By the time Meat Loaf's multiple-platinum album, "Bat Out of Hell," was released in 1977, the over-sized singer already had a pretty good acting career going.
In 1972, the Texas native was alongside Raul Julia in productions of "As You Like It" and "Othello" in New York, and in 1975, he brought his earlier stage role of Eddie in "The Rocky Horror Show" to the screen in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Then that album came along and made him a mega-music star.
"I'm an actor," he said by phone from his home in Austin. "The singing came out of acting. It came out of doing things like being in drama class in high school."
Actually, he was a pretty busy kid in high school, playing baseball and football and throwing the shot put.
"I wasn't a member of the chess club, but I was on the debate team, and I never lost," he said.
So where exactly did the singing come in?
"When I was a sophomore in high school, I got hit in the head with a shot put," he said. "I have no idea what happened, but all of a sudden, that's when I could sing."
With no further explanation, he added that singing and acting certainly mesh.
"In the '30s and '40s, they went hand in hand," he said. "There was Crosby, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Judy Garland. And it carried through to the'50s, with Sinatra and Dean Martin, Sammy Davis. There's a few of us today who have done both: me, Bette Midler, Cher."
Meat Loaf has had acting roles in 57 movies and TV shows, ranging from "Wayne's World" to "Fight Club." Asked to pick the one he's most proud of, his answer was immediate: the 2001 film "Focus," based on the Arthur Miller novel that examined anti-Semitism in America toward the end of WWII.
"Arthur Miller was on the set, and I was scared to death," he recalled. "But he walked past me at lunch, patted me on the arm, and leaned over and whispered in my ear, ‘I really like what you're doing with my character,' then moved on. It doesn't get better than that."
Meat Loaf did a lot of singing in a number of bands before meeting Jim Steinman, when he landed a part in the play "More Than You Deserve," with songs by Steinman. It was Steinman who wrote all of the songs on "Bat Out of Hell," and who Meat Loaf credits with helping to make major improvements on his voice.
"He made it harder for me to sing," he said, laughing. "My voice was more in the Tom Jones area [before Jim]. I know Tom and I love him, but he just goes out and sings loud, and he usually sings songs that are within a one-octave range. So does Springsteen. There's no rock, other than Freddie Mercury, that ventured into the three-and-a-half-octave range that & "Bat Out of Hell' does. And we still do that in the same key that we recorded it in."
Page 2 of 2 - Another thing that hasn't changed is that Meat Loaf is still calling a lot of the shots on his albums. From "Bat Out of Hell" right through to "Hell in a Handbasket," the song choices and the order they're presented in has been his doing. He admits to also helping a bit with writing and structure.
"When I first heard the song "Bat Out of Hell,' my comment to Jimmy was, "Fantastic, but where's the rest of it?' He knew what I meant, and then he wrote the rest of it. I said to him, "We've gotta kick it around and double this part and go up an octave.' So he did. He changed some of the chords, then [producer] Todd Rundgren took things and turned "Bat Out of Hell' into a record. It was the combination of the three of us that made that record."
Back when that record was made, Meat Loaf had to take his show on the road and promote it like mad, which caused plenty of wear and tear on his voice and body.
"Oh, yeah, when we were trying to break 'Bat Out of Hell,' I barely slept," he said. "And that didn't help the voice at all. Especially going on every night and singing "For Crying Out Loud.' That's an absurd song, range-wise. These are operatic pieces. My style is really opera."
Yet he can still hit those high notes, a fact that he attributes to "discipline beyond your wildest imagination. I come offstage, and if I've gotta say hello to someone, I do it pretty quickly. If we're offstage at 11 (p.m.), by 11:45, I'm not talking. Usually, I have a day off between shows, and I don't go anywhere; I stay in my room and I don't answer the phone. Right now, I have a couple of weeks off, which is why I'm doing interviews. When I'm on the road, I have non-talking days.