"Paradise by the Dashboard Light"
Meat-loaf-paradise-by-the-dashboard-light-epic-cleveland-international.jpg
Side-A label of U.S. 7-inch vinyl single
Single by Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley
from the album Bat Out of Hell
B-side"Bat Overture"
Released
  • August 1978 (US)
  • 27 October 1978 (UK) [1]
Recorded1976
StudioBearsville (Woodstock, New York)
Genre
Length8:28 (album version)
5:32 (single edit)
LabelEpic
Songwriter(s)Jim Steinman
Producer(s)Todd Rundgren
Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley singles chronology
"Two Out of Three Ain't Bad"
(1978)
"Paradise by the Dashboard Light"
(1978)
"Bat Out of Hell"
(1979)
Music video
Video on YouTube

"Paradise by the Dashboard Light" is a song written by Jim Steinman. It was released in 1977 on the album Bat Out of Hell, with vocals by the American musician Meat Loaf alongside Ellen Foley. An uncommonly long song for a single, it has become a staple of classic rock radio[3][4] and has been described as the "greatest rock duet".[5]

Background

"Paradise by the Dashboard Light" was one of seven songs developed for Bat Out of Hell, with the first three songs having originated from Steinman's Peter Pan-based rock musical, Neverland.[6][7][8] Steinman, Meat Loaf, and Ellen Foley (who had been cast as Wendy in Neverland) had all worked together on the National Lampoon Road Tour,[9] where the singers had a history of performing over-the-top musical comedy sketches together.[10]

After numerous failed attempts by Steinman and Meat Loaf to secure record label support for the album, Mark "Moogy" Klingman brought the project to the attention of Utopia bandmate Todd Rundgren for potential production work. Rundgren, under the impression that the album had the support of RCA subsidiary Utopia Records, agreed to produce at Bearsville Studios near Woodstock, New York, where he was working as an engineer and producer. But Rundgren discovered that the Utopia Records deal did not exist, and was essentially paying for the album's production himself. Rundgren offered Albert Grossman, founder of Bearsville Studios and the Bearsville Records label, the right of first refusal.[11]

Both Steinman and Rundgren were influenced by Phil Spector and his "Wall of Sound",[11] and Rundgren crafted arrangements translated from Steinman's vision of what the song should be. Jim Steinman had stated that he wanted to write "the ultimate car/sex song in which everything goes horribly wrong in the end."

Composition

The song is divided into three parts:

Part 1. Paradise

The song opens with a male and female character reminiscing about days as a young high school couple on a date. They are parking by a lake and having fun, experiencing "paradise by the dashboard light", until the young male character insists they're "gonna go all the way tonight".

Part 2. Baseball broadcast

The male character's advances are mirrored by New York Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto broadcasting a portion of a baseball game that serves as a metaphor for the male character's attempts to achieve his goal, accompanied by funk instrumentation and back-and-forth dialog between the male and female characters.

Just as the male character is about to score (via the suicide squeeze), the female character interjects, telling him to "Stop right there!" She refuses to go any further unless the male character first promises to love her forever and marry her. Reluctant to make such a long-term commitment, the male character repeatedly asks her to consent and promises to give his answer in the morning. The female character remains steadfast, and the male character finally offers his promise: "I started swearing to my God and on my mother's grave/That I would love you to the end of time".

Part 3. Praying for the end of time

Back in the present, both characters express how each can no longer stand the other. Remaining true to the vow he made on that night in the past, he is now "praying for the end of time" to arrive and relieve him from his obligation. The song gradually fades out, juxtaposing his gloomy "it was long ago, it was far away, it was so much better than it is today!" with her nostalgic "it never felt so good, it never felt so right, we were glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife".

In early live performances of the song, this part (and thus the conclusion of the song itself) was followed by a spoken-word epilogue by Meat Loaf and Karla DeVito, where they, still in character as the two protagonists, argued about what to keep after the couple's divorce (having been presumably married for a number of years). The argument was cut short by DeVito shouting "...And I'll keep the baby!", which left Meat Loaf's character speechless, previously unaware of the pregnancy; immediately after, he ended the argument by screaming incoherently at her.[12] The exchange was repeated with different female vocalists, in different versions and with different endings, in most of Meat Loaf's subsequent live tours and remained in the set until his death, when it was still occasionally performed by Meat Loaf and his featured vocalist Patti Russo.

Production

After 10 days of rehearsals, the song was recorded at Bearsville Studios, with Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley providing vocals, producer Todd Rundgren playing guitar, Rundgren's Utopia bandmates Kasim Sulton on bass and Roger Powell on synthesizer, and Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band on piano and drums, respectively. Foley recorded her singing part in one take.[13]

The baseball play-by-play section, written specifically for New York Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto using phrases he would actually say while announcing, was recorded by Rizzuto with Steinman and Rundgren at The Hit Factory in New York in 1976.[14] Rizzuto publicly maintained he was unaware that his contribution would be equated with sex in the finished song. However, Meat Loaf asserts that Rizzuto was fully aware of the context of what he was recording, and feigned ignorance only to stifle criticism.[15]

Meat Loaf felt that Rundgren's initial mix of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" rendered the song unsuitable for inclusion on the album. After several attempts by several people, John Jansen mixed the version of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" included on the album.

Distribution and release

Upon hearing the finished album, Albert Grossman at Bearsville Records turned it down, but E Street band member Steven Van Zandt contacted Steve Popovich, who accepted Bat Out Of Hell for his own Epic Records subsidiary, Cleveland International Records.[16]

"Paradise by the Dashboard Light" was the third single released from Bat Out of Hell, 10 months after the album's release, following "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" and "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad". In October 1978, after the success of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" was re-released with "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" as the B-side, with this release peaking at No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[17]

Length

Even though the version of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" released as a single was shortened from the 8:28 album version to 7:55, it is one of the longest songs to be released uncut on one side of a 7-inch 45 rpm record. The only difference between the version on the album and the full version released as a single is that the single version fades out almost immediately after the final line is sung. In some countries, a shorter 5:32 edit was released. The largest change is the complete removal of the "baseball play-by-play" section.[18]

According to Meat Loaf on VH1 Storytellers, the original length of the track was to be 27 minutes.[19]

Music video

Meat Loaf convinced the label to give him $30,000 to produce films of live-on-soundstage performances of three of the songs from Bat Out of Hell, including "Paradise by the Dashboard Light". Ellen Foley, who sang on the album, declined to be on the Bat Out Of Hell tour, and Karla DeVito assumed live performance responsibilities, so the music video was created by syncing the video of DeVito's performance to the audio of Foley's vocals.[20] 35mm prints of these films were distributed to movie theaters holding midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as a short subject to play before the feature (in which Meat Loaf appeared).[21] Very few of these prints are still extant and/or in playable condition.

The Old Grey Whistle Test broadcast the Bat Out of Hell promotional film, and audience response was such that they showed the film again the following week. Meat Loaf was invited to perform live on the show with the Neverland Express, and he and Karla DeVito's February, 1978 performance of "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" would become one of the show's benchmark performances.[22]

The video became a staple on MTV in the network's early years. Rundgren speculated in a 2017 Billboard interview that the length of the song's video (the longest music video available at the time) made it ideal for VJs to play when they needed extra time between songs.[23]

In the original video as released to television and in 35mm prints, the male/female "Hot Summer Night" prologue from "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" was spoken live by Jim Steinman and Karla DeVito before the song performance. On the Hits Out of Hell music video compilation, the prologue was removed and spliced in front of the video for "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth", ostensibly to properly replicate the album Bat Out of Hell, and the video for "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" goes right into the performance.

Reception

The single had modest success in the United States, peaking at number 39 on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 23, 1978 and remaining on the chart for 10 weeks.[24] In the Netherlands, the single became Meat Loaf's biggest all-time hit, reaching number one at the end of 1978, going on to be a hit there again in 1988. In Belgium, the single stalled at number 2 where it stayed for 5 weeks,[25] being blocked from the Number 1 position the whole time by the Village People's "Y.M.C.A.". In various Dutch all-time charts, such as the Radio 2 Top 2000 or Radio Veronica's All Time Top 1000, the song consistently charts inside the top 30.[citation needed] In the United Kingdom the song did not chart at all, but is well known and is a classic rock staple.[citation needed]

Cash Box said that "Ellen Foley offers an excellent foil to Meat Loaf's romantic foibles."[26]

In an interview with Foley after Meat Loaf's death in 2022, Chris Willman of Variety described the song as "rock's greatest duet" and potentially "the greatest duet ever recorded". Foley replied that the song was "pretty close behind" "Up Where We Belong" by Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker.[5]

Personnel

Charts

Certifications

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[41] Platinum 70,000double-dagger
Canada (Music Canada)[42] Platinum 80,000double-dagger
Netherlands (NVPI)[43] Platinum 150,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[44] Gold 400,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[45] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Legacy

Two tracks on Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell, Meat Loaf's second installment of what would eventually be a 3-album Bat Out of Hell trilogy, contain lyrics that reference "Paradise by the Dashboard Light". "Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are" quotes "It was long ago and it was far away" and the next track on the album, Steinman's monologue "Wasted Youth", begins with the same "I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday" opening line from "Paradise by the Dashboard Light".[46]

Steinman included "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" in Act One of his 2017 rock musical Bat Out of Hell: The Musical. The song is performed by the characters Falco and Sloane.

In popular culture

In April 2008, AT&T featured Meat Loaf and Tiffany in a parody of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" for their GoPhone national commercial campaign, releasing the commercial in both an extended music video version and a short commercial edit.[47]

A cappella group The Dartmouth Aires sang the song in the 2011 season finale of the American television competition The Sing-Off and won second place.[48]

On Glee's season 3 episode, "Nationals", Cory Monteith and Lea Michele performed the song as characters Finn Hudson and Rachel Berry. This episode was first broadcast on May 15, 2012.[49][50]

In 2015, Tom Cruise performed a lip sync battle of the song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.[51]

Live performance recordings of the song have been included on several Meat Loaf albums, including Live at Wembley (1987), Live Around the World (1996), and Bat Out of Hell: Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (2004)

References

  1. ^ "Meat Loaf singles".
  2. ^ "Paradise by the Dashboard Light - Meat Loaf | Song Info | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  3. ^ Rolling Stone - Meat Loaf Biography
  4. ^ New York Times
  5. ^ a b Willman, Chris (January 22, 2022). "Ellen Foley, Meat Loaf's 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' Sparring Partner, on the Making of Rock's Greatest Duet". Retrieved January 25, 2022.
  6. ^ "Neverland". jimsteinman.com. Archived from the original on August 15, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  7. ^ Hotten, Jon. "Bat Out Of Hell – The Story Behind The Album". Classic Rock. Archived from the original on August 16, 2007. Retrieved August 15, 2007.
  8. ^ "Ellen Foley – Bio". ellenfoley.com. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  9. ^ "Terminally Teenage". jimsteinman.com. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Loaf, Meat; David Dalton (2000). To Hell and Back: An Autobiography. London: Virgin Publishing. pp. 118–9. ISBN 0-7535-0443-X.
  11. ^ The full argument is featured in the 2009 Eagle Vision Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell - The Original Tour DVD release of a 1978 concert in Offenbach am Main, Germany.
  12. ^ Gordon, Jeremy (January 22, 2022). "How Meat Loaf Made a Cult Favorite: 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light'". New York Times. Retrieved January 23, 2022.
  13. ^ The Historian (April 5, 2009), Jim Steinman talks about Phil Rizzuto, archived from the original on December 21, 2021, retrieved April 7, 2018
  14. ^ Pearlman, Jeff (August 29, 2007). "Phil and Meat Loaf will always have "Paradise"". ESPN. Retrieved August 28, 2009.
  15. ^ Hotten, Jon. "Bat Out Of Hell – The Story Behind The Album (page 3)". Classic Rock. Archived from the original on August 16, 2007. Retrieved August 15, 2007.
  16. ^ Petkovik, John (August 11, 2019). "'Bat Out of Hell' hits the stage: An album born in Cleveland is now a musical". cleveland.com. Advance Local Media LLC. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  17. ^ "Meat Loaf – Paradise by the Dashboard Light". discogs.com. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  18. ^ Willman, Chris (January 22, 2022). "Ellen Foley, Meat Loaf's 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' Sparring Partner, on the Making of Rock's Greatest Duet". variety.com. Variety Media, LLC. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
  19. ^ "Karla DeVito's biography". Karl Devito. Retrieved September 24, 2006.
  20. ^ Tannenbaum, Rob; Marks, Craig (2012). I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. New York, USA: Penguin Group. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-525-95230-5.
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  22. ^ Stiernberg, Bonnie (October 20, 2017). "Todd Rundgren Talks Spoofing Bruce Springsteen and Seeing Meat Loaf Propose With a Salmon While Producing 'Bat Out of Hell'". billboard.com. Billboard. Retrieved October 14, 2021.
  23. ^ "Meat Loaf: Paradise By The Dashboard Light". Billboard.com. Billboard. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  24. ^ "Meat Loaf - Paradise by the Dashboard Light". Ultratop.be.
  25. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. August 12, 1978. p. 11. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  26. ^ "Meat Loaf – Paradise by the Dashboard Light" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  27. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. October 14, 1978. Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  28. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 51, 1978" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
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  30. ^ "Meat Loaf Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  31. ^ "Meat Loaf Chart History (Global 200)". Billboard. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  32. ^ "Meat Loaf Chart History (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  33. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1978". Dutch Top 40. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  34. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1978". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  35. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1979". Ultratop. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
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  40. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2017 Singles" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved October 13, 2021.
  41. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Meat Loaf – Paradise by the Dashboard Light". Music Canada. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  42. ^ "Dutch single certifications – Meat Loaf – Paradise by the Dashboard Light" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved July 16, 2022. Enter Paradise by the Dashboard Light in the "Artiest of titel" box.
  43. ^ "British single certifications – Meat Loaf – Paradise by the Dashboard Light". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  44. ^ "American single certifications – Meat Loaf – Paradise by the Dashboard Light". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  45. ^ "BBC Rock Hour Special: Jim Steinman; Transcription of BBC Radio Broadcast, 1981". Retrieved August 28, 2007.
  46. ^ Stosuy, Brandon (April 8, 2008). "Meat Loaf And Tiffany Duet (For An Uncomfortably Long Time) For AT&T's GoPhone". stereogum. Stereogum Media. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
  47. ^ Routhier, Ray (November 29, 2011). "Portland singer's group misses winning 'Sing-Off' by one beat". pressherald.com. Portland Press Herald. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
  48. ^ Futterman, Erica (May 16, 2012). "'Glee' Recap: What a Feeling". rollingstone.com. Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
  49. ^ Ausiello, Michael (April 26, 2012). "Exclusive: Glee Goes Gaga at Nationals, Rachel Channels Celine Dion". TVLine. Archived from the original on April 29, 2012. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
  50. ^ Driscoll, Molly (July 28, 2015). "Tom Cruise on 'Tonight Show': How the lip-sync battle segment got so big". csmonitor.com. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved October 18, 2021.

Further reading