The following is a piece I wrote in 2011 when I was a working journalist. I’m not anymore, but recently – out of the blue – the respected and rather brilliant music blogger and journalist Nialler9 kindly asked me for a read, so I’ve put it back up. Here’s Meat Loaf in Moate. I believe the rest of the tour was just as thrilling!
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 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…’
One such act was Marvin Lee Aday, AKA Meatloaf. 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 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 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 rocker craves. 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. And so, in 1989, Meatloaf undertook a ramshackle three and a half week tour of some of Ireland’s worst community centres, ballrooms, hotel function rooms and other assorted sheds suddenly deemed good enough to host rock royalty. Hell, he even turned up in a few fields.
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. Practically every show was a sell-out with the doormen 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 hearing “Bat Out Of Hell” on their doorstep. The shows were rowdy and rocking, the band were just fantastic and the tour personnel were enjoying their brush their stardom. But, 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 town in Co. Westmeath famous not only for being the homeplace of one half of Foster and Allen, but also for having the widest main street in Ireland at the time. Sadly, it’s Community Centre wasn’t as wide as the street it straddles, but it was deep enough to hold nearly a thousand.
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.”
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 gigging experience limited to seeing Mamas Boys, Christy Moore and, of course, local hero Joe Dolan.
The gig carried on, and more and more people swelled the already packed Community Centre. As this was a local gig for the tour promoter there was no way he was refusing anyone from his neck of the woods, particularly if they arrived at the door brandishing cash.
Earlier in the tour he had assigned a new role to my tour managing pal Marty – to protect Meatloaf, to be his bodyguard. Marty told us he’s “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. Marty moved into position on the side of the stage to reassure Meatloaf that everything was O.K. He liked reassurances did Marvin 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 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 ‘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 here 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 white runner boot, its path to the stage illuminated by the arc of a spotlight, then hit the star turn.
“Fuck you!” Meatloaf roared back, and he promptly stormed off stage, microphone dropping to the floor in a screech of feedback. The band – a bunch of hired hands most likely on wages as poor as the food throughout the tour – 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 hallway which trebled as dressing room, load-in point and backstage area, Meatloaf was fuming. Like the band, the crowd hadn’t yet realised he’d 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 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.”
A couple of cans flew around the venue, but none landed on stage. They were joined in their flight by a couple of shoes and sneakers, 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. He was standing in the pit directly on front of the stage swatting 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’…”
Flying through the air was… a wheelchair!
The chair flew directly over Marty’s head. He turned just in time to see Meatloaf’s eyes swell with an unusual mixture of both fear and wonder. 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.
Marty remembers the crowd cheering. He 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 it 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 the band were already leaving it. The show was not even a half an hour old.
As he arrived backstage 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, 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.
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. He raised it back and pushed it out. Acting on instinct my pal Marty dived in 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. As his face flew into view and blocked Meatloaf’s head the irate audience member’s fist stuck, connecting with his nose. Blood spurted loose as Marty completed his dive and landed on the tarmac. Meatloaf’s own people managed to get their man out of the way and within seconds he was on a bus, bound for the hotel. 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 recalls.
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, a couple of cans and a few bob, and for the first time on the sold-out tour, ‘house full’ signs were erected and the doormen said no.
Security was even tighter when the Quo did the same tour (minus a few of the sheds) a year later. 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 later and Meatloaf was back in the arenas. He 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.