Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are
"Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are" is a song composed and written by Jim Steinman, and recorded by Meat Loaf. The song was released in 1994 as the third single from the album Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell and it reached number 38 on US's Billboard Hot 100, and number 26 in the UK Top 40. With its chart success, this song became the hit with the longest un-bracketed title as of 2007. The title is derived from the safety warning on car side mirrors in the US, "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear".
|"Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are"|
|Single by Meat Loaf|
|from the album Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell|
|Recorded||Ocean Way Recording (LA)|
|Length||10:15 (main version)|
5:55 (single edit)
|Label||MCA (North America) |
Virgin (Europe & Japan)
|Meat Loaf singles chronology|
Parts of the melody were adapted from Steinman's earlier tune "Surf's Up," which appears on Steinman's solo album Bad for Good. Steinman later reused the melody, with new lyrics by Michael Kunze, for "Die Unstillbare Gier", a song in the Tanz der Vampire productions, and for "Confession of a Vampire" in the ill-fated US version (Dance of the Vampires).
Music and lyrics
"Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are" is a three-part narrative, centred upon the seasons summer, winter and spring. According to Allmusic, it draws "its inspiration from the singer’s often-tragic childhood. The lyrics portray a man who has overcome tragedies in his life yet still feels haunted by their memory." BBC.co.uk also says that the song about a "melancholy middle-aged man reminiscing about his youth... is in many ways uncomfortably close to home, dealing as it does with episodes uncannily similar to events in his own life." Steinman says that it was "the hardest song to write and get across."
It's a very passionate song. It's really, I think maybe, the most passionate one on the record. I mean, I'm really proud of it because that's really one that goes over-the-top in the sense that it's got images - it has religious imagery of resurrection, it's got images of fertility and rebirth, it has really very good sexual images, images of cars - which I always like.
Allmusic says "the music takes the concept of a power ballad to epic heights: the verses build from somber softness to piercing heights of drama before giving way to a chorus that releases the tension with a meditative melodic figure that underlines the hypnotically-repeated title in a soothing fashion."
The first verse is set in summer, when "the skies were pure and the fields were green." The vocalist describes his close friendship with his best friend, who dies prematurely in a crash. Although Kenny has died, the vocalist reveals how his memory lives on:
There are times I think I see him peeling out of the dark
I think he's right behind me now and he's gaining ground
Each verse concludes by declaring that the preceding events "were long ago" and "far away" (recalling the use of the same line in the first Bat Out of Hell's famous "Paradise by the Dashboard Light"). He compares his life to a highway, and his soul to a car. This leads on to a repetition of the title.
The second verse is darker in tone. The season is winter, when "dreams would freeze," and the sun has "descended." The lyrics document a physically abusive "dangerous and drunk" father, reflecting Meat Loaf's real life youth. Like the first verse, the memories of the past still affect the present.
And though the nightmares should be over
Some of the terrors are still intact
I'll hear that ugly coarse and violent voice
And then he grabs me from behind and then he pulls me back
Again, the title is repeated several times, softly at first, building into a more dramatic intensity. Allmusic says it starts "with gentle piano and synthesizer licks that are built up with power chords to enhance their drama and weaving stirring, choir-styled backing vocals into the chorus that keep its repetition fresh by giving it new layers." An instrumental piano and guitar section bridges the second and third verses. The "choir-styled" wordless background vocals were arranged by Todd Rundgren. Guitar is gradually given more emphasis in the mix as the band plays the melody of the verse, concluding with the instrumental of the opening line of the verse.
The third verse describes "a beauty living on the edge of town" and a seemingly intense sexual relationship. However, their relationship ends. Conforming to the structure of the song, and its title, her memory is still present.
She used her body just like a bandage;
She used my body just like a wound
I'll probably never know where she disappeared
But I can see her rising up out of the back seat now
Just like an angel rising up from a tomb
After the title line is repeated twelve times, with growing volume and intensity, the vocalist quietly repeats the first four lines of the above.
Michael Bay directed the music video for Propaganda Films. He had previously directed the videos for the album's prior two singles, "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" and "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through". Allen Daviau served as the cinematographer.
The music video has overlapping features so that it looks like that the actors are ghost-like, appearing and disappearing. The length of the music video is 7:42, compared to the 10:15 single version. Actors include Robert Patrick as Kenny's father, Greg Trock as Kenny, Will Estes as the grieving friend (young Meat Loaf), Joshua Diaz as the childhood iteration of Meat Loaf, and an unidentified model as "The Beauty on the Edge of Town".
Filming took place in and around Denton, Texas. Several parts were shot in Slidell, Texas on a large ranch. The scene with the "beauty at the edge of town" washing her car was filmed in Valley View, Texas, near to the Oklahoma border.
The video opens with Kenny playing with his friend (Josh Diaz), and his father (Robert Patrick) letting them sit in his airplane. A little older, Kenny takes the plane for a ride. His father runs outside just in time to see Kenny lose control of the aircraft, crash and killed ("They said he crashed and burned"). The firefighters extinguish the fire from the wreckage and an ambulance takes away the body.
In the second section of the song, the protagonist (Will Estes )sees the ghost of the plane fly over the graveyard at Kenny's funeral. Synchronic with the lyrics relating to "winter" ("freeze"; "no leaves on the trees") in this verse, some of the mise-en-scene is minimal. It shows his father as a family man during the day but an abusive alcoholic all the time. The line "He hit me again, and again, and again" is accompanied by a baseball scene, rather than visually depicting the violence of "hit" that the autobiographical elements suggest.
He runs away trying to regain his freedom ("I had to run away alone... my life became my own"). He then meets an older woman who teaches him everything "about the mystery and the muscle of love." A risqué sequence of them engaging in sexual activity in the back of a car matches the lyrics ("She used her body just like a bandage/She used my body just like a wound").
At the end of the video, whenever Meat Loaf sings the line "Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are", he sees either the ghost of the plane, the woman or himself when he was younger. As with the lyrics, the sequence depicts how, as Allmusic says, "he still feels haunted by their memory."
Single release and reception
The song was the sixth track from Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell released as a single. It reached number 38 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 26 on the UK Singles Chart and Canada's RPM Top Singles chart. On the latter chart, it stayed at that position for four weeks. In Australia, the single peaked at number 52 in June 1994. The UK Virgin release also featured two tracks performed live in New York City in July 1993: "All Revved Up with No Place to Go" and "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad." Other versions included live renditions of "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through", "Masculine" and his cover of "Roll Over Beethoven". Like the album and other singles from Bat II, the artwork for the cover was by Michael Whelan. The graphic also appears alongside the song's lyrics in the album's booklet.
The length and narrative led Q magazine to call the song a "near-Springsteen parody ballad." It remains a major favorite with Meat Loaf’s fans thanks to its autobiographical quality. When Meat Loaf performed the song at the Royal Albert Hall in London in October 2006, one reviewer called the "little known but well loved song" a "showstopper."
The song was specified in some of the album's negative reviews, mainly its length and the repetition of the title line. Writing for Rolling Stone, Matt Birkbeck referred to the songs, naming "Objects", as "harmless, low-octane operatic drivel" with "insufferably long Steinman compositions with equally long names." The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also referred to the length of the songs on the album, in which Steinman "vomits up 75 minutes of endlessly repeated choruses."
Meat Loaf performed the song on the 14 April 1994 edition of the BBC television show Top of the Pops. Live versions of the song were included on the 1996 Live Around the World album and the 2007 3 Bats Live DVD. The Dream Engine performed the song at the Over the Top concerts at Mohegan Sun: this arrangement had the second verse being performed by a female vocalist. Steinman reused the melody, with new lyrics by Michael Kunze, for "Die Unstillbare Gier", a song performed by the character Graf von Krolock in the rock-opera Tanz der Vampire. Steve Barton performed the song on the 1998 Original Vienna Cast Recording. Steinman rewrote the Tanz version into English as "Confession of a Vampire" for the ill-fated US version (Dance of the Vampires) of the musical starring Michael Crawford.
|Canada Top Singles (RPM)||26|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||90|
|Iceland (Íslenski Listinn Topp 40)||20|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||32|
|Scotland (Official Charts Company)||69|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||26|
|US Billboard Hot 100||38|
|US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)||29|
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