Saturday 1 May 2021

Obituary: The Wolf with the Red Roses

That's Meatloaf. He had the stage presence, the voice, the phrasing, the deep down, dark, dangerous sexuality. 
This is Jim Steinman - he's the wolf in the intro to Hot Summer Night in the clip above.

Jim Steinman, genius and songwriter. Born: 1 November 1947 on Long Island, New York State. Died: 19 April 2021 in Connecticut, aged 73.
 He died of kidney failure, leaving behind a unique musical legacy, which, as he said, was heightened, oversized, gigantic, thrilling and just a little bit silly.
 Here's an anecdote for you. 
A long, long time ago, mr ishmael and I were beginning our 35-year love story. We were driving north to a holiday cottage in the Lake District for a long and, hopefully, dirty weekend - it's very muddy up by the Lakes. I was sulking. This was because mr ishmael didn't approve of holidays. What? Live in someone else's house? Just when I've got ours comfortable? And pay for it? When we're already paying the mortgage on our house? All my books are here. My guitars. My piano. My music. My Amstrad. My kitchen. My chef's knives. What is there in the Lake District that we haven't got better here? Walks? What's the point of that? We've got two very rather nice cars, we don't need to walk about, wasting our time when I could be writing. And so mr ishmael made us late setting off. He did this a lot. Then blamed me for stressing (calm down. The ferry will wait. No, it won't. Well, sometimes it did. Then all the rest of the passengers gave us the evil eye as we slunk into the passenger lounge.) 
No ferries, however,  were involved on this occasion, just the Great North Road, beloved of John Buchan, transformed by some evil daemon into a motorway. So we started our drive north very late in the day. I radiated stress, because I feared we would be beaten away from the door of the holiday let. No mobile phones back then. The John Buchan stories having failed to coax me from my sulk in the swiftly- gathering night, mr ishmael indicated to leave the motorway and head up the side road to the Services. What are you doing? We need to make time.
I'm sorting everything out. calm down.
 And he did. 
Straight into the phone box, told a pack of lies which involved vehicular catastrophe, fortunately not fatal, all alright now, but we'll be a bit late, sorry. It worked, of course. The door would be left open for us.
I went for a pee, and mr ishmael dived into the Motorway Services shop to browse the music tapes. That would take another half hour - that and the purchase of tobacco and essential driving chocolate to stave off the munchies, so I flounced off, still sulking, to sit in the car. 
He pranced out, brandishing this tape. You'll like this, he said.

And I did. 
I'd been too busy, what with study, motherhood, and work, to keep up. Kind of frozen at Bob Dylan and Ian Dury. Meatloaf had not registered, until that night, roaring up the black motorway, with Bat out of Hell at maximum volume. Bat Out of Hell was dark and sexy, a strange mix of the Gothic and the contemporary, cars and motorbikes mixed with bats and damnation. And wolves with red roses. It worked.
Meatloaf and Steinman. Saved that weekend.

Oh, yes, when we did eventually fetch up at that cottage, it was a bit like Withnail and I arriving at Uncle Monty's cottage. More than a touch of we've come on holiday by mistake. Dark and cold, set in an isolated pitch black field. And we couldn't find the light switch. By then, though, everything was funny. And we had the chocolate.


Bungalow Bill said...

Lovely story, Mrs I. I'm like you, can't stand the stress of lateness and the risk of embarrassment. Very English.

mrs ishmael said...

Thanks, mr bb. mr ishmael was a lastminutearian. And, of course, he wasn't really English. Not referring to the Polish plumbing streak - more the Belfast element and the Irish passport.
If mr ishmael invited you out to lunch for 1:00pm, it would be best to have a good feed at home at 12.30 in secret. He never grasped the fact that, during the latter half of the 20th century, pubs and restaurants didn't serve after 2:00pm. And he didn't really like eating out and having other people cook his food. Not a phobia, just the consequence of having worked in the catering business in his teens and twenties, so he knew What Goes On in kitchens. So the pursuit of lunch out was generally doomed. He wouldn't like the look of such and such a place, there was absolutely nothing on the menu he could eat in that other place; even when one had got as far as sitting at a table and ordering, if the food didn't arrive within 15 minutes, he would say get your coat we're not hanging about here. We'd fetch up at a place he thought looked acceptable, stride confidently in and ask for the menu. Sorry, sir, the kitchen's closed. Closed? What about a sandwich? Sorry sir, chef goes home at 2:00pm. Is there bread? Is there beef? Can you put them together? Maybe a few crisps on the side? Sorry, sir, I'm not allowed. And we're closing now.

mongoose said...

I used to eat lunch out every day Monday to Friday, mrs i. Often out on my own with my bag of brushes but at least two days per week with a team of folks at some project site. Paid well and expected to work hard we usually had a thin lunch hour. So that's three or four lunches every weekday for 15 or 20 weeks. And we don't care what it costs because the client is paying our expenses. But it has to be ordered and be here within five or ten mins or we'll have to rush or leave it - because it's five mins here in the car and five back and and and. And we were talking a sandwich and a bowl of chips not lobster tails and champagne foam yackety-yack bollocks. Eating food for working people in a hurry. I lost count of the number of places that couldn't, wouldn't, didn't want the money.

Great story, mrs i.

mrs ishmael said...

Have I told you the tale of the kidneys, mr mongoose? Well, even if I have, it's worth re-telling. mr ishmael and I had gone on holiday by mistake again, this time to Richmond in North Yorkshire. I had selected the cottage from a brochure, for its charming furnishings, its location near that big river they have there, and the idyllic walled garden. The owners greeted us effusively. A married couple, they were both boys with perfect taste in interior design and garden planting. They said that we must, we absolutely must, go to this many-starred restaurant for lunch, because the food is to die for.
mr ish eventually gave in - mainly because he wanted to get out of the holiday let - a basement flat; it was damp, cold and dark, and the charming furniture had mildew. A pleasant drive across the moor - and I can't remember the name of the place,to a restaurant in a remote, countryside location, with lots of expensive cars in the car park. I had booked a table, so they let us in. The menu was limited to three dishes. A good sign, said mr ishmael. That means they are cooking food instead of pulling out a pack of food prepared and frozen in some remote industrial kitchen. And the menu is inventive. I'm looking forward to this. We'll have the kidneys.
The wait time was not excessive and the kidneys arrived. The presentation was flawless. Large circular plates. There was an outer circle of halved,face down, brown kidneys, surrounding an inner circle of halved, red kidneys, face up, with the white tubules prettily contrasting with the bleeding kidney. At the centre of the dish, yet more halved kidneys were raw and purple, with the tubules resembling cauliflower florets.
mr ishmael stared at his plate of kidneys. I tried to slice some cooked bits of kidney from mine, but couldn't bring myself to eat the raw tissue.
Stop that, whispered mr ishmael, forcefully, still staring at his own plate in outraged disbelief. This is raw offal. You can't eat raw offal. You will contract a disease. Do you know the function of the kidneys? They process urine. My lunch smells of pee.
The waiter, noticing that mr ishmael had not picked up his knife and fork, asked if anything was amiss.
If you don't know, I can't tell you.
Chef appeared from the kitchen and offered to make mr ishmael an omelette.
I wouldn't dare eat it.

mongoose said...

The English, eh, mrs i? Dear me. On my own one day in sunny Alton -for a morning meeting. Yet another brewery job, it was almost in the bag without the tra-la. I did the deed and then sounded out the beautiful half-timbered place a quarter mile from site. Jesus, job sold and lunch pub found on the Sales Meeting day. I'd be a hero again.

Spying some beautiful rare roast beef, I asked of the lady "I'll have a beef and tomato sandwich, and a bowl of chips, please". Didn't do sandwiches. Could do a beef ploughman's for a tenner or so. (A tedious game of managing the margin, a ploughman's being a thief's sandwich laid out on a plate with a pickled onion and some shit squirted from a filthy bottle at the last minute.) "You have bread and beef and tomatoes..." No, Sir. "OK, can my beef ploughman's consist of beef, bread, a bit of butter, and a tomato?" Yes. "Sold. And bag of chips on the side, please." To her credit the lady sliced me a mountain of thin slicelets of beef. I made my own sandwich. Until that time, the most expensive beef sandwich in the history of the world. It was fantastic. And I never went back.

mrs ishmael said...

It's the downright churlishness, mr mongoose. We'll open the kitchen when we want. We'll serve you what we want. In our own time. Normally a deeply courteous man, mr ishmael could be driven to bitter rantings by the assumption that everybody has a restaurant (not a novel) inside them, and all they need to do is buy up some semi-derelict property in an inaccessible location, invest in a microwave and a deep fat fryer and live the dream. No tradition or training in cooking - they've watched a couple of episodes of Masterchef, and when their friends came round to dinner, they were politely complimented and told they should open a restaurant. No, They Shouldn't.Really. Shouldn't.The catering business is not just about being able to produce food that looks good. It's about health and hygiene certificates, not poisoning the idiot customers with raw offal, managing the staff so that they don't put their fingers in the soup and wipe them on their arses, being polite to the paying customers and never, ever, saying Enjoy. mr ish was particularly enraged by the black apron on the waiting staff. The black apron hides the dirt, the food stains, the grease, the hairs. The staff are put into them rather than white aprons precisely because it reduces the laundry bill, not because it looks cool. He wasn't keen on long, untied hair, long fingernails painted in dark shades so that the rime of dirt under the nails can go undetected, when the fingers go in the soup or risotto.
He was ok with fish and chip shops. Food cooked fresh at high temperatures right there in front of your eyes and served to you in one-use-only cardboard trays or paper cones. A poke of chips was always acceptable. And a damn sight more affordable than your beef ploughman's sandwich.
I wonder if there are statistics on a reduction in food poisoning since the restaurants were closed under Covid regulations?