When Bruce Kulick Joined Meat Loaf’s ‘Magical’ ‘Bat Out of Hell’ Tour: Exclusive Interview
Bruce Kulick says touring as a member of Meat Loaf's band in support of 1977's Bat Out of Hell changed him in many ways. "I don’t know if I could have understood the Kiss gig as well if I didn’t tour with Meat Loaf," he tells UCR.
They started in the trenches, playing clubs – including an opening slot for Cheap Trick that didn't go well. But as things progressed, Meat Loaf moved into arenas, and eventually, stadiums. At times, it was an understandably overwhelming experience.
Bruce Kulick: Bat Out of Hell was certainly unique and in many ways, it’s extremely magical for so many people. Jim Steinman mined rock 'n' roll gold doing it the way he envisioned. He loved [Bruce] Springsteen. I’m not necessarily a Springsteen fan, but I got that he put together a very, very interesting combination of rock 'n' roll music. Nobody else really could have [done] a theme album like that other than a 325-pound guy named Meat Loaf. In a tuxedo with the handkerchief!
You know they got slammed. Everywhere they went to try and get a record deal, they got shut down. Nobody believed in it. But the people spoke and somebody believed and gave Meat Loaf a record deal. I’m introduced to him with my brother [Bob Kulick], because he needs a touring band. Wisely, he put together an incredible band.
I was just on the phone with the drummer, Joe Stefko, who was very close to Jim Steinman and had been speaking to Meat Loaf a bit in the last year. We were both very bummed out this morning. Our biggest regret, we always fantasized [about a reunion]. Could there have been a reunion of sorts of the Bat Out of Hell touring band for that first record?
We did Saturday Night Live, we did arenas and we did stadiums. We did a world tour and it was totally overwhelming for me. I know I’ve told people how hard it was for me, but that really got me prepped to be able to handle my years with Kiss. I don’t know if I could have understood the Kiss gig as well if I didn’t tour with Meat Loaf.
Bob went on and did much more with Meat Loaf, but I still felt like Bat Out of Hell, that was like being in the makeup [version] of Kiss as far as Meat Loaf’s career, the way I looked at it. But it was very tumultuous in many ways. We had so much stress as it went from a dream, a hope and a prayer to taking off like that. Sure enough, it exploded in a very, very big way and that was hard for everybody, including Meat Loaf.
I’m not sure he knew how to handle success and then there were some really big issues after that. We toured for a year and then there was that break. There were a lot of issues, he lost his voice and Jim did a record without him and on and on. But that original tour, touring the world and performing those songs, especially with Jim [was unbelievable].
I think that Jim didn’t do every date, but [he was there for] the majority of the important stuff in the beginning. It was a very exciting and memorable thing for me. We were ready to go. I was there to play [the Todd Rundgren parts]. I was a Todd Rundgren fan – and you know Todd loved Eric Clapton. He was a tremendous guitar player, Todd, and he still is.
But my brother wasn’t the type of guy to figure out all of the riffs. I did due diligence and studied it. Of course, there [were many opportunities] for Bob and I to be able to do the harmony guitar work. There were two keyboard players, Jim and Paul Glanz. We had the background singers, Rory Dodd from Canada, who is a great singer. He knew Meat Loaf from years before. Karla DeVito, too.
It was a formidable band. We could act out and provide the live version of this record that was, in many ways, more theatrical than a typical rock 'n' roll record. The nine people on stage really served up quite a treat for the fans. We played the Palladium, I think, in New York. Of course, Bob knew Paul Stanley well enough to invite him. Paul left after two or three songs. He just couldn’t handle it.
But I understood it, years later, I was able to talk to Paul about it. He just didn’t get it. You know, Paul grew up a different way, seeing rock 'n' roll. To have a very large overweight man in a tuxedo singing just didn’t fit for him. It wasn’t his thing. I remember a very, very successful guy in the industry, a friend of mine introduced him to me. I played him the record and said, “I’m going to go on tour with this guy, here’s the album. The guy just thought it was horrible. I was just like, “Huh.”
It’s really interesting, the record and the band sometimes got very weird reactions. But we all know, they were very wrong. Steinman and Meat Loaf tapped into something really unique and magical, and that’s why that record went on to sell more than 40 million copies.
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