Phil Rizzuto: Heaven Couldn't Wait

Here's a tip of the Yankee cap - or whatever hat you're wearing, baseball fan - to Phil Rizzuto, the Bronx Bombers' shortstopping/broadcasting Scooter, who died Monday night at the age of 89.

If you're looking for the sports story here . . . well, by all means, go to the obit in, natch, The New York Times. But I'd like to recall the music story, too: Phil's classic appearance in "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" on Meat Loaf's 1977 album, Bat Out of Hell.

Meat_3 Yes, that's Phil - credited as "Phil (Scooter) Rizzuto (All-star Yankee shortstop and voice of the New York Yankees)" - doing the "baseball play-by-play" in the middle of the track. Of course, that "play" was actually the foreplay between the song's "Boy" (Meat Loaf) and "Girl" (Ellen Foley), followed by the succeeding bases the Boy achieved, if ya know what I mean (and I know ya do). Apparently, the legend goes, Phil wasn't aware of the double entendre when making the recording - and when he later found out, he no doubt exclaimed, "Holy cow!"

Which is what buyers of Sony Music, 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century exclaimed at the turn of the millennium as they cued up "Paradise" from that 26-CD historical set and found Phil (and most of the musical midsection) gone. As I wrote in the February/March 2000 issue of Sound & Vision:

"There's one big problem that, although it primarily involves only two of the 26 discs, is big enough to warrant a warning sticker: 'Danger! Edited Songs!' [One example of these hacked-for-airplay versions is] especially unconscionable: Meat Loaf's 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light,' with Phil Rizzuto and nearly all of the classic saga's sexual tension stubbed out in the ashtray. 'Stop right there'? Stop what? In this 'version,' our protagonist might just as well be stopping for a red light."

Then came the multichannel SACD of Bat (Cleveland International/Epic). As I reported in my December 2002 installment of "Tracking Surround," the multitrack master tapes for "Paradise" (and "Heaven Can Wait") had been destroyed in a fire in the home studio of original producer Todd Rundgren. Thus, when Frank Filipetti mixed that song in six channels, he had to resort to earlier tapes - which were missing only "some final overdubs." But as I wrote:

"The bad news: Some of those overdubs were from none other than our Girl, Ellen Foley. Filipetti says that only 20% of Ellen's vocals had to be resurrected from alternate takes, but when you start hearing the extra words and the different inflections, they may seem much more prominent to you - as they did to me."

Meanwhile, the multitrack master of Phil's play-by-play had been lost in the fire, too - but the good news here is that Filipetti was able to rescue the performance from the stereo master. So it does indeed appear on this SACD. (Why didn't he attempt the same rescue for Ellen's performance?)

Note: That SACD is a non-hybrid disc - meaning that it's compatible with SACD players only. Looking for a copy? Try these Web sites:

www.acousticsounds.com
www.elusivedisc.com
www.musicdirect.com

And you should try to find it, because despite the master-tape troubles, the mix is mostly a thrill.

Archivists will want to know that the original Ellen and Phil are present on both The Very Best of Meat Loaf (Epic) and the remastered Bat Out of Hell (Cleveland International/Epic/Legacy).

A tip of the cap to the Times obit for mentioning Phil's little bit of "Paradise." Methinks that somewhere up there in that heavenly field of dreams, the Scooter is safe at home. -Ken Richardson

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