Ain’t no doubt about it: Ellen Foley achieved classic rock immortality via her role on “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” opposite Meat Loaf on his 1977 album Bat Out of Hell. Foley was the girl “glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife” in Jim Steinman’s rock opera in miniature, with Meat Loaf as the boy “praying for the end of time” and the end of their time together. All these years later, Foley and the former Marvin Lee Aday are together again – on CD shelves, at least, thanks to two new reissues from two imprints of the Cherry Red Group. Hear No Evil Records has just released a remastered edition of Meat Loaf’s 1987 Live at Wembley, while Lemon Recordings has offered a 2-CD set of Foley’s first two LPs, Nightout and Spirit of St. Louis.
Meat Loaf’s Live at Wembley arrived on Arista Records in September 1987, drawn from two concerts held at the storied London arena on March 1 and 2, 1987. It was the follow-up to the previous year’s Blind Before I Stop, the singer’s first album to wholly abandon the grandiose, theatrical production style of the colossally successful Bat Out of Hell. To achieve this, German producer Frank Farian was enlisted to produce. Farian, then best known as the creator-producer of Boney M. and today better remembered as the notorious figure behind Milli Vanilli, updated Meat Loaf’s sound by adding metallic synthesizers to the deafeningly loud guitars and abandoning Spectorian pomp in favor of eighties metal and even Euro-disco. The album wasn’t a success; it was Meat Loaf’s first to miss the Top 10 in the U.K., and failed to chart entirely at home. But it did yield three charting singles in the U.K. with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Mercenaries” (No. 31), “Special Girl” (No. 81) and the title track (No. 89). Meat Loaf could still draw impressive crowds in England, and so the decision was made to record the Wembley stand on his 20/20 world tour of 1987 for his first commercially-released live album. The robust-voiced singer was joined by his band Neverland Express, consisting of Chuck Burgi (drums), Steve Buslowe (bass/vocals), Frank Doyle (keyboards), Paul Jacobs (piano), Bob Kulick (lead guitar), Alan Merrill (guitar/vocals) and siblings Amy and Elaine Goff (vocals).
Today, Meat Loaf’s live albums number six (not counting live videos/DVDs), the most recent of which is 2012’s Guilty Pleasure Tour. But Live at Wembley is notable for featuring a number of songs unavailable on other live releases. As Meat was still ostensibly promoting the album, three tracks from Blind Before I Stop appear on Live at Wembley, including the carnal title track, the Rick Derringer co-write “Masculine” and a duet with bassist Buslowe on “Rock ‘n’ Roll Mercenaries.” (The liner notes repeat the story that John Parr, Meat Loaf’s duet partner on the studio version of the song, was angry that Meat neglected to introduce him to the Wembley crowd and stormed offstage. Buslowe is credited with the Live vocal.) 1984’s Bad Attitude was tapped for the Top 20 U.K. single “Modern Girl,” and the title song of 1983’s Tom Dowd-helmed Midnight at the Lost and Found also made an appearance. (A live “Midnight” can also be heard on 1996’s Live Around the World.) The remainder of Live at Wembley, save an album-closing oldies medley of “Johnny B. Goode/Slow Down/Jailhouse Rock/Blue Suede Shoes,” was drawn from Bat Out of Hell.
The Bat songs remain the core of any Meat Loaf concert today, and here, you’ll hear a 10-minute take on “Paradise” as a duet with Amy Goff, an almost-as-long “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” with some furious fretwork by Bob Kulick, a joyful “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth,” and the storming, epic title song with Meat Loaf in pyrotechnic vocal mode. These renditions largely adhere to the original arrangements, though the tight band takes enough liberties with an aggressive rock edge to give them a different flavor.
Malcolm Dome supplies new liner notes for Live at Wembley, part of a generously-illustrated booklet filled with tour and album advertisements and images. Andy Pearce has remastered. As with the previous CD edition, Hear No Evil’s reissue includes the full original LP plus the 2-track EP bundled with it, of “Masculine” b/w the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley.” The original performances boasted much longer sets than the 75 minutes preserved on disc; the complete concerts as recorded by Fleetwood Mobile Recording and Meat Loaf’s co-producer Tom Edmonds remain unreleased.
The newly spruced-up Live at Wembley is available now, and you can order it after the jump! Plus: the scoop on Lemon’s Ellen Foley reissue package!
“We Belong to the Night” opens 1979’s Nightout. Written by Foley with Fred Goodman and album co-producers Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson, it marries a Jim Steinman-esque lyrical conceit to pure Phil Spector-inspired bombast…not too far a stretch considering that Spector’s influence is all over Bat Out of Hell and subsequent Steinman works. The glam dream team of Hunter and Ronson oversaw the nine-track album, included as Disc One of Lemon’s 2-CD set. Hunter and Ronson also played on Nightout in addition to co-writing most of its songs. Throughout, Foley had ample chance to use her mega-watt voice, a versatile instrument that saw her play pivotal roles on Broadway in Hair (singing “Easy to Be Hard”), Me and My Girl, and Into the Woods. (Foley actually originated the role of The Witch in the latter musical by Stephen Sondheim for its pre-Broadway run in San Diego; though Bernadette Peters opened the show in New York, Foley eventually joined the New York company.) The music on Nightout is theatrical rock in the Bat vein, with big showpieces tailored to Foley’s pipes, and like Bat was recorded at Woodstock’s Bearsville Studios.
Foley adopts her sassy Bat Out of Hell tone for another flashback, the fifties rock-and-roll flavored “What’s a Matter Baby,” which became a European hit. “Sad Song” (which could have been called “Broken Hearted Melody” for its lyrics) likewise has a melodic retro feel. The hardest-rocking, and indeed most unusual track, might be Foley’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ tad-misogynistic “Stupid Girl,” with searing guitar, slithering saxophone and pounding piano. Foley, Ronson and Hunter also tackled Graham Parker’s “Thunder and Rain” with guitar out front in their dramatic arrangement. Philip Rambow of The Winkies delivered the title track of Nightout as well as the tough rocker in which Foley pines for “Young Lust.” Fred Goodman’s “Hideaway” even allowed Foley to dabble in fast and furious New Wave.
For 1981’s Spirit of St. Louis, Ellen Foley turned to a different Mick: her then-current boyfriend Mick Jones of The Clash. Foley had appeared on The Clash’s album Sandinista!, most famously on the acerbic “Hitsville UK.” They repaid the favor with Spirit. Producer Jones – credited on the original sleeve as “My Boyfriend” – brought along his bandmates, and co-wrote much of the album with his usual partner Joe Strummer. Members of Ian Dury’s Blockheads also appeared on Spirit, as did singer-songwriter (and Strummer pal) Tymon Dogg. Needless to say, the sound was quite different from that of Nightout. But far from being “Ellen Foley Sings The Clash,” the LP had a style all its own, drawing on a less bombastic but still dramatic European cabaret atmosphere.
Strummer and Jones’ evocative ‘”The Shuttered Palace” sets the tone (“My shuttered palace lies away from the sun/It isn’t far there, a little further, so why don’t you come?/You call out your offers to me in your mother tongue/But you don’t act so macho when I ask you to come..”) for their six expressly-crafted songs. There’s a touch of reggae/ska on the eccentric “The Death of the Psychoanalyst of Salvador Dali,” and on the more straightforward standout “Torchlight,” Foley traded old duet partner Meat Loaf for Jones. Tracks like the intricate “Theatre of Cruelty” also allowed the singer to move out of the box of pure rock vocals in favor of a more lyrical style. (Strummer and Jones’ “M.P.H.” is closest to the sound of Foley’s previous album.)
The non-Strummer/Jones contributions mesh well. Foley wrote “Phases of Travel” herself. Tymon Dogg’s “Beautiful Waste of Time” is sympathetically rendered. A cover of “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am,” written by Jimmy Williams and Larry Harrison, and popularized by Nancy Wilson, is properly soulful. The oddity here is a rendition of “My Legionnaire,” an Edith Piaf standard penned by Marguerite Monnot (Irma La Douce). But there’s a connection there, too: Strummer and Jones’ closing “In the Killing Hour” has a tear-jerking story and a martial accompaniment worthy of Piaf.
Ellen Foley has only recorded one more studio album since The Spirit of St. Louis – 1983’s Another Breath, produced by Vini Poncia. Perhaps it will arrive next from Lemon. In the meantime, however, this two-for-one release is available now. There are no remastering credits, but Malcolm Dome has again written a new essay.
You can order Nightout/Spirit of St. Louis and Meat Loaf’s Live at Wembley just below!
- Blind Before I Stop
- Rock ‘n’ Roll Mercenaries
- (You) Took the Words (Right Out of My Mouth)
- Midnight at the Lost and Found
- Modern Girl
- Paradise by the Dashboard Light
- Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad
- Bat Out of Hell
- Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley: Johnny B. Good [sic]/Slow Down/Jailhouse Rock/Blue Suede Shoes
CD 1: Nightout (originally released as Epic LP EPC 83718, 1979)
- We Belong to the Night
- What’s a Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)
- Stupid Girl
- Night Out
- Thunder and Rain
- Sad Song
- Young Lust
- Don’t Let Go
CD 2: Spirit of St. Louis (originally released as Epic LP EPC 84809, 1981)
- The Shuttered Palace
- Beautiful Waste of Time
- The Death of the Psychoanalyst of Salvador Dali
- My Legionnaire
- Theatre of Cruelty
- How Glad I Am
- Phases of Travel
- Game of Man
- In the Killing Hour