Meat Loaf – I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)

First Hit #1: November 6, 1993

It’s a shame Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf can’t stand each other anymore, they’re kind of perfect for each other musically. Steinman, has this weird, over the top operatic insanity, a kind of populist prog rock that demands big vocals, big guitars, and big billowing curtains in the video. Meat Loaf has a big voice that conveys a certain brand of desperation and desire that are necessary to really convey the characters Steinman is creating in the song – and they are characters, this is theatre in the guise of a pop recording. Together they have this kind of manic intensity that makes both of them work, while apart Steinman struggles to find the right voices, and Meat Loaf keeps wandering towards music that is less ambitious and intriguing.

Of course, sometimes ambition can mean overreaching, and I Would Do Anything… is the very definition of overreaching. The album cut is 12 minutes long – the video is a relatively trim 7 and a half minutes, and the single hits 5 and a half – it’s got a big long duet at the end, piano and guitar solos, a lengthy motorcycle intro to set up the elaborate story and is as a whole almost designed to not get radio airplay – though it naturally did, it was played a lot. It seems to vacillate between taking itself extremely seriously and being aware that it can be taken as a joke, or even a bit of a parody of both men. It’s insane, but it’s the kind of insane that Steinman and Meat Loaf were meant to make.

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One Response to Meat Loaf – I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)

  1. RBerman says:

    LOL, billowing curtains indeed! It’s a big, bombastic piano throwback to the Steinman songs that ended up going to Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler in the early 1980s. Everybody involved this time around knew they were trying to recreate the magic of 1978’s “Bat Out of Hell” album, which is why they titled this album “Bat Out of Hell II- Back Into Hell.” Most pop culture touchstones will be at least half as successful if remade in a slightly different way 10-20 years later, which is why George Lucas returned to Star Wars, and Peter Jackson to Middle Earth, and Stallone to Rambo and Rocky, and Steinman to Meat Loaf.

    But the surprise this time out was that whereas the best performing track on the original album (“Paradise By the Dashboard Light”) only made it to #11, this time Meat Loaf indeed does “go all the way.” The original album has moved 30 million copies, doubtless selling multiple copies repeatedly to the same people as LPs and eight tracks gave way to cassettes and CDs. This sequel has sold “only” 20 million, not bad since those were probably mostly individual purchasers. Like ‘Paradise” before it, “Anything for Love” starts as an attempt to put the moves on a girl, then turns into a duet of a lover’s quarrel in the second half.

    I remember a VH1 Storytellers episode in which Meat Loaf, armed with a chalk board, pedantically explained that the thing that he won’t do isn’t anything gross. According to the different choruses of the song, the thing he won’t do is variously “forgive myself if we don’t go all the way tonight,” or “do it better than I do it with you,” or “stop dreaming of you every night of my life,” or “forget everything” about her, or “screwing around” on her. Apparently this lyrical grammar was too complicated for some listeners to parse amidst all the choral “AAAAAAAHHHH!”

    This surprise ride to the top of the charts was the first and last for Meat Loaf. Steinman had another brush with chart dominance when Celine Dion took the very similar (and in my book similarly awesome) “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” to #2 in 1996. Another version of that song had stalled out on the UK charts back in 1989 for a girl group, Pandora’s Box. Get it? Jim Steinman, not a model of subtlety.

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