Jun 12

MEAT LOAF – “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”

Popular42 comments • 6,581 views

#697, 23rd October 1993

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.



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  1. 1
    Garry on 27 Jun 2012 #

    Ah yes. All the kids at school were complaining the song was so long. I was listening to 70s prog at this stage. I considered it short…

  2. 2
    Justfanoe on 27 Jun 2012 #

    To be honest, for sheer bombast I prefer “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.”

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    flahr on 27 Jun 2012 #

    One of the related articles is on the Gregg’s Sausage Roll. I would say this was a clever comment on the bombastic and slightly fattening nature of the song, the sense in which it’s enjoyable and fun but recognisably bad for you and probably difficult to stomach in large quantities… but it’s probably just because the artist has ‘meat’ in his name.

    Anyway. Good fun but – as Tom notes in his third paragraph – the way the song is structured means it never really gets properly going like, say, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” does, and I could definitely imagine getting bored by its mega chart run. But it doesn’t feel as long as its seven minutes, and it’s definitely better than Bryan Adams. [6]

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    Ed on 27 Jun 2012 #

    The Loaf always makes me think about the importance of sex appeal in pop, even (especially?) for fans and critics who affect not to notice it.

    If Meat Loaf had been a snake-hipped Lothario like Bruce Springsteen, instead of looking like Meat Loaf, would he have been paid more respect? I think so.

    This is silly, but fun and clever enough. And that’s true of a lot of Springsteen’s work, too.

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    swanstep on 27 Jun 2012 #

    Watching the vid. again now for the first time since 1993, it takes about 2 seconds for Michael Bay’s dread visual signature to be visible. I suppose, however, that he’s a good fit for Steinman and Meat Loaf.

    Anyhow, I find this song drags and is close to being an immediate channel-changer whenever it (very infrequently) comes on the radio… It’s recognizably the same old Steinman/Meat song but just not as good as previous iterations. The main melody and vocal lines need to be better or more ear-wormy or something for the record to really get airborne and be thrillingly, pleasantly ludicrous and karaoke-perfect for daredevils (the way, say, ‘You took the words’ and ‘Total Eclipse’ undoubtedly are). As it is, IWDAFL for me invites the response ‘But I won’t listen to that’. Still, #1 in 28 countries according to wiki, so what do I know?

    The *that* explained at the end of the song strikes me as pretty clever now I look at the lyrics (I don’t remember thinking anything about the lyric at the time):

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    lonepilgrim on 27 Jun 2012 #

    For all its length and attempted bombast this sounds underblown to me. The song becomes a lot more compelling when the female voice enters – about six hours into the song. Up to that point Mr Loaf’s vocals sound a bit thin to my ears. I seem to remember the video clip getting shorter and shorter each week on TOTP. I much prefer ‘Dead Ringer for Love’

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    Mark G on 27 Jun 2012 #

    The firs verse is, like, the longest sentence, and the ‘that’ is somewhere in the middle. So, by the time we get to the payoff, we’ve forgotten what it was.

    As Meat has said, the ‘that’ is the ‘but I will never forget…. no way’ bit.

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    wichita lineman on 27 Jun 2012 #

    Over at nohardchords at the moment, Lou Christie’s Lightning Strikes is the current number one. I love Lou Christie: his sense of melodrama and camp, and how he messed with his influences (doo wop, Spector, Italian balladry) in a way that wasn’t entirely serious – or was it? He never gives the game away. In this respect, Lou Christie could be a proto-Meat Loaf. So why don’t I like IWDAFL at all? Christie’s yearning falsetto makes me think of summer and open roads, an impossible American dream; Meat Loaf’s voice sounds exactly like a wobbly, sweaty red face with bulging eyes. That’s all I can think of when I hear this.

    Jim Steinman shows his love of Spector and Springsteen in the same way Mike Myers pays tribute The Avengers and The Prisoner in Austin Powers – both set my teeth on edge because they are taking influences I love, and things they profess to love – I don’t doubt their affection – but missing the point in the most ham-fisted way.

    It might be the closeness of our tastes that makes this all so wrong for me. It’s like meeting someone at a party who everyone thinks you’ll really get on with, but you don’t. Where Tom hears “the best bits of Springsteen… made even more grandiose and abstract”, I hear the best bits of Springsteen re-written by Ben Elton.

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    thefatgit on 27 Jun 2012 #

    May I also put my hand up for “Dead Ringer For Love”? I loved the urgency and you could almost see the static lighning between Cher and ‘Loaf as they duelled all the way through that song. The dynamic between ‘Loaf and Lorraine Crosby (?) on IWDAFL(BIWDT) is damp and mildewy by comparison.

    I didn’t really enjoy “Bat Out Of Hell II” as an album, so I’m not going to be overly charitable to this single. All the things that made Steinman/MeatLoaf such an unstoppable behemoth of my developing years; the (and I’m struggling for the words) SHAMELESSNESS of the 1977 BOOH, which was pretty thrilling to the younger me, simply didn’t materialise on the 1993 album (sequel?). Was it necessary to revive BOOH at all? I certainly didn’t think so at the time. I didn’t even consider buying the third incarnation in 2006, but then Steinman had nothing to do with it either.

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    wichita lineman on 27 Jun 2012 #

    NOW! watch – IWDAFL followed Radiohead’s Creep at the end of Disc ! on Now 26. The first 7 tracks on Disc 2 are especially invigorating. The Goodmen’s Give It Up has a bunnyable aspect, but remains an astonishing racket:

    Disc one

    UB40 : “(I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You”
    Pet Shop Boys : “Go West”
    Frankie Goes to Hollywood : “Relax”
    M People : “One Night in Heaven”
    Eternal : “Stay”
    SWV : “Right Here”
    DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince : “Boom! Shake the Room”
    The Shamen : “Comin’ On”
    Stakka Bo : “Here We Go”
    Chaka Demus & Pliers : “She Don’t Let Nobody”
    Tina Turner : “Disco Inferno”
    Belinda Carlisle : “Big Scary Animal”
    Spin Doctors : “Two Princes”
    R.E.M. : “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite”
    The Levellers : “This Garden”
    James : “Laid”
    Crowded House : “Distant Sun”
    Radiohead : “Creep”
    Meat Loaf : “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”

    Disc two

    Cappella : “U Got 2 Let the Music”
    Haddaway : “What Is Love”
    2 Unlimited : “Maximum Overdrive”
    Culture Beat : “Mr Vain”
    The Goodmen : “Give It Up”
    Leftfield & Lydon : “Open Up”
    Apache Indian : “Boom Shack-A-Lak”
    Urban Cookie Collective : “Feels Like Heaven”
    Captain Hollywood Project : “More and More”
    Juliet Roberts : “Free Love”
    Jamiroquai : “Too Young to Die”
    Dina Carroll : “Don’t Be A Stranger”
    Take That : “Pray”
    Gabrielle : “Going Nowhere”
    Lena Fiagbe : “Gotta Get It Right”
    Soul II Soul : “Wish”
    Lisa Stansfield : “So Natural”
    Björk & David Arnold : “Play Dead”
    Lenny Kravitz : “Heaven Help”
    Go West : “Tracks of My Tears”
    Janet Jackson : “That’s the Way Love Goes”

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    Cumbrian on 27 Jun 2012 #

    Paradise By Dashboard Light/Dead Ringer For Love >>> IWDAFL. There’s just not enough sass or zip to this to hold a candle to the male/female duets from Meat Loaf’s heyday.

    I’m all for the histrionics and turning up to 11 of some of Meat Loaf’s earlier material. Some of BOOH is a great collision between rock opera and Springsteen. I think it probably helped that Roy Bittan from The E Street Band (and probably their best musician) and Todd Rundgren were involved in BOOH. I strongly suspect that Todd Rundgren is the missing element from this to be honest, as I just don’t find it as engaging as Bat Out Of Hell -this is just a bit limp by comparison.

    Seems reasonably clear to me why BOOH II came about though. No one had thought of Meat Loaf in years, so bringing back his best known stuff into the public consciousness by making a sequel must have made some sort of sense. It works in the movies, so they must have thought, why not give it a whirl here.

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    Tommy Mack on 27 Jun 2012 #

    The first current-still-in-the charts single I bought and one of the first records I ever bought (on 7″ with Wasted Youth, the lamest track on BOOH II on the flip). I thought this was amazing at the time (never having heard BOOH. Or Springsteen. Or Spector.) Having heard and loved all of those things, I have to agree this is a bit of a half-hearted re-tread of vintage Meatloaf. I think I possibly like Dead Ringer even more than BOOH.

    I became a massive Meatloaf fan of the back of this and bought all his albums from a second hand record store run by a guy who looked a bit like Meatloaf. I wish I’d stayed into him long enough to influence my own early attempts at songwriting, but I became a tedious britrock snob for a few years and sold all the Meatloaf records back to the same store because he wasn’t cool like Ocean Colour Scene and Cast [hangs head in deep and deserved shame]

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    thefatgit on 27 Jun 2012 #

    Seems Lorraine Crosby was unlucky to only feature as “Mrs Loud” on the album, and not get a “feat.” credit on the single. She was originally brought in to lay a guide vocal down for MeatLoaf. This meant she wasn’t entitled to any royalties as a guest artist. A “close, but no cigar” moment for the girl from Newcastle, then. Here’s her website:


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    Another Pete on 27 Jun 2012 #

    If I remember rightly the Bat out of Hell single was re-released whilst this song was topping the charts and kind of stole IWDAFL’s initial thunder.

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    Alan not logged in on 27 Jun 2012 #

    Meat rounding off the very indie/rock “side 2” there (i.e. 2nd half disk 1). What a curious but triffic Now. Lena Fiagbe! Tina Turner Disco Inferno? Leftfield & Lydon! Frankie Relax?

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    Special Girl AKA on 27 Jun 2012 #

    #3 See also ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ for an example of a song whose pizzazz and impact is stymied by a weird structure (i.e. no chorus for 5 entire minutes, especially given it’s the most famous bit of the whole thing). Agreed on the lack of chemistry between male and female protagonist (she ain’t no Cher).

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    Tommy Mack on 28 Jun 2012 #

    Alan @ 15. Yes, a classic Now. We used to drive to school with the PSB’s version of Go West blasting out on a 3rd gen. tape which was as much hiss as music. Happy Days!

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    weej on 28 Jun 2012 #

    I don’t really buy the reasoning for the title, just because in each of the three cases the ‘but’ should really be an ‘and’ – as he’ll do anything for love it goes without saying that he won’t ‘forget the way he feels right now’, ‘do it better than I do it with you’ or ‘sooner or later be screwing around’ – there’s no contradicton here. Of course, with ‘and’ it would sound less dramatic, but it would at least make more sense.
    I suspect it was a case of title first, lyrics second.

    Nice enough tune by the way, bit silly though, and they really could have got someone better for the woman’s part at the end. A 6 maybe.

  19. 19
    punctum on 28 Jun 2012 #

    For reasons that should be abundantly obvious I am abstaining from posting long comments on Popular from hereonin, though will still be adding my marks to each entry (for this one it was a 9).

    Reasons in brief:
    1. As the number ones go on, my responses to them will become progressively more personal to a private life level.

    2. Too busy with TPL to expend time and energy commenting on what will become an increasingly dodgy list of singles (dodgy in terms of shortlived, fly-by-night, triumph-of-marketing, out of the charts in a month “number ones” as opposed to the foundation of future classics). I’ll still be posting TPL update links, though.

    3. This is not to be interpreted as grumpy old man doesn’t like modern music since there will continue to be great number ones (such as this one, and I’ve lumbered myself with writing about the whole album!) but I don’t feel the need to write at (any) length about every one of them, especially if I’ll be writing about at least some of them elsewhere.

  20. 20
    Mark G on 28 Jun 2012 #

    This is also another one of those long titles that gets sung slightly longer than its official title!

    (i.e. the sleeve does not get “would”)

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    thefatgit on 28 Jun 2012 #

    #20 I hadn’t noticed the omission until you mentioned it.

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    flahr on 28 Jun 2012 #

    #20 Has this been discussed before? I know we have bunnied examples in 2005 and 1998 to look forward to*, can’t remember if there are any more in our past.

    #19 A shame but if it’s a necessary price for you to concentrate on TPL then so be it. I will look forward to your reasoning on the 9 once you reach BOOH II.

    *I was collecting examples with half a mind to writing a music round structured around them, but frankly I think that would be pushing the bounds of abstruseness a little

  23. 23
    Chelovek na lune on 28 Jun 2012 #

    Yeah, “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” (the original Pandora’s Box version) is quite a bit better than this.

    But, still, a surprisingly welcome return for the big man, and just on the right-side of falling into self-parody.

    My main memory of this song involves sitting in a bar near Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow, waiting for a coach back east, admiring the smart Edwardian (we thought) crocheted cardigan a friend had bought earlier in the day at the great and late lamented (or removed to an industrial estate, with far less style) Saratoga Trunk vintage clothing store, supping on our beverages while this song played in the background.

    Somehow up until that point not one of the four of us had noticed that this this pretty crocheted cardigan was patterned all over with that favourite symbol indicating progress and modernity across Europe for the first few decades of the 20th century, but which soon obtained a more sinister meaning i.e. swastikas (not that this stopped a tube station being opened in 1935 with that symbol at the heart of its decoration in the booking office – still there today, too)

    The song’s quite alright, as far as it goes, and far far better than many exponents of its genre. I suspect the excessively lengthy title (and the fact that we never find out exactly what “that” is) maybe add to the slight, but much needed, frivolity, or irony, or something.

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    Mark G on 29 Jun 2012 #

    ‘That’ is right at the end, but by then the record’s been faded (or we’ve lost interest or something)

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    will on 29 Jun 2012 #

    That’s exactly my problem with this record! I’m not immune to Steinman’s melodramatic ouevre but compared to Total Eclipse or even It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, this is such a chore. After about four minutes I always decide I’ve got better things to do with my time than wait to find out what ‘that’ is (and I wasn’t all that interested in the first place.)

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    Lazarus on 29 Jun 2012 #

    In case anyone didn’t know, the line – “I’ll do anything for love – but I won’t do that!” was first heard on Bonnie Tyler’s Steinman -penned song “Getting So Excited” on the album “Faster than the Speed of Night.” Back in 1983 the young Laz was wondering what “that” could refer to – by 1993 he was able to have a guess or two. The song? 7 seems about right, I don’t like it as much now as I did then. “Bat 2” was one of the first 5 or 6 albums I bought on CD – I was something of a late adopter – but I haven’t played it in at least 10 years, which I guess tells its own story.

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    speedwell54 on 30 Jun 2012 #

    For me Steinman returns to a proven formula. Motorbikes revving, the gentle intro that’s a bit like the outro, and the kind of messa di voce that litter his more epic numbers. This and others go; “here’s the headlines”, “here’s the story”,and finally, in case you weren’t listening, “the headlines again” It’s not that I don’t like it. Steinman is good at this, Meatloaf can deliver. The piano at the beginning of “I’d Do Anything…” always sounded to me like a much slowed down version of the beginning of “Baba O’Riley” the opener from “Who’s Next”. I think I may be dwelling on the over slowness of the former and the terrific pace of the latter. Please don’t check this out by changing speeds – I’m sure it bares no scrutiny. (“do it, do it now”) Hugh Laurie in “House” rocks along with this track from the Who, and it features in the series more than once.

    One thing that slightly irked me at the time, was that it didn’t get much stick for being too long. I may be misremembering. The single edit was a big reduction from the album, and I’m sure Radio One at least , edited it some more. Now 26 (thank’s wichita lineman) edits the beginning, the end, and possibly the middle, to shave nearly two minutes off the track. 6

    A few years later I noticed the year end best sellers (of which this was the worst best selling) around this time, were all a bit samey in theme. I’m sure “meanings of song lyrics” might say otherwise, but Houston, Adams, Wet Wet, Wet, and Unchained Melody twice, – to mix artists and tracks- talk a lot of “love” “doing it” or not, and over do the parentheses.

    Tom, your first paragraph outlines what I think when I hear the song; it immediately reminds me of the furore over what “that” was, and the rude or dirty connotations. This is a shame. I can hear now, Sarah Millican in her geordie voice saying “putting out the bins, is that what he means?”

    Though Meatloaf can act, his cameo in “Spiceworld -The Movie” where -from memory- he utters the line “but I won’t do that” in reference to something actually dirty, and not in the rude sense, makes most of us shake our heads and tut. It can’t have looked good, even in the script.

    Chart watchers note. This entered the top ten the same week as the previous number one “Relight My Fire” and the first 4 weeks positions were the opposite. RLF 1-1-2-8, Meatloaf 8-2-1-1 etc. Not that exciting, but in the previous decade only one other track copied Meatloaf’s climb, the aforementioned Adams, “(Everything I do), I do it for you”. Uniquely both twice using “do” in their titles. Coincidence or what? Yes – coincidence.

    Incidentally, the song title pictorially appears on the cover of Paul Copperwaite’s book, “Pop Charts- Comedy Graphs of Your Favourite Tunes” -worth a look on Amazon if you want.

    Finally, I just found this site after a favourite band – Saint Etienne- name checked you on their recent album. Much kudos to you all. Like.

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    Mark G on 30 Jun 2012 #

    Did the last two buy the Saint Etienne album as well?

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    Izzy on 30 Jun 2012 #

    I know very little about Meat, other than:
    Bat Out Of Hell was successful enough to be in my childhood Guinness Book Of Records for something or other;
    • he was hamming it up as some kind of uberTexan on a stars-do-opera (of all things!) variety show a couple of years back; and
    • this song.
    Oh, and he was in Fight Club.

    So I’ve always wondered: what the hell is this guy? Is he a rocker, is he an actor, or what? How did he get started?

    PS lovely start, Speedwell, and welcome!

  30. 30
    Lazarus on 30 Jun 2012 #

    Much more singer than actor I’d say, but I remember a recent interview in which he said he was concentrating on the acting nowadays. I know he was in the film of the Rocky Horror Show, but as to how he got started, or got that part, Wiki is your friend I guess.

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