This wasn’t the post I was planning to publish this week, but sometimes plans need to change. I’m also a bit later than I planned, but it was a bit of a struggle to gather my thoughts as this isn’t the kind of post I normally write. I’m sure by now you’ll have heard the news that the singer and actor Meatloaf has died. I’m not generally the kind of person who get’s very upset when celebrities die. These are people I’ve never met so the loss feels intangible somehow. But I this week have found myself drifting back repeatedly to listen to the series of “Bat out of hell” records he made with Jim Stienman, who also passed away recently. Another song, Not a Dry Eye in the House, plays like an earworm in my mind.
It’s got me thinking a bit about the artists who have influenced me. My list is pretty long and not at all coherent. One of the reasons I called this blog “Magpie at Midnight” is because I’m interested in, and influenced by a lot of different things and people. But I don’t often write about all the different things and people that influence my art, and I probably should. Having worked in the sciences and social sciences most of my working life, it was apparent to me that people like me, who indulge in multiple interests, rather than specialising in one, were going out of fashion (I think the tide may be turning on that now though). It’s taken a bit of time to get comfortable with the Magpie side of my nature, but I feel like I’m there now. I’m not sure many people who know me in person now would have me for a Meatloaf fan, or someone who loves the David Suchet adaptations of Poirot, but I am both of these things, as well as loving open water swimming, and cake
If I try to trace the thread between my work and the influence of some of these people, the web becomes tangled pretty quickly. But I can identify what I love about Meatloaf, and the Bat Out of Hell albums. I love the theatre and the drama of them, the fusion of gothic influences, storytelling, themes of declining small town america and rock and roll. If you go back and watch the video of “I would do anything for love”, they manage to channel the Hunchback of Notre Dam, Dracula, and Beauty and the Beast all in one seven minute music video. Some of the song writing on those albums, composed by Jim Stienman, also got a grip on my teenage imagination. Objects in the Rear View Mirror still ticks all of the nostalgic heartbreaking boxes for me.
Beyond the art, we know that Meatloaf was a complex character, who had is own trouble with mental health. While he was a robust a energetic performer, there was also something a little fragile about him too. You got the sense of someone who held their emotions close to the surface of things. I really admire that combination of energy and vulnerability in an artist, that complexity is something that works very well for me.
Now he is gone, and I’m sad about that, which is probably how it should be.
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