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What happened to Meat Loaf's money? [October 24, 1993]
'I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)'; plus, Vs by Pearl Jam
Hey, welcome to This Week In The 90s where we tell stories loosely based on what was in the UK charts 30 years ago.
This week, we’re talking about the song that was at Number One on October 24, 1993…
Meat Loaf, ’I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’
In 2004, Simon Cowell decided to reboot the already-successful Pop Idol into something even more sensational, a show that focused less on music and more on human drama: The X Factor.
The new show worked, and worked exactly as Cowell had hoped. He (along with Sharon Osborne and Louis Walsh) became a household name, while winner Steve Brookstein was forgotten almost as soon as the cameras stopped rolling.
In season 2, the judges travelled across the UK, looking for more talent (and people to humiliate). At the Newcastle auditions, they met a 40-something blonde woman who seemed almost overwhelmed with nerves. She explained that this was a crucial moment for her—potentially her final hope of a music career.
While the woman got set up, Sharon asked about her background. She replied, “well, I sang on a Number One single back in 1993.”
Sharon asked her which one.
“Meat Loaf, I’d Do Anything For Love,” said the woman. “But I wasn’t in the video. There was a model in the video.”
A surprised Louis Walsh asked how come.
The woman laughed and said, “Well, she’s better looking than me.”
And with that, Lorraine Crosby launched into a version of Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend’, hoping that the music industry would finally show her some kindness.
Some days it don't come easy
The music industry is filled with Simon Cowell types, people who seem to hate music but love money, and are happy to exploit artists in the most unthinkable ways.
The industry has always been this way. Back in the mid-70s, two oddballs with a background in musical theatre had recorded an album at their own expense, and they were trying to convince a label to release it. Legendary producer Clive Davis (who went on to sign acts including Billy Joel and Whitney Houston) agreed to meet with them, and the duo played some songs on the piano in his office.
“We sing maybe two songs; that’s as far as we get and he’s already shaking his head. ‘What are you two doing?’ He turns to me and he says, ‘You’re an actor. Actors don’t make records. You’re like Ethel Merman.’
“He turns to Steinman and says, ‘Do you know how to write a song?’ . And then he starts really laying into Jim, ‘Have you ever listened to pop music? Have you ever heard any rock’n’roll music? You should go downstairs when you leave here and buy some rock’n’roll records.’
Jim Steinman had been trying to make it on Broadway since the 60s, when he’d staged a sci-fi rock opera called Baal. It flopped, but it showcased Steinman’s unique approach to songwriting: a blend of Wagnerian bombast, rock’n’roll excess, and pulp-novel melodrama.
Steinman produced more shows on Broadway, including 1973’s More Than You Deserve, a drama about traumatised Vietnam vets which ran for two months at The Public Theatre (which would one day be home to Hamilton). More Than You Deserve wasn’t quite as successful as Hamilton, closing after only two months, but that gave Steinman a chance to finally work with a larger-than-life actor he’d befriended, a crazy guy who insisted being called Meat Loaf.
Marvin “Meat Loaf” Aday was an extreme personality. At 19, he narrowly survived a murder attempt by his own father; a year later, he intentionally put on 60lbs to escape the Vietnam draft. He started out as a soul singer, playing support for people like Van Morrison, but his flamboyant, high-octane personality saw him drift into the world of musical theatre. Meat’s breakthrough came in an LA production of Hair, which led to him joining the American cast of The Rocky Horror Show.
Somewhere along the line, he met Steinman, who later said:
"Meat was the most mesmerizing thing I'd ever seen, much bigger than he is now and since I grew up with Wagner, all of my heroes were larger than life. His eyes went into his head like he was transfixed. He sang ‘You Gotta Give Your Heart To Jesus’. I can seem arrogant at times because I'm certain of things and I was certain of him."
The Rocky Horror Show became The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Meat Loaf retained his role as Eddie, delivering one of the movie’s standout songs, ‘Hot Patootie’, which sounded exactly like the kind of thing Steinman was writing.
It seemed obvious that the two should build on Meat Loaf’s new status as a movie star. And so, Steinman began combining new ideas with some old songs from Baal to form a new project, called Bat Out Of Hell.
Some days it don't come at all
Bat Out Of Hell had a tortured path to the record store.
Steinman and Meat bullied Todd Rundgren into producing their album, even though he thought the project was ridiculous. He was especially bemused at Steinman’s insistence on making each track an epic:
“My feelings [were] that the songs were unnecessarily long. Jim wants everything all the time, and I run out of tricks after the first five minutes of a song."
When they shopped the album to labels, most people reacted like Clive Davis, asking Meat Loaf and Steinman if this was a joke.
Eventually, they found someone who did take them seriously. Steve Popovich had been very successful at CBS, turning The Jacksons into disco stars, but now he was trying to get his own label off the ground (with CBS providing his distribution). Popovich didn’t particularly like Bat Out Of Hell, but his wife enjoyed it and shared it with her friends, who also clicked with it. Maybe, he thought, this could be a hit?
He was wrong.
In a way, Bat Out Of Hell has never been a hit. It’s only ever spent a couple of weeks inside the Top 10, and singles fizzled in the charts. The album seemed to be an unmitigated disaster until Meat Loaf blew Britain away on the Old Grey Whistle Test, causing a surge in European sales.
And then… it just never stopped selling. Ever. Since 1977, Bat Out Of Hell has spent a total of 530 weeks in the UK charts, with its highest chart placing—Number 3—in March 2022 after Meat Loaf’s death.
Officially, Bat Out Of Hell has sold 22 million copies, but the actual sales are probably twice that (Wikipedia estimates it at 44 million, making it the sixth-biggest album in history). Either way, it sold a lot of copies and made a lot of money.
Where did that money go? Because Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman didn’t get a penny until around 1997. Steve Popovich lost money. Almost everyone involved in making Bat Out Of Hell got screwed.
I'd run right into hell and back
Here’s a very simplified model of how record contracts work:
Imagine you’re a new artist making your first LP. Your record deal entitles you to 10% of the profits.
You don’t have any money, but that’s okay because the label covers all costs, like booking a studio, hiring a producer, and marketing the album. Let’s say they spend $50,000 in total. Your album does well and makes $150,000 in profit. The label takes back their $50,000, so the net profit is $100,000. You get 10% of that, or $10,000.
What if your album flops? Hopefully, the label will give you another shot, even if it costs them another $50,000. But you now owe them $100,000 in total, and that needs to be repaid before you get any profits.
Now, imagine that your label are total bastards…
Bat Out Of Hell resulted in endless legal chaos, much of which was Meat Loaf’s fault. He walked out on the recording of their (contractually obliged) second album, blew his voice out, spent years learning to sing again, and eventually found himself the target of 45 different lawsuits.
But the main issue was CBS Records, who argued that Meat Loaf and Steve Popovich somehow owed them $6 million. Bat Out Of Hell would have to go multi-platinum before the label started paying royalties.
On top of that, there were serious doubts about the actual sales figures. When Bat Out Of Hell was re-released on CD in the 1980s, Sony (who now owned CBS) are alleged to have basically lied about how many copies they sold. Popovich ordered an independent audit that supported this claim, and discovered that he’d been short-changed $20 million. He took Sony to court in a case nicknamed “The Battle Out Of Hell” which he eventually won, but Sony still wouldn’t pay. Instead of settling, they choose to keep Popovich tied up in endless legal challenges.
Popovich kept fighting—and losing—until his death in 2011. The following year, his son reached a final settlement with Sony. Both sides had spent millions in legal fees, meaning that there are lawyers who earned more from Bat Out Of Hell than Meat Loaf ever did.
Pray to the God of Sex and Drums and Rock 'N' Roll
Jim Steinman took a break from the Meat Loaf chaos to focus on other things. In 1983, he managed the impressive feat of having two simultaneous hits in the Billboard Top 5, neither of which involved Meat Loaf.
In the early 90s, Steinman was sorting through his mail and listening to demos from people hoping to be the neat Meat or Bonnie. One day he played a cassette from an English singer called Lorraine Crosby, who had a raspy, soulful voice that was quite similar to Tyler’s. He was electrified
Steinman flew Crosby to New York and agreed to become her manager. But he felt that she needed a stage name as audacious as “Meat Loaf”, so he rebranded her as Mrs Loud.
Meat and Steinman had reconciled, and both men realised that their only hope of making a profit from Bat was to sit down and record Bat Out Of Hell 2. Steinman and Mrs Loud flew to LA to visit Meat, who was struggling with one of Jim’s typically overblown rock ballads, an epic called, ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’. The plan was to record a duet with Cher or Bonnie, but Meat wanted to nail down his own vocals first.
A session singer had been booked to lay down some guide vocals, but when she failed to appear, Steinman suggested that Mrs Loud help out. Crosby went to the booth and recorded two takes of the song’s female vocal. For this, she was paid a normal session singer’s day rate.
Weeks later, Meat’s producer called Crosby to say they’d mixed the track and loved the way her vocals sounded. Would she be okay if they used them? She wasn’t going to get paid anything, but they would credit her on the record.
(Meat Loaf said he begged her to use her real name because he knew the “Mrs Loud” thing was dumb. Steinman and Crosby stuck to their guns.)
‘I’d Do Anything For Love’ was an instant worldwide smash, hitting Number One in 28 countries, and sparking debate in every pub about what Meat Loaf wouldn’t do for love (Meat answered this question many times; no, it’s not anal).
Michael Bay—the Jim Steinman of cinema—directed a lush, 12-minute video that combines Beauty & The Beast with elements of Meat Loaf’s Rocky Horror role. Beauty is played by American model Dana Patrick, who lipsyncs the female part.
In 2012, Crosby wrote this Facebook post:
I understand that when Films or Videos are made they are cast by a director/producer and my look as a blonde was not what they were looking for at the time. I can live with that, but the first I knew that my voice was lip synced to by Dana Patrick was when Jim Steinman told me to watch the video on VH1 and when my voice came out of her face, I was absolutely devastated to say the least! And no one asked me if it was ok for that to happen.
Dana Patrick immediately received three contract offers after the video dropped. When people discovered the real identity of Mrs Loud, they lost interest.
‘I’d Do Anything For Love’ was the UK’s best-selling single of 1993, shifting 750,000 copies. It made a lot of money.
Lorraine Crosby didn’t get a penny.
It'll all turn to dust and we'll all fall down
Crosby finished her song and immediately got an enthusiastic Yes from Louis Walsh, followed by a slightly more pitying Yes from Sharon Osborne.
Simon Cowell said No. He told her that she lacked star quality, adding, “There’s usually a reason people like you stay in the background.”
Amazingly, she doesn’t seem bitter about any of it, and has strongly refuted any suggestion that she was exploited by Steinman or Meat Loaf. She made a great record with a great artist, and she brought joy to millions. That seems to be the only thing she really cares about.
Still, it’s a shame. If a record makes a ton of money, that money should go to the artists responsible. Not to dead-eyed sharks like Cowell, and definitely not to their lawyers.
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New in this week’s charts
Some of the latest hits (from 30 years ago…)
3—Bryan Adams, ‘Please Forgive Me’
Another rock monster returns to the charts. This is taken from Bryan’s Greatest Hits, So Far So Good, and almost became his second UK Number One after ‘Everything I Do’.
7—Phil Collins, ‘Both Sides Of The Story’
Okay, enough vintage rockers for one week. Let’s go clubbing.
10—The Prodigy, ‘One Love’
The Prodigy were last seen with ‘Out Of Space’ which we’ve discussed previously:
‘One Love’ is a massive leap forward: textured, crisp, and incredibly confident. The Prodigy were ready to make a play for the big time, and that will happen next year with Music For The Jilted Generation. Very exciting.
21—The Grid, ‘Texas Cowboys’
A mix of rave beats and vaguely country-themed noises, much like the previous single, ‘Swamp Thing’. Good fun though.
40—Sheep On Drugs, ‘From A to H and Back Again’
A bit of acid house, a bit of Nine Inch Nails, a bit of Carter USM. It’s pretty good. Not on the Spotify list, but you can listen here.
Hear all of this week’s new tracks in the ever-growing 1993 playlist!
Album of the Week
Pearl Jam, Vs
You can’t cross a chasm in two leaps, they say, and Vs shows why.
Pearl Jam’s debut, Ten, was one of the tightest records of the 90s, immaculately professional and note-perfect. Only problem was that Nirvana won the Battle of Seattle by being a bit scuzzy and unpolished. Pearl Jam looked a bit leaden in comparison.
So, the second album was clearly an attempt to muss up their hair and take some risks. It’s an approach that pays off on later records like Vitalogy, but here, it just sounds confused.
Vs comes roaring out the gate with ‘Go’, which almost sounds like nu-metal, and early tracks like the funky ‘W.M.A.’ and the screamalong ‘Blood’ suggest that Eddie & co are going to push some boundaries here.
But then you have more conventional acoustic rock like ‘Daughter’, while hair metal makes on ‘Dissident’. And then there’s ‘Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town’, a song that—let’s be honest with ourselves here—would not be out of place on an Ed Sheeran album.
None of these tracks are bad (although ‘Leash’ should have been a B-side) but the whole thing feels jumbled. Worse, it feels self-conscious. There’s a constant feeling that Pearl Jam aren’t sure who they are, or why they’re making this album.
The only time it really comes together is on the excellent ‘Rearviewmirror’, where Pearl Jam relax enough to almost, almost reach the other side of the chasm. For a moment, they are truly themselves.