‘One more thing gets thrown up on stage and I’m leaving’… Meat Loaf in Ireland ’89

In 1989 Meatloaf was in a sort of rock ‘n’ roll limbo-land. He was still a massive star, but thanks to some bad business, contracts and other music biz shenanigans, he found himself owing the record company albums as well as money. He was looking for capital to make a sequel to his most successful album ‘Bat Out of Hell’ but the offers weren’t coming in as fast, or as big, as they used to. Then, he got a call from an Irish music promoter, who at the time owned a record shop and who had a past as one of Ireland’s most successful musicians and songwriters… That call would change everything. The following is an article I wrote in 2011, which got a second life in 2016 thanks to music blogger Nialler9 and again in 2018 thanks to John Creedon’s production team showing an interest and interviewing me for their ‘Creedon’s Road Less Travelled’ TV Series on RTE One. 

 

In the late 1980’s, a good pal of mine worked for a well known music promoter and former Eurovision star who, er, shall remain nameless, but he has a lovely horse… One of his specialties was to bring in stars either past their prime, in need of a lift or on the skids for lengthy but profitable Irish tours. ‘The Irish would never give up on a star’ was this promoters mantra. ‘The hits will keep them coming to shows…’ Smokie, Leo Sayer and more all benefited from the Midas touch he and his wife had.

Meatloaf wearing a jumper he probably picked up in the Clara Markets on his ’89 Irish Tour

Another such act was Marvin Lee Aday, AKA Meatloaf. Man, in 1989 he needed a boost, and where better to boost his confidence and bank balance than rural Ireland?

As well as being wheelchair bound for a spell in the 1980’s, Meatloaf was to all intents and purposes immobile in every possible musical sense. A few years earlier he had “embraced” the 1980’s power-pop-rock sound with the abysmal, German-engineered “Blind Before I Stop” album, a disc whose masturbatory title did little to hide the self-indulgent mess within. Even popular German crowd-pleaser David Hasselhoff would have struggled with songs such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Mercenaries”, “Special Girl” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hero”. Salvation seemed to be (temporarily) at hand with new musical foil John Parr, but Meatloaf made a balls of that one, allegedly falling out with Parr on stage in London.

With his record deal about to go too, old Meat was effectively a goner. He was embroiled in rows with his record company over albums, contracts and money; the bookings weren’t coming in; he was living away from the champagne and chandelier life-style, effectively in a semi-d and his pockets were empty. His head was full of dreams for “Bat Out Of Hell 2” but that’s where they stayed. If he did get out to play, he was reduced to touring ‘intimate’ venues – the types he would have ignored long before “Bat Out of Hell” broke. But he still had pockets of fans in Ireland and the UK he could depend on. The rural rockers of Ireland, in particular, are the type of loyal fan every rock and roller craves. They find an act and they stick with it. So long as there’s a fella throwing shapes with a loud guitar and an act who’ll play a couple of hits that soundtracked (or are still soundtracking) an everlasting youth, they’ll go for it.

The loyalty of Irish rock fans was noticed by Tommy and Geraldine Swarbrigg, concert promoters and record shop owners. They noticed that there was two albums that stayed in their Mullingar shop Top 10 for almost five years: “Bat Out Of Hell” and a compilation album called “Hits Out Of Hell”. The Meat Loaf tapes never stopped selling. Between Meat, Status Quo and AC/DC it was hard for any new act to ever get a look in. They rang Meat Loaf’s manager in early 1989, on a wing and a prayer, with a few venues in mind. He agreed to the tour almost immediately, and the biggest fax in the world soon started feeding through Tommy and Geraldine’s fax machine. Meat Loaf’s contract took over a half hour to print and ran almost to the same length as the New Testament. Tommy and Geraldine scrambled together venues, and tickets went on sale, selling out almost immediately. And so, in Autumn 1989, Meatloaf undertook a ramshackle three and a half week tour of some of Ireland’s finest community centres, ballrooms, discos, hotel function rooms and other assorted sheds suddenly deemed good enough to host rock royalty. Hell, he even turned up in a few fields. And a castle.

The promoters were so confident that this tour would be a hit that they booked Status Quo for the same one the following year (see below). Neither act refused the itinerary (or the money).

Meatloaf would recall years later: “I was the first international artist to extensively tour Ireland. U2 won’t tour Ireland the way I toured Ireland. I spent three and a half weeks playing in these barns, in the middle of fields. I’d think ‘Who’s gonna come here?’ And there’d be 3,000 people in the barn by showtime.”

With such an iconic star as Meatloaf in town, the people of rural Ireland came out in their droves. Venues like the Oasis in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan (at the time “Ireland’s biggest night club”), Horan’s in Tralee, Co Kerry (also “Ireland’s biggest night club), The Golden Vale in Dundrum and many more were all on the tour. Practically every show was a sell-out with some unscrupulous doormen (and perhaps one venue owner) more than happy to ram a few more heads into each gig if the price (or the legs) was right. Bar sales rocketed as everyone in town got pissed in advance of actually hearing “Bat Out Of Hell” on their doorstep. The shows were rowdy and rocking, the band (a version of The Never Land Express featuring Pat Thrall on lead guitar) were just fantastic and the tour personnel (all local lads from Mullingar) were enjoying both their brush their stardom and a sort of travellers holiday on the road.

But, after a couple of overstuffed gigs in, Meatloaf was beginning to crack. There were too many people at each ‘intimate’ show and for a man who had been playing stadiums a few years back, this wasn’t what the dream had mapped out. The tour reached its nadir when it pulled into Moate, a musical hotbed of a town in Co. Westmeath. Moate was famous not only for being the home-place of one half of Foster and Allen and his brother, country singer T.R. Dallas, as well as Ray Lynam and the Hillbillies, but it was also known internationally for having the widest main street in Ireland. Sadly, it’s Community Centre wasn’t as wide as the street it straddles, but it was deep enough to hold nearly a thousand rockers one hot November night in 1989.

I, like many others, got to Moate early in the hope of catching a glimpse of the big man. That was easy as his dressing room was a bus attached to the side of the hall. The excitement surrounding the gig was immense. For weeks beforehand, all anyone would talk about was Meatloaf. On the day of the gig, the town was thronged with rockers. Cans, pints and glasses of warm beer flowed like a river; lads in denim jackets covered in patches of metal and classic rock bands broke into impromptu bouts of song; motorbikes roared through the town, carrying rockers and their ladies; buses from throughout the midlands pulled up, spilling their drunken passengers onto the square surrounding the venue. It was truly a sight to behold. There was no bouldness. The rockers of Ireland never forget their manners and were always renowned as being one of the best crowds you could find.

The venue was a Community Centre, but in reality, once you got past the foyer and the tiny toilets it was a simple square gymnasium with no seats bar a bench on a far away balcony where people with suits would congregate. At the back of the hall was a hatch selling drinks and Dairy Milks, a chip van was somehow pulled up alongside an emergency exit to feed the masses inside with small trays of barely-cooked chips. The walls were dripping with sweat.

The house lights went down, and a few minutes later some taped music began. The roars of the crowd were soon drowned out by the roars of a motorbike engine and the smell of burning petrol.  Suddenly a spotlight picked out the front wheel of the motorbike and onto the stage rode Meatloaf.

Holy shit! Meatloaf is actually in Moate!

Two or three songs into the gig, and the pressure was building up at the front.

“Please guys, can you move back a couple of steps?” pleaded Meatloaf as he finished ‘You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth’ to an audience on the move, horizontally and vertically. “Someone’s gonna get hurt, man.”

About six people heard him. The rest of them were either screaming for the hits or trying to finish their cans of Fosters which, alongside Harp, Hoffmans and Furstenberg was the stable tinned lager at Irish gigs of the time.  I was being crushed down the back, my previous ‘big gig’ experience limited to seeing Mama’s Boys, Christy Moore and, of course, our local hero Joe Dolan.

The gig carried on, and more and more people swelled the already packed, sweaty Community Centre. As this was a local gig for the promoter there was no way he was refusing anyone from his neck of the woods.

Earlier in the tour, Tommy the promoter had assigned a new role to my pal Marty Mulligan from Mullingar – lug the gear in and help set it up, but also to protect Meatloaf, to be his bodyguard. Marty told us he’d “take a bullet” for Meatloaf such was his love of the big American’s music.  As the Moate gig stepped into gear Meatloaf’s new bodyguard sensed that the man himself was about to explode. He had erupted a few times over the past few nights, and nearly hit a fan at a show, but for Marty stepping in. Back in Moate, Marty moved into position on the side of the stage to reassure Meatloaf that everything was O.K. He liked reassurances did our Marvin Loaf and my friend Marty was just the man to give them to him. But the crowd was far from reassuring.  Empty beer cans began to be hurled around the venue. Some clanged off the side of the stage.

With the gig still in early doors, a lone Dr. Marten boot broke the imaginary wall between performer and audience and landed on stage.

Now, in his previous arena-filling life, Meatloaf was more accustomed to frenzied females feverishly whipping off their panties before launching them towards the stage. He was no stud, but as his sweaty, theatrical arena show reached its peak there seemed to be no stopping more excitable female audience members. But there was none of those in rural Ireland tonight. A few moments later another item of men’s footwear landed on stage, followed intermittently by several other items of clothing, none of which resembled silk panties. Meatloaf was having none of it.

“Stop fucking throwing things!” he roared, the glare in his eyes adding the necessary, but unspoken, ‘or else’. The crowd didn’t care. Beer cans, glasses, bottles and whatever else was getting in the way of the increasingly crushed audience began to arrive on stage at various intervals before, during and after songs.  The odd unfinished fag end also came up. As a junior smoker at the time who was well accustomed to sharing cigs with my pals (in fact it was the norm) I thought this was an affectionate gesture for Meatloaf to take a drag. Not so.

“I’m fucking leaving, man,” Meatloaf roared to Marty by the side of the stage.

“No way! You can’t,” Marty told Meatloaf. “They’ll fucking kill you.”

A single chip, its path to the stage somehow illuminated by the white spot light, then hit the star turn. It was then followed, seconds later, by a white tray of chips.

“Man, who threw the Goddamn French Fries?” demanded Meatloaf.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, called chips French Fries in Westmeath. Meatloaf’s question was greeted with roars of laughter and several hundred swearwords amid the affectionate heckling hurled back to the stage.

But this being Ireland… you can’t get enough of a good thing, and so, other lads eating chips in the audience joined in the fun. And then, Meatloaf and his stage was struck by more chips. And more. And more and more.

“Fuck you!” Meatloaf roared back, and he promptly stormed off stage, microphone dropping to the floor in a screech of feedback, luckily missing a pile of ketchup-covered chips. The band – most likely on wages as poor as the food throughout the tour (and the food on stage in Moate) – were not yet fully competent in reading Meatloaf’s signals and they played on.

“Was this a costume change?”

“I dunno, I’m only the drummer.”

Backstage, in the narrow man-made hallway which trebled as a defacto dressing room, load-in point and backstage area, Meatloaf was fuming. Like the band, the crowd hadn’t yet realised he’d actually, properly stormed off stage so not only did his grand exit not achieve the desired effect, but most people there thought it was part of the show.

Supremely pissed off, he reluctantly went back on to about a thousand roars for “Bat Out Of Hell”.

As more debris (mainly chips) rained on stage, Meatloaf warned the crowd that he would “walk out the fucking door” if they continued this sort of carry on.

“I’m fucking warning you Ireland,” he roared as the band broke into ‘Dead Ringer for Love’, one of Meat’s biggest Irish hits and one guaranteed to send the crown doolally, “one more thing lands on this stage and I’m leaving.”

Joining the chips in mid-air were a couple of cans, which flew around the venue, but none landed on stage. They were joined in their flight by a couple of sneakers and sweatbands, only one of which landed on stage. But, fair play to him, Meatloaf held firm though the threat of storming off stage was still very real.

Attempting the unenviable task of protecting Meatloaf from debris and holding the crowd back was my pal Marty Mulligan from Mullingar. He was standing in the pit directly on front of the stage swatting chips and beer cans when suddenly, everything in the community centre went into slow motion.

Marty recalls: “The lights caught something shiny and a second or two later I saw it. I thought ‘oh no… this is it… show’s over’…

For flying through the air was…

…a wheelchair!”

The chair flew directly over Marty’s head in Hollywood action movie slow motion. He turned just in time to see Meatloaf’s eyes swell with an unusual mixture of fear, wonder and surprise. The burly singer put out an arm and attempted to step back. The stage was so small he stumbled into the drum riser just as the wheelchair crashed onto the boards in front of him. In slow motion the big man appeared to fall, the empty wheelchair bouncing to his left, one wheel comically spinning.

Some of the crowd cheered. Other scremed in disbelief. Up the front, Marty was sure he could make out someone screaming but by the time he could react, Meatloaf had gotten to his feet, grabbed the mic, roared at the audience and hurled the mic at them as he stormed off. However, the lead of the mic was too short and it hit the advancing Marty, whose own incredulity at what had been launched onto the stage had prevented him from getting up there sooner. As he climbed onto the stage with a new lump on his head thanks to Meatloaf’s mic, the band were already leaving. The show was not even an hour old.

As he arrived to the flight-case lined backstage area to find Meatloaf ablaze with swearwords, anger and American hand-gestures, Marty decided to let the concert promoter do the talking. There was no way Meatloaf would return to the stage. “No fucking way!” said the big man. “Not after what they did to that poor kid in the wheelchair.”

“Christ!” thought Marty. “Who was actually in the wheelchair?” There was no way of knowing if there was a poor kid, or a poor adult, or an army vet, such was the volume of people within the Community Centre, and there was no way Meatloaf was going back in front of them to find out.

They lairy audience began to get even more restless. A riot – unheard of in rural rocking circles though another pal of mine swore blind his emigrant brother was at a Dio-era Black Sabbath gig in the states when one broke out – was almost certainly on the cards.

Despite pleas that returning to the stage would calm the restless natives, Meatloaf stormed out of the venue towards his bus, his band and entourage close behind in a show of solidarity and strength. The promoter, his entourage and my pal Marty tried to reason with him, but to no avail. Out of the blue, an angry man in a denim jacket appeared. Behind him were many more angry men and women.

Could he be linked to the wheelchair? Er, no.

“Get back on that stage ya bollocks,” he roared at Meatloaf, as he stormed over to him, arm coiling up to his side. “We paid to see you!”

The man went for Meatloaf.

Would Meatloaf go for him?

The man’s fist looked deadly.

The angry man raised it back and pushed it out. Acting on instinct my pal Marty dived sidewards to protect Meatloaf. He was, after all, on security detail.

Again, everything suddenly went into slow motion.

Marty’s feet left the ground as he launched himself into the air, sideways but facing frontwards. As his face flew into view and blocked Meatloaf’s head the irate audience member’s fist stuck, connecting with Marty’s nose. Blood spurted loose as Marty completed his dive and landed on the tarmac.

“Woah!” said Meatloaf.

Meatloaf’s own people managed to get their man out of the way and within seconds he was on a bus, bound for his hotel in Mullingar. My pal Marty lay on the ground, his nose broken, but no injury could dent his pride at ‘taking a bullet’ for Meatloaf.

“It was like a Presidential movie,” he recalled years later. “The assassin thinks he has the President in his sights, then boom, up jumps a bodyguard!”

The tour resumed in Carlow the following night, where Meatloaf personally thanked Marty for intervening the night before. Security was tightened up considerably with a load of army and hardy FCA boys drafted in on the promise of free tickets and a few bob, and for the first time on the sold-out tour, ‘house full’ signs were erected and the doormen said no.

The tour was a massive hit, so much so that further dates were booked for early 1990. All of these, including a National Stadium Show in Dublin, and a Conna Castle outdoor show near Fermoy in Cork, sold out. The Dublin show was notable for nearly resulting in the death of Meatloaf. The house lights had gone out too early. The crowds roars were not answered with Meatloaf riding on stage on his bike. He was down in the dressing room playing cards, unaware that someone had put the lights down 20 minutes too early. When he eventually went to the side of the stage to go on at the allotted time the MC announced that he was coming on to a muted audience. They had gotten fed up of waiting. Hearing the muted reaction, Meatloaf got thick, went into a rage, and stormed on stage to show “these Dublin motherfuckers”. He promptly walked straight off the front of the stage, falling several feet into the pit. He did the show, but ended up in hospital afterwards. Other venues were played, but by the summer, Meatloaf had been lured away from Tommy and Geraldine by the promise of ‘the Big Money’ when he was booked to headline the first Féile Festival in Thurles, aka, The Trip to Tipp.

Security was even tighter when the Quo did the same tour (minus a few of the sheds), stepping in for the now departed Meatloaf on a few dates.

Over 20 years later and my pal Marty’s nose is a crooked broken mess, a sideways Manilow, but he’s a proud man and to this day he calls the nose ‘Meatloaf’ in honour of the man for whom he took a bullet.

A little over a year after Meatloaf’s last rural Ireland show, and he was back in the arenas. Armed with a good few bob from his Irish jaunt, he had rekindled his partnership and friendship with Jim Steinman and together they penned ‘Bat Out of Hell 2’, an album which spawned “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”, a song which got to number one in 28 countries. My pal Marty likes to think that the unspoken ‘that’ in the hit song refers to stealing someone’s wheelchair, and throwing it up on stage. Or maybe taking a bullet for Meatloaf? Who knows?

Many years after the Irish tour Meatloaf told Tommy that the shows were among the best things to ever happen to him. They shared many laughs and memories from the tours. They allowed him get “Bat Out Of Hell 2” made. The rest, as they say, is history.

Not a Meatloaf gig in Moate, but too good a picture not to post

 

Oh alright, another one. This time from Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

quo moate 90

A year after Meat Loaf played the sheds of rural Ireland – it was The Quo’s turn. Here’s their Moate poster…

quoshirt90

… And here’s the back of the tour t-shirt, which I still dust off on occasion. First we take Carlow, Moat(e) and Cookstown, then we take Wembley!

 

 

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