Meat Loaf — Storytellers-tour 1999-2000
Nothing is more useless than liner notes that try to decribe what you’re already listening to. You’ve got the music, you don’t need someone telling you what it sounds like. But in the spirit of VH1 Storytellers, it might just be worth telling the story behind the album — talking about how this particular recording came to be.
Here’s the lowdown. VH1 has a series called Storytellers in which great singer/songwriters tell a small audience the stories behind how they wrote their best known songs, and then play them. Pretty simple, but very effective television. The idea is that music on TV generally fails when it tries to recapture a big concert experience. So much of what makes a show great at Madison Square Garden — the big stage, the huge speakers, the roaring crowd, the lights, the set, the smoke bombs, the dry ice (okay, I’m dating myself now) just gets lost or comes off as overblown when you’re sitting at home on the couch in your underwear, watching it squeezed down into a little box.
Storytellers goes the other way. The concept behind the TV series is, TV can’t capture what it feels like to see a rock show in a big place — but TV can do one thing really well: it can put you face to face with someone and let them talk to you. Our attitude was, if we can’t make a TV show that feels like a concert hall, let’s go the other way — let’s give people at home an experience no concert hall can duplicate. Let’s give them a chance to have a musician talk and sing to them. Let’s make a show that feels like you’re at a party at a great musician’s house and it gets to be around midnight and someone hands him a guitar and he starts telling you about his songs.
Ray Davies did the first VH1 Storytellers in 1996. He’s a master songwriter and a wonderful raconteur. He proved it could really work. Before Ray’s episode had even aired, a couple of other Brits, Elvis Costello and Sting, agreed to give it a go. By the time Garth Brooks, Billy Joel, and Elton John said they’d take a crack at it, VH1 had a hit series.
Enter Meat Loaf. We talked about Meat Loaf doing the series from day one. His songs are already great stories and he’s the kind of vivid character the camera loves. Hey, the guy’s a serious actor as well as multi-platinum rock star. WHo could be better?
There was just one hang-up (and it’s the sort of thing that bothers no one in the real world but gives us TV-producers an excuse to have meetings to justify our jobs): Meat Loaf doesn’t write his own songs. He has his own sound, his own persona, songs are written FOR him. But like, say Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, Meat doesn’t make up songs for himself. He makes other people’s songs his own. In fact, Meat Loaf does Elvis and Sinatra one better — he sings sons that are written for (and in some ways about) him by his longtime collaborator Jim Steinman.
So we said, let’s do the show with Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman, the man who wrote most of Meat’s hits. Meat Loaf said, Great, that’ll be fun. Steinman agreed, but he was living in London, working on a stage musical with Andrew Lloyd Webber. We had to keep moving the shoot date around to accommodate Steinman’s schedule.
Finally we got a window that worked for everybody: New York City on October 5, 1998. That’s when this album was made.
Around October 3, Meat rolled into town for rehearsals. We’d already been talking about how to make the show work, and Meat had given us lots of great ideas — the first was that he wanted it to not look like it was happening in someone’s living room, but in a locker room. (He said, if you want me to really open up and be at home it’s got to be either a locker room or a kitchen.) We thought that was a pretty good idea and we got to work designing a set.
I arrived at rehearsals with the director and producer and we sat there with our hands in our pockets nodding our heads while Meat Loaf and his band played the songs. Then I got up and started throwing my weight around, saying you gotta do this and don’t forget about that and the stories need to be like this and remember to… Meat Loaf listened with the same expression you have on your face when the cop is giving you the lecture before he gives you the ticket. He nodded and asked if they could try another song. I said go ahead. He cued the band to play "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth." He was singing it great, and when he got to the chorus he handed me the microphone and said,
Now you sing it. I looked at him. He said
SING IT! like the high school gym teacher telling you to get up that damn rope. I sang it. The band grinned. The director and producer tried not to laugh. Meat Loaf took back the microphone and said,
Now you sit down.
Lesson learned. We can all stand up and talk about it, maybe we can even help. But Meat Loaf’s the guy who’s going to DO it.
And when the chips were down, man, he did it great. Every good show starts with a series of disasters. This was no exception. I won’t bore you with the lightning truss or the monitor problems, but the big headache was the last minute word that Steinman was sick in London and wasn’t going to show. We said,
Oh, no, what do we do?> Meat Loaf said,
The show run-through was hilarious. Meat announced he needed a desk, we came up with one. Then he announced he needed one of the men on the crew to lie on the desk. We drafted somebody. Then he announced he needed a woman. One of the producers stepped forward. Okay, meat said, now you have to climb up on the guy and straddle him. You can imagine the protests, laughter, and threats of complaints to be filed with the VH1 human resources department. But Meat Loaf adopted his "Do it for the coach" persona and pretty soon the Storytellers crew were acting out the romantic audience participation section of "Paradise By the Dashboard Lights." (Not to Amy: thanks agtain for not filing the sexual harassment papers.)
Watching Meat and his band lay out the show we knew we had nothing to worry about — This was going to be a blast. But we had a new problem. All the songs were really, really long and all the stories were great — and also long. How the hell would we fit this into a one hour show? More immediately — how the hell would we fit a fifteen minute opus like "Paradise" into the eight minute blocks between commercials?
Leave it to Meat Loaf. He said,
Well, when we get to the place where you have to go to a commercial, I’ll stop and say, The band tried it, we all fell over laughing. We said,
We’ll be back with the rest of this song after these messages.
Can we really do this? Meat said,
Who’s stopping us? That seemed to be a pretty good attitude to take for the rest of the production.
I can’t tell you how much fun that night turned out to be — I don’t have to, you can hear it. Meat drew the studio audience into the show, into the songs, into his world just as he pulled in all of us VH1’ers. What really knocked everybody out was how powerfully Meat Loaf the man uses his training as an actor and his chops as a singer to create something big and grand that somehow, at its core, feels very real and intimate. I have no idea of the depths this guy who used to be M.L. Aday draws on to make his music. But for a sound that is so broad and accessible, it can really shock you whith how deep it can go.
When the Storytellers filming was over and everybody was done slapping each other on the back and taking credit for Meat Loaf’s work, when the last trade shot was snapped and the last fan had filed out of the studio, Meat came out and looked around and said,
I really enjoyed this. I’d like to do it again. In fact, I’d like to buy this set from you and take it with me.
I figured he was kidding, or just caught up in the emotion of what started out rough and turned out to be an extraordinary night. But as usual, Meat Loaf meant what he said. In 1999 he put together a VH1 Storytellers tour and hit the road with the locker room set and the stories to tell, and all those songs that are the soul property of Meat Loaf, but belong to everybody.
Executive Producer, VH1 Storytellers
Kasim Sulton — MD, Bass Guitar, Vocals
Kasim Sulton has been a world class musician since his first professional gig with Todd Rundgren and Utopia in 1976 - ironically the same year he played bass guitar on Bat Out Of Hell.
Since then he has played on dozens of albums with artists as diverse as Patti Smith and Celine Dion. The "Storytellers" tour sees Kasim changing positions from guitarist/keyboardist to bassist and Musical Director. He remains the only person besides Meat himself to appear on every track on Bat 1 and Bat 2.
John Miceli — Drums
Before joining Meat Loaf eight years ago, John toured with Blue Oyster Cult on their 20th Anniversary 1990 National Tour, and with Marchello, CBS recording artists, on their National Debut Tour. In 1997, John teamed up with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow for their "Stranger In Us All" U.S. and European Tours.
John’s musical accomplishments have been recognized by the industry with endorsements from Sonor Drums, Zildjian Cymbals, Gibraltar Hardware, Evans Drum Heads, Vic Firth drum sticks and CAD Microphones.
John was also featured in an international print ad campaign for SONY cassette tapes, which appeared in Rolling Stone, People, Spin, Circus and US Magazine.
When he’s not touring, John teaches drums at the Long Island Drum and Guitar Center, and is publishing two drum instruction books featuring his unique double-bass style; "Lead Switch" and "Sticking In The Foot".
Most importantly, John and his wife, Eve, are the very proud parents of two beautiful children; Anna and Scott.
Patti Russo — Vocals
Having been with Meat Loaf since 1993, she’s come a long way since kicking the bus after she thought het audition didn’t cut it!
When she’s not touring with Meat, she keeps busy doing jingles and working on her own material.
I just want to say thanks again, Meat and Leslie, for taking a chance on me. Oh yeah, hi Mom! Seer! Choomy! Madeline! Zia! Cugini!! Luv ya! You too Marge! If I forgot to mention anyone else, it’s because they probably owe me money! Ha! Ha!!
Pearl Aday — Vocals
Rock and Roll certainly runs in the family! This is Pearls fourth tour with her famous father. No stranger to the music scene, she’s recorded three albums with Meat Loaf and is currently working on a new album with her Los Angeles-based band "Stella". Pearl thanks her beautiful parents and family; her husband; and her faithful friends including "road family" past and present for her wisdom and love of music.
Let us not foreget Curtis and his baby sister!
Ray Andersen — Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals
Ray was born in NYC and grew up in New Jersey, where he currently lives. Listening to his favourite records, he would copy what he heard, but soon realised he couldn’t play chords and melodies on the drums, so he picked up guitar and piano. he’s never had a lesson on any instrument.
In 1991, he maried his songwriter-partner, Patti M. Yodlowsky. They’ve gone on to form a pop/rock project called Blue Van Gogh.
Ray also enjoys working with children. He visits daycare centers and sings kids’ songs he writes, and lets the kids play several instruments as well as strum on his own guitar. He’s got an album coming out of his original kid songs as "Mr. Ray." Check out his official site at www.mrray.com
As if this wasn’t enough to satisfy his musical palate, along comes a call from legendary New York musician, Kasim Sulton, to ask Ray if he would be interested in filling his shoes as guitarist/keyboardist/singer in Meat Loaf’s band! Besides putting two triving projects on hold, there wasn’t much to think about. Bat Out Of Hell supremely knocked the socks off Ray, and he’d been a Meat Loaf fan ever since. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance of performing with one of the greatest Rock and Roll artists of this century?
Tom Brislin — Keyboards, Vocals
Tom Brislin is a New Jersey native who performs as keyboardist, vocalist and songwriter in the New York area. A child prodigy of classical piano, he’s been playing in rock band since the age of ten.
Since then, Tom has performed and/or recorded with artists in many styles of music, including singer/songwriters Glen Burtnik and Patti Rothberg. He makes his major label debut on Meat Loaf’s VH1 Storytellers CD.
Currently, Tom leads the modern-rock band "You Were Spiraling," and produced the band’s three CDs You Were Spiraling, The Hello CD, and the newly released Delusions of Grandeur.
Tom is also author of "The 30-Day Keyboard Workout," an instructional book available from Workshop Arts/Alfred Music Publishing.
Damon La Scot — Guitar
Native New Yorker Daon La Scot is a former major label (Elektra) recording artist with the band Redbelly. Over the years he has recorded, performed and toured with countless other artists.
When not working with Meat Loaf, Damon can be found writing and recording with his new band Polyn8 (with Kenny Aronoff and David Santos).
Damon would like to acknowledge the continued support of LEC, Gibson Guitars & Strings, Mesa/Boogie Amps, Digitech, Rocktron, Pedalboards.com, Seymour Duncan Pickups.
Meat Loaf Touring Personnel
Kasim Sulton: MD, Bass Guitar, Vocals
John Miceli: Drums
Damon La Scot: Guitar
Tom Brislin: Keyboards, Vocals
Ray Andersen: Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals
Patti Russo: Vocals
Pearl Aday: Vocals
Bill Barclay: Tour Manager/Tour Accountant
Mark "Machine" Graham: Assistant Tour Manager
Geoff Perren: Production Manager
Brian Hartley: Lighting Director
George Wehrlin: Sound Engineer
Patrick Murray: Monitor Engineer
Mike Dolan: Drum Technician
Charlie Milton: Guitar Technician
Dave "Pops" Clements: Guitar Technician
Russ Ryan: Keyboard Technician
Rochelle Reber: Wardrobe/Prod. Assistant
Ali Rahimi & John Barle for Mon Atelier, Los Angeles: Wardrobe Design
Tony Mitchell: Carpenter & Rigger
Wayne Bukovinsky: Lighting System Technican
Kevin Marshall: System Technician
Danna Weaver: Band Bus Driver
Mike McCartney: Crew Bus Driver
John Kroko: Crew Bus Driver
Herbie Bayless-Smith: Truck Driver
Bob Ericson: Lead Truck Driver
Photography: PG Brunelli, Kevin Mazur, Timothy White & Meat Loaf’s own collection
Tour Contact Information
Management: Allan Kovac & Jeff Sydney for Left Bank Organisation
Business Management: Bernard Gilhuly for Tribe Management
Agent: Jonny Podell for Renaissance
Record Company: Beyond Music
Tour Management: B.B. Management
International Travel Agent: Natascha Columbus for Valley Travel Group
Publicist: Robin Baum for Huvane, Baum & Halls, Los Angeles
Sound Company: Scorpio Sound Systems, Inc.
Lighting Company: Creative Stage Lighting Co., Inc.
Bus Company: Clarion
Truck Company: Stage Call Corporation
Merchandising Company: Winterland
Merchandiser: Ted Mattes
Art Direction: Christopher Jennings
Tour Book Design: Carrie Toder
Passes: Otto Passes Itinaries: Smart Art Itineraries, LLC
Euphonics Audio, E.O. Mari Strings, Steward Spector Designs, Sonor Drums, Zildjian Cymbals, Dichtech, Gibraltar Hardware, Evans Drum Heads, Vic Firth Sticks, Gibson Guitars, Korg USA, Gibson Strings, Veneman Music, Whirlwind Music, Dunlop USA, Takamine Guitars, John Pearse Strings, Furman Sound, Inc., CAD Microphones and Hammond-Suzuki Corp.