I recently became a proud subscriber to Spotify Premium. In order to get the most for my money, I created a 72-hour playlist that I force upon all of the other Heights editors within earshot of my speaker during the long nights we spend making this newspaper for the dozens of dedicated readers at Boston College. And my parents.
This playlist is mostly composed of my “old people” music from the ’50s through the ’80s. One of these gems is the masterpiece that is “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t I Do That)” by Meat Loaf. Now, because I don’t do anything halfway (except for exercise, school work, and some other third thing), I don’t have the single edit of that song on my playlist. Nay, I have the full 11-minute, 59-second album version. This lengthy tune came on randomly toward the end of the night, and a conversation started about if the various people in the room would do anything for love, even that. Most questioned what that is. That is to say, what is the thing Meat Loaf wouldn’t do for love?
I found no easy answer. He gives four examples throughout the song of things he won’t do, like “Forget the way you feel right now,” “Forgive myself if we don’t go all the way tonight,” “Do it better than I do it with you,” and of course “Stop dreaming of you every night of my life.” But he doesn’t seem to single any of these examples out as THAT which he won’t do, nor does he tell us if there are other things he wouldn’t do for love either. Throughout this passion project of a track, Meat Loaf alludes to that, but doesn’t tell the listener outright.
This is, in part, what makes ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” so enjoyable. Each listener, in between lengthy instrumentals, operatic vocals, and general Meat-Loafiness, can speculate on what it is that Meat Loaf won’t do for love, and also what they themselves would or would not do. It makes it personal, for each person, each and every time.
Another one of my favorite mysteries in media is the narcissistic subject of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” Most everyone knows this song, and its surrounding mystery. Who is the person who is so conceited that he thinks this song is about him? Simon has played up the mystery over the years, revealing that it’s not about one man, but three. She has also revealed that each verse is about a different person, and that the subject of the second verse is Warren Beatty. Yet, very few people really know who these other two men are. Aside from Simon, the only person who has confirmed knowledge is Dick Ebersol, and he paid $50,000 to charity for the information.
Still, “You’re So Vain” gets a great deal of airtime to this day. This is partly due to its quality as a song—though, while it’s good, it’s not that good. The reason so many people know the tune is because of its mystery. Every ’70s rock fan has their own theory as to who she is singing about, but the mystery is part of the fun. The great thing about this mystery is that we probably won’t know for a long time. Simon continues to drop hints, but no one has been able to put all of the pieces together. Everyone loves a puzzle, especially a puzzle with a concrete answer that no one has been smart enough to solve. Another point for the Simon mystery—the answer is relatively harmless. It’s not very important. For example, no one knows who the Zodiac killer is, but whoever it is, he killed people. That kind of sucks. Simon is just calling a few people conceited. No skin off Beatty’s back, that’s for sure. By the way, I subscribe to the theory that candidate for Republican presidential nominee Ted Cruz is in fact the Zodiac killer. I mean, have you ever seen Ted Cruz and the Zodiac killer in the same room? I didn’t think so. “Book ’em, Danno!”
This has been Volume One in a unplanned series of columns titled Mysteries in Media. Lots of songs, movies, and television shows have unsolved mysteries that are rife with speculation. I plan to examine them on a maybe-regular basis. While I try to sprinkle in a few jokes, there is a larger theme I’m trying to convey here. I think these mysteries are an important thing to discuss, because I think there is a very important reason that people like mysteries. I believe that people think that maybe if they can solve a small mystery, like what Meat Loaf wouldn’t do for love, if they can learn something that they didn’t already know, they might be able to unlock the solution to a bigger thing, a more important and pressing puzzle. They might get the key to the lock we all share. I think that what I mean was best said by Sammy Davis, Jr.: “The ultimate mystery is one’s own self.”
Featured Image by Associated Press