RIP Meat Loaf. I wore the hell out of Bat Out of Hell when I was 15. I was in the midst of embracing punk rock, but this album - this bombastic rock and roll album - suckered me in. It wasn’t until many years later that I came to despise “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” so much that it just became part of my personality. And it wasn’t Mr. Loaf’s fault.
I know. It’s a classic. Everyone loves it. Great bar song! Great party song! Sure, it was great until it wasn’t. It was fine until it was ruined for me at my sister’s wedding in the early 90s. Now it’s my kryptonite. Just the mere mention of it and I break out in hives.
Most people I talk to about this have no idea what I’m talking about when I say that it was a standard wedding reception song and I think it’s strictly a Long Island thing, which is pretty par for the course.
Ok, my sister’s wedding. I’ll tell you what happened.
It was a nice wedding. We were having a great time. The DJ was playing all the wedding hits and people were dancing and drinking. There was a lot of drinking. As soon as the DJ hit this song – I’m talking as soon as those first unmistakeable notes hit – the dance floor became packed. Everyone who sat on their fat, drunk asses all night during the great dance songs (Oh, like you don’t want to dance every time you hear Funkytown) were suddenly lined up on the floor. Guys on the left. Girls on the right. They were ready to….what? Rumble? Line dance? What the hell were they doing? Following the song? Acting it out? When did Paradise become the new Hokey Pokey? Was I that sheltered that I missed this memo?
At this point in the reception, I’d had about five thousand shots of tequila. Ok, maybe twenty. Twelve. Whatever. Point is, tequila will usually have me up on a table swinging my bra around dancing to some Donna Summer song. But not even a good Cuervo buzz could get me out there for this song. They tried. I told them to back the hell off. I’ll sit this one out. Call me when the DJ puts on “Bad Girls.”
I just stood back and watched. Grown men and women doing this play-acting thing to “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” We’re talking town council men and judges and the president of the local chamber of commerce. Pillars of the community. They all took turns singing the boy/girl parts., standing across from each other like some scene out of West Side Story and doing this back and forth singing. They acted the parts out, pretending to be lusty teenagers in a steamy car. During the Phil Rizzuto play by play, one couple stood in the center of the two lines and pantomimed the whole scene. I kid you not. They acted the whole damn thing out. I was embarrassed. Why weren’t they? My jaw dropped as my cousin informed me that this went on at every wedding, in every bar, every night of the week and I needed to get out more. No. No. I need to never leave the sanctity of my house again. I’ve been emotionally scarred by witnessing this.
Oh, it got worse. The play by play part was over. A middle aged lady did a sliding split into the middle of the dance floor, holding up her hand and singing “STOP RIGHT THERE!” Wait…that’s no lady. That’s my daughter’s religious ed teacher! And that guy singing “let me sleep on it” in her face? Jesus, that’s my uncle. Then they all chimed in. All of them. Guys desperately singing “I gotta know right now” and the girls responding with a tit-shaking dance, singing “let me sleep on it,” and this went on until the very end, where they all did a bizarre shimmy down to the floor as they whispered “glowing like a metal on the edge of a knife.” I shook my head to clear it. I thought maybe the tequila had gotten to me. I was hallucinating. Dreaming. I had been transported to the ninth level of hell and Satan himself was going to rise out of the dance floor. But no. It was real. It was real and it was horrible and it formed some Pavlovian response in my brain so that I start screaming and begging for mercy every time I hear this song.
That happened over 20 years ago. And I remember every little thing…….nah, not going there.
So I will remember Meat Loaf for his amazing hits, for the rest of the Bat Out of Hell album, for his turn in Rocky Horror. He was an icon of my youth and I hold no grudge against him for this song. It’s not his fault.