You might have skydived into a warzone. Maybe you’ve watched Brian Blessed’s house explode. Perhaps you’ve seen My Bloody Valentine perform. But let me tell you: you have not experienced the full eyeball-rattling, cheek-flapping G-force of untrammelled volume unless you were lucky enough to be sung at by a priapic Meat Loaf, the rock icon who sadly died last week.
“I CAN BARELY FIT MY DICK IN MY PANTS!” he bellowed, inches from my face, in the interview equivalent of being catcalled by a wind tunnel. Imagine interviewing King Kong about his controversial new single or, indeed, simply sticking your head in a cannon. The year was 2010 and, at an album playback in a London club, Meat was explaining about how embarrassing it was for a “prude” such as himself to sing ‘California Isn’t Big Enough (Hey There Girl)’, which featured the most brazen line from his new record ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’, but he didn’t seem to mind if the people of Outer Mongolia heard him sing it to me that day. I still credit the occasion for causing the majority of my swift subsequent hair loss.
Still – it was brilliant. Because, after so many years of interviewing over-paid dullards who leave their charisma onstage and seemed to clock off from their superstar personas for press engagements, here was the real deal: someone that would turn it on, full whack, at the drop of a hat, for a poxy journalist. A showman to the bone.
As he arrived for the playback with a roar of “HI KIDS!”, asked us if we were scared of him – “you should be!” – and sat among us, rocking out to his own album, Meat Loaf in person was everything I’d always wanted him to be. As a teenager, like most kids who feel as though their pathetic early playground crushes are the stuff of bombastic, death-or-glory melodrama, I had my ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ phase. I was no Axl Rose – so much of a fan that he played the album’s ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’ as the first dance at his wedding, featuring the immortal line “I want you, I need you, but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you…” – but the fundamental genius of the 1977 album certainly spoke to me.
It was a record, more than any other, which recognised that every teenage experience – each messy snog, small-town frustration or car park dumping delivered by their best friend Tina – feels writ as large as any Hollywood blockbuster script, and that every 14-year-old deserves a heroic gothic rock opera written about them. In voice and performance, Meat Loaf was the complete embodiment all of the excitement, passion, heartbreak, lust and romance of youth. He made our puny little lives sound like a death ride into the underworld on a flying, flame-spewing motorbike and our hometowns feel like bloodshot streets beneath skies of thunder, where the sirens scream and the fires howl. And these were places that still had a Wimpy.
Meat told me that his public persona was all front; that he was “a deep thinker” and quite shy at heart. But he undoubtedly lived the drama too. There were meltdowns and breakdowns, drugs and bankruptcy. Band member Steve Buslowe recently told The Guardian that Meat would fly off into chair flinging rages in the late ‘70s, and he repeatedly pushed himself to breaking point. He collapsed onstage several times in his later years and was so frustrated at a vocal cyst stopping him from singing that he unexpectedly announced a (short-lived) retirement onstage in Newcastle in 2007.
But that Meat would never present his more introverted side to press or public was the mark of a born entertainer, dedicated to the art of over-the-top rock’n’roll showmanship. From interview room to the TV singing competition Popstar To Operastar, while other Princes Of Darkness were shuffling aimlessly around struggling to work their tellies in reality shows, he was out to prove that gothic fantasy art really can come to life, and give everybody he came across their personal slice of Meat.
It’s a ‘method’ way of living that so few stars of the slobbing-out-on-Insta age have the imagination or inclination to strive for; he was one of a dying breed. As Meat Loaf screeches into the unknown on a silver black phantom bike, we may never see his like again.