Don’t Wear Sandals: #98 — Meat Loaf

Were we the last generation to experience ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light’?

Ain’t no doubt about it we were doubly blessed
’Cause we were barely seventeen and we were barely dressed

To the best of my knowledge, there is no Meat Loaf biopic presently in the hopper out in Hollywood, and I personally consider that to be borderline criminal. Something in the mold of “La Bamba”, “The Doors”,“Walk The Line”, “Ray” or “Straight Outta Compton” chronicling the rise, fall and resurrection of Mr. Loaf would be a box-office smash. And let’s face it, doesn’t Oliver Platt strike you as the type of actor who finally breaks through during the later stages of his career with an earth-shattering performance that leads to Oscar gold? “All Revved Up” could make Platt the new J K Simmons!

Sadly, that’s about as likely to happen as me winning the Heisman Trophy (I technically DO still have four years of NCAA eligibility remaining), so I should move on.

Meat Loaf, while one of the best selling artists of all time, isn’t necessarily a legendary musician in my humble opinion. Heck, most of the people I’ve listened to music with in my lifetime flat out despise him. In fact, an overwhelming majority of his success could be traced to a lone album released nine months after I was born — 1977’s “Bat Out of Hell”. But man, what a freaking album.

“Bat” was one of those records that just kept playing and playing for years, decades even. Throughout my childhood and into adolescence it was a quasi-continual simmer of background music to barbecues, beach vacations, trips to the park (because everybody brought a boombox to the park in the 1980s), basketball practice and even simple walks about town as Camaros hummed down Main Street. Somewhere around 1992 that simmer became a boil and I became one of the over 30 Million citizens of earth to purchase my own copy.

Glowing Like The Metal On The Edge Of A Knife

“Bat Out of Hell” features seven great tracks, but it’s the sixth tune that brings the record to its level of immortality. “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” remains the greatest wedding reception standard to this day. I’ve lived through “The Chicken Dance”, “The Electric Slide” and “The Macarena” — those are for the sober people. “I Will Survive” and it’s later incarnation “Single Ladies” are just a chance for the twenty eight year old woman who brought her gay coworker as her Plus One to vent frustration. But Paradise? That’s the ultimate shot of adrenaline to snap you out of your booze-and-feast-induced lethargy.

But more importantly, PBTDL paints a vivid picture of teenage hormones, love, lust and the American automobile. Back then, they collectively went hand-in-hand.

There was a bumper sticker that was somewhat common during my childhood, it read “If This Van’s A Rockin’ Don’t Come A Knockin!” It was kind of understood that cars were cheap hotel rooms for horny teenagers. But from personally observing younger friends and relatives, social media and popular culture portrayals of American youth these days, I get the sneaking suspicion that kids just don’t get busy in cars anymore. That saddens me.

Sure, there’s many vehicular advantages millennials and beyond have that we could have never imagined. They’ll never have to look at a road atlas, lose a radio signal, ask a stranger for directions or pull over to the side of the road to make a phone call. But they’ve been deprived of one of American life’s greatest rites of passage: finding a dark place to park, turning off the headlights and fogging up the windshield.

Growing up in the suburbs of the world’s biggest metropolitan area, it wasn’t always easy to find the Holy Grail of seclusion. But we managed. Rules were pretty simple: stay away from the areas where underage people were drinking (because the cops knew about these places too), don’t try and impress by playing your mix tape (car batteries didn’t last nearly as long then as they do now)and make sure your Trojan was in arm’s reach (time was of the essence).

I’m sure there’s a multitude of reasons why today’s teenagers aren’t experiencing Paradise the way we did. Smaller cars? Perhaps. But I drove a 1984 Toyota Corolla. Today’s parents weren’t as strict as the boomers were (or pretended to be)? That’s quite possible. It does appear from my (distant) vantage point that parents today are more upfront and comfortable talking to their kids about sex (A thought that makes me want to throw up, but probably yields a healthier society). They’re just not as cool? While we ALL know that’s the case, I don’t know if we can pinpoint the decline of a sacred tradition to mere “coolness”. Fewer kids and parents going to church? Hey, maybe we’re on to something. I was taught that looking at Playboy would earn me a one way ticket to the 3rd circle of hell. Whatever the reason may be, it appears our antiquated form of romance has gone the way of The Noid. It

It must be cold and lonely in the deep dark night.

Watch Meat Loaf’s Epic Performance Here:

Featured photo screen capped from clip above, MeatLoafVevo on YouTube.com


Don’t Wear Sandals” is an ongoing series detailing what I’ve learned from my 100 favorite musicians about my generation, my country and myself over the last forty years. To see the entire list to date, click here.

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