This is our truth, tell us yours
In a small moment that describes our friendship, Jem tweeted me about not realizing ever that Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell could be seen, by some, as a parody of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run.
Being a music geek, of course, I think it’s more complicated than that.
However, in the spirit of previous blogs about session musicians and the ubiquity of certain musical styles, there are acknowledgments to be made.
Bat Out of Hell and Born To Run both owe a huge debt to bar rock and to Phil Spector. They’re the antithesis of the cool, Californian FM rock that rolled out of Laurel Canyon as the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and their followers appealed to anyone with a high class stereo and the time to sit in the half dark of an unlit room and listen to songs about private intimacies.
Born To Run and Bat Out Of Hell are the opposite. They’re noisy, public songs about defiance, resistance and survival, lyrically brutal and musically raucous.
This wouldn’t be a blog by me if I didn’t point out that there are obvious links. It wouldn’t be a blog by me if I didn’t point out that there is stuff going on here about radio and recording technology that I don’t understand.
Bat Out of Hell and Born To Run are noisy, wall of sound productions driven by piano and drums, rooted in the culture of Phil Spector and bar rock. If you wanted to do good 70s bar rock you needed the best pianist and drummer. That’s what Springsteen and Jim Steinman went looking for.
The same pianist and drummer, in fact. Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg.
If you wanted to do bar rock, noisy, Phil Spector rooted rock, you’d sign Weinberg and Bittan. It’s not complicated. Weinberg plays a minimalist kit, eschewing complexity for ground shaking beats. Bittan eschewed space and nuance for noise and the void filling use of arpeggios, each note percussive and aggressive.
After David Sancious left his band, Springsteen moved towards a much more mainstream, less jazz orientated sound. Bittan filled that gap, just as Weinberg was an upgrade from Boom Boom Carter.
Springsteen’s talent was as much about his band selection as his song writing. He chose the best guys in the business to make that noise,and so did Jim Steinman for Bat Out of Hell.
If you turned on your radio in the late 70s, and heard blue collar rock, Springsteen, Seger, Meatloaf or the like, you heard many of the same musicians.The sound was ubiquitous.
Ubiquity is not parody.
When every guitar player had a Marshall amp, they were not parodying each other. It was just the sound of a moment. So it was with Springsteen and Steinman.WHat makes Springsteen creditable is not who he was then, but what he has done since, and what Steinman hasn’t done.