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Last Updated: Friday, 4 August 2006, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Meat Loaf ready to resurrect the Bat
By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News website

Rock veteran Meat Loaf is preparing to release Bat Out of Hell III - resurrecting one of the most successful titles in rock.

Meat Loaf
Bat Out of Hell III comes 29 years after the original album
"I've never been hip or cool - just right," says Meat Loaf, now greying and slightly subdued, but readying himself to unleash the Bat on the world once more.

Music magazine Q has just put his original 1977 Bat Out of Hell album at the top of its "guilty pleasures" album chart - meaning it is hideously unfashionable but everybody secretly loves it anyway.

"That means all the people can now come out of the closet," he says.

Meat Loaf, born Marvin Lee Aday, estimates that the first two Bat Out of Hell albums sold "somewhere between 40 and 50" million copies around the world.

Bat I launched him to global megastardom with its high-octane rock-opera histrionics and a string of hit singles.

It was a "renegade" album, a novel masterpiece out of nowhere, he says, comparing it to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run.

Toning down pomp

Then the 1993 follow-up continued the majesty and melodrama, led by the song I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That), which became the UK's best-selling single of that year.

Meat Loaf in 1988
The singer became one of the biggest stars of the '70s, '80s and '90s
The singer describes the Bat Out of Hell series as an island chain.

"Bat I and Bat II are close together but Bat III is way over there with a long stretch of water between them," he says. "But they're all part of the chain."

The main difference this time is his vocal style, Meat Loaf says.

The latest instalment was produced by Desmond Child - who has worked with Kiss, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Cher - and who wanted Meat Loaf to tone down the pomp and sing from the heart.

Child asked Meat Loaf to be "less theatrical" and the star says the songs became "more personal", applying them to his own life rather than playing a part.

Harder and heavier

That was a tough task because he is pretty "bricked in" emotionally, he admits.

Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell III cover
The new album is released on 31 October in North America
The larger-than-life persona he puts forward on stage and on TV is mostly a superficial performance, he says.

Preferring to go home at night and put his feet up rather than raise hell, the 54-year-old does not live out the rock 'n' roll image.

And he gets frustrated when people confuse the rock monster with the real Mr Aday. "That's like saying to Marlon Brando 'you have to be the head of the Mafia to play that role in a film'."

But the new album's music has been described as harder and heavier than the previous two and Meat Loaf assures fans the Bat has not lost its trademark bombast.

As with the first two albums, most of the songs have been written by Meat Loaf's long-time collaborator Jim Steinman.

Steinman, the main creative force behind albums I and II, has contributed seven songs this time despite falling out with the singer over who owns the phrase Bat Out of Hell.

'Minor argument'

Meat Loaf recently sued the songwriter, accusing him of trying to block the forthcoming release through "blackmail and a hold-up".

But Meat Loaf now plays down the row. "That was a dispute, that's all that was - a minor argument," he says, adding that it was amicably resolved in a matter of weeks.

He is now looking forward to the next 18 months, during which he will launch the album before taking it - and the previous Bat releases - on tour.

He admits resurrecting the Bat series is a useful "marketing ploy".

But bringing back the name does not make the job easier, he says - in fact, it makes people more suspicious of the musical content.

"It actually makes it harder because you have to win over the sceptics and doubters," he says. "But if you've got good music it doesn't make any difference."

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