The news this morning was that the singer Meat Loaf had died.
I was never a massive fan.
I thought he was a very very good performer and singer and I enjoyed his work when I heard it, but I was never a massive fan of his music.
What he was like as a person – now that is another matter.
I only encountered him once, when we watched television together, back in 1995.
He was one of the guests on a peaktime ITV series called Jack Dee’s Saturday Night.
It was recorded at the New Wimbledon Theatre in London.
The New Wimbledon Theatre, like most London theatres, is very ‘vertical’. You have the stage at, I think, ground level and multiple storeys above the auditorium and at the back. My memory is that the ‘green room’ for the show was right at the top of the building, at the back. It was certainly quite a climb, so you did not move between stage level and the green room unless you had to.
Meat Loaf was not one of ‘my’ acts; I was not looking after him. But we ended up at the top of the building in the green room alone together. I think I may have made us a cup of tea and we sat and watched television together.
It can’t have been broadcast television; it must have been a feed from the stage, where rehearsals were happening. So we just sat there – in two comfortable armchairs, if my memory serves me right – intermittently watching what was happening downstairs and chatting about nothing in particular.
Earlier, I had seen him rehearsing on-stage with his backing group. I don’t know if this was his regular band or if he had just picked them up for his European gigs. He was very much in command, directing them how to ‘perform’ the music, how to add swagger and dramatic movements to their performance.
It was not just them playing music; it had to be a ‘performance’. He was this grandiose OTT rock star and they were his dramatic backdrop.
But the man I was watching television and drinking tea with was just an ordinary man. No airs and graces and drama and false superiority. No ‘I am a star’ stuff. No acing out a persona. Just an ordinary amiable human being relaxing, whiling away some time in a room with a passing stranger.
Of course, most ‘stars’ are like that. Alas not all. But he seemed particularly ‘ordinary’ (I say that as a big compliment). Particularly comfortable to be with.
I have no idea what he was like with other people the rest of the time. But I have always remembered him as amiable, gentle and relaxed. Not at all the loud, OTT, self-centred ‘performer’.
The first time I was really aware of him was when I saw his Meat Loaf-type performance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He commanded the screen. But I was also very impressed with his gentle, vulnerable performance in Fight Club. Two totally different performances.
And that’s what I remember from that afternoon in 1995.
A great, rip-roaring on-stage performance by Meat Loaf and his band.
And a quiet, soft-voiced ‘ordinary’ and very very likeable man drinking tea and chatting with me about nothing in particular while waiting to be called downstairs to perform.
I am, of course, too sensible to say that he has now been called upstairs.
But I have always remembered him as a nice man. For me, that is a big compliment.
In 2003, while reporting on Meat Loaf’s support for Hartlepool United football club, the BBC claimed that he was thinking of buying a house in Hartlepool.
You gotta luv him just for that.