Bat Out of Hell is the second album and major-label debut by Meat Loaf, as well as being his first collaboration with composer Jim Steinman. It was released in October 1977 on Cleveland International/Epic Records and is one of the best-selling albums in the history of recorded music, having sold a total of 43 million copies worldwide
Near by the land of the Sciapodes there is a marsh, from the borders whereof the unwashed Socrates evokes the souls of men. Pisander came one day to see his soul, which he had left there when still alive. He offered a little victim, a camel, slit his throat and, following the example of Odysseus, stepped one pace backwards. Then that bat of a Chaerephon came up from hell to drink the camel’s blood
Steinman is credited with the album cover concept, which was illustrated by Richard Corben. The cover depicts a motorcycle, ridden by a long-haired man, bursting out of the ground in a graveyard
Corben took this image of the motorcyle and rider straight from the lyrics of the title track: “I’m gonna hit the highway like a battering ram on a silver black phantom bike”. Although there’s no highway to speak of in the picture, the bike is silver and black, and the horse’s skull gives it a ghostly or undead quality
In the background, a large bat perches atop a mausoleum that towers above the rest of the tombstones
But why are there graves in hell?
Obviously, they’re meant to be there for aesthetic’s sake - graves look cool, and they help to provide contrast between the surface of hell and the sky above - but is there any meaning to be taken from these? Maybe hell is actually on earth. In fact, the lyrics to the title track, even speak to this notion of hell as less of a metaphysical afterlife and more of a inescapable state of being:
And I know that I’m damned if I never get out
And maybe I’m damned if I do
But with every other beat I got left in my heart
You know I’d rather be damned with you
Well, If I gotta be damned you know I wanna be damned
Dancing through the night with you
And why is the bat staying in hell when the name of the album is Bat Out Of Hell?
The answer is that the protagonist in the song is escaping “like a bat out of hell.” In other words, he’s moving so fast that even the bat, who is known for his velocity, is stunned at the scene and incapable of taking chase. The mausoleum and the bat represent the evil force that’s overtaken everything on earth, including its holy places
Steinman had wanted equal billing with Meat Loaf on the album’s title. He wanted it to be called “Jim Steinman presents…” or “Jim and Meat,” or vice versa. For marketing reasons, the record company wished to make ‘Meat Loaf’ the recognizable name. As a compromise, the words ‘Songs by Jim Steinman’ appear relatively prominently on the cover. The singer believes that this was probably the beginning of their “ambivalent relationship”