On this day: What did 'that' mean in Meat Loaf's 'I'd Do Anything For Love'?

Meatloaf Photocall For Launch Of Album 'Bat Out Of Hell Ii' - 1993, Meat Loaf (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
Meatloaf at the launch of Bat Out Of Hell II. (Getty Images)

This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series

Meat Loaf’s comeback single I’ll do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) became a runaway success in both the UK and the US in 1993.

After its release in mid-September, the single stayed at number one for seven weeks in the UK, and also topped the Billboard charts in the US, being certified platinum.

The power ballad reinvigorated the larger-than-life singer’s career – but Meat Loaf (real name Michael Lee Aday) says that he is still often asked one question: “What is ‘that’, the thing that he says he won’t do?”

In a recent interview, he said: "Jim Steinman, who I had great success with, wrote the song. When we were recording it, Jim brings up the thing. He says, 'People aren't gonna know what that is.' I said, 'Of course they are. How can they not know?' He goes, 'They're not gonna.’”

Meat Loaf in the video for the hit song (Meat Loaf)
Meat Loaf in the video for the hit song. (Meat Loaf)

Meat Loaf explains that the ‘that’ in the lyrics refers to the line which is sung before the chorus.

There’s nine lines where the song explains what he won’t do – including ‘forget the way you feel right now’, and ‘stop dreaming of you every night of his life’.

The problem is, Loaf explains, that people forget the lyrics after the chorus, so they end up puzzled as to what ‘that’ is.

Loaf and Steinman first met in 1973, and produced the first Bat Out of Hell together - an epic album which went completely against the musical fashions of the time.

American singer Meat Loaf performing on stage during the Bat Out Of Hell Tour, USA, September 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Meat Loaf performing on stage during the Bat Out Of Hell tour in the US in September 1978. (Getty Images)

Steinman said: “If there was a market out there for 10-minute Wagnerian explosive anthems sung by a 350 lb guy with a huge voice, then we had that market cornered.”

Loaf and Steinman had contacted dozens of record labels, but were turned down.

When the album finally came out, it got a zero-star review in Rolling Stone, but TV appearances, including on Britain’s Old Grey Whistle Test, helped the album find fans.

Meat Loaf in the video for I Would Do Anything for Love (Meat Loaf)
Meat Loaf in the video for I Would Do Anything for Love. (Meat Loaf)

In 1977, Steinman said that ‘everyone hated’ the album: but by 1978, it was selling 500,000 copies a week worldwide.

Loaf and Steinman became involved in lawsuits and counter-lawsuits over royalties – with Meat Loaf declaring bankruptcy in 1983.

The duo returned in 1993 for Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell (which included the single I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).

The album was a global success, selling 14 million copies.

Responding to criticism that the operatic rock of the albums was ‘over the top’, Steinman said, ‘"If you don't go over the top, you can't see what's on the other side."

Steinman died in April 2021, aged 73.

Watch: Jim Steinman, hitmaker for Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler, dies at 73