Money, Cocker And The Loaf

September 19, 2012

Eddie Money spooked Paloma.

His mug appeared on the television as he belted out Two Tickets To Paradise in a commercial for some beer or burger or chainsaw.

(or something)

“That’s scary,” she noted.

There was something about the aging rocker, shuffling about the screen in an exaggerated manner and belting out song in a gravelly voice, that made me think of Joe Cocker.

“He reminds me of Joe Cocker. I think that the two should go out on tour together.”

I pictured the pair lurching across America.

“And Meat Loaf,” she added.

She paused, then succinctly expressed the logic with the very thing I was thinking. “He emotes.”

It’s true.

The Dude abides.

The Loaf emotes.

And the world keeps spinnin’ ’round.

And so I imagined Eddie Money, Joe Cocker, and Meat Loaf touring the country, contorting and lurching, belting it to the back rows, emoting with more melodrama than a dressing room full of drag queens…

…it made for quite a spectacle in my head.

Here are four songs from the catalogs of the trio…

Eddie Money – Think I’m In Love
Eddie Money – Shakin’
from No Control (1982)

Eddie Money’s career was in a lull when I started listening to music at the outset of the ’80s. Of course I knew his early hits like Two Tickets To Paradise and Baby Hold On To Me as I heard them often on the rock stations, but as those had been several years earlier, it was ancient history to me.

Then, he released No Control. I vividly recall hearing Think I’m In Love for the first time and how damned catchy it was (and still is).

As for Shakin’, while it failed to match Think I’m In Love‘s success, it seemed to get as much airplay and it was notable to me and my friends for the novelty of hearing “tits” on the radio.

Joe Cocker – Shelter Me
from Cocker (1986)

Like Eddie Money, Joe Cocker’s career was waning as the ’80s arrived. I imagine that the only thing that I knew by the man was hearing him croak his way through the mawkish You Are So Beautiful.

Then, he duetted with Jennifer Warnes on Up Where We Belong and I saw him perform on Solid Gold – something for which I was wholly unprepared.

I understand that Cocker is well regarded, but he didn’t exactly make a good first impression on me and, over the years, I’ve not become much more acquainted with his oeuvre beyond the basics. I did hear Shelter Me on the radio a bit in early ’86 and, though I imagine the song is unlikely to make a list of his essentials, I finally took to his gruff, soulful voice.

Meat Loaf – You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth
from Hits Out Of Hell (1984)

I’m still bitter about reality television ruining my concept of Meat Loaf.

Thanks Reality Television For Ruining Meat Loaf For Me

April 2, 2011

Here and there – for what seems has been weeks now – I’ve seen a commercial for that reality show with Donald Trump and celebrities.

In the clip that’s caught my attention, Meat Loaf is threatening to go Fight Club on Gary Busey. It makes me uncomfortable to see Meat Loaf so worked up.

By the time I started purchasing music in ’81 or so, Meat Loaf’s career had bottomed out.

I don’t remember hearing anything on the radio from his second album, Dead Ringer in ’81. I didn’t hear anything from Midnight At The Lost And Found, album number three, either, but I do remember reading a review in the Sunday newspaper that was fairly positive.

Even as that album was being ignored in 1983, I was still hearing Meat Loaf on the radio as songs from the singer’s 1977 debut Bat Out Of Hell were part of the playlists on several of the stations to which I was listening.

Though I don’t remember any of my friends or classmates mentioning Meat Loaf in our conversations about music, I know that a lot of us had a copy of Bat Out Of Hell, some of them inherited from older siblings.

I had a cassette of the album that I’d dubbed from a friend.

Of course, that was it for the hefty fellow for fifteen years until his reunion with Bat Out Of Hell co-conspirator Jim Steinman for the sequel which sold millions of copies.

I vividly recall our jazz buyer picking up a copy of Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell in our stockroom, looking at the over-the-top cover, and – in his best crotchety old man voice – gruffly barking, “You kids get this damned bat off my building!”

Though the album didn’t really resonate with me, it was hard to begrudge Meat Loaf’s unexpected comeback and success.

He seemed like an affable fellow. Maybe it’s his size but I’ve always pictured Meat Loaf as a jolly fellow.

Maybe it’s because I’d read somewhere that Meat Loaf was a big baseball fan and could imagine the big guy taking me to a ball game.

Now the steroids, greed, and the disparity in spending amongst teams has essentially driven me from following baseball and Meat Loaf is screaming maniacally at Gary Busey on my television screen.

Maybe it’s a sign that there is peril ahead in 2012.

Of course, The Busey strikes me as the kind of fellow that could drive even the most zen being to a state of homicidal rage. Personally, I have expressed legitimate concerns that I might awake one morning to find that Gary Busey has been secretly living in our attic.

Whatever the case, my world has been turned upside down by the sight of an irate Meat Loaf screaming at Gary Busey. Here’s four songs from the ruffled-shirted fellow from happier times…

Meat Loaf – Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad
from Hits Out Of Hell

Meat Loaf – You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)
from Hits Out Of Hell

These first two tracks are, of course, from Bat Out Of Hell which currently ranks as one of the ten best-selling albums in the history of mankind. Though a mere seven songs, none of them are less than epic, so massive each that they are a capable of making women and children cry and grown men shudder.

As I was hearing Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad regularly on the radio during my musical formative years – even though the song had been a hit five or six years earlier – I had no idea that the folks that had been involved in constructing Bat Out Of Hell would soon be found on other albums I’d soon own including Todd Rundgren, members of Utopia, E-Street Band mates Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg as well as the underappreciated Ellen Foley.

As for You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night), the crazy opening dialogue always makes me go, “Huh?” but, like everything else on the album, it’s impossible to not get drawn in (and I dig the handclaps).

Meat Loaf – Dead Ringer For Love
from Hits Out Of Hell

Meat Loaf – Read ‘Em And Weep
from Hits Out Of Hell

It’s been well chronicled of the problems Meat Loaf had in putting together a follow-up to Bat Out Of Hell and those difficulties didn’t even include Gary Busey. Dead Ringer didn’t arrive until four years after Bat Out Of Hell which was an eternity in that era.

Though Jim Steinman, the maestro behind the debut, penned the songs for the follow-up his involvemenr in Dead Ringer was far less than it had been on Bat Out Of Hell. There was still a stellar cast of musicians – Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone, the great Mick Ronson, the legendary Nicky Hopkins – but I don’t think I heard a single track on radio.

(I was hearing Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through from Steinman’s solo effort Bad For Good which would later appear on Bat Out Of Hell II)

I suppose it would be difficult to recapture the initial surprise of Meat Loaf’s debut, but the singer’s duet on the near title track with Cher and the break-up ballad Read ‘Em And Weep – a hit for Barry Manilow a couple years later – wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the slightest beside the songs on Bat Out Of Hell.

An Oasis Called Pizza Hut

July 7, 2009

There was no such thing as air conditioning when I was a kid. It existed, but we didn’t have it – not in our house, not in our school, not in the family car.

The last situation made for tense times on six-hour drives to Western Pennsylvania for vacation each summer.

Perched on the couch the other night, the drone of the central air was comforting, lulling me into a drowsy state. I was still coherent enough to have a personal revelation during a television commercial.

As a kid, Pizza Hut was nirvana.

Sure, it’s mediocre pizza, but how many times have you run across pizza that was truly inedible – especially as a kid?

(I could probably count mine on one had)

My hometown had Pizza Haus as the one establishment singularly devoted to purveying pie. It wasn’t bad but hardly the place you rave to friends about years later in one of those mindless discussions that occur shortly after one in the morning at some bar.

It was pizza. It was greasy. It was ours.

(and a place where we enjoyed heckling the town drunks)

The nearest Pizza Hut was twenty minutes away in a thriving megalopolis of ten thousand best known for the tree which grew from the roof of the courthouse.

Times were catatonic.

But there was a Pizza Hut. It was air-conditioned and dimly lit. There was pizza. And, once I was in high school and my friends and I could procure transportation (usually without prior consent of our biological guardians) and escape there, the juke box was of great importance, too.

Those treks rarely ended without souvenirs. One friend had a dozen of those red, plastic glasses at home (I believe he told his mom that they were free with a purchase). We once even made off with a pan pizza pan which another friend’s father was surprised to find in his trunk.

As much as those antics were important in keeping my friends and I occupied, it was those family vacations during which the familiar architecture of Pizza Hut was salvation – a brief respite from hunger, heat, and the drudgery of the road.

The (usually) annual pilgrimage that occurred in 1981 was memorable to me as radio was a new interest and, thus, a new way to pass the time with an eye scanning the horizon for that familiar red roof.

Some of the songs I recall hearing on that trip…

Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes
from Mistaken Identity

I wasn’t exactly taken at the time with Kim Carnes’ mysterious, new-wave tinged take on this Jackie DeShannon song. That was unfortunate because it was simply inescapable that summer.

Over the years, it’s grown on me considerably and I dig the raspy vocals of Carnes.. And, in a brush with semi-greatness, I once bumped into her at Kroger’s. She was hidden behind a large pair of sunglasses, but it was definitely her buying a carton of eggs.

Jim Steinman – Rock & Roll Dreams Come Through
from Bad For Good

I like Meat Loaf. He seems like an affable, eager-to-please fellow whom you could depend on in a jam. I think I’d like to be his neighbor

The reason I mention Meat Loaf is because it was singing the songs of Jim Steinman that brought him to global fame. Rock & Roll Dreams Come Through was on Steinman’s lone solo album, released during the long wait for Meat Loaf to follow-up Bat Out Of Hell.

It’s gloriously bombastic. If you’re going to go big, you might as well go Spectorian.

Journey – Who’s Crying Now
from Escape

I distinctly remember hearing Who’s Crying Now for the first time on that vacation and, by the time it finished, I was already surfing the radio dial in hopes of hearing it again.

I wouldn’t even hazard to guess how many times I heard it during that two-week stretch. I am certain that it must have been enough times that had my family bludgeoned me to death with the lid from the cooler and left me for dead on the side of the interstate somewhere in West Virginia, they would have been acquitted.

Foreigner – Urgent
from Foreigner 4

You’ve got Junior Walker adding sax and Thomas Dolby playing synthesizer – on a Foreigner record. It’s lots of fun.

Personally, Foreigner 4 is a fantastic, straight-ahead rock record and I never really understood the critical angst over their records up through this one. Of course, I grew up in the Midwest and, during the late ’70s and early ’80s, Foreigner on the radio was omnipresent.

Sheena Easton – For Your Eyes Only
from For Your Eyes Only soundtrack

I confess that the only James Bond movie that I have ever seen is A View To A Kill (it’s a rather shameful admission, I suppose). I like James Bond, but, if he was a neighbor of me and Meat Loaf, I can’t imagine he’d let us use his pool or go bowling with us.

Anyhow, Sheena Easton was a bit too unremittingly perky for me, but I did/do like For Your Eyes Only. Blondie actually was supposed to do the theme to the James Bond flick of the same name, and I like their song, too (even though it is an entirely different song).