After hearing of Tom Petty’s passing, especially as prolonged as it was by the confirmation of brain death, I was not ready yet to watch the Tom Petty documentary my husband had recorded recently. I need to listen to his music a bit more before that. We compromised by watching a Meatloaf documentary we’d each half-watched.
I remember hearing this song for the first time Spring Break 1984. Of course I’d seen Meatloaf in The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday night we didn’t have something else to do at midnight. But I had no idea he’d started in musical theatre and rather unwillingly become a rock star!
Bat Out of Hell was a fantastic album! So many truly perfect songs. I do adore songs with clever lyrics, no matter the genre. I love The Beatles – every word is distinct. I simply cannot endure Bob Dylan. In fact, I bought a children’s book today at Goodwill just so I’d finally actually know what all the words to Blowin’ In the Wind are. I love it.
But I’d been hearing the phrase “Bat outta’ Hell” my whole life. More often after I turned sixteen and started driving myself down the gravel lane to my grandparents’ house. My grandfather would hug me hard, smelling of tobacco, dirt, sweat, leather, and mint. I’d give anything to smell that again. It was the smell of love – of someone who accepted me just the way I was. He only complained that I drove too fast – “like a bat outta’ Hell” – and always told me to stand up straight. Considering my current medical issues, his was probably the best medical advice I was ever given! I hate that this is the best picture I can find right now, but I am trying to organize my dining room/office/craft space (about the size of a dorm room) and there are piles of important stuff everywhere!
Anyway, I asked my husband if he knew the origin of the phrase “bat out of hell”. It’s always best to ask him first, since if it’s historical he can ramble on about it for a good fifteen minutes. He really should have been a History professor. If not for the busing experiment in Louisville (TOTAL failure – only increased private school population) that’s what he’d probably be doing. Odds are he’d have a PHD in American History with a focus on the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Instead, since their last name started with B, my husband and his three brothers were all taken from a school they’d spent their Freshman and Sophomore year attending (and could ride their bikes to) to a school where the priority was not being sliced open in the bathroom. No one cared what their grades were or if they went to college. But here’s what Urban Dictionary (I tried all other sources first, I swear!) had to say about “bat out of hell”:
Bat out of Hell was a common rural expression in the southeast US a half century ago. Meatloaf originated the expression in 1976 or thereabouts with the mid-70s Zeitgeist eponymous album “Bat Out of Hell.” The expression ‘like a bat out of hell’ has been in common UK-English usage for decades meaning to fly, usually figuratively. Bats have been associated with witches and the occult, and therefore thought to originate in the bowels of hell, as they fly quickly as if in panic, to make the comparison with a bat flying out of hell for anything going recklessly fast would seem quite natural and likely to be a country idiom prior to being recorded in print.Look at this maniac driving behind me!! He’s coming at us like a bat out of Hell.