Bat Out Of Hell

“Bat Out Of Hell,” there is a song for the ages, well at least mine. Now over 40 years out from when it and the LP, yes LP, of the same name were released upon an unsuspecting world, I rarely hear it played. To be sure “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” can be still heard from time to time, probably when the DJ needs a smoke, ”Bat Out Of Hell” not so much. Then while driving home one recent chilly spring night, it slowly started playing over the mini van’s poor speakers. Soon the van was filled with familiar cords and notes. Before the vocals had kicked in, I had been transported to a much better time. Once again, I was driving down State Street in my metallic forest green 1970 Toyota Corolla Mark II wagon, which had a much better sound system. Some Jensen triaxial speakers, a Pioneer radio and cassette tape player and a Clarion 5-band graphic equalizer booster. I loved the one or two second delay of silence after pushing the on/off button for the equalizer. I knew what was coming. Loud, clear music, man! Today, all that is left from that sound system are a few tapes and the Clarion box. A box holds letters from friends while at college and my future wife.

“Bat Out Of Hell” was a massive record. Every song seemed a hit, or at least it felt as if it was. Local radio stations played every track from that LP. These songs had a different sound, feel and energy then just about anything else on the radio. Having the right mix of real rock, great story telling, tempo and accompanying instruments, this record easily powered past all the pop and bubble gum music of the day. In a way, it was much like Boston’s debut album which had come out about a year earlier. Again, the local radio stations played every track on it. Years later, I heard a DJ refer to this record as “AKA , Boston’s Greatest Hits”. I had cassettes of both albums since I was not a fan of 8 tracks.

Bring released in the fall of 1977 coincided with the starting my senior year of high school. Today when I wear my 20/20 rose colored glasses, everything looks right, there was no wrong. I had a car. I was graduating from high school soon. Then going on to college. First there would be a summer engraving horseshoes on Mackinac Island. Gas was cheap, McDonald’s was the place to hang out at and the Mall was the place to be seen. One shop in the Mall that I spent a bit of my time was the record store. Mostly looking, never buying much. Just back down Bay Road was a real record store called Rock-A-Rolla Records. It didn't smell like anything other store I usually was in. Incense was burned there for some unknown reason. The business is long gone, but the building still stands. I can still smell the incense whenever I drive by.

As the school year was starting to wind down it became clear I had developed a strong case of short timer’s attitude. The reasons were many but first and foremost, I was a teenager. Therein lay the source of many problems. But enough about that junk, I'll whine some other time and place about that.

I was neither a nerd or a jock. Popular or a total outcast. A stoner or jerk. I was just simply there. One of the 558 confused kids in my class of 1978. So it came to be that I just wanted to graduate and get out of town. I had grown tired of Saginaw and all that it was and was not. To move on in life. After June 8, I did so. Looking back now I see that moment as a demarcation date. In the span of a second, one clock stopped and another started. From that point on I merely became a visitor to my hometown. Nothing ever felt the same. It was a big price to pay. In the end it was worth it.

“Bat Out Of Hell” takes me back to the late 70’s better then most songs from that era. By not hearing that often keeps it special, nicely preserved. Hearing that song causes a strong rush of memories from that period in my life. In wanting to leave that world behind, I became a bat out of hell. Blindly thinking I knew all that was needed to conquer and change the world, I spread my wings. As Arthur Carlson from WKRP once said, “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly”, I thought the same of myself.

Doug Thornhill (dct)