Meat Loaf and Art Carney Star in the 1980 Cult Favorite “Roadie”

On my list of acts that I hope to see in concert before they stop touring altogether is Meat Loaf.  Meat Loaf is the stage name of Marvin Lee Aday, a vocalist who is better known for his long songs, mostly penned by Jim Steinman. He has a number of songs that get radio play that cause me to turn up the radio:  “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights”, “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”, “Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back”, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and of course, my favorite song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, “Hot Patootie”.

According to IMDb, Meat Loaf has 104 acting credits to his name.  Many of those are for videos for his music ventures (MTV videos, concerts and the like.)  But he has appeared in dozens f movies and TV shows.  His first acting job, according to that same website was as a kid in the stands in a scene in State Fair (although I’m not sure which scene he is in.)  He got his start as a screen actor in the aforementioned The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Aside from today’s feature, however, I’ve only seen him in RHPSBlack Dog, and an episode of my favorite TV series, Monk.

Roadie is typical of the late 70’s/early 80’s comedies directed at young adults.  The story of an average Joe and his adventures in the world of concerts is pretty much a standard type of film from the era.

Don’t watch Roadie for the performance of Meat Loaf. Not that his performance isn’t genuinely fun to behold. It’s just the kind of character you’d expect from a guy who looks like Meat Loaf (not to mention having a stage name like “Meat Loaf”…)

And don’t watch Roadie for the plot.  The plot, such as it is, is pretty ridiculous anyway.

Rather watch Roadie as  a window into what was some of the greatest music of it’s time.  The soundtrack to Roadie is a microcosm of late 70’s music, the kind that appealed to me: rock, outlaw country and a bit of punk.  With Hank Williams, Jr., Blondie, Cheap Trick, Asleep at the Wheel and Alice Cooper on the soundtrack, it is a feel good set of tunes.

Roadie (1980):

Travis W. Redfish (Meat Loaf) is a driver for a beer distributor, Shiner Beer (the national beer of Texas).  He and his best friend and co-driver,  B.B. (Gailard Sartain) are driving along the highway when they spot a tour bus in distress.

Initially they are going to pass it by, but Travis spots a vision of beauty in the back of the bus, Lola Bouillabase (Kaki Hunter).  Travis brings the beer truck to a screeching halt, despite the objections of B.B.

Travis, it turns out, is something of a redneck MacGyver.  He can fix anything.  He fixes the tour bus and then is invited to go along with them to Austin where the bus is scheduled to deliver equipment for a Hank Williams, Jr. concert.

At the concert venue he meets up with tour promoter Mohammed Johnson (Don Cornelius, the face of Soul Train).  Johnson (and Lola) convince Travis to accompany them to L.A. as a roadie.

Thus begins the epic journey.  Lola has her sights set on making it with Alice Cooper and talks not much of anything else.   But Travis is at times so infatuated with Lola that he gets himself into situations that he never dreamed of in his life as a beer truck driver.

Along the way, our hero manages to save the day more than once.  In one particularly funny scene, the authorities have cancelled a concert due to the energy crisis.  But Travis manages to harness the power of the sun (and some cow patties) to put on the concert anyway.

Eventually they end up in New York where Alice Cooper is putting on a concert and Travis uses his special knowledge to get that concert off the ground.  But Lola’s obsession with Alice Cooper eventually gets on his nerves.

Back on the home front there is also a bit of drama.  Travis’ father (Art Carney) is a riot without doing a damn thing useful.  But B.B. and Travis’ sister, Alice Poo (and there’s a redneck name if I ever heard one) are emotionally involved.  Alice (Rhonda Bates) eventually ropes B.B. into getting married.

Over the course of the film, we are treated to concerts by Hank Williams, Jr., Blondie, Asleep at the Wheel, Alvin Crow and, of course, Alice Cooper.  The concerts are interrupted by the action going on behind the scenes however, and Roger Ebert wrote that the film didn’t seem to know if it wanted to be a concert movie of a film about relationships.  It is somewhat disjointed in that respect, but it does entertain.

Jim Brymer, AKA Quiggy, runs the movie blog The Midnite Drive-In, check it out for more insights on other classic films.