The Brutal 35-Year War Between Sony, Stephen Popovich & Meat Loaf (Excerpt From Fredric Dannen's New Edition of 'Hit Men')

(Photo courtesy of Steve Popovich Jr.)

From left: John Belushi, Meat Loaf, Steve Popovich and singer Karla DeVito

The story was originally published in the May 3 issue of Billboard.

In 1977, Stephen Popovich convinced a reluctant label to distribute the album "Bat Out of Hell." It became one of the ­biggest sellers of all time. Now, a reissue of legendary book 'Hit Men' revisits the dirty business that followed as a battle for royalties turned into a fight to the death.

Stephen Popovich Jr. lives with his wife and two young sons in Murfreesboro, Tenn., a working-class suburb not far from Nashville. Their home is modest -- "It's not a mansion by any means," he says -- and there is nothing at all about Popovich's lifestyle to suggest his late father had been the founder-owner of Cleveland International, a custom label distributed by Sony Music that is best-known for releasing one of the biggest-­selling albums of all time -- Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell." Popovich Jr. inherited a good deal from his father, who died of heart failure in 2011: pride, stubbornness, a penchant for plain speaking and a reputation for honesty.