Copyright ©2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

(Soundbite of music)

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Meatloaf blasted into the music world in 1977 with his now-classic album "Bat Out of Hell." The record has gone on to sell more than 40 million copies. His latest musical effort is a concept album. It's the story of a soldier who lies dying on the battlefield. But instead of watching his life flicker before his eyes, the soldier sees visions of what could have been. The CD is called "Hang Cool Teddy Bear."

(Soundbite of song, "Peace on Earth")

MEATLOAF (Rock Star): (Singing) Well now, I couldn't find my friend, it was good to know you, I hope you understand. Twenty-one years and I think I have nothing but I'm sitting here wondering if I can. Wishing and dreaming, hoping and reaching for things I was never meant to have. In my foolish (unintelligible) misconception. Who's going to kill again...

SIMON: On "Hang Cool Teddy Bear," Meatloaf collaborates with lots of other name musicians, including Jack Black, Jon Bon Jovi, Brian May and Steve Vai. Meatloaf joins us now from our bureau in New York. Do I call you Mr. Loaf?

MEATLOAF: Meat.

SIMON: Meat, Mr. Meat, how did this album come about?

MEATLOAF: I did an album right before this, and the whole project was a negative experience - and probably one of the worst experiences of my life, in 43 years I've been doing this. So I fired everybody, and I got new people to come. And they hooked me up with a fellow named Rob Cavallo, who head-produced Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, My Chemical Romance. And from that moment on, that's when this record took off because everything just fell into place, and it opened like spring flowers.

And I call my friend Killian Kerwin(ph), who's a screenwriter in L.A., and I said, you remember this little piece of a story you have about a guy's life flashing forward instead of backwards? He said, yes. So I said, look, let's make it a soldier. So we workshopped it for about an hour and a half. I went back in the studio, told Rob. Rob said, well, boy, we better get some people here.

So we brought in seven writers, and myself and Rob. The one thing I didn't do - because writers tend to get too literal - is that I never told the writers that we were working on this story. I would only give them clues about where I wanted to go musically, and what I needed to say and how I needed to say it.

SIMON: When you talk about how the - flowers blooming in this album, let's listen to a song where you team up with Jack Black, with "Like a Rose."

MEATLOAF: Oh, please.

(Soundbite of song, "Like a Rose")

MEATLOAF and Mr. JACK BLACK (Singer): (Singing) You better pray she took her morning medication, yeah. Or you might have to pick her up at the police station. 'Cause if there's trouble in this town, you know she's gonna find it. She's like the devil in a short skirt but I don't mind it. Everybody thinks I'm crazy, but they don't even know...

SIMON: We need to fade down on some of the lyrics or else we might create some problems for our local stations.

MEATLOAF: Don't you have the edited version there?

SIMON: Is there an edited version?

MEATLOAF: Oh, yeah, there's - I mean, you know, this surprises me, OK? And I'm just going to bring it up with you since now you brought it up. Well, I'm shocked about how they have video games and the video games -and we've got 12 and 13, 14-year-old kids playing the most violent video games that you possibly can imagine. I mean just horrible, horrible, I mean, I won't even play them. I look at them and go, oh, that's disgusting. And they've got those playing them.

But all of a sudden, if somebody says a word on a piece of music, it's like, oh my God, the world is coming to an end, yet constantly surrounding us everywhere. It is so hypocritical.

SIMON: It sounds like you prefer the authentic version.

MEATLOAF: Oh, I much do because it's like I'm an actor, and I take this entire album from the - as an actor. And it's from the point of view -the character's name is Patrick, and he's 24 years old. And every song is sung through his eyes.

SIMON: Give us an example of a song you think does that.

MEATLOAF: They all do. Let me give you this story real quick. The story is about a soldier and he's obviously - he's dying, we've got that. But what has happened is in his mind, he's still laying on this battlefield the entire time when actually, he's been picked up, taken to a hospital, and is being taken care of by a nurse named Julia.

And, well, he's semiconscious enough to know Julia's face, and he keeps putting her face on 10 other, different women. And his flashing forward and his scenario now is that he sees the kind of figure and hair and body of the girl that he left behind, but now he's got Jenny's face on it. And she's married, and he's a little confused. But the lyrics in that piece say, I've got my daddy's gun...

(Soundbite of song, "Living on the Outside")

MEATLOAF: (Singing) ...daddy's gun. You got your outer space and your (unintelligible). Armageddon takes me. It's just you and me, baby...

(Speaking) And we'll be the only sinners left alive.

(Soundbite of song, "Living on the Outside")

MEATLOAF: (Singing) ...the only sinners left, love me like the only sinners left...

(Speaking) Now then, the next scenario that he bounces to - basically, I send him to hell. I send him to L.A., and I send him to be a groupie to a B-starlet who thinks she's a prima donna and is overspending and has leased some Mercedes Benz. And he's following her around like a puppy dog. And instead of - there's a speech in there that says...

(Soundbite of song, "Like a Rose")

MEATLOAF: (Singing) I say this with the deepest appreciation for all you ladies out there, especially the ones who've shown a little love for someone such as myself. Do you believe in me? Do you love me? You're all so friendly towards me. And if it wasn't for you, there would be no me. You know that I, I'll give you all the love...

(Speaking) You just keep moving on. Now all of a sudden, now he's thrown into another situation where he's almost a groupie to a groupie - on "Like a Rose." But he goes into the situation - it would be like waking up and all of a sudden going, well, this must be my life and I've got to figure out how to get out of it. And it just keeps doing that until eventually, he starts to come back around and get better.

And as he gets to a song called "Running Away from Me," what we've done in the second verse of that is that we've gone back and in all the songs - I know this is getting deep, but this is what it is about - all the songs echo each other, and they talk back to each other. And lyrically, we have little pieces of lyrics that talk about the song that came before. And finally, on "Running Away from Me," we have the second verse, which talks about the entire album up to that point. And it says if history is violence and sex, I'd rather not pay my respects. Forgive me if I'm too direct or politically incorrect.

(Soundbite of song, "Running Away from Me")

MEATLOAF: (Singing) ...or politically correct. La-la-la-la-la-la running away from me. La-la-la-la-la-la running away from me...

(Speaking) The album ends with a flashback, which was a song written by Jon Bon Jovi, called "Elvis in Vegas."

SIMON: This is -

MEATLOAF: Now, Patrick - this is before he flashes back to - he's 15 and goes to see Elvis. But in the actual story, they bring him back to life, and you don't know if he gets Jenny, and you don't know if he continues to live. But that's the story. And now I can take a breath.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: I've read a quote here, where you say that this is the most important recording of your life.

MEATLOAF: Well, it is because Rob Cavallo, he basically summed me up: Meatloaf is an actor who acts like he can sing, and that's basically what I am. I mean, that's what I study. I've built characters for every tour. This is also the first album that I've had one character that maintained and - which was much more difficult. It's like taking the lead in a movie and you having to run the course.

SIMON: You finish up with "Elvis in Vegas." What are you trying to put across with this song?

MEATLOAF: Well, "Elvis in Vegas" was - my soldier, Patrick, who's 24, this soldier who is - now his life does flash backwards, to when he was 15. What really started off to inspire this kid was really, the glory of music and what it was like to see somebody that you could look up to and basically, you thought could do no wrong. And from a 15-year-old's perspective, Elvis could do no wrong. And he was going to do anything he could do, 'cause his parents wouldn't let him go, and he was going to go any way he could get there to see Elvis in Vegas.

(Soundbite of song, "Elvis in Vegas")

MEATLOAF: (Singing) I didn't take a suitcase. I had to travel light, I climbed out my bedroom window. It was just about quarter past midnight. Out on the highway, I hitched a ride, I was heading west. I had to listen to some trucker tell me all about the meaning of life...

(Speaking) I've had this song for about five years. Didn't know what to do with it until this record. And it just, again, here's the song, fell right into place for me.

SIMON: Because you had the character in mind and then - even without knowing it, five years ago.

MEATLOAF: Yeah, it was just - the whole thing goes back to my spring flowers blooming. Everything for this record is like a dream. It just flowed. It just came out. It felt like we never did any work at all, and I've never had that feeling in a recording studio.

SIMON: Mr. Loaf...

MEATLOAF: Yeah.

SIMON: ...so nice talking to you. Thanks very much.

MEATLOAF: Nice talking to you - and you didn't say too much, but...

SIMON: Well, that makes the interview much better, don't you worry.

MEATLOAF: OK.

SIMON: We're glad to talk to you.

MEATLOAF: Thank you very much.

SIMON: Speaking with us from New York, Meatloaf. His new CD, "Hang Cool Teddy Bear."

(Soundbite of song, "Elvis in Vegas")

MEATLOAF: (Singing) ...I saw Elvis in Vegas...

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: