school he went first to a junior college and then on to North Texas State. His mother died soon thereafter, and he took it very hard. For months he didn’t even want to leave his apartment.
Seeing that he was wasting his talent, a friend convinced him to go to Los Angeles. Once there, the Meat Loaf Soul band was formed. Record companies immediately recognized his talent and made offers. For some reason, Meat Loaf turned them all down. Perhaps he felt that more changes needed to be made. The group did go through changes. Despite being an opening act for many big name acts in the late 60’s under the name Meat Loaf, the band went through many name and personal changes. They went by such names as Popcorn Blizzard and Floating Circus.
His bands did enjoy enough local success that Meat Loaf was asked to join the Los Angeles production of “Hair”. His work in “Hair” led to being offered a record contract with Motown Records. The recording efforts there failed, and Meat Loaf went back to doing an Off-Broadway musical called “More than You Deserve” in 1972. It was during his audition in New York City that the future of his career started to become a reality. He met and became friends with the man who would be his collaborator in BAT OUT OF HELL, Jim Steinman.
That was still very much in the future. The music production of “More than You Deserve” was never a huge success and in 1973 Meat Loaf was back in Los Angeles where he landed a role in the original cast of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. It was while doing the musical that he and Steinman started working on songs that would end up being part of the legendary BAT OUT OF HELL.
Still, they didn’t take the project of doing an album seriously for a couple more years. In the meantime, the pieces of the puzzle that would eventually become the final product started to come together. It was his friend John Belushi who convinced him to be his understudy in the National Lampoon Broadway production of “Lemmings”. It was during the performance of the show that Meat Loaf met and became friends with Ellen Foley. Listen to the podcast interview with Ellen to get more details. The team was not yet complete.
While trying to get a record deal to release their album, they played some of their music for Todd Rundgren. He liked it enough to not only produce the album, but to pay for the production. Among those who were selected to play on the album was Kasim Sulton who was a member of Todd’s band, Utopia. Kasim talks more about working with Meat Loaf in the podcasts done with him... Kasim's first podcast and second podcast.
Finally, the album was finished and ready for release. The problem was that no record company saw any potential in the album. Yes, it is hard to believe but at that time no one believed in the music. The one exception was Steve Popovich. While still working for Epic Records, Steve believed in the music enough to form his own label named after his hometown called Cleveland International and did take the chance to release the record.
Steve came to me one day and asked me to listen to the album. After just one listen I told him that I thought that the album was going to be a huge seller. You can get more details on our meeting and the album BAT OUT OF HELL by clicking here.
The result was that the album was even bigger than either of them could have possibly imagined. The album went on to be one of the biggest selling albums of all time. The album stayed on the charts for over nine years. It still sells thousands of copies every year. It spawned a trilogy that included: BAT OUT OF HELL II, BACK INTO HELL, BAT OUT OF HELL III THE MONSTER IS LOOSE.
Then, oddly enough, in the early part of his career, Meat Loaf had a hard time getting people to take him seriously. He complained that people saw him as a clown and not a singer. Once he become known for BAT OUT OF HELL, he was “type casted” and could never leave that role behind. If you go to the Meat Loaf website, you will see the latest album BRAVER THAN WE ARE still with songs by Jim Steinman still in the same vein. He was much more.