Q - The material you wrote for him required incredible commitment from him. He was a performer who had this flair for committing. But when he was on stage and apparently - tell me if it's true - he had oxygen on the side of the stage, and he was a guy who was obviously a little heavy...
JS - [OVERLAPPING] Yeah...
Q - Did you ever have a sense of guilt or concern that this guy was going to implode or kill himself on stage?
JS - None whatsoever. I probably, if I had thought that, would have wondered if I had the song ready to be his, you know, expiration song. No, it was just something I accepted about him. He gave more than any performer I ever knew. He was the embodiment of the cliché; he gave 150 percent, which he did. It's the only way he knew how to perform. It's what got him into trouble. It's why he lost his voice. He had an operatic voice; you can't use an operatic voice six times a week.
JS - And that first year, unfortunately, the tour was booked six nights a week sometimes. Sonenberg, his manager, was in this difficult position of trying to break a record but the certain rules you had to play by didn't fit him. I mean, I thought he shouldn't have been doing more than three a week, but there was no way to do that so he just wrecked his voice really quickly and then they didn't give him time to recover. I remember he wanted time to recover, he would plead for it, but he wasn't given it - it was just "get back out there".
JS - The oxygen was on stage. There was this tent where he would go for oxygen, and he would always faint after the show. I don't even know how much of this he could control or not, some of it might have been the character, but the character was real so there's really no distinction.
JS - The horrifying part of him at the end fainting was, for me (laugh), I would come off a mass of sweat too, and he'd be usually on the floor completely naked. This is quite a sight, to see Meat Loaf on the floor completely naked.
JS - His general act; I'd try to avoid it, but generally, what he'd do is he'd reach up and, it's a sweet thing, but for me it was terrifying, he'd go "Jimmy, Jimmy, I did it again!" and he'd grab me and pull me down on him. And suddenly I'm in the porno movie with this sperm whale, and I'm terrified (laugh). I'm laying there doing a love scene with Moby Dick again, and I'm wondering when the spout's going to go off and what's going to come out. He's going "Jimmy, Jimmy" and then, you know it was a sweet gesture, but to him it was this huge athletic ordeal - it was like basic training, every show, for a marine.
JS - He wanted it to be that, and that was part of the thrill of it. He was always on the edge himself of basically expiring, so to speak. I mean, there probably were ways he could've done it without getting in so much trouble if he wanted to spend more time on the technique, exercise and such, but it wouldn't have been the same Meat Loaf. It wouldn't have been the same thrilling sense of danger, and he was really like the character in Bat Out Of Hell. He was always that close to immolation, you did think - especially if you saw the steam coming out of his body - you expected he could spontaneously combust at any point. He seemed like that kind of performer.
JS - Again, that spoiled me in that, not to be the old fogy again, but when I see bands today there's very few I can see spontaneously combusting. Again, there are very few you can see even coming close to a boil if you leave them on a hot fire for 40 hours. They stand up there in their stupid clothes and they go on and on and on and they're, this is unfortunately what VH-1 has to deal with, I know that from speaking to them.
JS - They say, what do we do with these bands? (laugh) You know it's not like they're overflowing with personality and showmanship, not to mention the other extreme which is mythology, which is above that. So that was the thrilling thing about Meat Loaf and that, I think, was the thing that offended the other camp so to speak which, strangely enough to me personally, was a lot of the people who were associated with Springsteen, who's one of the greatest showmen of all time, but the people around him were pathetic sycophants. They still are, Dave Marsh, I think he's still alive, he was pathetic.
JS - Oh, I wanted to bring down for you to read a great review by Lester Bangs, the great rock critic. It was only sent to me two weeks ago. I'd never read it in 1978. Great piece, just raving about Bat Out Of Hell as one of the great albums of all time and destroying Darkness On The Edge Of Town (laugh). And it was really like everything he wrote, really wonderfully bracing, anarchistic kind of rebellious piece.
JS - But a lot of these people around Springsteen hated the show. Because it was so much, you know, Bruce on stage was exciting, because it was Bruce. This was Meat, being a character in a created world and that somehow seemed to them a violation of something about rock and roll, which I thought was really stupid. But it certainly was the only act I could think of at the time doing that, except for things like Kiss and Alice Cooper, which were a little different, much more stylised comic book though, I loved them. I remember seeing Kiss, their first show ever at the Mercer Arts Center in New York, in a little room. Kiss in a tiny room. And I was a huge fan of theirs forever.
JS - I bought my apartment from Gene Simmons, their bass player. I remember his attitude to the group wasn't, he didn't seem to show much respect for the group musically, he was more business proposition, he's a brilliant businessman. I was the one that was always saying no, don't underestimate it, you guys are dealing with mythology; it's brilliant. I thought Kiss was brilliant in that sense, and Alice Cooper was too. I mean, to me, those were all huge steps forward - even to this day. I don't care what the music's like, I'll always love Insane Clown Posse, I'll always love Slip Knot. It wouldn't matter if they were doing only Barry Manilow songs. I consider them brilliant because I wish there were more groups like that.
JS - I'm getting so tired. I was tired in the '60s of it, of people walking out on stage like they are in real life. Coming from a theater background, when you walk out on a stage you have an obligation almost to leave your real life behind and to assume another identity. Visually, emotionally, viscerally, and Meat did that. I think it screwed him up a lot.
Q - How important a role in this story, this epic story is Todd Rundgren's part in Bat Out Of Hell?
JS - Well, I think Todd Rundgren is, first of all I think he's a genius and I don't use that word a lot. I don't think I've ever used it about more than two or three people in pop music. He's certainly the only genius I've ever worked with. He's awesome. He actually takes my breath away, Todd. I wish people knew how brilliant he really is, even though his albums are staggering, they're not even the tip of the iceberg. He was so instrumental in this being done. For one thing, he's the only producer who would do it (laugh).
JS - So just on that basis alone he was very valuable. Every other producer rejected it. Forgetting the record companies, we went to every producer and got comments like, it's ridiculous, you can't do this on a record. You can do this on stage, maybe, but you can't do it on a record. You know, 'cause they'd see something like "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" which was 20 minutes when we did it, with all the acted stuff, Meat Loaf making out with Ellen Foley, Phil Rizzuto speech, which at the time I would do live, you know going around the bases like in baseball, and they'd just think this is crazy, it can't be a record.
JS - I would think I don't see why not, I don't, I couldn't understand it. To me it was like the soundtrack of a movie and you just do it like that. Todd was the only one, I swear to God, the only one. Strangely enough the producer we wanted was a guy named Bob Ezrin who had done Lou Reed, but we couldn't get his phone number. All the others hated it. Todd listened to us audition at the piano and he said, "Okay I don't see the problem, let's go" (laugh) He was that casual about it, he always was.
JS - That's the great thing about Todd; nothing surprises him. He's too smart. To this day, one of my favorite things about Todd is I don't think he's ever said a complimentary thing to me about the music. But, I love that, I don't, you know, it's trivial. It'd be petty. Todd's basic attitude is, I think, "Well it's a load of inflated junk but at least it's funny and I'll do it, why not" (laugh) So he did it and his genius in it… I mean, I arranged it with him but his real genius is, I didn't know a thing about record production.
JS - So I learned anything I knew from Todd and he knew how to put it together. I wanted to use Bruce Springsteen's band a lot. I ended up using the drummer, Max Weinberg, and Roy Bittan, the pianist, who are amazing. I still think - best drummer and the best pianist I've ever worked with; they're geniuses but (laugh) here I am using 'genius' again, but they deserve it. Todd fought that 'cause he wanted to use his own band, Utopia, but it ended up being a combination on the album.
JS - He just brought all the pieces together and he did all the background vocals and let me tell you, watching Todd Rundgren create background vocals has got to be one of the most thrilling experiences you can ever have in music. I can't even describe it. It's as exciting as if you got to watch, I know this sounds hyperbolic, but if you got to watch Mozart compose or John Lennon compose alone and could be in their head, 'cause you could actually see it visually and hear it being created. He makes it up on the spot.
JS - And his background vocals, I always wanted tons of background vocals. I'm a huge fan of background vocals, and I didn't know at the time how brilliant he was at it. He'd have three people, it'd be just three people around the microphone, him and Kasim Sulton, from his bass player from his band, and Rory Dodd, who was a singer with us, and he'd hand out the parts, and they were astonishing. You know, he didn't do paths, like a lot of background vocals, or aahs, or oohs; he did complex melodies that intertwined, counterpoints and he'd hand them out, and everyone was terrified to admit they couldn't, they didn't have a clue what to do.
JS - He would just, and I think he did it probably for perverse fun, he'd go, "all right now this is what you sing: (SINGING) ahh, then you go to the diminished, then you come up here and you do an augmented, then I want you to take", and he'd go on for like two minutes. He'd say, that's your part, now remember that. Now you do it, and they'd go, "what? What?" (laugh) They'd never remember it, but it was astonishing to watch him do that. He helped tighten everything up; he was just brilliant. I mean, really if it was fair, that record should be Bat Out Of Hell written by Jim Steinman, starring Meat Loaf, produced by Todd Rundgren.
JS - He was a genius, partly 'cause he didn't question it. He didn't over-think it, like this isn't what happened, this is not what's happening, how do we make this more palatable? He just did it, he accepted the music for what it was, and he did it. I think to this day he probably thinks half the ideas that I made him do on the record were ridiculous and all that, but it didn't matter. I didn't want someone sucking up, I wanted someone great, and he was just awesome. I can't say enough about Todd.
Q - Describe the sessions, physically where were you, what the atmosphere was like.
JS - Well the sessions were in Woodstock, New York, in Bearsville Studios, which was Todd's studios. Some of them were there, some of them were at his home studio. They were really hard for Meat Loaf, they were really bad for Meat Loaf, the session, 'cause Todd, they weren't easy for me either, but I spent a lot of time with Roy Bittan, the pianist, and a lot of time with Todd, working on the arrangements and the music, which Meat Loaf really wasn't involved in.
JS - And that was really, looking back, in a sense very unfair to Meat Loaf, but it was the only way to get the record done. Meat is, keep in mind he had spent two years with me rehearsing, working, and all of a sudden he was sort of left out of it, and a lot of that was Todd. Todd's very acerbic and tough, and Meat Loaf would, a lot of the time, be in the corner while we were recording, and he didn't know what to say, it was intimidating to me too. I was just soaking it in, learning from Todd.
JS - I remember once Meat Loaf finally, you could see, got up the nerve to leave the corner and come up to Todd, and I remember Todd going, "yes what do you want?" Like someone had come in from outside. Meat Loaf said, "well I was just thinking, you know this part here, you could do it like Motown, you know, R & B." "He said, yes we could, that would be wrong though if we did so why don't you go back to the corner and let us make your record." And he didn't take it well, I mean, he didn't say anything but that was one of the nights he tried to kill himself.
JS - It was weird. I don't think he really was going to kill himself but the way I remember it, it's very detailed because, we hung around. He left but he said he'd meet us later to go to a movie and I remember the movie was The Outlaw Josie Wales with Clint Eastwood (laugh) that's the details I remember. We left him detailed instructions on a pad of paper how to meet us at the theater 'cause he wasn't around when we were there at the house, and he didn't show up at the theater.
JS - As it turned out he didn't follow the instructions right, he made some wrong turn and he thought we were tricking him. He didn't, it was total paranoia, he thought Todd didn't want him involved, I didn't want him involved, he was being treated like, you know, completely unnecessary, irrelevant and we tricked him not to come to the movies with us, to miss Clint Eastwood (laugh). So we come back to the house, we're staying at a house in Bearsville the whole time, which is a wild story too. He was living with Ellen Foley at the time, who's this tiny waif of a girl, Ellen's like… [holds up hand to demonstrate] and whenever we'd describe it to people we'd say, yeah, you know, Meat's living with Ellen.
JS - They'd always, there'd be this, almost inevitably, this 30 seconds where they go [STARE], and I'd say, what is it? They'd say, "I'm just trying to picture it physically, how does that work?" (laugh) and I'm saying, it really doesn't involve a crane or anything like that, the physical, the body is able to take a lot more than you think. And meanwhile I'm thinking "maybe a crane is involved, I don't know…", but he was living with Ellen and I was in the room across the hall from them. It was really a very sweet time, living all together.
JS - They also, Meat believed in ghosts and he was convinced that the room was haunted by a ghost. I remember very sweetly him telling me about that constantly, and one night there's a knock on my door around 3:00am. "Jimmy, Jimmy, he's here, you gotta come in", 'cause I convinced Meat I could talk to ghosts, I don't know why (laugh) but it's one of those things I just said. So I came in the room, and he's there with Ellen in bed and Ellen says he's terrified, he says "The ghost is here, he's a bad ghost, you gotta do something".
JS - I said, "okay well I'll just sit and talk to him". So I sat down like a nanny on the chair next to him in bed and I talked to the ghost and I said, "Oh the ghost is not a bad ghost, Meat, it's a musician, a musician from the '50s. It's a bass player who really loves your songs, who just wishes he could be on your record." "He's a nice ghost?" "Oh yeah." "Well say hi. Ellen, he's a nice ghost." She says, "That's good, that's good". "Yeah he's a nice ghost, okay? Jimmy tell…", and I kept talking to the ghost, and you hear [SNORING]. You look over and there's Meat asleep and then I tiptoe out and it's this very sweet domestic scene in the middle of all this anarchy.
JS - But that night we came home and the door's opened by Rory, who's the singer, and Rory's in complete hysterics and going, "Oh God I don't know where you've been!", you know, there were no cell phones or anything. He goes, "I… I haven't been able to reach you. Meat tried to kill himself and I don't know what to do, what are we going to do, he's trying to kill himself!"
JS - I said, "Calm down, calm down, let's go see what happened". You know, I'm trying to act like I'm in charge. I don't know what the hell I'm going to do. I was taking this pain medication because of the broken bones in my nose - Darvon - which I really needed 'cause I was in pain all the time. I go upstairs and Rory takes me to the shower and there's Meat nude in the shower curled up in the corner, almost fetal, and with the water dripping down on him. Rory says he hasn't uttered a word in like, three hours, he took an overdose of pills.
JS - I'm going, "Meat, what - what's going on?" He's going, "uhhhhhh, uhhhhhhhh, uhhhhhh", and I finally talked to him enough and he goes, "Jimmy I want to die, I want to die, I want to die". I said, "well that's not a good idea, Meat, you can't die. I mean, if you die… what's going to happen? I might have to get another singer! … I guess I could do that, there's some other, yeah, I could to that, I'd have to change the keys. Rory, can we change the keys?" "Well, what, what, what?" This is my acting and my reverse psychology. The first time I was a paramedic so I was sort of not sure what to do, but that was my strategy.
JS - Then the only screw-up of the whole thing was I said to Rory, what pills did he take. He said, "he took your Darvon." I said, "you took my Darvon? Meat, you animal, you stupid animal, I need that stuff!" (laugh). I was so furious he took my Darvon but we had to get him to the hospital and it was a riot 'cause Rory really couldn't drive, he was Canadian, didn't have a license I don't think. But he got into the car and we're driving terribly to the hospital, I didn't have a license. And Meat's in the back seat, covered in a blanket - completely out of it - and… it worked, my strategy though, I convinced him. I had this bizarre thing where I got into great detail I said, you know what Darvon does, Meat, now that I know you took Darvon, it's not going to kill you, all it does is it paralyses the mucous membranes which means your vocal cords are going to dry up, which means you won't even be able to talk, you'll have to wear one of those little amplification things in your throat. He goes, "huh? oh, uh… I don't wanna! I don't wanna, no!". I said, "well then we'll have to get you to a hospital". He said, "no! no hospital!", and he had these amazing flashbacks, like war flashbacks, 'cause when he was a kid he was hit by, a um… what do you call it, not a javelin, um… what's the damn huge ball that they throw?
Q - Shot putt
JS - Yeah, shot putt! It escaped my mind. He was hit by a shot put, at real close range, which is really dangerous. He had a skull fracture, he had a total psychotic fear of his brain being tampered with and people going, doctors going near his head. So he really, when you mentioned a hospital, he'd freak and he'd go "no! no! no! I'm not going". But when I convinced him that he had to go there and that he's going to never talk again he decided he'd go to the hospital. We get him to the hospital and these idiot doctors wouldn't come out to the car 'cause I couldn't get him from the car to the hospital.
JS - They said no, we're not allowed to, you have to bring him here, and we finally got one who was off duty to come help us. We got him in the hospital and I had to fill out the forms like the daddy. I filled out all the forms while he was in the other room. I remember it was really sad, it was really poignant. Then the doctor came to talk to me like I was the parent. The doctor said, okay it's going to be all right and we had to pump his stomach but we got everything out, it wasn't going to be fatal, but it's good that we pumped his stomach.
JS - Mainly he's feeling nauseous and sick, that'll last for about a day and he's feeling, psychological is the biggest problem, he's feeling a great deal of shame and embarrassment. I'm thinking about this and I'm thinking "well - what do I do?" (laugh) It was one of the first times I had seen how fragile he also was. He was an amazing mixture of a colossus and a really delicate, fragile flower. I mean, in a strange combination, but I guess that's not so strange, since a flower could grow up through concrete, can't it? He was both.
JS - And Todd didn't include him much at all, if any. Todd was brutally efficient at making the record, you know, but he was brilliant and he was inspired. The only thing Todd didn't do was mix it. Todd mixed the whole record in one day and I didn't know about mixing at that time. I've come to realise it's the key to making a record in many ways and it takes a long time sometimes. The mix is, Todd did the whole album from 4:00pm to 4:00am and it was one of the wildest things I've ever seen.
JS - We ended up re-mixing, it took about two months at least and the amazing thing is two of his mixes are on there, Heaven Can Wait and Hot Summer Night. You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth and that was the first song he mixed. You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth he mixed it at his home studios, he had a great little home studio behind his house in Woodstock and all the EQ stuff was on top, it was usually, you know, it's a console. This was all on top so he'd lean up to work it and I remember he said to me, "okay let's mix the first song, what do you want here, do you want Phil Spector? All right, I thought that's what you'd want - Phil Spector, the usual. Okay let's try this, this, this, okay let's see what happens."
JS - Then he played the whole song he didn't touch a thing. The whole song just played from beginning to end and that's the mix that's on the record. We tried it four or five times to see if we could top it, couldn't even come close. I thought, "this guy's a genius, it sounds perfect!" Then the next four songs he mixed I thought sounded terrible (laugh).
JS - Except for Heaven Can Wait. He took a nap at around 1:00am for about an hour and a half, which is amazing 'cause we only worked on it 12 hours. He woke up from the nap; he says, okay let's finish. We'll do a ballad first, and he did the mix of Heaven Can Wait, which is also on the record, and it's gorgeous. But when it came to the longer songs he had a short attention span. He got tired of them and they weren't good mixes, so we had to go and re-mix the whole album and (laugh) that's when I really learned a lot about producing a record, how much was in the mix.
JS - We simply did what I think Todd would've done, had he spent the time. It was just like when he took the record to be mastered. I remember he just handed it, and it was like a drive-thru master place, like Burger King, and it was at this place called Stone and he handed it in, like drive-thru, he handed it through the window of the receptionist and she said, "well what do I do with this?" He said, "make it sound good", and that was it and he walked away.
JS - Then I had to learn about mastering and these are the days, of course, of LPs where this was a nightmare sonically, Bat Out Of Hell, because it was about 28 minutes, 29 minutes per side, and you weren't supposed to have more than like [TAPE STOPS]
Q - What role did Jimmy Iovine play?
JS - He re-mixed with me.
JS - So after Todd had mixed and mastered the record, it was horrifying for me and Meat Loaf, and again this doesn't happen with CDs really. Everything changed with digital. But in those days if you went over 19 minutes, with every extra minute you'd lose maybe 10, 20 per cent of the record. It was logarithmic with the losses. You, just the laws of physics, 'cause you were dealing with vinyl. And so the record, I realise that the whole process of recording is basically step by step, a terrible sense of loss.
JS - Then, you know, it's a lot like life and marriage in that sense. It starts off so spectacular. You've got 48 tracks, everything's really loud, you can make things louder. Then you have to get 48 tracks down to two tracks for a mix, which is very depressing really. Then from those two tracks you have to make it fit onto the vinyl. And you think, you're already depressed, 'cause what started out like the opening chords of Bat Out Of Hell sounded originally on the console when you're in the studio like [BA-DAM! BA-DAM! LOUD]. They're huge. Then you mix it and it's [BA-DAM… BA-DAM… MUTED] like, oh jeez.
JS - [IMITATING TODD] "Well, it can't get any louder because there are other instruments. 48 instruments have to share the space of two tracks", [AS HIMSELF] "oh. Really? It can't be changed? Oh damn", and you get used to that. Then you find out, when it gets to mastering, that it's a 29 minute side; it's impossible. It became like, [DA-DAM… DA-DAM… NASAL] it sounded like a little toy. It was so depressing when we got it home.
JS - Meat Loaf and I remember, it was in my apartment, putting on the record and saying, oh my God, it this what it's ended up? It was like you had this beautiful child and it had been turned into a little mutant, awful creature, hunchback creature. We didn't know what to do. I remember we were just crying basically about it. Then we decided we had to do it all again. You know, we couldn't ask Todd. Just Todd didn't have that kind of attention span for it, even though he, the one, two mixes he did great, and we knew were great.
JS - But the rest of it, we didn't know who to go to, to re-mix it. I feel, well I've gotta learn more now. I've gotta learn about mixing. So the first person we went to was Jimmy Iovine. And Jimmy Iovine, he's a big deal now. He runs Interscope Records and he may be one of the biggest guys in the record business, but to me he'll always be Jimmy. He was always, I knew him when he was basically the assistant recording engineer at the Record Plant.
JS - He was kind of the janitor. He swept up but he also assisted. He was around when Springsteen did Born To Run. I think he was like a tape operator who basically went on, off, on, off. But Jimmy's an amazing person and he absorbed like a sponge. He's always been one of my favorite people. He's very charming partly 'cause he's so direct.
JS - Jimmy, from the day I first knew him, and this is like '76 or '77, he always had one goal. He always would say, "you know, Steinman, I just, I wanna, I wanna make a hundred million dollars. I figured it out. That's how much I need, a hundred million, you know, 'cause then you don't have to…", you know, I was so happy with $20,000. You know, I knew I was fucked up and I had to revise my estimation. He goes, "a hundred million, that's an exact amount". He never changed that amount all the years I knew and worked with him. He always was looking for the thing that would get him that hundred million. He had another great comment.
JS - He says, "you know, the problem with you is you worry about art and creating art. I worry about buying art. That's what I want to do". He was very pithy and this guy's really bright and yet, amazing sense of music. I remember re-mixing everything with Jimmy, and Jimmy had an easy solution which was totally cheating, but that's Jimmy. He basically took all the stuff out, you know, because he knew what we were saying.
JS - [IMITATING JIMMY IOVINE] "Yeah, it sounds small, it should sound huge. There's too many things. You've gotta take stuff out."
JS - So he took out all the background vocals, he took out almost everything except the piano, bass and drums. Even the guitar he took out about half of. Which made it sound a lot like Because The Night, Patti Smith, that record which is a great sounding record, but that's what Jimmy was great at. You know, he says, "yeah now you've just got piano and a voice and the drums and they can all be loud. You know, that's what I want to hear when I hear a song. I want to hear the voice and the melody and the piano and the drums. You know, I'll listen to some guitar, but even those guitars, you know, I think of all those skinny, English faggy guys in their satin pants, I don't know about that. I like the other stuff."
JS - His father worked on the docks in Brooklyn. He had that kind of mentality. He had a great mixture of vision and also very down to earth, so his mixes were kind of great 'cause they were loud but they had nothing in them. They were like really empty.
JS - One of his mixes is left on the album, Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad. In fact it doesn't sound like anything else on the record, I think, 'cause it was a Jimmy mix that I did with Jimmy. You could tell when you listen to it, a lot's been taken out. The background vocals were put back in but it's very stark compared to the others. So that's the way he mixed. He also is funny. I mean, if you listen really closely to Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad you'll hear when it starts there's a low hum, a low buzz there before the music starts. You hear "Mmmmmmmmmmm".
JS - I remember mentioning this to him saying, Jimmy what about this low hum? "Steinman, you don't understand about music. You never hear that on the radio. It doesn't pick it up. No one's gonna mention that. Just you're much too fanatic. Forget about it." I said, okay. And you have to jump cut again to a year later when the song is on the top 40 station in New York, a top top 40 station, which is called 99X - at the time. We get a call from the program director saying, you know, we like the song, Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad but there's this horrible hum at the beginning that really comes across on the radio.
JS - So I turn on the radio and the next time they play the song I hear "Mmmmmmmmmmm" (SINGING) "baby we can…", Jimmy, you little liar! (laugh) and it's still there. Never got rid of it. But also I should mention Jimmy gave me the most profound advice anyone ever gave me in the music business, which I think should be passed along to anyone wanting to be in this business, in that once he did all his mixes, and we only kept one of them, I re-mixed the rest of the album again with a guy named John Jansen, and those are the ones that are the majority of the record.
JS - He was brilliant, but I brought them all to Jimmy to listen to 'cause Jimmy didn't have any ego about it. He was just starting out. I mean, I think he had just gotten the job to do Born To Run, which was an accident. No one knew how to mix it and Jimmy had been there working the tape machine. They said, why don't you take a crack at it? So one weekend he tried to, he mixed it, and I love Born To Run, it's my favorite record of all time, one of them.
JS - One of the things I love about it is the way it sounds, which is totally insane and accidental in a way. Jimmy, he'll explain it to you. He goes, "I didn't know about echo. I just pushed it all up" and that's why it has all this tunnel-like echo. As someone said, it sounds like it was recorded in the Holland Tunnel, but that's great for Born To Run. He left things out, there are really funny stories, I'm getting into your show over Springsteen.
JS - Like She's The One, a great song on Born To Run it's all tom toms. One of the things that makes it really cool, there's no snare. But that was a mistake. Jimmy describes it - Springsteen was furious, and Max Weinberg going, "where's the snares?" [AS JIMMY IOVINE] "There was a snare? I didn't know, why don't you write snare? Where?" [AS MAX WEINBERG] "But right there it says SN!" [AS JIMMY IOVINE] "Well I didn't know SN was snare! I thought that was some, you know, code for something. I - I didn't know. Sorry!", you know.
JS - And the other thing was that Clarence Clemons was furi--, not Clarence. Bruce was furious on Jungle Land where he plays a big sax solo, Clarence. It's supposed to be just the accompaniment to a guitar solo and Bruce was really proud that it was the best guitar solo he would ever play. He worked like days on it and Jimmy left it out, and he had the same kind of answer. He said, "I didn't even know there was guitar. Where does it say guitar? Why do you have the guitar playing with the sax? This is so confusing. I didn't want to do this anyway. Leave me alone!" (laugh).
JS - He was like, but it's, they kept it on, it's a great record. But Jimmy's advice to me that I thought was so precious was, I brought all these mixes to play him, and I played it and he listened to every one, and he's listening really carefully, and I'm thinking, ah trained ears. This is a guy who's, doesn't know a lot more than I do, but to me he was like a god 'cause he had done more than I had. Everyone who had done more than I had was some kind of god.
JS - So I said, what do you think Jimmy? What do you think of these mixes? He looked at me and he goes, "you know something Steinman, I'll tell you something, these mixes, the ones you just played me that I just heard, these mixes are gonna sound great on the radio." I thought this is important, I should really remember this. It'll be something about EQ or something really about sonics and how voices, I've gotta know this for the radio.
JS - Well what is it? I mean, why are they gonna sound great on the radio? "'Cause they're on the damn radio. Do you know how hard it is to get on the goddamn radio? If it's on the radio it'll sound great. That's the whole point. Get it on the radio. Then don't care. It's gonna sound great 'cause it's on the radio!" It's the best practical advice I can tell anyone. Don't worry about how it sounds but when it gets on the radio it's gonna sound great. So Jimmy I had to give my pearls of wisdom.
JS - I also just should ask for color that he had, he's had so many wonderful statements that I should, I feel like honoring Jimmy for a second. He did say to me years later, about '83 when I was doing other stuff like Total Eclipse Of The Heart and things, he would call me from LA and MTV had just begun. Jimmy calls me one day and he says, "Steinman put on MTV. Put it on immediately." We put it on and it's Pat Benatar, who is the '80s song, big female singer, who had this video called Love Is A Battlefield.
JS - It was right after Michael Jackson did Thriller and Beat It, all that. So there was dance. Everyone was doing big dance sequences in videos, which was new. And she couldn't dance at all. She was there basically moving her boobs back and forth and trying to do it in time (laugh). That was all it was and Jimmy says, "look at this woman, look at Pat Benatar, look at her". I was looking at it at the same time he was. He goes, "Can you believe it? I mean, she's trying to dance! This girl can't even stand still in time!", which I thought was a great comment.
JS - I should do the collected wisdom of, you know, I mean, 'cause there are a lot of them. I remember when I did Streets Of Fire, this movie with him. It was classic. He did the whole movie as the music supervisor. He didn't really know what he was doing. There was another thing where he said to me, "here I am, I'm a music supervisor for a big movie. Do you think this will get me the hundred million dollars? I don't know, it seems like a movie's the way to do it." I said, "Could be, you know."
JS - Meanwhile, he didn't know I knew the script because the title song, Streets Of Fire, is Bruce Springsteen, and John Landau was going to be my manager at that point. So I knew John and I knew the script. I saw it on his desk and I asked him about it, and he said, "oh it's a piece of crap. They wanted to use Bruce's song. We won't give them it, no way. It's a bad script".
JS - So I said, can I read it? He said, yeah. So I read the script. It was a terrible script. But I mentioned that and it was Joel Silver, a big movie producer's first movie. So I met all these people for the first time, Joel Silver, who was a maniac. I was the one who, I was out in LA the whole time 'cause I was doing Footloose, too, two movies. Footloose I was sure was gonna be a disaster. I didn't even care about it, and that was a hit. I thought Streets Of Fire would be the biggest thing of all time.
JS - And it was a big flop, even though it's become a cult movie and it's a cool movie to watch. It was cool 'cause Steven Spielberg would come to the set everyday 'cause he considered the director, Walter Hill, to be the best action director in the world. It has amazing action with motorcycles. But I learned a lot and one of the things that was interesting was Jimmy goes, "I don't know what to do as a music supervisor but, you know, I think this is gonna be the way to get a hundred million dollars, I really do."
JS - I said, "but what about the script Jimmy? You know, it really stinks." He says, "the script? No, I don't think that's that important." And Joel was there and he says, Joel "what do you think? Is the script any good?" [AS JOEL SILVER] "The script? I don't know if the script's any good. It's not about that. It's about the visuals. Wait 'til you see the action, the visuals. This movie is about visuals. It's about excitement, it's about thrills. Don't worry about the script."
JS - I remember mentioning it to six or seven people that the script was trashy and I always got the same answer. The script? I'm sure no one read the script. The script doesn't matter. This movie is about visuals. It's an action, it's like a Spielberg movie. I say, all right, all right, all right. Then we go to the first edit, the first cut of the movie in the screening room and it's Iovine and me and Joel Silver. We're all sitting there and we're watching it. We're all excited to see the first cut.
JS - And it starts. I remember Joel Silver, who impressed me, Joel Silver goes, "here we go, the adventure begins". It was we were like three little kids and Iovine goes, "yeah this is it. Hundred million dollars. Hundred million dollars, I know it." And it starts, and about 20 minutes into the movie Jimmy turns to me and he goes, "Steinman you know about art and that kind of stuff, movies, theater, right?" I said, "well yeah I know something." He says, "this movie is really shitty isn't it? It's really bad".
JS - I said, "yeah, it's a really bad script. Why didn't anyone notice that the script was bad? It stinks. I can't even watch it. I'm never gonna make a hundred million dollars from this movie." Joel's on the other side going, "what am I gonna do next? There's gotta be a next project…", and they're sitting there and there's so many lessons I learned during that movie. It went $14 million over budget, I think and I kept saying to Joel, "how are they allowing this?"
JS - 'Cause they kept screaming at us, it's over the budget. I said, how, and they, you've gotta understand, they built all, Walter Hill didn't want to go to Chicago. The story took place in Chicago, so they built Chicago in LA. They built this enormous elevated train, the City of Chicago, and the biggest tarp ever to cover an outdoor area, two square miles of tarp to cover all of Chicago. I remember saying to Joel, how can they let you go $14 million over budget?
JS - Joel says, "you've got a lot to learn about Hollywood. You've got a lot to learn. Come over here. Let me show you something." He goes to the tarp and he says, "two square miles tarp right?" I said, "yeah, the biggest tarp ever created. I read that". He said, "take a look. Open that flap". I open the flap. He says, "what does it say?" Property of Superior Hardware, California. "You know who owns Superior Hardware? Universal. Take a look at", and he took me all around the set.
JS - Everything of course was owned by Universal, and they were paying extra rentals to the company that was financing the movie. It was a good lesson about Hollywood, why things go over budget, from Joel himself, the master of it. The funniest thing was they couldn't use the Springsteen song in the end, Streets Of Fire. So I had to write another song. Jimmy ended up, he's such a cool guy and such a master of what he does, that he blamed me for them not having the final song.
JS - They were convinced they'd have the Springsteen song. I remember them saying, "we're definitely gonna have the Springsteen song, right Jimmy?" He says, "yeah are you kidding? It's a cinch. I'm that close with Bruce. I did Born To Run. I know John Landau. If I have to I'll make a call to Walter Yetnikof, the president. I know what to do. It's about people, connections." It's like one week later. "Steinman, I'm screwed. Springsteen, what an idiot, he won't give me Streets Of Fire. We don't have any ending for the movie. You've gotta come up with a song, like in two days."
JS - So I wrote this song that I loved and I sent it to them and he and Joel, I remember, left me a great message saying, "I hate you, you bastard, I love this song. We're gonna have to do it. We're gonna have to re-build the Wiltern Theater", which they had taken down, it was a million dollars to re-do the ending, just the ending of Streets Of Fire, 'cause they didn't have the, they had already filmed Bruce Springsteen's song.
JS - They spent a million dollars and I felt all his hostility from Universal. A guy named Sean Daniels who was head of production, one day said to me, "well there is hostility because we understand you waited about eight months to come up with that final song and you never did it". I said, "where'd you hear that? I did it in two days". He said, "Jimmy Iovine". So I went to Jimmy Iovine and I said all that to his, "yeah it's true, I know."
JS - "I blamed you but you can't be upset with me. I'm not like a writer. I've gotta make my way with these people. I had to have a scapegoat. I thought it was like honoring you to make you the scapegoat. You're not really mad are you?" I said, I guess not. He says, "good yeah 'cause we've got a lot of work to do together." (laugh) I didn't mind it. It was always like when I went to see him in LA when he was first starting Interscope. He had just moved in the offices. I know I'm off topic but what the hell.
JS - He moved into his offices in Interscope and he said, "Steinman sit in that chair right there". He made me sit like, exactly. He said, "don't move to the left, no don't move to the right. Sit there, don't, right there. Just keep it right there. Now don't move. I'm gonna play something. This is gonna freak you out. It's called Q Sound, a hundred million dollars, I'm telling you, a hundred million dollars. Listen to this. You're gonna hear Madonna singing in your right ear and crawling around your right ear, behind your head to your left ear. Wait 'til you hear this. Don't move! Don't move. I've gotta talk to Arnold Schwarzenegger on the phone, so I'll be busy, but just listen to this."
JS - He puts on Madonna and she's doing what he said, and it finishes. He says, "what do you think? It's pretty amazing." I said, "I hate that." [AS JIMMY IOVINE] "You hate it?"
JS - I said, "I don't want Madonna crawling around my ear and around the back of my head. I just don't want it. It's not sanitary, and it's not particularly aesthetically pleasing."
JS - He goes, "oh you don't think this will be a hundred million dollars?" I said, "I don't think so." He says, "I don't know maybe this Interscope junk will work out". So, and as I understand it, he made more than a hundred million. So he did good. But he was a big part of it too though. He, his little words of advice and things, it was all part of an evolution to get that album sounding right.
Q - Steve Van Zandt played a role in finally getting a record deal for this record. Is that true?
JS - Boy, not that I know of.
Q - Then, he didn't... with Bearsville?
JS - Oh, with Popovitch? He might have. [NODDING] That I would not know about.
Q - Didn't Todd in essence fund this project?
JS - In a way yeah. What happened was, after being turned down by every record company in existence, we ended up getting a deal with Tomato Records. That shows you. We went from the big companies to the vegetable family and we were, or is it a fruit, tomato? I don't know. But with Tomato Records, which was a company distributed by RCA, now there's a fruity vegetable company, and that was our deal, Tomato Records.
JS - We thought, we finally got a deal. We don't care if it's tomato, turnip, radish, whatever. We're on a record deal. We were happy until it turned out they wouldn't accept Todd as the producer! He was the only producer who was willing to do it and they didn't like him because he had done War Babies, an album with Hall And Oates, which I actually think is their best album. But it was experimental. It got away from their tried and true formula. This is in the '70s so they didn't like Todd.
JS - They thought he was too avant-garde or something. So they refused Todd as producer and we didn't have anyone else. No one else would touch it, so we had to get out of our deal with Tomato Records and I remember that was funny. You know, Sonenberg orchestrated it, he was good at these sort of things. We all got together at this steak house, Smith And Wollensky's in New York, which I think was near the office David had at the time, and David prepared us.
JS - It was me, Meat Loaf and him. He said, now here's what happens. Kevin Eggers, the president, is coming in. What's gonna happen is we're gonna have to be really good about this, like actors. We're gonna have to put on a real scene, like we're not gonna be on your label. We won't do it. We won't do it without Todd, that's it. That's the only way it'll work. You have to really be explosive and I'll throw the first fit, and then I'll walk out. Then, Meat Loaf, you have to throw a fit, and then you and Jim walk out and leave him there alone.
JS - He'll know he won't get a record and he'll let us out of the deal. We'll just need $25,000 you know to pay him off and that's, you gotta do this. You've gotta pull this off. Don't give it away, all right, all right, fine. So he comes and he starts this very pleasant, this, well I have great plans for this record. You know it's gonna make Tomato the biggest fruit label in the world and whatever he was talking about, and we're there talking and David starts his fit.
JS - You know, "well we're not gonna be on Tomato. Why not? You won't accept Todd Rundgren", you know basically accelerating as he goes, "and we've had it. We can't stand it. We've had it. I can't talk to you. I'm, damn you, I'm leaving!", and David walks out. So it's Meat Loaf's turn. He says, "I didn't work all these years for nothing. I didn't do this. I'm not putting up with you. You know, Jimmy and I have had it. I'm leaving." And somehow in this I missed my cue.
JS - So I'm left at the table with Kevin Eggers, this guy, he's looking at me saying, well at least you're still here. I'm thinking, well it's not really a good time for me to make a dramatic exit. I couldn't say, "and I hate your cologne!" I had no cue. So I ended up there talking for like 40 minutes trying to explain to him that we couldn't do the record without Todd. Anyway, it worked, because in the end of the combination, he said he'd let us out of the deal for $25,000.
JS - Which unfortunately we got by me giving away my publishing for the whole Bat Out Of Hell for $25,000. So I never got publishing on that. But actually it's the only thing I share in common with the great, legendary blues singers, is that I really, and Meat Loaf too, we've never been paid on that record basically. We were paid on about four million copies, and it sold like 40 plus million. It was why I signed my publishing away.
JS - Meat Loaf and I got screwed on the actual record royalties 'cause, I'm never clear on this, he went bankrupt like the third year after it was out. They used that as a loophole, I think, CBS to not pay him 'cause once he's bankrupt he owed them things. I don't even understand it to this day. It went on for 25 years to get a settlement. We ended up being basically screwed out of, you know, zillions of dollars, so that's the only thing.
JS - It's obnoxious to say but that's the one thing I share in common with Blind Lemon Jefferson or Blind Lemon Pledge, whoever it is. So financially it's not what people think it was. It wasn't a bonanza. We got off Tomato Records and Todd started doing the record without a record company, basically for Bearsville, so to speak. They didn't pay him anything. So Todd funded the record, it was about $75,000. The record ended up costing, I think, $135 to $140 but, oh yeah, about $140,000 I think, when it was over.
JS - But I know that certainly the first $75,000 and probably more after that was covered by Todd. He was really at risk for it and that's why it was so catastrophic when the record was finished and you think it's done, that Warner Brothers stopped working with Bearsville or something and they said, we have to hear it as a live audition, and then they turned it down. So we had no record company again and we had a finished record, the same exact record, by the way, fully mixed that sold 40 plus million was the one turned down by Warner Brothers and Lenny Waronker, who was a hero of mine.
JS - Where is he now? Dream Works. Well he's still a hero of mine at Dream Works, whatever they do over there. So we had to find a new label and we didn't know where to go. We used up everything, we had been turned down by CBS four different times. Like, every label, Epic, Columbia, it was like CBS had labels they didn't even know about that turned us down. Poly, Sony, I say Sony because it's Sony now. It was CBS then. Probably the classical division turned us down.
JS - They'd give us to anyone. Everyone turned us down, and we always wanted to be on Epic, because I like the name. Epic was the coolest name but they were the first to turn us down. All of a sudden David calls me and says, you know we might have a chance here. There's a guy named Steve Popovich and he used to run A & R at Epic. He was actually a genius at A & R, he's the guy who signed so many of their biggest acts. I think he signed the Jackson Five and Michael Jackson and Sly And The Family Stone and all these big acts from the '70s were signed by Steve Popovich.
JS - Great man, great music man, great record man, great human being. Still lives in Cleveland. he had this little company they gave him when he left A & R called Cleveland International, which is a great name. Cleveland International. It's like delusions of grandeur in the very name (laugh). It's like Toledo Universal. So he's a, except Cleveland is the greatest rock and roll city, I have to admit. When we were there, they were one of the first to play it and then (SOUNDS LIKE) that's, and he was just one of these things that you hear about in a fairytale.
JS - He was one of the true believers. He heard the record and didn't need to know anything else. As I was told, and this may connect to when you say Steve Van Zandt was involved, Popovich's comment I got was that all I had to hear was the introduction to You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth. It's the best introduction in rock and roll I've ever heard, it's about 12 seconds, and he loved that introduction. I'm sure he listened to the rest but that's what I remember, that's when he decided to buy the record.