“Stop there!” Three words of warning, and three words that Ellen Foley credits with launching her music career.
It was Foley who sang Meat Loaf’s lyrics about halfway through their eight-and-a-half-minute duet “Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” the epic seduction song on his 1977 mega-selling album “Bat Out of Hell.”
Foley now looks back on the singular experience of making the memorable song while reminiscing about Meat Loaf and a “beautiful, feisty, joyful friendship” that began when he was in his early 20s. Meat Loaf, born Marvin Lee Aday, died Thursday at the age of 74.
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He was the most unlikely of rock superstars, says Foley.
“I mean, that’s the wild thing,” he said in an interview on Friday, when asked to explain the origin of his fame. “Who would have thought that in the late ’70s, this 300-plus-pound guy would be a star? But that’s what he was. He was a character, you know, larger than life.”
But, she says, he came at the right time.
“People were ready for this. People were ready to get out of the relaxed ’70s Fleetwood Mac. And he had an amazing voice. I don’t know if he ever took a singing lesson, I think it came out pretty good.” formed. The first time I saw him walk into a rehearsal room, it was Meat Loaf. I knew what it was.”
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It was in the ’70s that Foley met Meat Loaf, when the two were driving a blue van, on tour with a National Lampoon comedy show. “We became very close,” he said. “You’re on the road, you’re lonely, and there are only people you’re attracted to.”
She describes him, as others have, rather as a male child. “I don’t mean that disparagingly,” he said. “But I think all the women in his life probably ended up caring about him.”
“Bat Out of Hell,” a collaboration with songwriter Jim Steinman and producer Todd Rundgren, overcame mixed reviews to become, through aggressive touring, one of the best-selling albums in history, with worldwide sales of more than 40 million copies.
“I think it sold because of the live performance,” Foley said of the 1977 album. “They did a big tour and people saw it, and they just gawked and bought the record.” And, of course, there was “the wonder of Meat Loaf,” he added. “It was wonderful, really.”
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As for his duet “Paradise,” about two kids “doubly blessed” because they were “barely 17” and “barely dressed,” people never stopped talking to Foley about it.
“It has an amazing mythology around it,” she said, noting that people often tell her that she lost her virginity to the song. “Which makes sense,” she said. “They were following the script.” (The song featured baseball announcer Phil Rizzuto giving a play-by-play on how to circle the bases and slide home. Rizzuto later said he didn’t realize it was a metaphor.)
But Foley says people also recite a litany of other times they brought up the song and said, “I did it at karaoke, at my wedding, at my high school reunion, at my bar mitzvah.”
“It’s kind of unbelievable,” he said.
In fact, Foley says, she sometimes feels like an astronaut, remembering the great trip to the moon that defined a career.
“You do one thing and it stays with you throughout your life,” he said, “and it makes you always connected, and it makes you feel as young as when you sang that song, or when you went to the moon.”
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In fact, however, Foley, now in his 70s, was just beginning a long career as an actor and singer.
She later played the role of the witch in Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” in San Diego, and starred in a season of television’s “Night Court.” He has recorded several solo albums and last year he released his fifth, “Fighting Words”. She continues to perform and teach.
But this week, Foley remembers the friend he simply calls Meat, whom he last saw when they collaborated on his 2016 album Braver Than We Are.
“Meat brought me into the consciousness of the rock ‘n’ roll world,” she wrote on Facebook, “and through ‘Paradise By the Dashboard Light,’ I became a horny teenager forever. Meat: I will love you forever.”