Classic Rock Corner

Eyeballin': Little Feat and Meat Loaf Via Rockin' German TV Show Rockpalast

We can blame the Germans for a lot of things. World War I...World War II..."99 Luftballoons." But classic rock fans can at least thank them for Rockpalast.

Running on German TV and broadcast throughout much of Europe since the mid-'70s, "Rockpalast" has presented concert-length shows from hundreds of performers in prime time. As a result, these shows are invaluable documents of classic rock bands - and in some cases, some of the only professionally shot footage available. Eagle Vision's new series is bringing these shows back.

Unfairly underappreciated and underrated among classic rock bands, Little Feat's fine mixture of swamp boogie, rock, blues and country is on incredible display in Skin it Back. This 1977 show was recorded just weeks before the concerts that would make up their live "breakthrough" album, Waiting for Columbus, and also the last tour with founder/singer/guitarist Lowell George before his 1979 death.

A heaping helping of Feat classics are here, including superlative versions of "Fat Man in the Bathtub," "Old Folks' Boogie," "Skin it Back," and "Feats Don't Fail Me Now" - the last of which breaks down into an acappella section with all six members crowded around one mike.

And though many tend to think of Little Feat beginning and ending with leader George, Skin it Back really showcases the contributions of singer/guitarist Paul Barrere and drummer Richie Hayward (currently suffering from liver cancer). Both men play wonderfully, clearly "in the zone." Skin it Back also includes 30 minutes of rehearsal footage, including a take on "Rock and Roll Doctor," which didn't make the final set list. Overall, a real treat for fans of the Feat and a great introduction for the curious.

Former Texan Marvin Lee Aday, aka Meat Loaf, was at the peak of his career in 1978 with Bat Out of Hell riding high on the charts and a tour bringing his and songwriter Jim Steinman's operatic rock to larger crowds then ever. Unfortunately, Bat Out of Hell: The Original Tour is something of a disappointment, despite live performances of almost the entire record.

Meat is just not performing at peak levels during this show. The quivering, quaking, sweating singer rushes songs in some places, and his voice has more cracks than parched Ethiopian ground in "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad." The amateurish camerawork, murky lighting and sound drops are poor even for '70s filmed concert standards. Extended "jams" from the backing musicians (including future KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick) go nowhere.

There are a couple of highlights: a ferocious take on the record's title track, and a sexually-charged bump-and-grind with Meat Loaf and backup singer Karla DeVito on "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." Which leads us to...

A Classic Rock Bob Rant!

When CRB was a teenager just discovering his hormones, he couldn't wait to see the vixenish Ms. DeVito during the video for this song on early MTV. And while for this clip she was miming the singing of Ellen Foley (who did the honors on the record), it was All Karla on the tour. Ah, those wide Italian eyes, wanton pouty lips, those tight white jeans and spaghetti scrap leotards... excuse us for a moment, we need to be alone...

Too bad she had to go and marry pretty boy Robby Benson instead of waiting for CRB to mature. But here she is on this DVD where we can watch her over and over again in the privacy of our own living room. Now, um, where were we?

Oh yeah. Bat Out of Hell: The Original Tour is for Meat Loaf fans only. Bonus footage includes a bizarre but entertaining backstage interview with Meat, Steinman and a somewhat clueless German TV reporter with a very, very big moustache.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero