Friday, 4 October 2013

Meat Meat Meat

The album, Bat Out Of Hell, has been knocking around for a few months but isn’t setting the world alight, and there are rumours that people at the record company – Epic, part of the CBS empire – actually hate it.

An interview with Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman, the real Batman, is arranged in a Manhattan apartment and I take along my blankety blank notebook and pen for company.

Meat Loaf and Steinman may sound like a firm of quirky lawyers but in reality they are the Laurel and Hardy of soda-pop soliloquy.

Bat Out Of Hell, is an hour-long adolescent insurrection. Its Bazooka Joe passion comes, quickly, over motorbikes and breasts, Coupe de Ville's and football games, lubricated love and fat wet dreams. The hero, wearing faded Levis that can apparently burst apart at will, feels ‘the fever grow’ and Meat Loaf’s fat, wet voice grows along with it, splish-splashing through the Spector-sized production courtesy of Todd Rundgren.

Jim Steinman has written all the songs on Bat Out Of Hell, songs concerned with the amplification of reality − his words told to yours truly as Meat, Jim and I sip brandy from crystal glasses.

Meat Loaf, a.k.a. Marvin Lee Aday, is as big as the biggest night club bouncer you’ve ever laid eyes on. But it’s a syncopated bigness – sometimes, when the moon’s in the right place, he looks half the size.

‘I left Dallas when I graduated,’ he recalls. ‘I was always drunk, playing basketball and running.’

Running? You did say ‘running’?

‘Yeah, I ran five miles every day for eleven years.’

I wonder what would he have looked like if he’d only walked?

Jim, with his long hair and cute eyes, is a front man waiting to happen.  ‘We started work on these songs in '76 after some exploratory sessions the year before.’

Meat:− ‘We would have completed it earlier only we're both perfectionists.’

I mention that the album has been compared, in feel, ambition and technique, to Springsteen at his finest

‘Yeah, but when I hear Springsteen I think of the Who,’ says Jim dismissing the comparison. ‘It's the resonances, the reverberations, the echoes. It's simply 1966 rock ’n’ roll.

‘Our songs are a series of heroics. An amplification of reality, a glorification of fantasy. There hasn’t been a lot of that in the last few years. Fleetwood Mac are a glorification of what's already real. Everything musical at the moment seems so homogenised. The seventies has been a decade of languidness. The sixties was a decade of rock ’n’ roll.

‘But everyone got older and left rock behind them. They've dispensed with the heroics and are now dealing with interior forces. We all live too comfortably. That's why we like FM radio. Universal fantasies are projects in a changing environment. Impulses and sexual desires haunt rock ’n’ roll songs. A Stevie Wonder arrangement can be just as fanatical as an Elvis Costello arrangement.

‘The songs on the album are a combination of all my dreams, all my obsessions. But it's essentially sarcastic. A lot of the most dramatic moments on 'Bat' are sarcastic. That doesn't mean to say I find “teenage” a disparaging term. Rock ’n’ roll is teenage. It's narcissistic. Teenage is one of the most pure American terms I’ve ever heard.’

Jim has managed to vinylise his dreams. And vinylised dreams last longer.

And the last thing you see is your heart.

Before I go home, CBS insist on flying me to Fort Worth to catch an Earth Wind & Fire concert and I duly oblige. Texas is covered with thick snow, the first they’ve seen in these here parts in years. As I walk along the city’s supersonic streets, I know this is the shape of things to come and it gives me a warm glow inside.  And the women are dynamite, as the bell hop informs me, ‘If you’re interested.’

Why must I be a teenager in love (give or take a few years)? 

Earth Wind & Fire are magnificent. I loved the That’s The Way Of The World album back in the early seventies and these guys are now really well hung, like a good salami.  I’m in Texas, I’m in love, I’m in the phone booth it’s the one across the hall. My positive review in Record Mirror puts me one step closer to the trip of a lifetime.

Then I return to London. It‘s back in the old routine. A great routine, sure, but it’ll never make me rich.

Funny, I’d never thought about money until I proposed to Dina. Greek Cypriots are, in the main, devoutly avaricious and it does rub off after a while. I start to look at pop stars and music moguls, who laugh and dance and sing ‘till dawn, in a different way and I realise I’m merely a guest with blisters on my fingers and bells on my toes. I’m renting but they own the freehold. Dina makes me want to own the freehold.

For the first time in my life, I feel the itch of ambition in my boxers.

The Record Mirror’s Reader’s’ Annual Poll Awards make for grim reading. T. Rex win best group and best album with the awful Dandelion In The Underworld while the male singer award goes to Marc Bolan, who’s been dead for months.  The sympathy vote prevents Queen winning everything, though they do get best single with ‘We Are The Champions,’ narrowly beating ‘God Save The Queen’.

Even Gloria Jones, Marc’s lover and the original Northern Queen of Soul who was also injured in the fatal crash, wins best female singer, and all she’d done last year was work with Gonzalez who had a solitary hit with ‘I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet’ which she also wrote. Gloria was the first person to record ‘Tainted Love’ in 1965.

The best new band category is won by the Boomtown Rats followed by the Tom Robinson Band and the Stranglers.

Record Mirror readers are weird.

My first back-in-town feature of the year is getting down and dirty with cosmopolitan London combo Bethnal made up of two Greek Cypriots, a Jamaican and a white man in Hammersmith Palais. They’re talented musicians who play souped-up hard rock dressed as punk, and their USP is the strong-arm violin of George Csapo.

The hard part is the PR.

Hence the idea to hold the interview at lunch time in hand job’s fair city where the girls are so pretty. A Soho strip club in 1978 is Midnight Cowboy meets Eraserhead, dark and deceitful, a Fanny by gaslight flashing parlour for the deeply disturbed. I love it, but that’s probably down to the line of speed that has just stormed up my nose and stolen my heart.  How’s your day at work?

It turns out the main stripper has been chatted up by one of the guys in the band in the pub over the road an hour earlier. He’s blissfully unaware of her occupation and is made up when he manages to get her telephone number. Now, as she sits on a swing with her legs apart, wearing nothing but a bonnet and a smile, the look on her face when she spots Michael is priceless.  The look on his is pricier and he takes some monstrous pisstaking, but I’m kinda envious. A date with a stripper sounds pretty cool, especially if she brings her own swing.

And bonnet.

Next instalment: Sham 69 in Glasgow 

 © Barry Cain 2013


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