Friday, January 21, 2022

Of Teenage Boys and Silver Black Phantom Bikes


The summer of 1977.

For various reasons, I spent as much time away from home as possible, most of which was at a friend’s house playing cards, swimming in his pool, and partaking in other wayward activities. The number of folks who hung out here varied, but five of us made up the core crew. The oldest, my friend’s brother, kept the bar stocked, and another maintained our herbal stores.

We listened to three albums that summer. Oh, we tossed in an AC/DC if rowdiness was on the agenda or DARK SIDE OF THE MOON for those altered states moments; but we literally wore out copies of BORN TO RUN (Bruce Springsteen), NIGHT AT THE OPERA (Queen), and BAT OUT OF HELL (Meat Loaf).

To teenage me, BAT OUT OF HELL was the most profound of the three. I learned later, Meatloaf was the voice and Jim Steinman the composer; but in the year of Cameros, Farrah Fawcett posters, and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, it was all Meat Loaf. From the dangerous passions of the title track (was he singing to his lover or his motorcycle? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter), to the dire warning about promises made in passion, there wasn’t a track that didn’t speak to teenage me. (Having Phil Rizzuto, the voice of the NY Yankees call the play-by-play in ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Lights’, didn’t hurt my love for the album). I will die on the hill that BAT OUT OF HELL took everything that made BORN TO RUN exceptional and multiplied it by a million, regardless of the creator’s intent. Meat Loaf’s delivery, filled with the hunger and want of a teenage boy on a Friday night, pushed the album into an aching urgency.

In retrospect, do I still feel the way I did about BAT OUT OF HELL as I did at 16? It doesn’t matter, the opening riff of the title track is filled with memories of me, silver black phantom bikes, and seven-card stud into the wee hours. In honor of Meat Loaf’s passing, I will give the album a listen today. You should too.

RIP Meat Loaf.

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