To date, rock satire has leaned either to the slapstick or to the artsy - the Mahavishnu Orchestra or the Tubes.
Now comes Meat Loaf, a parodist so accomplished that the result is taken at face value by most of his audience. Rock superstars, heavy-metal volume, pretentious lighting effects choregraphy, and the themes of frustration and revolt which obsess many rock acts receive a sound drubbing at the hands of Meat Loaf and his accomplice/composer Jim Steinman.
No one in Meat Loaf's act just walks onto the stage. Each member of the band makes an entrance, and once on, is continually snapping into the hands-on-hips pose of a topless dancer. Steinman appears to the sinister death march of a drum roll, caressing his black leather gauntlets and pounding fist into palm. He removes these one fingers at a time to reveal the white gloves of a concert pianist, which he then pulls off with his teeth.
Meat Loaf himself, his 250-plus pounds squeezed into a tux and ruffled shirt, stalks to the edge of the stage and eyes the audience predatorily before swigging from a bottle and spitting on the floor. He clutches his trademark prop, a reddish chiffon scarf. There is apparently an inexhaustible supply of scarves, several of which are tied around his mike stand, and of tuxedo pants. Saturday night at the Warner Theater, Meat managed to destroy two pairs, ripping the inseam of the first from crotch to knee, and splitting the seat out of the second.
The band opens with the title cut of their Epic album, "Bat Out of Hell," which is probably the best takeoff yet on Bruce Springsteen. Like the best parody, "Bat Out of Hell" is successful enough to get by on the very ground it parodies and may wll become a hit single. But it is, in fact, a thorough rip-off of the "Born To Run" album, and specifically of the "Night" track. Sprinkled throughout are riffs, metaphors, even volume and tempo shifts lifted and transplanted with admirable suavity.
Steinman's work is much smoother than the Neil Innes Beatles parodies in "All You Need Is Cash," the Rutles special. "Bat Out of Hell" proceeds logically and dramatically ( as it did when Springsteen wrote it the first time), while the Rutles numbers jam together familiar phrases from three and four Beatles hits at a time!
Meat Loaf (nee Marvin Lee Aday) and Steinman didn't just stumble over the concept of rock parody on their struggle toward Top 40 heaven. The two met while working in the National Lampoon Show, and Meat Loaf played the mentally defective singer Eddie in the film version of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." It's not surprising that they were invited to appear on the lampoon of television, NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
In Washington, Meat Loaf's audience appears to be small - only about 500 showed up on Saturday night - but devoted. Those frantic few practically shoved the opening act offstage, yelling for Meat Loaf, and emerged from the Warner into the relative quiet of Pennsylvania Avenue wailing, "Me-e-e-at!"
Of course, there is the possibility that all this isn't meantto be funny. But I don't believe it.