Paradise by the Dashboard Light
|"Paradise by the Dashboard Light"|
Side-A label of U.S. 7-inch vinyl single
|Single by Meat Loaf|
|from the album Bat Out of Hell|
|Format||7" / 12"|
|Genre||Rock and roll, hard rock, glam rock|
|Length||8:28 (album version)
5:32 (single edit)
|Meat Loaf singles chronology|
"Paradise by the Dashboard Light" is a song written by Jim Steinman. It was first released in 1977 on the album Bat Out of Hell, with vocals by the American musician Meat Loaf alongside Ellen Foley. The song is most notable for its unique structure and length, and has become a staple of classic rock radio.
Background and recording
"Paradise by the Dashboard Light" is one of the longest songs to be released uncut on one side of a 45 RPM record. The only difference between the single (45 RPM) and album versions is that the single version fades out almost immediately after the final line is sung. In some countries, a shorter 5:32 edit was released. The largest change is the complete removal of the "baseball play-by-play" section. Jim Steinman had stated that he wanted to write "the ultimate car/sex song in which everything goes horribly wrong in the end." 
The song is divided into three parts:
- Part I. Paradise
The song opens with the characters reminiscing about days as a young high school couple on a date. They are parking by a lake and having fun, experiencing "paradise by the dashboard light", until the male character insists they're "gonna go all the way tonight" (the audio track suddenly cuts out, quickly pans through the left and right channels once before slowly returning to both channels).
- Baseball broadcast
His pushing the matter is mirrored by New York Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto broadcasting a portion of a baseball game that serves as a metaphor for his attempts to achieve his goal, accompanied by funk instrumentation and the two characters talking in the two individual left and right channels.
Rizzuto's baseball play-by-play call was recorded in 1976 at The Hit Factory in New York City by producer Todd Rundgren, Meat Loaf and Steinman. Rizzuto publicly maintained he was unaware that his contribution would be equated with sex in the finished song, but Meat Loaf asserts that Rizzuto only feigned ignorance to stifle some criticism from a priest and was fully aware of the context of what he was recording.
In a nod to the Yankees – Red Sox rivalry, some radio stations in Boston created a version where Rizzuto's part was substituted with Red Sox announcer Dick Stockton describing the baseball play.
- Part II. Let Me Sleep on It
Just as the boy is about to score (via the suicide squeeze), the girl bursts out telling him to "Stop right there!" She refuses to go any further unless the boy first promises to love her forever and marry her. Reluctant to make such a long-term commitment, the boy repeatedly asks her to continue on for the time being and promises to give his answer in the morning. However, as she is not giving in that easily, so that he finally cracks and gives his promise: "I started swearing to my God and on my mother's grave/That I would love you to the end of time".
- Part III. Praying for the End of Time
Back in the present, the characters can no longer stand each other's presence. However, the male character cannot possibly break his vow and hence is now praying for the end of time to relieve him from his obligation. The song fades out on the situation, juxtaposing his gloomy "It was long ago, it was far away, it was so much better than it is today!" in the left channel with her nostalgic "It never felt so good, it never felt so right, we were glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife" in the right channel.
In early live performances of the song, this part (and thus the conclusion of the song itself) was followed by a spoken-word epilogue by Meat Loaf and Karla DeVito, where they, still in character as the two protagonists, argued about what to keep after the couple's divorce (having been presumably married for a number of years). The argument was cut short by DeVito shouting "...And I'll keep the baby!", which left Meat Loaf's character speechless as he apparently ignored the existence of a baby; immediately after, he ended the argument by screaming incoherently at her. The exchange was repeated with different female vocalists, in different versions and with different endings, in most of Meat Loaf's subsequent live tours and remains in the set to the present day, when it is still occasionally performed by Meat Loaf and his current featured vocalist Patti Russo.
35mm prints of a live-on-soundstage performance of "Paradise" were struck and initially sent to many theaters holding midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as a short subject to play before the feature. Very few of these prints are still extant and/or in playable condition. The video also received healthy airplay in the first years of MTV, despite its relative age to the new artists the channel was showcasing.
Although Ellen Foley is recorded on the album, another woman, Karla DeVito, was used for the music video and for live performances. This would also happen for Meat Loaf's 1993 hit "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)", where Dana Patrick mimed to Lorraine Crosby's vocals.
In the original video as released to television and in 35mm prints, the male/female "Hot Summer Night" prologue from "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" was spoken live by Jim Steinman and Karla DeVito before the song performance. On the Hits Out of Hell music video compilation, the prologue was removed and spliced in front of the video for "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth", ostensibly to properly replicate the album Bat Out of Hell, and the video for "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" goes right into the performance.
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The single had modest success in the United States, peaking at number 39 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, the song is very well known and is a classic rock staple. In the United Kingdom, it did not chart at all. However, in the Netherlands, the single became Meat Loaf's biggest all-time hit, reaching number one at the end of 1978. "Paradise" became a hit there again in 1988. In various all time charts, such as the Radio 2 Top 2000 or Radio Veronica's All Time Top 1000, it consistently charts inside the top 30. In Belgium, the single stalled at number 2 where it stayed for 5 weeks , the whole time being held back from the Number 1 by Y.M.C.A. by the Village People.
- Meat Loaf - male lead vocals, backing vocals (as Marvin Lee)
- Ellen Foley - female lead vocals, backing vocals
- Todd Rundgren - guitar, backing vocals
- Kasim Sulton - bass guitar
- Roy Bittan - piano, keyboards
- Jim Steinman - keyboards, "lascivious effects"
- Roger Powell - synthesizer
- Edgar Winter - saxophone
- Max Weinberg - drums
- Phil Rizzuto - baseball play-by-play
- Rory Dodd - additional backing vocals
|Dutch Top 40||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||39|
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In 2011, four New York City Underground bands—Elastic No-No Band, Huggabroomstik, Schwervon!, and The Leader—collaborated on an Exquisite corpse-style cover of the song, with each band covering a specific section of the song. The cover version was released as a 7-inch single on red or pink vinyl.
In popular culture
This song is featured as downloadable content for Rock Band 3.
The song was featured in the twenty-first episode of the third season of the American musical television series Glee. The studio and show version was cut down to 3:50, with the removal of the baseball broadcast and some musical breaks between lines, and it was performed to joyous and raucous applause. It was met with critical acclaim from audiences and critics and went on to become a commercial success.
- Rolling Stone
- New York Times
- "Meat Loaf – Paradise by the Dashboard Light". discogs.com. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
- Pearlman, Jeff (August 29, 2007). "Phil and Meat Loaf will always have "Paradise"". ESPN. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
- The full argument is featured in the 2009 Eagle Vision Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell - The Original Tour DVD release of a 1978 concert in Offenbach am Main, Germany.
- "Karla DeVito's biography". Karl Devito. Retrieved 2006-09-24.
- "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)". songfacts.com. Retrieved 2006-08-29.
- James F. Harris (1993). Philosophy at 331⁄3 Rpm: Themes of Classic Rock Music. Open Court Publishing. pp. 116–118. ISBN 0-8126-9241-1.