It was the song that revitalized the career of a 1970s rock balladeer, and it hit number one on the Billboard charts 23 years ago today. Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) is one of my favorite songs of the early-1990s, and I would do anything to listen to it some more… but I won’t do that. 

The song was the lead single off BAT OUT OF HELL II: BACK INTO HELL, Meat Loaf’s follow-up to his hit 1977 collaboration with composer Jim Steinman and producer Todd Rundgren. It really introduced 13-year-old me to the music of Meat Loaf and made me a fan.

Let’s take a listen:

But what is “that”? To what is Meat Loaf referring when he says he would do anything for love, but he won’t do that? Largely thought to be an unanswerable question for many, many… well, hours, probably… there are a number of things that the singer mentions in the song that he won’t do, including: “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 “stop dreaming of you every night of my life.”

In addition, when confronted of accusations that “sooner or later, you’ll be screwing around” and “you’ll see that it’s time to move on,” he sings softly, “I won’t do that.”

There’s even YouTube video dedicated to the question:

The music video for the song, which was on heavy rotation on MTV and VH1 during the back half of 1993 and into 1994, was a monument to a gothic war between good and evil, with dark lighting and lots of candles and even helicopters. The budget for the music video is rumored to be around $4 million, though that number was never confirmed. It was an event video, with a story that harkened back to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST or PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Who directed such a giant undertaking? Who else but Michael Bay…

When “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” hit number 1 on the Billboard charts, it knocked Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover” off the top of the charts after an 8 week run. The song lasted only 5 weeks at number 1 itself, before getting beat out by Janet Jackson’s “Again.” Mariah Carey was back on top two weeks later with “Hero” to close out the year.