Remembering Meat Loaf's colorful NJ connections: Balloon Fest, E Street, Bon Jovi, more

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The career of the late Meat Loaf, who died on Thursday, Jan 20, at the age of 74, was full of many memorable performances.

His show at the 2011 New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Readington made national headlines after fans weren't sure if he passed out or not during the performance.

Photos of Loaf sprawled out on the grass while hooked up to an oxygen tank at the fest made the rounds.

“Let me put this straight to you, I did not pass out Sunday in New Jersey,” said Loaf in a TMZ video. “After the show my asthma was bothering me a little bit. I took a little bit of oxygen ... It was a wonderful time had by all.”

In this 2007 photo, Meat Loaf and C.C. Coletti perform at a concert in New York's Madison Square Garden.
In this 2007 photo, Meat Loaf and C.C. Coletti perform at a concert in New York's Madison Square Garden.

The Balloon Fest show came a few days after Loaf had passed out on stage at a show in Pittsburgh following a rendition of his hit, “I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That).”

“There was no breeze that afternoon, which while terrible for the band, is actually optimal conditions for flying balloons, and given that we had an overflow crowd of people who were lined up for balloon rides, about 25 pilots opted to fly twice,” said Howard Freeman, executive producer of New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning of the Meat Loaf performance via email. “The little wind that was present took the balloons directly over the stage and Meat Loaf stopped his performance to comment and marvel at how beautiful that sight was, one that he had never experienced before in his hundreds if not thousands of previous concert performances.

News: Meat Loaf, 'Bat Out of Hell' and 'I'd Do Anything for Love' rockstar, dies at age 74

"Meat Loaf truly elevated our concert series and helped pave the way for us to further attract the biggest names in music. He put on a fantastic show before one of the largest crowds in our history and helped make our Sunday afternoon concert a must-see destination for both music fans and artists alike, with the Beach Boys, Joan Jett, Styx and Kansas among those who have followed him.”

Meat Loaf with Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry at the party for the premiere of the movie "Roadie" in 1980 in New York.
Meat Loaf with Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry at the party for the premiere of the movie "Roadie" in 1980 in New York.

Loaf, born Marvin Lee Aday in Dallas, had many Jersey connections throughout his colorful career, including having Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan of the E Street Band play on his breakthrough album, “Bat Out of Hell.”

Yet he didn't have time for the Meat Loaf-Bruce Springsteen comparisons.

“Bruce really has never done anything like ‘Two Out of Three (Ain't Bad)’ or ‘Paradise (by the Dashboard Light’ or ‘Crying Out Loud,’ ” said Loaf to the Asbury Park Press in 2008. “I've always said if Springsteen is color, I'm black and white, and vice versa. If he's black and white, then I'm color. The only thing in common is the energy and the amount of passion that we give to the performances, I think. That's about the only thing.”

Read next: Jersey rockers pay tribute to the late Ronnie Spector, remember her Asbury Park resurgence

Loaf enlisted the help of many Jersey musicians over the years, including recording “Elvis in Vegas,” co-written by Jon Bon Jovi.

"I put him in New Jersey, the whole story's in New Jersey, actually," said Loaf of “Elvis in Vegas” to the Asbury Park Press in 2010. “That's where he is, and he makes this journey, because Bon Jovi wrote it, so in my brain he came from Jersey (in) ‘Elvis in Vegas’ and we recount where he is and what happened to him getting there.”

Included in a stage career that spanned the continent, Meat Loaf had three Broadway credits to his name. He made his debut as a replacement in the original production of the groundbreaking musical “Hair,” playing General Grant, Mother and Young Recruit.

He later played Eddie and Dr. Everett Scott in the original casts of “The Rocky Horror Show” at The Roxy in Los Angeles and its subsequent short Broadway run in 1975, in between playing Eddie in 1975’s classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” film. (If you’ve never seen the film, you can catch it at the Basie Center Cinemas in Red Bank on Friday, Jan. 21.)

He then played a priest in the short-lived Broadway musical “Rockabye Hamlet,” a retelling of the Shakespeare tale, which ran for 21 previews and seven performances in 1976.

Loaf recorded but didn't release the Glen Burtnik song “Love is More Than a Four Letter Word,” and the North Brunswick native sang background on several Meat Loaf albums. On stage, Jerseyans Paul Crook of Green Brook; C.C. Coletti of Branchburg; Tom Brislin of Dunellen; and Ray Andersen of West Orange stood with Loaf.

Andersen joined the band in 1998. He's since become known as children's musician “Mr. Ray.”

“One key thing I witnessed night in and night out is that he never left anything on the stage after a performance,” said Andersen Friday, Jan 21, on social media. “He gave it all to the fans. In the arts, we call it 'mailing in a show' when someone looks and sounds like they're going through the motions and emotions during a performance, just to get through it .... but never with Meat.”

Alex Biese and Ilana Keller contributed to this story.

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Chris Jordan, a Jersey Shore native, covers entertainment and features for the USA Today Network New Jersey. Contact him at @chrisfhjordan; cjordan@app.com.

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Meat Loaf's NJ connections: Balloon Fest, E Street, Bon Jovi

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