Pretty much since this song came out Meat Loaf, his fans and all around him have taken great rolling eyed pains to disavow the notion that “THAT” might be something a bit dirty. “It’s in the lyrics,” they sigh, “it’s three different cases of ‘that’ which boil down to Meat Loaf denying his feelings – he’s the St Peter of rock, essentially”. (They don’t really say that bit). Anyhow this attempt to paint “I Would Do Anything” as a wronged song, “Born In The USA” but with sexual innuendo instead of patriotism, founders a bit when in the very first second of the video you get “SOMETIMES GOING ALL THE WAY IS JUST THE START”.
Smut aside, I want this record to be more fantastic than it is. I love the idea of Jim Steinman – melodrama as rock’s guiding principle, truth through vulgarity, freedom from any sense of reserve. I think Steinman and Meat Loaf love rock as honourably as anyone you could name – as any punk or stadium rocker going. I love how they take some of the best parts of Springsteen – the visceral, religious yearning for rock and young love to mean something you get on “Jungleland” or “Born To Run” – and make them even more grandiose and abstract.
And yet some of the bits on this which slay on paper seem a bit snatched and undersold on record, the timing slightly off. Steinman keeps doing rule-of-three rhetorical stuff in the lyrics – some days fire, some days ice – then letting them trail off. Doubtless it’s intentional – Steinman does not come over as sloppy – but a big corny song needs that kind of satisfaction. The reason “sex and drums and rock and roll” is a big “fuck yeah!” moment in the song isn’t just the pun, it’s because it’s one of the only times the song brings the rhyme scheme home.
Meat Loaf and his duetee don’t really connect either – though there are so many versions of this song that she might not even be in the single edit. And while the lead-in to the chorus is a thrilling acceleration, and the chorus itself is epic in its rending of garments and beating of chests, the two don’t quite mesh for me: what ought to be a climax keeps coming across as a shift down the gears. In scale and shamelessness, “I Would Do Anything For Love” can’t be faulted, but the execution is just that little bit rusty.