You hear it, but you can hardly believe it.
"C'mon," you think to yourself. "There's no way he just sang that."
But, alas, there it is, just 50 seconds into the ninth track on Meat Loaf's new album, Hang Cool Teddy Bear. And he freakin' belts it: "I can barely fit my dick in my pants."
Meat Loaf performs Thursday, August 26, at the House of Blues.
Swear to God.
And, honest: If it's not the best hook you'll hear all year, it's certainly the most jarring.
Thing is, it's not just a random utterance intended to shock—OK, maybe it is. But the Dallas-raised Thomas Jefferson High School graduate born Marvin Lee Aday swears there was a whole bunch of solid, thought-out reasoning behind the decision to include this bit.
It's something of a complicated sell, but Meat Loaf's quick to pitch it.
See, the new album's kind of a concept record, he says. There's a narrative—about a soldier name Patrick who is approaching his death, lying wounded on a battlefield and seeing the life he could have lived flashing before his eyes—and all of the songs on the album are intended to further that tale along. Yes, even the song in question, "California Isn't Big Enough (Hey There Girl)."
With its line "I can barely fit my dick in my pants" and all.
Basically, Meat Loaf says, the narrative—at least the part leading up to that song—was getting a little soft. The seventh track on the album, "Song of Madness," finds Patrick at his lowest point. The eighth, "Did You Ever Love Somebody" found him lying in a hospital, falling in love with his nurse.
"I had to flip him out of it," Meat Loaf explains. "So I needed something that would shock."
He asked Justin Hawkins and Eric Nally, two of the seven writers employed to co-write this record (a list that includes Jon Bon Jovi and American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi), for help.
Their suggestion? Well, y'know, the whole dick thing.
"I came in the next day, and they played me that," Meat Loaf says. "And I said, 'Hey, I said I wanted to shock [my audience], not kill them.'"
Meat's no dummy, though. The song had a certain appeal, with its glam-rock singalong hook and its disco dance part jammed into the middle. It was catchy as hell. Undeniable, really. Credit Hawkins and Nally for that. Frontmen for tongue-in-cheek ironic rock acts The Darkness and Foxy Shazam, respectively, the two co-wrote a song that wouldn't be too far out of place on either of their own band's records. Actually, it'd probably fit right into their catalogs. In their hands, it might even be a bigger hit than the minor YouTube sensation it stands as today.
In Meat Loaf's hands, though? Yeah, it's a little weird. Meat Loaf knew this. And, he swears, he tried to find away around it. But when he and Green Day producer Rob Cavallo glanced over the collection of songs amassed over their month-long writing section, they kept coming back to "California."
"Rob played this chorus again and I said, 'Oh, man, that chorus is so great,'" he says. "And then we called in Kara and James Michael, Justin, me, everyone that we could, just to try to replace the word 'dick.' And we couldn't. I even reached out to [old writing partner Jim] Steinman. And nobody could replace it. So eventually, I said, 'I've got to go with this. I have to. There's no choice at this point.'"
He doubted his decision, of course.
"Well, it's a fairly shocking thing," Meat Loaf says of singing about his Johnson. "But what's interesting is, with a lot of people, the first time they hear it, they don't really hear it. You see them and it goes by. And by the time it goes by the second time, they say, 'Is he actually saying that?'"
And, yes, he is.
"We debated it like crazy. But it really needed to be there for the story. And I didn't do it because I wanted something explicit or because I wanted to offend."
Thing is, it kinda has offended. Meat Loaf fans are openly questioning his motives on fan pages. Walmart refused to sell the CD that includes the song in its stores (the chain carries a "California"-free Hang Cool Teddy Bear). Amazon.com user reviews have blasted him left and right. And, in order to have the song played on the radio, an edited version had to be created in which the word "dick" is bleeped out.
"I mean, some of the reviews on Amazon.com are going, 'Oh we can't believe this!'" Meat Loaf bemoans. "And I'm just going, 'Oh, you people are so hypocritical. You'll sit and watch Die Hard, where if you actually add up the body count, there's almost 700 people killed, and you'll listen to swear words all day long and not blink an eye, and you'll let your kid sit around and play a video game, but the word 'dick' comes on my album and you're like, 'Oh, Lord, I'm gonna get struck by lightning.' People go, 'Oh, I can't believe it!' But it's so silly sometimes about how people can watch True Blood and all the movies and everything and the video games. And like Walmart. Walmart won't put anything explicit on the record or anything, but they'll sell those video games, Car Thief 4 or something."
The somewhat ironic thing, though, is that Meat Loaf's target audience for this record is a younger one. Or younger, at least, than his standard classic rock fanbase. (Because that's what young people want to hear, apparently: a 62-year-old man boastfully singing about the size of his meat.)
"It was really skewed to a younger demographic," he says, pointing out that this is specifically why he invited Hawkins and Nally to contribute to the record in the first place. It's why he recorded this album with Cavallo, too.
"The problem," he admits, "is that the classic rock people go, 'We've got an older audience, they're not gonna go for this.' Well, bullshit. It's absolutely nothing but a truckload of crap. We're just playing a damn song!"
He starts ranting. He doesn't understand why it's OK for Katy Perry to go around "humping people" in her videos, but not for him to sing about his dick.
"It's all about sex," he says. "It's cabaret. It's sex clubs. I don't know. The world's gone to hell in a handbasket."
And, actually, that—Hell in a Handbasket—is what Meat Loaf says he plans on naming his next record, which will consist of the songs produced during his month-long writing session that didn't fit into this album's storyline. Consider it a response to the way he feels his album is being received. Meat Loaf is fast to call Hang Cool Teddy Bear "the most important album of his career," but he's also quick to wonder if there's a place for his theatrical brand of music any more.
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He blames Clear Channel. He blames the major labels. He blames the "A-list music people" who he says have become lazy.
"That's the whole thing," he says. "They're all refrigerators, and they just hum. They've killed music. They've totally killed it."
And they're killing him too. When he plays the game their way, he still can't win. He doesn't regret this choice, though. Not one bit. Actually, he's quite proud of the thing. He just wants people to hear it.
"It's a fantastic song," he says. "I think that not enough people know about that song."