Freezing Asses

Snow up the wazoo. Ice in my fingers. Schools closed, roads undrivable. Keep going, Joe. You got to go, ho. Go ho go, like in New York City. Back in 72. When Thunders was still young and the boy with the name like a knife was still frantically learning.

Or not like that at all. Agency blues. The uber-agent anxiety. The proposal and counter-proposal. The end of the line looking you straight in the freezing ass. Cancer of the career. Give you 12 months. That’s the fear. The endless nightmare. Check the tarot. The End, but don’t be sad face, it’s all about new begins. New begins at 60. No consolation. No phone call. No ez-fx.

Not even a decent blog out of it. Just some kind of pressure. In the head. Outside the head. Frozen.

Robin 2 Post Mortem

I was surprised when I got to the gig last Tuesday night that I would be walking around with a mic in my hand, delivering my stuff to a seated crowd. At my readings, from which this show has sprung, I’m always seated too.

Not tonight. Also, instead of there being two 45-minute sets, with a 20-minute interval, they told me just to run straight through. 90 minutes, walking around, me and the mic, to people seated, no pressure whatsoever.

Well, maybe it’s the grand old age, maybe it’s the brand new pills, but I just thought, yeah, all right, and went for it.

And… flat start when I made a joke about Robert Plant (a local) being tight with money, and got dead silent disapproval as my reward (a joke!!), then – blimey! – it all warmed-up very nicely, to the point where the whole joint was laughing and applauding by the end.

I haven’t done anything exactly like that before. Oh, I’ve acted the goat on TV, on radio, in person, and all over every pub in the known rock world. But not straight like that, to a paying audience, no breaks, just me and them – us – for 90 minutes. Like a comedy act with the occasional horrors.

I loved it. When I got the signal from Keith the kindly sound guy that the time was up, I was amazed. It had flown by. Well, staggered briskly. And I hadn’t been pilloried, hadn’t seen any walkouts (which I have at my readings when the f and c words come out, as they always always always do, sorreee).

Then stood there signing books and doing selfies for another hour. What a incredibly lovely – and very funny in their own right – bunch of people. Got some honest feedback too. Told I should go and see Danny Baker, I might pick up some tips (cheers for that, I promise I won’t) and asked for the real real REAL story behind stuff I had just told them. (Which I did, sshhhh…)

What a night. The place was closed by the time I finished so I just went straight to my room and slept. Woke up like I’d just been hit by a truck. Then drove to work. And eventually into the back of another car. (Very minor, 1st gear kiss of bumpers, I came off worse, to the tune of £600 excess, thank you rock god.)

Would I do it again? Of course. The real question is: would you?

Robin 2 – Tonight!

Tonight – Tuesday, 8pm, December 5 – I will be appearing at the Robin 2, in Bilston. One of the country’s best rock venues. There will be ROCK. There will be METAL. There will be DRINKING. And there will be STORIES!!

Do come along. It’s about time we met – in person. About time you got to hear what happens when no one else is listening. Sssshhhh….

You can ask me anything you like. And I will tell your fortune. And reveal the truth behind such fun people as Ozzy, Pagey, Lars and James, Francis and Rick from Quo, Malcolm Young, Bon Scott, Rob and KK from Judas Priest, Axl, Slash, Phil Lynott and Robbo, the Lepps, Jon Bon, Lemmy, or should I say LEMMY.

And more.

Please also remember to bring your lady friends and family. For rock means nothing without the ladies. Let’s be honest, nothing means much without the presence of the female-spirit. Us men only live in their world because they let us. And here’s the sweetener, they have some of the very best stories to tell and you know they do. I have been lucky to know quite a few, from Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks to Debbie Harry, Suzi Quatro, and that whole generation of Ladykillers we used to worship and adore in Kerrang! – Doro, Lita Ford, Joan Jett, Lorraine Lewis, Kim and Kelly from Girschool, the Rock Goddess family, Pat Benatar, the Great Kat, Anne and Nancy Heart, Anne Boleyn, Motorcycle Irene… and of course not forgetting Shazza Oz in her younger rock heyday, when she really did have the X-factor.

£8 for tx if you buy before the show, £10 on the night. I’ll also be bringing a ton of my books to sign, all cheaper than you’ll ever find them anywhere else.

Feeling strange… like you need to just fucking ROCK? Step this way, the doctor will see you Tonight…

Meat Loaf Would Do Anything – And Did

The latest extract from my new biography, Like A Bat Out Of Hell, the Larger Than Life Story of Meat Loaf, out now.

The video they shot to accompany the ‘I’d Do Anything’ single was excessive even for those progressively over the top MTV-dominated times. Directed by twenty-eight-year-old Michael Bay, a graduate of the Jerry Bruckheimer-Don Simpson school of production aesthetics and soon to become better-known as the fast-cutting, style-over-substance, explosion-obsessed director of such ‘high concept’ action movies as Armageddon, Pearl Harbour, and the Transformers franchise, the seven-and-a-half minute video for ‘I’d Do Anything’ perfectly mirrored the convoluted, death-or-glory romance of Jim Steinman’s music.

There were two versions of the video – Bay’s extravagant almost-eight-minute spectacular, and a shorter, MTV-friendly version. The concept was based squarely on a cross between the Beauty and the Beast story and that of The Phantom Of The Opera. The full-length version begins with the noise of Eddie Martinez’s motorcycle guitars, the words flashing across the screen, ‘I Have Traveled Across The Universe Through The Years To Find Her…’ and then we’re off. A cloaked Meat-as-Beast-Phantom roaring towards the city limits on his customized Harley Davidson pursued by cops on bikes, in cars and helicopters, the outlaw chasing his destiny. Finally he escapes into his mist-encrusted gothic castle, past crosses and headstones, the cops mysteriously unable to follow up through the gates.

Cut to Meat-Beast-Phantom in profile, his face made-up to look very much like a commander of the Klingon Empire, all warts and ridged forehead, as he croons the opening lovelorn lines of the song, while regarding his long, werewolf-like fingernails. It’s ludicrous, bombastic; laughable even; an overfamiliar, sick-making fairytale we already know the ending to – and that’s just the first 45 seconds.

After that Meat-Beast is back on his bike, riding straight through walls as grand chandeliers crash to the ground, vanquished cops scattered to the four winds as Meat-Beast leaves his bike and begins swinging through a dark forest like an overgrown Quasimodo. The queasy spell only broken by the appearance of the beautiful Dana Patrick, not so much miming to Lorraine Crosby’s vocals as slinking around like the lead actress in a soft porn Playboy shoot.

At the video’s long climax, there is the moment when the goddess-like Patrick holds the beast in her tender embrace and – wait for it – he begins to turn human again. If only the beautiful princess had kissed the ugly frog, the way Karla De Vito had all those years before, the moment might have had at least a semblance of pathos. But she doesn’t of course because that really would have scared the big kids who owned the playlists at MTV.

Filmed on location in LA County in July 1993, the opening chase was shot at Chávez Ravine, with the interior gothic castle scenes filmed at Ned Doheny’s famous old Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. The cinematography was by Daniel Pearl, best known for his work on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, who described the video as ‘one of my personal all-time favourite projects.’ Meat’s make-up took two hours a day to apply and was designed to be scary, yet ‘with the ability to make him sympathetic.’ Filmed over four days in 90-degree heat, naturally, the whole thing went madly over budget. According to one executive, it ‘probably had the budget of Four Weddings And A Funeral’ – the hit movie being filmed at around the same time, which had a reported budget of $2.8 million.

The success of the single – and the album that followed in its wake – more than justified the outlay. Released in September 1993, ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’ went to No. 1 in almost every country in the world that bought pop singles – including spending seven weeks at No. 1 in Britain – and in the rest it went to No. 2. In January 1994, it won Meat Loaf a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, and is now remembered as one of the defining songs of a decade otherwise supposedly hung-up on grunge, Britpop, alternative rock, nu-metal and a dozen other sub-genres that meant nothing to most people. Most people may not have known much about the bleeding edge of popular culture but they knew what they liked and suddenly they all liked Meat Loaf again.

When it reached No. 1 in America, even Jim Steinman had to admit he was impressed. Meat Loaf nearly went out of his mind again. In the sixteen years since his only previous hit single at home in the US, ‘You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth’, Meat Loaf had released 27 singles – all flops. Now with the video in heavy monster rotation on MTV, the song all over every radio station nationwide, the biz was going crazy.

Meat became the must-have guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross, he was asked to give and receive awards at various music, film and comedy shows. He was invited to sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which he breathlessly described as one of the biggest highlights of his career. Even Dana Patrick received several offers for solo record deals from overexcited executives who hadn’t checked the small print and just assumed she was actually singing in the video.

After what felt like a lifetime of no one really seriously believing anything Meat Loaf did or said, now as the singer celebrated his forty-sixth birthday he had the whole world hanging on every word.

Sometimes, Meat Loaf told Rolling Stone in 1993, when he first heard Jim Steinman’s lyrics, ‘I think they’re the funniest things I’ve ever heard.’ Once he started singing them, though, they became as serious and unyielding as night. Because, he explained, he and Jimmy were more like an actor and playwright than a singer and songwriter.

‘I play everything for real. That’s the best comedy.’ He wasn’t a clown though. He was a method actor. ‘I’m different from Bette [Midler] or Cher or Sinatra,’ he declared, as though there was some confusion over the matter. ‘This might be a huge ego thing, but I tend to think of myself as the Robert De Niro of rock. I know that’s absurd, but my idols are either sports figures or Robert De Niro.’

It was as if he couldn’t stop looking in the mirror, asking fitfully as he flipped out his gun, ‘You talkin’ to me?’

And that the answer was and always would be: ‘Well, who the hell else are you talkin’ to?’

Ritchie Mysterio

There is always light beyond the dark. And for all my sticky-fingered stories from the past, there are just as many that bring me joy. And often laughter. Working with superb musicians like Jimmy Page and David Bowie, sitting round the campfire listening to the stories of Phil Lynott, Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy… priceless moments spread over many years. I was first published as a music journalist 40 years ago this year. Then worked in music PR, management, and for major record companies. Spent a lot of time with the heavy end of the spectrum… the righteous Iron Maiden, the fabulous Guns N’ Roses, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Metallica, Dio and etc.

Easily one of the most fascinating musicians I ever encountered though was Ritchie Blackmore. As a teenager some of the first albums I ever bought were Fireball, Machine Head, Made In Japan and Burn. Then later my good friend Pete Makowski introduced me to the Blackmore-Dio line-up of Rainbow. Went to see them and said goodbye to my mind. Ritchie liked to play fast. He could burn a hole right through you with his guitar. But he also knew how to put the wind under your wings and send you soaring to the heavens.

There was obviously so much going on behind that inscrutable expression on his face, not just the multi-level music, but… something more.

When Purple reformed and made their UK comeback appearance at Knebworth in 85, I was supposed to do a phone interview with Ritchie Blackmore, to publicise the show. Then was told that, no, Ritchie had decided he didn’t want to do a phone interview, he would only speak in person. Only snag: I would have to fly out to New York to meet him. When? Uh, right now.

Oh shit. Really?

Yes, really.

Fuck it, let’s go! I got the plane later that day from Heathrow, and landed at JFK that evening, NY time, a few hours later body-clock-wise for me. I was told which hotel to go to and that Ritchie would be waiting for me in the hotel bar at 8pm. On the dot of eight, I went into the bar, did a thorough scour of the room – no Ritchie. I waited half an hour, sipped a beer, then sloped back to my room thinking maybe I’d got the wrong time.

I went down to the bar again an hour later and checked again. Still no Ritchie. I waited another half hour. Still nothing. By now it’s 3.00am UK time for me, and I am v-e-r-y-t-i-r-e-d. So I give up and go to my room thinking there might be a phone call and…zzzzzzzzzzz.

Until the phone rang. It was around 2.00am US time. It was Ritchie’s manager on the phone berating me for not showing up to meet Ritchie. “He waited for you all night in the bar!”

But, but…

“Well, he’s pissed off at you now and says you’ll have to come to him.”

And where was that?

“Long Island, where he lives.”

(For those of you that don’t know, Long Island is about 50 miles from New York.)

But, but… how on earth would I get there?

“You’ll have to get a train.”

What?

“Oh, and he says you’ll have to play football with him. He’s got a game on tomorrow. He’ll lend you some boots.”

Then he hung up.

Needless to say, I didn’t get any sleep after that. Long Island… train… boots… Ritchie pissed off…

Looong story short… They eventually sent a car to ferry me out to Long Island. It was after the football match. I was taken to a beautiful restaurant where they clearly knew Ritchie and had saved him the best table in the place. I’d been there about 10 minutes when in he came – the man in black – along with a couple of friends. We sat down together, had a wonderful dinner. I got out my old-fashioned cassette recorder, and he gave me one of the best interviews I had ever done.

I laughed quite a lot because Ritchie Blackmore has a wonderful sense of humour – blacker than blacker, but of course – and when we were done I was taken in my very flash car back to the airport and flew back to London.

There were other occasions our paths crossed, at Purple gigs, until he finally bailed. Not for Mr Blackmore the inanities of stringing out a career based on past triumphs.

When he formed the marvellous Blackmore’s Night in the mid-90s, it was thrilling. Yes, he received a certain amount of WTF from hardbitten rock crits, but for me what he was doing with the obviously incredibly talented Candice Night was astonishing – brave and bold. I even loved the stage outfits. Medieval? But of course. Why not? I caught the show at a venue I don’t recall the name of but in Aylesbury (I think), somewhere in the mid-00s, and it was fantastic. Candice not only sings, she charms, she radiates. While Ritchie also radiates but in his own deeply individual fashion, that is, unique.

Then just when you thought you had it figured out, out came Blackmore’s singing electric guitar, sounding better, more mellifluous than ever.

I love traditional music. My father played it, my mother sang it. Albeit with more Irish and Scots emphasis. But so much of the sound and instruments – the deep spirit and ancient magic – overlap. It was sitting listening as a child to the stories my father and mother would tell deep into the night after a gig, laughing and drinking with their other beardy muso friends, that I acquired my taste for storytelling. How I became a writer – and lover of music.

Cut to now and we have Blackmore’s Night touring and Rainbow. Why doesn’t he get more credit? No offence to certain other guitarists of Blackmore’s generation but where are their bold new musical directions? Their risk-taking? Mayhap they are all Wind-Suckers! Hufty-Tufties with Noses of Wax. (Look that one up.)

The Castle

This is a thumbnail of some of the stories we might get into at the Robin 2 show in Bilston next Tuesday December 5. I’ll also be selling signed copies of several of my different books, all brand new but cheaper than you can buy them anywhere else including Amazon. Hope you can make it.

I’m writing a piece at the moment about a certain rock festival from the past that has since gone down in history. It has stirred up memories of other festivals from the past I found myself an often confused participant in: the US Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985; Moscow Music Peace Festival in 1989; both the first and second, utterly calamitous Rock In Rio festivals in 1985 and 1991; various Readings, Milton Keynes Bowls, and so on down the years. Plus all the Castle Doningtons that I was a more willing, if often less reliable witness to. Back when no one referred to as the Monsters Of Rock festival, even though that’s what it was, but simply Donignton. As in, “You going to Donington this year” Answer: “Do bears wank in the woods?” Well, bears will wank anywhere but you get the drift…

Back when men were men and women stayed well away – unlike the rock festivals of the present century, where the place is pleasingly overrun by women of all ages, backgrounds and bra-sizes.

My first visit was 33 years ago, in 1984, the year when Van Halen – with a JD-guzzling, ray-catching Diamond Dave – blew the place up only for AC/DC – with a cloth cap-wearing, possibly ferret-concealing Brian Johnson – to send the pieces spinning like shrapnel into orbit. I don’t remember much about that end of the day, though. For me the festival was all but over before it had begun. Me and my drug buddy Krusher and our friendly record company girl, Kelly, had set off from the tower block we all lived in, in the pre-gentrified London Docklands, in a car fortified with a bottle of Mescal (worm curled up invitingly in the bottom), a bottle of Old Granddad whisky, two cases of warm lager, three grams of sparkly pharmaceutical cocaine and a small plastic sack of jolly green giant weed.

I mean, man, we were fuck-headed before we’d even hit the Watford Gap. How we ever got to the site without killing ourselves and/or others none of us could say the next day, but somehow we did. I remember falling out of the car in the VIP parking area before hobbling on my knees towards the backstage enclosure. The only bands I remembering reviewing were Y&T, who I enjoyed while lying face-down on the ground, and Gary Moore, who I managed to turn onto one side for. Well, I was being sick at the time and it seemed like the right thing to do.

But then I don’t recall much about the next 12 months either. Indeed, in my memory it’s like I woke up again at the 1985 Donington festival just in time to catch Marillion sloping onstage. We had a hotel to stay in that year. The same one I stay in now whenever I’m in the Notts/Derby area, weirdly, but while I couldn’t remember anything about it at all, I did recall sitting in the bar the night before the show when an impossibly young and keen Jon Bon Jovi came bounding over to tell us how excited he was to be there.

I remember us all smiling indulgently and waiting for him to go away so we could go back to our drinking. Later that same night, Venom singer Cronos, who was also there for some reason, passed out at the table and me and Lars Ulrich of Metallica had our pictures taken standing next to his prone, face-down figure. Our cocks out and pointing at his ears, big silly grins on our faces.

The following year wasn’t any better. The crowd was mean, throwing bottles of piss at the stage throughout the entire show – so much so Radio 1 DJ Tommy Vance went on in an American football helmet. “You’d think they’d be grateful,” said the presenter of the only national rock show in the UK in those days. “But they don’t give a fuck!” No one did. Hanging out with ‘spoof’ Comic Strip rockers Bad News, who were filming themselves pretending to be a real band, Ade Edmondson was so ‘in character’ he seemed genuinely upset when the crowd proceeded to bottle them off.

Motorhead fared better, of course, as no one had the guts to try throwing anything at Lemmy. But only Ozzy, who was headlining, really got away with it, after picking up the first bottle of piss that hit him in the face and drinking it. “More!” he screamed. “I’m thirsty!” That halted the bottle-throwing – briefly.

The following year, 1987, when Bon Jovi headlined, was more together but dull as ditchwater by comparison, enlivened only by a seriously pissed-off James Hetfield threatening to kill Jon Bon for daring to helicopter over the stage during Metallica’s set, thus causing the for once female-oriented crowd to begin screaming at the clouds and forcing their boyfriends to take their eyes from the stage right in the middle of chanting “Die! Die! Die!” during ‘Creeping Death’.

Biggest and best of all, though, was 1988, the year it all went so spectacularly right with what we knew even on the day would be the best Donington bill ever (Iron Maiden, backed by Kiss, David Lee Roth, Megadeth, Guns N’ Roses and Helloween) – and yet so tragically wrong when two young fans were trampled to death in the rain-swept swampland surrounding the stage during GN’R’s set. “Don’t kill yourselves!” shouted Axl unwittingly as he exited. Oh, how we laughed. Not knowing yet how hard others would be left crying.

Earlier on the tour, when the festival reached Holland, I had been the onstage host. No helmet needed that day. The hash tents kept the crowd happy and high. Anthrax was on the bill that day and they dared me to jump onstage with my trousers round my ankles. Like I ever walked around any other way at festivals. I also recall standing with an intensely morose David Lee Roth as he perused the crowd before he went on. Within seconds of hitting the stage, though, he was the laughing, jiving, rock clown of all the videos. “Wow!” he trilled. “We’ve got a lot of people here tonight!”

Paul Stanley, who was there with his new ‘girlfriend’ Samantha Fox, stood next to me watching Roth, mouthing the words. I looked at him, puzzled. “Shit,” he smiled, “Dave’s been saying that every night for the past 10 years.”

The Real Story Behind Paranoid…

… not the song, but the book I wrote and first published in 1999 – and then in unedited, unexpurgated form as a Kindle in 2014. Putting this here in case anyone who is coming to the Robin 2 in Bilston next Tuesday worries I  might be afraid to go dark. Well, ho, ho, ho…

Iggy Pop once told me that what he called “the Christ-age” – that is, 33 and a third – was the most important moment in a guy’s life because, as he put it, “you either die or you ascend to heaven…” Then looked at me and added without smiling – “… or to hell.”

Iggy was right. At the time I wrote Paranoid, I was 39 and had been living in hell for six years. Ever since I’d walked out of the game called fame and hung up my rock writing boots for what I was determined would be the very last time. Man, I was done, you know?

Done with bleating rock stars – take it from me, get to know one really well (hi, Axl), you’ve got to know them all – done with PRs more concerned with crawling up their clients’ arses than actually doing their jobs. Done with record company nitwits trying to sell me their shit as though it was gold.

Most of all, done with myself. Between the ages of 19 and 33 I’d done nothing but write about and work with rock bands. In print; on TV; on the radio; in the bath. (That is, when I wasn’t dishwashing or on the dole.)

Dude, I’d monkeyed with them all. Snorted gear off Phil Lynott’s plectrum; woken up in bed drunk with Steve Clark; helped Ozzy cook Sunday lunch; had a shit and wiped my hands on the curtains at Lemmy’s; shagged [FAMOUS ROCK STAR]’s wife while he slept in the next room. I’d even been onstage with some of them (Iron Maiden, Marillion, Dread Zeppelin…) and made an album of my own (don’t ask).

And what had it all taught me? Only the deep, dark stuff; the nasty shit that leaves the stains that never wash off. Very little of the joy we imagine as teenagers sitting on our beds listening intently to the latest masterwork from one of the superhumans that made albums.

At least, that’s how I viewed it at the time I wrote Paranoid. By then, I was on the outside, but no longer looking in. Things that had amused me with wrigglement at 25, made me twitch with nausea at 35. And I was bitter. All my so very close rock star friends that I had given my days and nights to for so very long were now living somewhere over the (Hollywood) hills and far away (from wherever I was).

And I was broke – I have always somehow managed to be broke, it’s just a matter of degrees – but this was serious now. I literally had nothing. Not a chair to weep in, not a bed to wank on. I was friendless and without glee. So I had decided to write the rock book to end all rock books, the one that came clean finally, because I was clean finally and could see at last what I thought there was left worth seeing.

Ooh, I was gonna tell it. Bam! Fuck you very much.

And, well, I did. At which point something changed – something died and something was born or reborn, depending on whether you’re Hindu or Hullabaloo – and like a snake shedding an old stinky skin, I found the lonely tin I’d been floating in for so long suddenly re-entering earth’s orbit. And at great speed.

For between finishing Paranoid and getting married (the very next day, bizarrely), a new magazine was about to draw breath, like a premature birth, soft and whiny and just a little bit too early, but here nonetheless so now we’d all have to deal with it – called Classic Rock. The older-offspring of an already established magazine I’d also work for called Metal Hammer.

And that was it: new leaf, new planet and, best of all, brilliant new rock mag.

I thought, “Shit! Is it too late to stop them printing that fucking book? If they read that I’m fucked!’

It was. I am.

Did I Mention I Was Doing A Gig?

Yes, at the Robin 2, in Bilston, Wolverhampton, on Tuesday December 5. Tix £8 in advance, £10 on the night.

Telling stories. The usually unprintable kind. Like this one…

It’s different now of course but back when I started, rock writers were regarded with almost as much intrigue as rock stars. With no internet, no MTV and only Top Of The Pops and Radio One to sift through, usually in vain, for the music you loved, weekly music papers like Sounds and NME were the main gateways to the stars, their top writers the angels-in-human-form you relied on to convey messages to and from the gods.

If there was one thing better than sitting listening to the new Zeppelin album, it was sitting reading Nick Kent’s latest interview with Jimmy Page while listening to the new Zeppelin album. As for reviews, I always imagined some soundproof room where, say, Geoff Barton would be seated on the throne, headphones clamped tight to his head, nodding along taking notes as he sought to unfurl the mysteries of the latest Kiss live album. At night they would all convene – rock stars and writers – at some guest-list-only club where they would laugh and snort cocaine together while digging the latest Aerosmith bootleg and taking their pick of the resident groupie population.

It was an illusion I continued to labour under right up until I began scribbling my own reviews for Sounds, in 1977. On those brief occasions when I was allowed into the Sounds’ office to collect whatever crumbs were left for the likes of me on the shelf of LPs that no-one else wanted to review, I was disappointed to note how unerringly it looked like every other dull office I had ever dragged my feet in. No music blaring, no fat joints being rolled, not even any good-looking chicks.

I blamed punk, which had arrived onto the London music scene at the same time I had, though with somewhat more effect. I had arrived too late and with too little, that was all. The days of Pete Makowski riding around on the back of a motorcycle with gun-toting members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were simply over.

Or were they? When the magazine rang one day and asked if I’d be “into” interviewing Ian Hunter, I was thrilled as a) I’d never actually interviewed anybody before and b) I had only recently taken down pictures of Mott The Hoople (and all the other pre-punk “old farts” it was no longer socially acceptable to admit you ever liked) from my bedroom wall. Not that I had ever stopped listening to Mott or The Hoople. But you could do that when no-one else was around, like playing Subbuteo.

Best of all, interviewing Hunter would include a genuine slice of early-70s extravagance in the shape of a “limo” which would pick me up from my “pad” and whisk me to the plush studio outside London where the sun-glassed one was working. As my pad was my parents’ house this involved the somewhat surreal sight of my mum and half the neighbours in the street waving me off as the car wafted out of view.

Even harder to take in, though, was what awaited me inside. A fully stocked bar, a very diva-ish PR lady, all cigarette-holder and champagne, and, more ominously, a dour-looking older woman writer from Record Mirror who had plainly not only Done It All but was currently overseeing mass-production of the low-cut T-shirt that went with it. Needless to say, I was utterly out of my depth and sat there forlornly as the two spent the entire journey chatting away about the sorts of people I had only ever seen pictures of or read about in the music press gossip columns: who fucked who and why and when and what everybody else thought about it, darling.

Fortunately, the lady PR had handed me a bottle of cognac and so I had at least one friend I could turn to in the 90 minutes it took to reach our destination – and for me to finish the entire bottle. Not that I was pissed. I was much too nervous for that. It was only when I fell out of the limo and practically into the arms of Ian Hunter, standing in the courtyard of the farmhouse residential studio waiting for us that I realised just how shitfaced I was.

“Ian,” tinkled the lady PR, waving her perfumed cigarette, “this is Mick from Sounds. He’s a big fan.”

“Is that right?” said Hunter, looking me up and down and ignoring the hand I held out. “I’ve got a son about your age.”

And that was it. I was dead in the water before the ship had even set sail.

He turned to greet the dowager from Record Mirror. Old friends, darling, from the Dudes tour. Kiss, kiss. Much laughter. They walked arm-in-arm towards the studio while I followed at a safe distance behind. For the next two hours I was told to “sit there and keep out of my way” while Hunter went about his business, pushing faders, twiddling knobs, while laughing and joking with Mrs Record Mirror. Eventually we were led into a side room where, because he was so busy, it had been agreed that we should interview Ian together. I fished out my old cassette recorder from the polythene shopping bag.

Hunter glared at me again. “I don’t do tape-recorders,” he said. What? But how would I record the interview? “What’s the matter? Don’t you do shorthand? Aren’t you a proper journalist?”

Of course I don’t do fucking shorthand, I wanted to say. Of course I’m not a proper journalist. I’m from Sounds. Then noticed the old cow from Record Mirror sitting poised with notebook and pen. She kindly tore off a page for me to scrawl on while I fished around in my pockets for a biro.

There followed the most excruciating hour of my young non-journalistic life as Hunter directed all his attention to competent, old-friend Record Mirror, and barely more than a sneer to twatted and drunk young Sounds.

In the limo on our way back, I was handed another bottle of cognac while Lady PR and Queen Mirror resumed their rarefied dialogue. Soon, however, the queen had begun to doze, at which point Lady PR ran her fingers over the crotch of my jeans and pulled me close. “Did you get what you wanted?” she asked, before plunging her tongue into my grateful-for-the-attention mouth.

I supposed it would have to do.

Winter Diet

This time of year is aways tricky for us fat bastards, so here are some useful tips for keeping off the pounds this winter as the days get darker and the Season of Goodwill and Suicide leaps upon us. Try this weekly diet and the pounds will literally float away.

Monday. Start the week right with two double espressos, two over-boiled eggs and a slice of burnt-black toast. That will keep you going until lunchtime when you will need two espressos and a large cup of cappuccino with an extra shot – milk or soya optional. And don’t forget the sugar! Shovel it in, as my nasty old dad used to say.

At this point a packet of biscuits is useful. Make sure it is a new packet, that way you can keep nibbling at it for the rest of the afternoon.

Dinner. Local pub. A roll of any description and four- to six-pints of strong ale accompanied by four double whiskeys. Single malt if you can stretch to it, but Jameson’s will also suffice. If feeling especially peckish, a packet of plain crisps is also a good idea.

Bedtime. Two bottles of mineral water and a sedative to ensure a restful night’s sleep.

Wake up and repeat for the next 48 hours. Expected weight loss – three-to-four pounds.

Thursday. If you’ve been following the diet properly so far this week you deserve a treat. So off to the Groucho (other private members’ clubs are available) for lunch with an old friend who also happens to be following the Winter Diet.

Go nuts and have a starter – two vodka martinis should do it. Followed by soup. Then wine, can be red or white, or best of all a bottle each, followed by coffee and brandy – or whiskey, whatever your body is telling you.

Home in time for the pub. A roll but only two pints of strong ale and one double-whiskey. You don’t want to be a pig. Expected weight loss two-to-three pounds

Friday. Normal day-time routine followed in the evening with ‘business’ dinner. Why not try an Indian? After all, it’s the end of the week and this is the ‘sugar lump at the end of the race’. Order four large bottles of Kingfisher beer – beer of Kings – two double whiskeys, and a curry and rice – you can take most of the food away with you at the end of the night if you want, and feed it to the dog who will shit everywhere in the night giving you a flying start to…

Saturday morning, aka The Weekend, aka Fun Time. See if there’s a party on somewhere Saturday night. If not why not throw a party of your own? Invite everyone to bring a bottle. Lay on some Pringles, and being the genial host, splash out on several boxes of ale and wine.

Sunday. Give yourself the day off. Lay in bed until the room stops spinning. Then come dark manage to hold down a mug of tea and a bucket of water. Eat some aspirin. Stand under the shower for a full five minutes. No need to bother with all that troublesome gel, just step out and straight into the clothes you were wearing the night before. Ah, that’s better!

Then weigh yourself. And… feel amazing! Be proud of how much weight you’ve lost in the last seven days – nearly 10 pounds! Well, get you, skinny arse! The chicks are never going to be able to resist you now.

Telling Tales

You know what they say: one door closes. Then another and another and another…

Then someone opens the window a crack, you say fuck that, put your whole boot through it, thrill to the sound of it smashing to pieces, and finally get some air. Bloody cold, of course, it being this time of year. But definitely breathable.

So… just been talking to KK Downing about my upcoming Robin 2 gig in Bilston and he asked if it was going to be like my old Monsters Of Rock show on Sky. I hadn’t thought of that. But what a good idea. Too late to organise for the Robin show, but maybe next time…?

Of course, you’d need guests – and music – and you. What do you think?

MEANWHILE… the December 5 show is going to be something more intimate. I shan’t be removing any clothes you’ll be relieved to learn, but I am going to come amongst you. That is, in the sense of making sure everyone has a drink in their hand first – including me – then settling down to tell a few stories. The don’t-say-I-told-you-BUT kind.

Some of you have been kind enough to send in some questions. Some more of you should too – I will be answering everything and anything you can think of. EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. God help us. I will also be bringing some books to sign for anyone that’s interested. All cheaper than in the shops or amazon. All from my own collection. All personalised, you might say. With skulls and kisses and other obscenities – especially for you.

And speaking of obscenity… I hope you don’t mind swearing. I mean, you know, fuck off if you do, fuck off if you don’t. I don’t fucking mind. Just don’t expect it to be asterisked out of the conversation. I can’t help it. I really can’t. I like it too much. I’d even say it’s impossible to talk about people like Ozzy, Priest, Zep, Lemmy, Metallica, AC/DC, Slash and Axl without recourse to words like cunt (the most used word in Scotland and Ireland) and fuck (the most used word everywhere else in the world).

Oh, and wait till I tell you about the time Kate Bush wanted my body. Or Stevie Nicks tried to seduce me. That’s how I remember it anyway, ladies. I was getting a lot of signals anyway, put it like that. But those are two-pint stories. Wait till we get to the double-whiskies…

Who’s up for it?

Malcolm

I wanted to say something as soon as I heard, like everyone else. But I knew what was coming – the plaudits, the sentimentality, the nostalgia, the don’t speak ill of the dead obits by the same people that think Guns N’ Roses are the same band today as they were in the 80s. The people who now bow and scrape to the name AC/DC because it’s the law. The new classic rock reality where we just have to love them simply because the fuckers have been going longer than most of the people sucking it all up now have been alive.

And there’s a real point to be made about that, actually. Malcolm really was the hotshot rhythm dynamo, the cat who got the cream when it came to coming up with so many great riffs, great chug-a-lugs, great hangs.

He was much more than that though. He was the band leader. He cracked the whip. Hard. Every successful band has one – Axl in GN’R, Iommi in Sabbath, Page in Zep, Harris in Maiden… The one who isn’t afraid to tell the others to shut the fuck up and do it his way. Malcolm was harder than most. A mangled-faced street urchin from the Glasgow projects who hired and fired at will. Who beat the shit out of Phil Rudd then slung him out of the band. Who told Jonno to keep his mouth shut onstage when he first joined cos no fucker in the audience could understand a word the big Geordie said. Who got rid of Mutt Lange after the producer had gifted them their legend-status with Highway To Hell, Back In Black and For Those About To Rock – because he resented the money Mutt was making and figured he’d learned enough to do it without the producer.

Malcolm was wrong and the band almost sunk without trace in the late 80s because of it. But then this tough nut came back and did it all again in the 90s, leaning on the ancient formula for sure but just dig that face-slapping rhythm, getcha rocks off at the sheer audacity of the cunt.

One thing about Malcolm, he may not have been the nicest man in the room, ever, but you couldn’t keep him down. No matter how hard you beat him. He just came back and kicked your ass some more.

Of course we knew he was going. The Alzheimer’s had been there for years. We’d already bid him adieu. We just didn’t expect him to go so soon. 64 – that’s five years more than me. Five years and several lifetimes getting wasted on the hellish highway, wanting blood, letting it be rock, going down, ruby, ruby…

That just leaves Angus. Angus and when he’s around, Axl. Is it enough? What that and the music? More than a touch too much. What a brilliant, bad-assed little bastard he was though.

Meat Loaf Extract 4

Extract No. 4 from my new Meat Loaf biography, Like A Bat Out Of Hell, out this week

When, later in 1975, most of the National Lampoon gang were hired for a new live comedy-variety TV show called NBC’s Saturday Night – soon to be retitled Saturday Night Live – Meat Loaf was also invited to audition for the show. Meat saw it as a chance to sing on the first show, but the team led by production Lorne Michaels, a 28-year-old maverick writer and comedian who’d previously worked on the groundbreaking Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In show, had other ideas. As Meat recalled, ‘They said to me, “Are you interested in doing a show?” And I said, “No” – a mistake! ‘I should have done it!’ (In fact, after he became famous Meat Loaf would appear on the show a further three times and remains the only musician, aside from Mick Jagger, to ever perform anything other than songs. His most notable ‘skit’ partner was another occasional guest called Eddie Murphy.)

Another talent involved in the Lampoon shows destined to become more involved with Meat Loaf’s career was composer and musician Paul Jacobs. Speaking in 1985, Meat recalled how he had ‘wanted Paul in the band from the very beginning but he didn’t want to work with [Steinman] and Jimmy didn’t want to work with anybody that was any good, really. That’s not to put him down – but he had a fear of musicians, at that time, he doesn’t now, who knew more about music than he did.’

In truth, when Steinman staged a workshop production of Neverland, in 1976, Jacobs served as musical director and co-arranged the show’s score. Later, after Steinman left Meat Loaf’s touring band, Jacobs as a pianist and background vocalist replaced him.

But that was in the future. Still locked into the idea of making an album of original material with Jimmy, Meat’s next paying job came when he grabbed at a stopgap role in Rockabye Hamlet – a kind of To Be Or Not To Be Hair – directed by Goward Champion. ‘He’d done a lot of hit stuff,’ Meat shrugged, ‘and when you have an opportunity to work with people like that, you do it.’ Indeed, Champion had enjoyed a successful career in movies as a dancer-choreographer before graduating to musical theatre in the 1960s, directing four hit shows in row, including Bye Bye Birdie and Hello, Dolly! This, though, was a step to far for the now aging director. Bringing the Bard to the love generation was a laudable aim. But Champion knew as much about the post-hippy audiences of the mid-seventies as Meat Loaf did at the time about vegetarianism. The result was a complete disaster than stumbled along for just seven shows before being unceremoniously dumped.

‘It was a terrible show,’ the singer conceded, ‘it was a dreadful part but I learned from him.’ What Meat Loaf learned, he said, was ‘how to give and take focus. That’s a very important lesson performers need to learn from the viewpoint of how to perform. You see, if you’re me you don’t want people looking at you all the time, you want them going somewhere
else and then coming back to 
you. There’s very few people who have the kind of strength that I do onstage so when I give them the focus and then take it back, it rockets. This is not an ego trip because I don’t have anything to do with it, it’s just there. I know what I can do and what I can’t
do. I don’t pretend and don’t try to fool myself. But in that show, I was onstage with 72 other people and I had to take focus – and I didn’t. And Goward Champion said, “You’re the first person I’ve ever seen that can take focus from a group of 72 people dancing about you at high-energy and you’re not doing a fucking thing but everyone in the audience is watching you!” And I said, “Well, I figured it out.”’

Meat Loaf took another one-off gig adding some vocals to the second album, Free For All, from his old Detroit pal, Ted Nugent. With his flight and hotel paid for, plus a thousand-dollar fee waiting for him, he scooted down for a few days to The Sound Pit studio in Atlanta Georgia, singing lead on five of the album’s nine tracks. As on the Stoney & Meatloaf album, he was credited wrongly as Meatloaf. But he didn’t care about that. What stuck in his craw was that $1000 fee, which seemed like easy money at the time – then looked like peanuts after the album sold over a million copies.

There were also one-off cash-in-hand gigs: recording a song called ‘Clap Your Hands And Stand By Me’ also featuring Procol Harum drummer BJ Wilson and Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, and destined to become one of the forgotten classics of the era. Meat also took a trip to London to record a song titled ‘Tulip Baker’, written for a girl who ended up failing to produce the necessary vocal. In stepped Meat Loaf to the rescue. ‘You wanna know how high it was?’ he laughed. ‘Almost blew my brains out!’

Highs and lows, lows and highs, and the story hadn’t even got properly started yet.

Meta Loaf Biog Extract 3

Extract No. 3 from my new Meat Loaf biography, Like A Bat Out Of Hell, out this week

On paper, Amherst was about as far removed from the countercultural remedy Hair espoused as it was possible to be, but it wasn’t completely immune to the changing times, the sudden arrival of vibe and connectedness, of revolution, daddy. Nowhere in America was and twenty-year-old Jim Steinman was determined to push it, or at least try it on, see how it looked, flaunt it, exploit it. He started small but defiantly weird with a short-lived drama class offshoot group he named Clitoris That Thought It Was a Puppy. Funny, ha, yeah, don’t bogart that joint my friend…

Things got more real when, in March 1968, he wrote the music for an Amherst production of Bertolt Brecht’s modernist play A Man’s A Man, in which the playwright tells the story of a hapless civilian who is transformed into the perfect soldier, exploring human personality as something malleable, interchangeable, that can be picked up and put back together into new shapes like a puzzle, a bigger, more effective machine: a parable that the Pulitzer Prize-winning American critic Walter Kerr described as a ‘curious foreshadowing of the art of brainwashing.’ Jim, the puppet-master in the making, was enthralled by the idea.

He followed that, in May 1968, as director this time of an Amherst production of Michael McClure’s The Beard. The McClure production edged Amherst more explicitly towards the counter-culture. Thirty-five-year-old McClure was a refugee from the Beat Generation of writers, one of the five poets who read at the famous San Francisco Six Gallery reading in 1955 (where Allen Ginsberg first read ‘Howl’), as immortalized in Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums. Since then the poet who Barry Miles famously once described as ‘the Prince of the San Francisco’ had transmogrified into a hippy, counterculture-vulture, giving a reading at the epochal Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park in January 1967, befriending Jim Morrison of The Doors, whose bad-dream poetry he indulged, and writing The Beard, a suitably wiggy play built around a what-if meeting ‘in the blue velvet of eternity’ between Billy The Kid and Jean Harlow, with a theme exploring McClure’s ‘Meat Politics’ theory that humans were nothing more than ‘bags of Meat’.

Kenneth Tynan described The Beard as, ‘a milestone in the history of heterosexual art.’ Jim loved its unhinged depiction of the male-female relationship with its almost cliché obscenities and Grand Guignol set pieces, the gloriously spiraling out of control hurricanes of verboten emotions and final, coming together to be torn apart kiss-off. What Variety called ‘a reduction of all male-female spats, courtships, fetishes, etc, to simple animal circling, snarling, sniffing, teasing…’ Exactly the sort of thing Jim liked to write about in his music, to suffuse his own fantasy courtships with, male or female.

Even The Beard was nothing, though, compared to Jim’s plan for his senior year, a musical that would, in his words, ‘make Hair look like Hello Dolly’. The fact that it would count towards his final graduation mark was neither here nor there. Jim’s aims were far loftier than that, and they went beyond simple outrage – any fool with a flower in his or her hair and a bare breast could pull that off. The musical would be called The Dream Engine and it would be the first visit to the interior hinterland that Jim had been cultivating, a place where his fantasies and obsessions could be fully expressed and visualised.

‘I was flunking all over the place,’ he explained. ‘I had to convince the college governors that I could do this project. So I went to see them, and they were very impressed by my idea. But the main guy reaches behind him for this folder and says: “Well, it’s all very interesting this stuff, but we do have to deal with reality. The facts show that you have 19 per cent in physics and 32 percent in calculus. How do you explain this?” I thought… well, I’m basically fucked here. So I said, “I guess I’m better at math’s than I am at sciences”. Then they all broke up laughing, and I’m convinced that’s why they gave it to me.’

The story wasn’t up to much, a simple enough yarn about a character called Baal who falls in with a tribe of kids living a violent and primitive life on the California coast. But the concept and the themes were outrageous and provocative, full of the bullish confidence of privileged, un-wasted youth. Jim told the Amherst College newspaper, The Record: ‘The flower child, sunshine hippie has been replaced with a far more dangerous kind of kid, conditioned by the brutality of assassinations, a war that goes on forever, police riots in Chicago, a political system that refuses to change. American children are being transformed into revolutionaries, willing to fight in the streets if necessary. I think it’s more dangerous to live in Greenwich Village today than to fight in Vietnam. The play tries to reflect that physical and moral danger. This is not, I think, the usual kind of musical.’

Cringe-making though the remark about Vietnam was, The Dream Engine certainly caught the moment exactly as Jim had wished it. Jim took the role of Baal, a character he described as ‘a cross between Che Guevera, Mick Jagger and Billy the Kid,’ and encouraged the director, his classmate Barry Keating, to push hard, ‘using many of the techniques of the avant-garde radical theatre’ to produce something purposefully provocative. ‘It has been a trying experience, from beginning to end,’ Jim explained earnestly in his college newspaper interview. ‘But it has been the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. It may offend some people, but I think it will stand on its own as a work of art.’

That is, he hoped it would offend ‘some’ people. The Dream Engine played at Amherst’s Kirby Theatre for four nights from Friday, April 25, 1971 – but it took just one performance for Jim to know that he was onto something. Speaking in 2003, he gleefully described the musical as ‘a three-hour rock epic with tons of nudity, it was everything I dreamed of. It got closed down by the police. Written up in the newspapers. Caused a sensation.’

More important than any of that, though, was the intense reaction the play got from Joseph Papp when he turned up unexpectedly one night – and became so overinvolved he went backstage during the intermission and talked Jim into signing a piece of paper giving the impresario the rights to take the play to his Shakespeare In The Park festival. Fresh from producing Hair on Broadway, Papp, the Shakespeare evangelist, the experimental theatre guru, felt The Dream Engine offered even more potential for helping define the era: these weren’t professional actors dressed up as hippies, these were college students, the real children of the revolution.

‘It was like one of those legendary stories,’ Steinman recalled in 2003. ‘He was in the dressing room and I remember signing the paper, I didn’t know what I was signing,’ he laughed. ‘I just said what the hell, it’s better than going to graduate school studying film. That’s what I was going to do. I also remember we were all nude because the second act was almost all nudity.’ More laughter.

It was the start of a significant working relationship that would last for almost seven years and would underpin every move Jim would make in his career. ‘I identified with [Papp] immediately because he saw no difference between Shakespeare and Hair, basically. It was all theater and I grew up with opera and rock’n’roll and didn’t see any difference… Papp became sort of my surrogate dad. He loved being a mentor to people and he sort of took me in.’

Within an hour or so of his first original musical hitting a stage, Jim had been recognised as an extraordinary talent, his musical universe already fully acknowledged. Indeed, though The Dream Engine would never finally reach New York, Papp’s vision was born out for decades to come as Jim’s musical themes and motifs became obsessive recycled and revisited, expanded and refined. ‘I still think it’s the best thing I’ll ever do and it’s all been downhill from there,’ he would say, not even half-joking.

The story turned on what he later described as ‘a really violent pack of kids running amok n some unnamed Californian city, warring against church and state, cops and baron robbers, ‘basically like the Lost Boys. It was all sort of a science fiction version of Peter Pan – that’s always been my biggest vision. It’s sort of like this huge breast that I suckle on. Everything I take is somewhat related to my Peter Pan vision.’

Every important song he would write would be seeded in this very earliest iteration of his universe. For example a song called ‘Formation Of The Tribe’ contained the line and vocal melody ‘Turn around Bright Eyes’ – the line that would recur throughout so many of his future songs, most memorably for Bonnie Tyler on her earthshattering hit, ‘A Total Eclipse Of The Heart’. What Papp saw immediately was that Jim’s talent was big, but its focus narrow. The return again and again to certain lines and melodies, the constant re-working of those ideas, would characterise the rest of his creative life.

Joseph Papp knew talent when he saw it. He was no fly-by-night chancer. As well as his lifelong passion for Shakespeare, in particular delivering it free to New Yorkers at Shakespeare In The Park, where he had use of the open-air Delacorte Theatre, he’d also worked with almost every major stage actor, and among the new work he delivered to the Public Theatre (which would be named after him upon his death in 1991) were early plays by Tony Award winner David Rabe, and the Pulitzer Prize winners Jason Miller and Charles Gordone. His taste in contemporary theatre was also unsurpassed. After Hair, Papp would oversee first Broadway productions of A Chorus Line and a completely revitalised Pirates of Penzance.

Jim understood the value of the patronage of such a theatrical titan. Not that he always showed it. Jim Steinman was nothing if not singular, a headstrong young maestro who flounced out on several occasions, once goading Papp into throwing an ashtray at his head, but it was Papp that catapulted Steinman from college weirdo to the real-world musical titan in one giant step.

Robin 2 Gig Quetsions

Here’s a good one. Please do send me any you have of your own at mick@mickwall.com. Or my official FB page to twitter @WallMick  No subject off limits. And I will respond to them all on Dec 5 at the gig.

Hi Mick,

Hope you’re well. Thought I’d stop by and maybe pose a couple of questions for your Wolverhampton show, if that’s cool.

I’ve always really liked reading the blogs on your site, they’re great. I read the one you posted recently about how the level of exposure your work here in the UK gets compared to the exposure you get abroad and how this differs considerably, I was wondering; do you think that there is any particular reason for this? Would you attribute it to being purely a marketing or book industry issue or perhaps something more genre specific?

Also….

You were a journalist when music magazines were vital for music fans and the primary way a band or artist was able to communicate with them, they had ‘exclusives’ and ‘read it here first’ articles and they were also really instrumental in being able to break new bands etc….. This is all now a thing of the past and pretty much all done between artist and fan directly using social media. Do you think music journalism can still serve a relevant purpose?

Be great to hear your thoughts, Mick.

Lastly, I love your writing. I’m a musician and your writing is as much a part of my musical DNA as my favorite records are, whether it’s reading your Kerrang! articles as a kid, or reading your books and blogs to this day, I’m a big fan, mate! Keep ‘em all coming!

Thanks, looking forward to the gig!!!

Ben Williamson.

My Gig, December 5

Here’s the story…

Come and see me on the evening of Tuesday December 5, at this address: The Robin 2, 20-28 Mount Pleasant, Bilston, Wolverhampton, WV14 7LJ. And I can promise you a welcome to your winkle.

All the stories I wasn’t allowed to tell in my books. So many laughs you’ll end up in hospital. And a rich, heart-warming end to the evening which will have you wiping away the tears. Then afterwards it’s all back to your gaff for drinks and eats and listening to records. How about it?

Just one thing.

The gig is just three weeks away and I am SHITTING IT. I was told Jim Lea from Slade was on there the other night laughing and telling stories from his life and that it was all going nicely. But then he had a break then came back on WITH A BAND! And the place went CRAZEE!!

OK, well that’s not going to happen with me. I mean I could come on and sing a few pages from my new Meat Loaf book but I’d have to leave the motor running outside for a quick escape before I got halfway through.

So I’ve had a quick gander at other recent shows at the Robin 2 and… oh fuck me. What have I done? The first vid that caught my eye was the beautifully named Sex Pissed Dolls, doing ‘Swords Of A Thousand Men’ (I assume with some irony). And it is great! They are great!

But again, when it comes to my gig – not gonna happen. I might have shapely breasts at this point in my (cough) career but the whole leather miniskirt thing… I mean, I suppose I could try it…

I kept looking and came up with Jon Anderson doing ‘Roundabout’ – just him on an acoustic guitar and …fuck fuck fuck. There’s even footage of Def Leppard doing ‘Animal’ at the Robin 2. And I’m gonna do what? Burp beer and scratch what my wife now calls my ‘child’s arse’ (because it has shrunk as I’ve been losing weight this year while my stomach has stayed b-i-g).

So I’m turning this one over to you, my oldest and dearest friends. I know someone will want to know how my name ended up in ‘Get In The Ring’, and trust me the story I give face to face is much better than the one I’ve been obliged to give in print. But what else?

There will definitely be a ‘Midlands’ flavour to the show. It is the heavy heartland and I have spent so many decades writing about all the stars of that way out region to the point where I have actual friends from there. That’s right actual friends. I don’t have any, where I live and none whatsoever left in London or LA, but drop me off drunk in Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby, Wolverhampton or anywhere West-Mid-like and I will be bostin’.

To the point… what would you like to hear about? Who would you like to know something else about now that it’s going to be just us in the bar?

Send your thoughts, questions, jokes, insults, bank account numbers, phone numbers, winning lottery tickets to either the comments link here, or email to mick@mickwall.com  Or to my official FB page https://www.facebook.com/mickwallofficial?fref=ts  Or tweet me @WallMick

And I very much look forward to being dragged out on stage shitting my pants and vomiting blood on the night. And all in a nice new pair of LSD-boots too.

Meat Loaf Extract No.2

This is the second extract from my new Meat Loaf biography, Like A Bat Out Of Hell, which has just come out this week.

Marvin’s alcoholic ex-cop father Orvis was a big, strong guy, and so were his brothers. Little Marvin was big too. In first grade he was bigger than all of the other kids. By seventh grade, aged just eleven, he weighed 240lbs and shopped for his clothes in the men’s store. The football coach called him ‘Tree Trunks’ because of the size of his legs. There was a TV commercial for jeans that had the tag line ‘Poor fat Marvin can’t wear Levi’s…’ and it made him hate his name.

Marvin: fat kid’s name. Marvin the fat kid. Poor fat Marvin the fat freak.

The alternative wasn’t great, but at least there was one. All his life, his daddy had called him ‘ML’, which was short for Meat Loaf. It was meant as a term of endearment for his plump baby son. But as the years sped by and the boy just grew, it became a horribly apt name for a kid his size. It was still better than Marvin, though, anything was better than that. Plus, you know, there were Marvins everywhere, but no one else was called Meat Loaf. Or even ML. Right?

So to hell with poor fat Marvin. There are some things that a fat kid from Texas just can’t be expected to take.

Marvin’s mom was something different. Like the rest of the family, Wilma was a big lady. But so what? She held everything together for him, the defining force of his childhood. For twenty-five years she worked as a schoolteacher. She could sing too. She and her sister Texie were part of a gospel group called the Vo-di-o-do Girls who got as far as appearing live on Bing Crosby’s syndicated radio show.

Texie went on to marry Frank Heath, who ran a chain of furniture stores across Texas, and they lived a rich, comfortable life. Wilma scrambled along with Orvis, her daredevil drunk, and Meat Loaf, her accident-prone, outsized son. Meat Loaf was a handful, no doubt. When he was four years old, he liked running away. Then he began getting concussions, all shapes and sizes: hit in the head with a toy arrow; hit on the head by the back window of the car; knocked out in a collision with a kid in a football helmet; kneed in the head playing football; hit on the head by a shot put (ended up in the hospital after that one); hit in the head by a baseball; hit in the head by a brick; running into a goal post; getting his head stuck in a Corvette steering wheel… that’s in addition to all of the fights and other scrapes he got himself in.

Between Orvis and Meat Loaf, Wilma had plenty to worry about. Yet her son was like her in one way – well, two if you count the size thing – he was a singer, a performer, a born ham, made for the stage.

Not that Wilma saw that straight away. ‘My mother was a singer,’ Meat recalled, ‘my grandfather played four instruments: piano, trumpet, guitar and something else weird, like violin.’ But Wilma never saw any real musical potential in big little Marvin. ‘I can remember driving down the road singing some song on the radio and my mother turned to me and said: “You can’t carry a tune in a bucket. One thing you won’t be is a singer! You better find something else to do, boy.” I think that made me very angry, at that point. So just to spite her I decided to open my mouth and scream.’

Through high school he got a part in every play he could wangle his way into – The Bad Seed, Charley’s Aunt, The Music Man, Plain And Fancy – sometimes with a few lines to say, sometimes with more, and he’d do anything – tell a joke, sing a song, improvise a laugh or a gasp somehow. When the baseball coach told him he’d have to choose between sports and the play, there was no choice. He was a ham and he knew it, but he loved it, loved to connect with the crowd and his fellow performers.

‘I was shy, as a kid,’ he would tell me years later, fidgeting nervously in his chair, flicking his unkempt hair and drumming his fingers. ‘When I was in high school I was shy.’ Going on stage was a good way of concealing that shyness, he explained. He didn’t have to think up things to say, how to be. He’d stand up there like Lennie from Steinbeck, a giant kid playing the sucker, playing the fool and milking every moment. Years later, even after Bat Out Of Hell had been such a success, he was still happier, he confessed, being onstage being someone called Meat Loaf, than he was off it, being Marvin the Fat Kid.

Off-stage, back in the so-called real world, was where all ML’s troubles lay: the father who terrorised him; the kids at school that despised and bullied him. The disgusted looks of strangers as he came walking down the street with his heavy sailor’s gait, avoiding his own glutinous reflection in store windows. He would watch movies on TV – cowboys and Indians – and imagine himself the white-hatted hero, sweeping the gorgeous gal off her feet. Then drag himself up out of the chair as reality came crashing back in. He knew poor fat Marvin was never going to be the one that got the girl. Yet onstage things were different. He would get double the attention, but in a good way. He still feared the bullies and the shitkickers, but he didn’t feel so worthless anymore. Didn’t feel like roadkill. Onstage he could be anyone he wanted to be, almost. Turn that pain inside into something that gave pleasure to the outside.

Speaking to him years later, I wondered if it was this odd mix – of Meat Loaf the scary monster and Marvin the scaredy cat – that drew so many women to his shows? That explained the hot chicks lined up backstage? ‘I don’t know,’ he said, apparently embarrassed by the question. ‘I don’t think it’s me anybody’s really interested in. It’s the part I play.’

No November

It’s the worst month of the year for me and has been for years. Example: this month eight years ago I fell and bashed my head so badly I was unconscious for four hours, and ended up with a permanent scar on the back of my head. Plus concussion. Plus self-loathing. Plus a missed opportunity to go to New York and hang out with Keith Richards. What a great Xmas that was.

There are countless other examples, many much worse. The point is, I have come to dread November. Don’t talk to me about Movember or Slowvember or WTFvember, I live with No-November every year.

This time around, though, it has been worse than ever. Family members snuffing it, other family members on the verge, friends of the family with their own death-soon difficulties. Then me, and the VAT, and the nasty story that now goes nowhere, and the flu (still going on) and general loathing of Xmas and its suicidal songs. And as of yesterday, the news that my credit files have all been hacked and that I now probably have multiple dark-web-influenced identities, none of which are actually me but all of which will naturally be much better off than I am as a result.

You’ve got to laugh, right?

Ha ha ha.

Suddenly everything about the lens has grown darker. So when I say that my new Meat Loaf biography comes out here, Australia and New Zealand this week, I do so with angst more than anticipation. Example: I have seven radio interviews lined up with major Oz stations this week, plus a few more to come in New Zealand. Followed by Oz Breakfast TV stuff. And nothing in Britain. That will be followed by newspaper and magazine interviews, online interviews, in Oz and NZ. And none in Britain.

You might shrug and say, yes, but that’s how it’s been for all my books for the past five years, and you would be right. You might say I’m lucky to have any interest at all from anywhere and on that you would definitely be right too. But that doesn’t lessen my dismal pain about the prospects of the book’s success here in Britain. You can’t buy what you don’t know exists.

Meat Loaf Book Extract

This is from my new biography of Meat Loaf, Like A Bat Out Of Hell – out now.

The guy at the restaurant table looks like late-period Howard Hughes, when the mad old billionaire was holed up at the Desert Inn in Vegas, dressed all in white and scared to touch anything because of the germs. He has long, grey hair so dry it might snap off in your hand if you try and grab it. His pallor is somewhere on the colour spectrum between ‘haven’t slept for three days’ and ‘haven’t been outside for six years’. He is offended by the notion of fresh air. He has small beady eyes, pudgy hamster cheeks, a treble chin. He lives at night, rising about 1.00am, and works feverishly through the small, lost hours in a house filled with clutter and junk, so that when he’s forced into an accommodation with the rest of the world – like he has been today – and he actually goes out in daylight, he retains a vampiric quality, an otherness. He speaks in a melodious voice much lower than the one in which he sings, and for much of the time that he does, a smile plays on the edges of his lips.

As if all of this isn’t enough to get him noticed by the waiters that are dancing past the table, and the other diners, who pretend not to notice but stare unblinkingly when they think he is not looking, he is wearing a black leather bikers jacket that is decorated with studs and sequins in ornate patterns. On each upper arm is a death’s head, hand-painted onto the leather. He is also wearing aviator sunglasses, Fat Elvis style, even though the restaurant is as dark as winter.

As a kid an astrologist once told him he had an overwhelming desire to astonish people. But he didn’t need a sign-reader to tell him that. Unable to decide what he wants to eat, he has ordered everything on the menu – everything – which causes the waiters to commandeer another table close by and laden this and his own with dozens of silver bowls full of food. He talks and talks, and as he does, he tries a little from each of the bowls using his fingers to feed himself. His fingernails are long and white, but they quickly become stained by the different sauces he’s dipping in and out of.

Talk, talk, talk.

Dip, dip, dip.

Talk, talk, talk.

Dip, dip, dip.

‘I love eating…’ he says, somewhat unnecessarily.

After ten or fifteen minutes no one else is, because no one else at the table can be sure which bowls have had his fingers in and which haven’t. He is oblivious to this, and to all of the stares and the circling waiters. The conversation roams over his obsessions like high birds circling. One of those obsessions is wine, which he collects and drinks at night at his desk, he says. He writes about it in a journal, describing exactly how it tastes and how it makes him feel, the journey it takes his imagination on.

‘How much of this stuff have you got?’ someone enquires.

‘Oh, pages and pages, maybe thousands of them. If it was published it would be the greatest book on wine ever written…’

Another obsession is motorcycles. He has dreams of seeing one driven wildly up the stone stairs of a church bell tower, he says, crashing through the roof down to the ground just as the bell strikes the hour. He doesn’t own a motorcycle, though, or even a driver’s license, and he can’t drive. A third obsession, the great obsession of his life, is music, specifically his music, which everyone agrees is like no one else’s.

‘Almost every song I write,’ he says, ‘has a line… A line that’s explicitly, specifically sexual…’

Oh, yes? Can he give an example?

“Like, ‘I know you belong, inside my aching heart… And can’t you see my faded Levi’s bursting apart…’ I’m very proud of that line. I call it the boner line. Or, ‘Surf’s up, surf’s up, surf’s up… and so am I…’ A boner line…’

He smiles happily at the thought.

No one at the table knows if he is married – unlikely, as he seems to live alone – or has a girlfriend, or has ever had one. He certainly has no children. He’s happy to admit that he’s, ‘a weird guy’. Maybe he’s never had sex. Who knows? Who knows anything about him at all? Except his name:

Jim Steinman.

Jim invented Meat Loaf. He created him in song. He tried to do it with others, but it worked best when it worked with Meat. And when it did… Meat Loaf was Jim, and Jim was Meat Loaf.

They existed together, or not really at all.

Slow Week

Never allow yourself to feel happy. For a minute maybe, 30 seconds. Anything longer just invites trouble. I have known this for years yet still I fall into the same trap. This time last week I was feeling optimistic. Been hitting the gym hard, not eating bad, not really drinking. Even had some book money come in. Then Monday morning I’m sitting in the armchair with my heat-assisted eye-bandage on – 15 minutes, aids the recovery of my eye glands which dried up after my TWO cataract operations this summer – when the phone rings and I see it is my agent Robert.

Robert is more than agent to me. He is a friend. More than a friend. A literary guru. The man with the plan. A father-figure, in terms of trying to keep my book-writing career alive. And a genuine good guy. He and I discussed an idea he asked me to develop a few weeks back. I spent the next few weeks working on it when I wasn’t doing the things you have to do to feed the tax man. It was hard. Too hard, I thought for the first few days. At my stage, 40 years in as published writer, too hard is the signal usually to give up. But I really liked the idea and kept pushing with it. Until finally…

It became the most absorbing piece of writing I’ve done for some years. I would go to sleep thinking about it, dream of it when I was sleeping, then wake up thinking about it. The more it went on, the better the piece got too. He had only asked me for 2500-3000 words. I ended up with over 4500. I got really excited. Began to realise I had made some sort of breakthrough with my writing. The last time I felt like that was when I was working on my Zeppelin book 10 years ago, doing the italicised passages, which some people (my editor at the time included) hated but most readers loved. Indeed, it’s the defining characteristic of that book, for me. The special sauce.

So anyway after three weeks or so it is with great excitement I send Robert this huge breakthrough I have made. Then spend the next week or so (he never gets back instantly) dreaming of what an amazing fantastic book this is going to be.

Then the call. Midway through the 15-minute eye thing. I take off the heated blind and put the phone to my ear. We talk. And… he hates it. Says it is “toxic.” How he can’t even imagine how he would be able to sell it to any reputable publisher in London. He hates it so much I feel I have actually offended him. I end up doing my best to make him feel better about the rejection.

And I don’t mind. I really don’t. I get it. He’s right. It is toxic. It was meant to be. But toxic isn’t what is selling right now. Not in nicey-nice London publishing circles anyway. I wonder if James Ellroy ever had his agent tell him he had no likeable characters in his books? Which invites the response: “Well, yeah, but then you’re not James Ellroy, Mick.”

Or William Burroughs. Or Charles Bukowksi. Or Brett Easton-Ellis.

I’m just a rock slob writer. Expert of the thing no one proper respects or cares about. Master of unlikeable abyss people.

So… at first I decide I can ‘cheer up’ the piece. Put some ‘heart’ into it. Some love. Then realise a few days later that that’s not gonna help. It needs to go in the bin. I need to come up with something that’s fit-for-purpose. Like David Hepworth and his books. Or Barney Hoskyns. Both of whom I like very much. So I settled down to Barney’s Small Town Talk – and there it was. The thing Robert means. The good stuff. From the heart. About people you do end up caring about. So now I’ve got another idea. Which I hope to get round to. Maybe after Xmas. Or the new same old year.

Tuesday I woke up to the flu. Man flu. Take the pills and power through. Then my accountant emails. I have X-amount of VAT to pay – by Friday. X equalling ALL THE FUCKING MONEY I ACTUALLY HAVE RIGHT NOW, almost down to the penny. More toxicity. So I go out that night for ‘just the one’ with ‘the boys’ – and end up falling over. Wife and kids angry with me. Rightly.

Wednesday. Man flu now full on proper dog shit flu. Possibly aided by unscheduled ‘Irish water’ influenced fall. I can’t walk, can’t talk. Can’t read. I do manage 10 shits within 24 hours though, so that’s something to think about it.

Thursday. Flu flu flu flu flu flu flu. And now depression over my rejected story. I haven’t read it since talking to Robert. No point. It’s gone. I feel foolish ever thinking it was great. Stupid. Offensive. Go out with wife for brief peek at new West Gate Centre in Oxford. Have lunch at Byron’s Gourmet Burgers. Wife manages to hurl half a bottle of hot sauce my way while vigorously shaking to get it out of the bottle. Bald head and glasses covered. As is back of my seat. Much laughter. From my wife and the waiters.

Today. VAT payment went out. I am flat out multiple zeros BROKE. Flu abates though. Great joy. The Dolan Twins release new EXPENSIVE merchandise on website and my teenage daughters suddenly remember who I am and start texting and phoning begging for £50 each to buy stuff.

Great.

 

 

 

 

I’m Doing A Gig

Have a gander at this. I’m doing a gig this Xmas. I’ll tell you more about it shortly. It’s the first of a few. Details for now at this link.

http://www.therobin.co.uk/whats_on/giginfo.asp?gigid=5084