How Meat Loaf’s Album ‘Bat Out of Hell’ Went from ‘Hated’ to an Enduring Classic

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Today, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell is a classic. It’s one of the best-selling albums of all time. Before the legendary rocker passed away, he saw his debut platter go Platinum 14 times. It sold over 43 million copies worldwide. Additionally, it spent more than a decade on the UK Albums Chart. There’s a good chance that someone you know has a physical copy of this album. At the very least, you’re not far removed from someone who can sing every word to “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” when the mood hits.

However, Meat Loaf and his collaborator, composer Jim Steinman, didn’t expect any of that. They just hoped that they could move enough units to make another record.

Back in 2021, Meat Loaf talked to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about his long career. At one point, he talked a little about how his debut record went through Hell to become the classic it is today.

Meat Loaf had Low Expectations for Bat Out of Hell

The Post-Gazette asked Meat Loaf if he and Steinman had any idea that Bat would be a huge hit. The singer said that they had no idea. “No, Jim and I were hoping we’d sell 100,000 copies so we could do another one,” he said. The singer explained that, in those days, if an artist could sell 100,000-150,000 copies, “the record company would invest for you to do another album.”

However, they didn’t even know if they would do that well. “We knew how much everybody hated it. People at the record company hated it. Radio stations hated it. We had a few allies, but not many. No Top 40 allies at all.”

Bat Catches a Break

Meat Loaf released the song “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” as a single in 1978. For the most part, it flopped. However, one program director in Buffalo, New York loved the song and put it in rotation. The singer recalled, “…there was a lyric, ‘You’ll never find your gold on a sandy beach,’ in [the single]. The program director in Buffalo, his name was Sandy Beach, so we got lucky.

Meat Loaf also recalled that one other major ally. “We had a great guy working for us by the name of John Sykes, who was a college rep and really helped break ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.’ Then, he became a regular rep for CBS, and he was stationed in Chicago. ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ became the number 1 single in Chicago.”

Luck and Hard Work

Meat Loaf didn’t rely on allies in the industry to make the record a hit. He worked tirelessly to get his music in front of as many people as possible. After Bat Out of Hell hit shelves, he hit the road. He played up to six shows a week. Additionally, he would attend Rocky Horror showings, do morning radio, and do interviews before concerts. Then, he would do more press after the shows. “I was bound and determined,” he said.

In the end, a couple of lucky breaks and a mountain of hard work propelled this album from the depths of obscurity to the status of a timeless classic.