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Meat Loaf: ‘There’s much from my childhood I’ve blocked out’

The Bat Out Of Hell singer looks back on his troublesome upbringing, reading Shakespeare and meeting John Lennon

At the age of 16 I was preoccupied with American football. Because I got to hit people. I took my anger out. That’s what I took onto the stage in the late ’70s. In fact, I still take it onto the stage. I was always a performer. I had a folk trio in college and bands in the ’60s. But I didn’t take entertainment seriously until I came to Broadway to do Hair in 1970. People could see I was a bit carefree about acting and they told me if I took it more seriously I could be really good.

My dad was an alcoholic who would disappear for three or four days at a time. I don’t remember him hitting my mother, though that could be blocked out, but he would hit me and throw me around. But alcohol is a disease. I don’t hold a grudge and I love my father. And I take responsibility for my own actions as an adult. As far as I’m concerned, my dad has no part in my personality. When I get mad it’s not my dad’s fault, it’s mine.

I’d want to smack the teenage me if I met him now. He didn’t have his head on straight. My mother was ill with breast cancer for so long, there’s a lot of my childhood that I’ve just blocked out. My mother died when I was 18 and that’s something – maybe a psychologist would help me deal with that but I’m perfectly okay and I don’t want to deal with that. If I could go back to my teenage self I’d tell him not to yell at his mother. Her last words were ‘Where were you?’ because I had run away to California because I couldn’t deal with it. It took me 10 years to deal with her death.

In the music business I’ve always been on the outside looking in because I’m an actor. I admit it. People say if you’re an actor you can’t mean what you sing, you can’t feel things. Tell that to Marlon Brando. Some guys on my Facebook said, ‘I prefer guys who write their own songs’. So I say, ‘Okay, I’ve written songs, I just don’t like them’. A band in England had a hit song that was written by me and John Parr – Bucks Fizz’s Magical.

It took me 10 years to deal with my mother’s death

Because my name is Meat Loaf people think I’m a blithering idiot. I read Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams – I read constantly. I just never wanted to play by the rules. I don’t agree with most of the things any government does. But this last election I sat down with Romney – boy did I take hell for this – and we talked one on one about China, unemployment in Amer-ica and defence issues. People on my Facebook were amazed, they were going, ‘Hey, we didn’t know you were so smart’.

Each song has a different character. I have little triggers I do to bring them to life, tapping my hand or whatever. It’s like a spirit coming into your body. I have a wildness on stage, and if you push the right buttons it comes out offstage too. Like when I was on Celebrity Apprentice and yelled at Gary Busey. Though they didn’t edit it like it went down. And I was very apologetic afterwards.

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I wish I could go back to the day in 1975 I sat down in a New York coffee shop, got my coffee and asked the guy next to me, ‘Could you pass the Sweet’N Low?’ And then I heard his voice and the minute I heard him I knew it was John Lennon. If I had an idol in the music business it was John Lennon. I wanted to talk to him so bad but everything I thought to say, I thought, no that’s stupid. So the only thing I ever said to him was, ‘Thanks for passing the Sweet’N Low.’

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