Crowd of Full Pockets

Movie and Music Analysis from One Lacking Any Credentials to Provide It

“Everything is Permitted” by Meat Loaf

Bat out of Hell ended with a musically-soft ballad filled with huge notes that works as Meat Loaf’s personal showcase, so of course that’s also what ends Dead Ringer. (And, yes, I still need to write something about “For Crying out Loud.”) It’s not quite as one-for-one of a copycat as most of the tracks on Dead Ringer, as this song is a bit more of a traditional power ballad with guitars just waiting until 2/3 of the way through to join in the mix, but it is still definitely a big, vocal showcase ballad. And if you’ve been following what I think about Meat Loaf’s voice on this album, it should be pretty easy to figure out the problem with that plan.

A piano and strings serve as the basis for the song until the bridge brings in an electric guitar for a solo that stays around for a bit. It’s a fairly conventional arrangement by Steinman standards, but it’s not bad. The melody is fine. The piano is fine. It’s almost frustratingly “okay,” because one expects a Steinman-Meat Loaf song to do something bigger and weirder but it just never happens.

Similarly, the lyrics give the impression that they have something to say but never really say much. It seems to be positing an anarchical world where gods and parents are toppled, leaving behind a world that lacks limiting constructs. It suggests that there is a downside: we have no heroes and “There is always something shattered/When there is something breaking through.” I’m not sure what message the song is really trying to settle on. Why would removing bounds and fences cause things to shatter things on their way through? It seems like removing all such limitations would mean that something breaking through wouldn’t have to shatter anything. It kind of seems like it was supposed to be some sort of call that removing all boundaries might be a step too far and cause consequences that we don’t want, but it’s giving us that message in a bit of a messy way.

Maybe the lyrics are meant to confound me like “For Crying out Loud’s” do. But even then, they just seem to have so much less to say than the earlier song.

It’s an okay song that really just doesn’t live up to Steinman standards. It kind of feels to me like an incomplete song. So does “Dead Ringer for Love,” but that song comes across more like highlights to me where this song is more like Cliff’s Notes. There isn’t a lot to say about it, at least for me, but it’s fine.

And with that, we have completed the journey through the notoriously disappointing follow-up(s) to Bat out of Hell. The troubled production, Meat Loaf’s personal problems, and the fracturing of the relationship of those two were all factors, but I suspect a big part of the failure of both albums was just how beholden they were to their predecessor. Both treated Bat out of Hell like the mold into which the new album’s batter had to be poured, which rendered both into weaker versions not just of the earlier album but of themselves.

Dead Ringer also has an ugly dark streak running through it. Whether it’s because of the pressure Steinman was under, the short turnaround time of many of the songs, something about the state of the world in 1981, the Major League Baseball players’ strike, or the fracturing of the personal relationship between Meat Loaf and Steinman; there is an angry (and desperate) streak running through from “I’m Gonna Love Her for Both of Us” all the way through “Read ’em and Weep.” It’s a sort of casual viciousness that I don’t think ever appears in Steinman’s work again but makes this album feel like the product of tumult that it is.

Meat Loaf and Steinman would essentially go their separate ways for more than a decade after this release.

Meat Loaf would remain popular in the UK and Australia but completely disappear from the public consciousness in the US. I will admit that I haven’t listened to a lot of his ’80s material, but it is pretty consistently savaged by critics. He did record a couple of Steinman songs in the decade, without Steinman producing, but that wasn’t enough to revive his U.S. career.

Steinman would find new success but in a bit of a different way than he’d had with Meat Loaf and it would take nearly a decade for him to really be fully in charge of an album of his own material again. Having served as a co-producer for his own album and parts of Dead Ringer, he would emerge as a producer of note. But he would really earn that trust with–and I promise I will only use this line (that I think everyone in history has used ever since) once–a total eclipse of the charts just a year and a half after the failure of Dead Ringer.






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