Found Stories: The Meat Loaf Album Covers

As I say on my About page, I’ve always loved the Stories. But here’s the thing about the Stories: they don’t stop. Call it a blessing, call it a curse – I can look at the most unlikely thing and build a story out of it. For example, I’ve built an entire mythos out of Meat Loaf album covers. It’s true. Let me show you what I mean:

meatloaf_bat_out_of_hell

Okay.  So here we have the original, iconic “Bat Out Of Hell” album cover.  The scene is a vast, seemingly endless graveyard.  In the foreground, a man riding a motorcycle is exploding out of a grave.  In the background, a huge bat is perched on the steeple of a church or mausoleum.  So what can we tell?

Well, the graveyard itself is a blasted hellscape.  No flowers laid on the graves, no grass growing.  The trees in the far background are withered and dead.  You almost wonder if this is taking place on Earth at all, or if we are indeed in Hell.  If we are on Earth, then something terrible has happened.  That red sky is not a sunset.  We may be dealing with an apocalypse here, though it may be just beginning.

Then we have the man.  Is he some kind of undead, or has he been truly resurrected?  His rising has destroyed his grave and several around it, so he’s clearly solid…unless the destruction was caused by an explosion of supernatural power, in which case we don’t even know that.  The only things we know for sure are: 1) considering the joyous abandon with which he rides, he is completely unaffected by riding up through six feet of earth; and 2) That bike of his is not normal.  Exhaust pipes are not rockets, man.

And finally, we have the bat.  Clearly some kind of monster.  Too big to be anything else.  But what kind of monster?  Is it a demon?  Some kind of winged Cerberus?  And what is its relation to the man?  Did it summon him up?  Is it here t0 chase him back to Hell, as a Cerberus should?  Is it shrieking with triumph that he has escaped?  Or are they just part of the same apocalypse, with no connection to each other at all?

All in all, very evocative, but hard to tell exactly what’s going on, until we get to…

meatloaf_bat_out_of_hell 02

Bat Out Of Hell II.

Ah. Well now. This is much clearer.  When someone is holding an angel hostage, there’s not much question who’s the bad guy.  Still.  Let’s look at the details:

It’s now clear that we are on Earth, and my guess about the apocalypse was correct.  The cities are starting to burn.  Perhaps worse, they’re being warped and twisted by whatever’s happening.  That’s clearly the Chrysler building that the Bat is perched on, but the buildings around it look nothing like they do in the real world.  New York City is being transformed into some sort of nightmarish – Hellish? – Gotham.

We get a much clearer look at the Bat this time, and some of our questions are answered.  For one thing, any chance of this creature being just a “monster” in the sense of a big, dangerous animal is now gone.  This thing’s face is far too intelligent and malevolent for that.  Throw in the glowing eyes, and we’re dealing with a demon of some kind.  One big enough and bad enough to defeat our angel, who is no lightweight herself.  Look at her: she’s not even standing up straight, and she’s taking up the top three tiers of the Chrysler Building’s crown.  How tall does that make her?  Thirty feet?  Fifty?  And she’s absolutely dwarfed by the Bat.  That thing is bigger than a blue whale.  And it’s flying.  That alone is a supernatural feat.

An interesting note about our angel.  It’s hard to tell unless you’re looking very carefully at a full-size version of the poster, but her expression is completely unafraid.  Maybe she just has confidence that the Rider will rescue her, but I think she’s just that tough.  The Bat isn’t storming Heaven yet; he’s too busy burning Earth to the ground.  That means she came down here to fight it on its own turf.  Also note that she isn’t wearing the traditional angelic uniforms of long white robes or shining armor.  Just a short tunic and flyaway blond hair.  What we’re dealing with here, folks, is a Rock & Roll Angel.

Which brings us to the Rider.  The Knight on the Shining Harley.  I don’t know if he even cares about the apocalypse going on around him.  He’s not in it for your revolution.  What is it to him if the cities burn, as long as he has the open road to ride?  But he will come, alone, to slay the dragon and rescue the fair maiden.  Is he even close in size to the other two figures, or is that a trick of the perspective?  If he is close to their size, then he’s grown since the first cover, where he was pretty much human-sized.  But then, there’s little question that the Bat has grown.  After all, it’s gone from perching comfortably on a church or mausoleum to being almost too big for the Chrysler building.  Regardless, he has power of his own, and he’s ready to use it.  Personally, I prefer to believe that the Rider is human-sized, facing the titanic Bat with only his own wild magic, but it’s certainly open to interpretation.

VBM ALbum cover

Finally, we have the cover art for The Very Best of Meat Loaf.  The sky is red again (still?), but there’s natural-looking light to the left.  This used to be a city, but now little remains but wreckage.  A lone figure stands on the monolithic ruins of an overpass.  He resembles the Rider, but it’s hard to tell, since he’s little more than a silhouette.  The only other thing that seems to be whole is a single streetlight, forlornly reminding us of the motorcycle-riding freedom of the past.

The Bat has returned (or is it still here?  How long after the last cover does this one take place?), and it’s rising from the ruins in the background.  If its actual size is comparable to the skyscraper fragments we see, rather than being a trick of perspective, it’s absolutely ginormous.  Bigger than ever before.  But larger yet is a silhouette of the Rider in the clouds, outlined by the light from the left.

So, having looked at all three covers, here is the story I tell myself.  This is my Meat Loaf Mythos:

The first cover is the beginning of the apocalypse.  The Bat has risen from Hell, and its coming scorches the Earth.  In response, the forces of Good raise a mighty warrior – the Rider – from the dead to challenge the Bat.  The Bat shrieks in rage to see its nemesis risen.

Unfortunately, the forces of Good didn’t think this one through.  Wherever the Rider’s spirit has been all this time – Hell?  Valhalla?  Just plain sleeping in the ground? – he doesn’t feel he owes Goodness and Light a damn thing.  Free, he hits the highway like a bat out of Hell on a silver-black phantom bike.

With no help coming from that quarter, an angel, more impetuous than the rest, charges into battle against the Bat.  She fails, but rather than being destroyed, the Bat holds her prisoner.  It knows that the Rider has developed an attachment to this one.  Perhaps she’s the angel who tried to talk him into his mission?  Regardless, it works.  The Rider returns, riding through the sky on that silver-black phantom bike.  The metal is hot, and the engine is hungry, and we’re all about to see the light.  He summons his wild magic, filling his hands with it and turning the burning red sky blue with witchlight.  He roars into battle…

The third cover takes place in the long and distant future.  The Rider triumphed, but victory broke the world.  Humanity is slowly pulling itself up from the wreckage, and the ruins of the city stand as monument to the battle that was fought there.  Unfortunately, the victory was only partial.  Instead of being destroyed or banished back to Hell, the Bat has nested and slept in the ruins of the City for untold ages, healing and regaining its strength.  Now it rises to the attack, but there is one who stands against it.  A descendant of the Rider and his angel perhaps?  Regardless, the spirit of the Rider watches over him.  The Bat doesn’t know what it’s in for.

…and that is what I can build with Meat Loaf album covers.  It feels pretty good to tell that story, actually.  I’ve been wanting to for a while, but never had a real forum.  More Found Stories to come in the future, though I can’t say when.  The Stories never stop coming, and you can never say what will trigger one.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction, Inspirations, Reviews

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