Behind the Song Lyrics: “Bat Out of Hell,” Meat Loaf

Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, “Bat Out of Hell” opens one of the top 10 best-selling albums of all time of the same name. Meaning “to move very quickly,” the origins of the phrase “Bat Out of Hell” mirrored Meat Loaf’s epic, rock saga. 

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Originally written as the ultimate “motorcycle crash song” by the late writer and pianist Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf’s long-time collaborator and songwriter, the lyrics address the aftermath of a disastrous vehicle accident. 

And the last thing I see is my heart still beating
Breaking out of my body and flying away
Like a bat out of hell

Cinematic from its very beginning, “Bat Out of Hell” builds around Meat Loaf’s vocals, which come in nearly two minutes into the song. Inspired by the Shangri-Las 1965 motorcycle tragedy “Leader of the Pack,” some elements of the song were also pulled from the opening scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller Psycho, as the viewer peers down a valley and sees the city lights. 

Singing around tragedy, danger, and forbidden love, “Bat Out of Hell” moves swiftly through its storyline.

But I gotta get out, I gotta break out now
Before the final crack of dawn
So we gotta make the most of our one night together
When it’s over, you know
We’ll both be so alone

Like a bat out of hell I’ll be gone when the morning comes
When the night is over, like a bat out of hell, I’ll be gone, gone, gone
Like a bat out of hell I’ll be gone when the morning comes
But when the day is done
And the sun goes down
And the moonlight’s shining through
Then like a sinner before the gates of Heaven 
I’ll come crawling on back to you

At first, Todd Rundgren, who produced Bat Out of Hell, was not a fan of the structure of the title track but was coaxed by Steinman into playing guitar and even threw in the motorcycle sounds mid-way into the song.

“If you don’t go over the top, how are you ever going to see what’s on the other side?” said Steinman in a 2019 interview around the premiere of his musical “Bat Out of Hell — The Musical, which debuted in the U.S.

Originally written for Steinman’s UK stage production of Neverland, a futuristic, rock take on Peter Pan when Bat Out of Hell debuted in 1977, the album also featured two additional song from the play, including “All Revved Up with No Place to Go” and “Heaven Can Wait.”

In 1995, Steinman trademarked the title “Bat Out of Hell” and was later sued by Meat Loaf in 2006, who wanted to use it as the title of his 2006 album, and third part of the trilogy, Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose. Though Steinman worked with Meat Loaf in 1993 for Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, also writing the No. 1 hit “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That),” producer Desmond Child joined Meat Loaf for the final Bat Out of Hell release in 2006.

Steinman and Meat Loaf later buried their dispute and remained friends, up until Steinman’s death in 2021. Meat Loaf even used seven of Steinman’s songs on Bat Out of Hell III. Steinman even called Meat Loaf his “greatest muse,” and described him as “a rock ’n’ roll giant with an operatic voice.”

Upon its release, Bat Out of Hell sold more than 43 million copies and was certified 14 times platinum by the RIAA. Though “Bat Out of Hell” was never released as a single in the U.S., it had some of the first play on radio, despite its nine minute-10 second run time.

“I know there’s people out there that think I was the Frankenstein monster to Jim’s Dr. Frankenstein, but that’s not how it went at all,” said Meat Loaf in a 2019 interview. “I never do anything the way the writer intended it,” added the singer on how he approached “Bat Out of Hell,” or any other song penned by Steinman.

“Jim wrote it,” he added, “But it became my song.”

Photo: Meat Loaf / YouTube

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