For the past 35 years, Michael Lee Aday has been a towering monument on the musical landscape. His legendary 1977 album "Bat Out of Hell" transformed this former high school football player, nightclub bouncer, and stage actor into one of the great American rock 'n' roll icons. That record, with its staggering operatic sound and impassioned vocals, has sold more than 43 million albums worldwide - still one of the biggest selling records ever.
Meat Loaf's reputation as one of music's greatest artists was underlined by such masterpieces as "Dead Ringer" (1981), "Bad Attitude" (1984) and the "Bat Out of Hell" sequels, "Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell" (1993) and "Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose" (2006). Other artists might have tried to match his scale and copy his sound, but no one has come close.
Now, more than 30 years after he exploded onto the world stage, Meat Loaf is back with a new record, "Hang Cool Teddy Bear" (a title taken from a line in the classic Russ Meyer trash movie "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls"). From opener "Peace on Earth" to closer "Elvis in Vegas," its 13 tracks drag the classic Meat Loaf sound kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
To flesh out his vision, Meat Loaf enlisted a set of elite musicians to play on the album, including guitarists Tim Pierce, Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins (who co-wrote two songs for the album), Paul Crook and Randy Flowers; legendary bass players Chris Chaney and Kasim Sulton; genius keyboardist Jamie Mulhoberac; and the world's greatest rock drummer John Micelli. "Hang Cool Teddy Bear" also features a stellar array of big-name guests, including Steve Vai (who appears on "Love Is Not Real"); former Queen guitarist Brian May (who appears on "Song of Madness" and "Love Is Not Real"); "American Idol" presenter Kara DioGuardi (who co-wrote and sings on "If I Can't Have You"); and Hollywood star Jack Black, who duets with Meat Loaf on "Like a Rose."
But the most surprising guest is Hugh Laurie - the English actor famous for starring in "Blackadder" and the hit U.S. TV show "House." It was while making a guest appearance on the latter that Meat Loaf met Laurie and discovered that he was a classically trained pianist. What else could he do but ask the actor to play piano on the song "If I Can't Have You"?
"He was really nervous at first," recalls Meat Loaf. "It was strange seeing someone so confident on a TV set walk into the studio like he's a quivering mess. But he nailed it. He's talking about playing it with us if we ever go on 'American Idol.'"
But for all the star guests, "Hang Cool Teddy Bear" is Meat Loaf's album – his own dirty little secret. More than four decades into his career, the man - and his voice - is as big, bold and important as ever.
"How do I keep the fire burning?" he asks. "I don't know. I just do. I'd bet in advance that if I sat with somebody in a room and said to them, 'I'll give you five pounds if you don't go 'Whoah!' after the first song,' they'd forget about the five pounds and they'd go 'Whoah!' You can't help it. And it's like that across all the songs. This record is spectacular!"
Meat Loaf is playing for The Painted Turtle, a camp for seriously ill children. The Painted Turtle takes children who are normally under medical supervision and brings them together with other children with similar illnesses. Through social interactions and outdoor activities, the children enjoy an authentic camp experience. Another element of the camp that Meat Loaf finds particularly moving is that it gives the children's healthy siblings, who sometimes don't receive the same amount of attention, a chance to visit the camp and stay there as well. Meat Loaf has visited the camp on a number of occasions and he's honored to be playing for a charity that does so much for so many.
1. What got you interested in being on Celebrity Apprentice?
Season 3 with Bret, Sharon and Cyndi.
2. How did you get involved with your chosen charity?
My great respect for Lou and Page Adler. I have been working with Painted Turtle for over 10 years. They are part of the "Hole in the Wall" gang and I had supported them before Painted Turtle and did several events with Paul Newman.
3. What is it like competing against fellow celebrities?
4. What about the competition was harder than you might have expected?
The early mornings on the rooftops when it was cold. In fact, just the early mornings.
5. Do you have a favorite past winner or contestant from the first three seasons of Celebrity Apprentice?
No… I really liked them all. Piers, Joan and Bret.
1. 1. What was it like hearing the words "You're fired?"
I don't really remember hearing the words. I was rockin'.
2. Did you agree with Trump's rationale for your firing? Or did you think one of the other contestants deserved it more?
It was perfectly logical.
3. What moment or moments on the show were you surprised to see? Were you particularly surprised by anyone's behavior on the show?
I was surprised by the amount of money that was raised during the show for all the charities. Lil Jon surprised me because he might have been the smartest person on the show; John Rich is the king of Nashville and Marlee Matlin is hot for my body.
4. Do you feel as though you've made any lasting friendships and business relationships from the show?
5. What was the best part of your experience? Why?
I learned that I could do things that I didn't know I could.
6. Do you feel changed in any way by the experience? Has it had a lasting impact on your approach to life?
No... it was hard but I knew that going in, and I ran those kids into the ground and asked if we could do 13 more right away and everyone groaned except me.
7. What has the experience taught you about people?
Never judge a book by its cover - but I knew that already, it just reinforced it.