THE 1980s was something of a golden era of international caliber musicians adorning stages in County Clare. Admittedly, it was the draw of Lisdoonvarna alone that pulled the likes of Jackson Browne, UB40, Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher and many more to the Banner County but as the decade ended and Ireland were preparing for Italia 90, the great showman Meat Loaf ended up on a stage on the fringes of Ennis town.

It’s a curious historical occurrence that the man behind Bat Out Of Hell, still one of the biggest selling records of all time, ended up playing to between 2,500 and upwards of 5,000 fans (there are varying reports) in an arena in Clare where usually horses could be found jumping fences. In the wake of news of Meat Loaf’s passing today aged 74, The Clare Echo looks back on the much-talked about visit to Ennis.

In a career spanning six decades, Meat Loaf (Michael Lee Aday) sold more than 100 million albums worldwide and starred in dozens of Hollywood movies including Fight Club. As with any long-spanning career there would be peaks and troughs; his 1977 debut album Bat Out of Hell put the singer firmly on the map with singles including You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad and Bat Out of Hell taking the world by storm. As his career progressed into the 1980s, he would briefly part with songwriter Jim Steinman and with it, his commercial success took a sizeable hit (until the emergence of the Steinman-written I Would Do Anything For Love in the early ‘90s).

It was the Swarbrigg brothers Tommy and Jimmy, of Eurovision fame, who were responsible for the Texan hit-maker’s visit to Ireland where his touring list included venues such as the Dundrum Hotel in Tipperary, the Moate Community Hall, and the Showgrounds in Ennis.

A Ronan Casey article written for loudersound.com recounts the events surrounding his visit. “With his record deal about to go too, old Meat was a goner. He was reduced to touring ‘intimate’ venues — the types he would have ignored long before Bat Out of Hell broke. But he still had pockets of fans in Ireland and the UK he could depend on.

“The rural rockers of Ireland, in particular, are the type of loyal fan every star craves. So long as there’s a fella throwing shapes with a loud guitar and an act who’ll play the hits, they’ll go for it. And so, in 1989 and 1990, Meatloaf was booked on a ramshackle tour of some of Ireland’s worst community centres, ballrooms, hotel function rooms and other assorted sheds suddenly deemed good enough to host rock royalty. He even turned up in a few fields.”

Queue the Showgrounds Ennis. Among those with memories of the night include Bonaventure Slattery from St Michael’s Villas, who worked as a doorman at Dillinger’s Bar in the Market at the time. He was among those enlisted to work backstage security that night which was organised locally by then Dillinger’s owner Seamus Lynch. It was a summer’s night and no doubt a sweaty affair under the shed which is more accustomed to hosting pony jumping, and indeed the odd circus or carnival over the years.

“The place went wild,” recounted Bon, who says Bat Out of Hell was one of the best albums he purchased in the 1970s. “There were five to seven thousand in attendance, a big crowd for there. There was a great atmosphere, it was one of the biggest gigs to come to Ennis, you could say.”

“My memories of the night was people trying to get in backstage, and I tried to keep them back out. I also remember the man himself, Meat Loaf, coming around backstage to take on oxygen because he was a chronic asthmatic, after every tune he had to take oxygen.”

In recent years, Meat Loaf had spoken openly about his asthma issues, which had led to him collapsing on stage in Wembley in 2003 and Pittsburgh in 2011 (he failed to mention Ennis). His reported asthma problems didn’t stop him producing a brilliant performance in Ennis and he allegedly had the energy to crash a graduation night for St Patrick’s Comprehensive School at the Clare Inn later that night.

While it’s been recounted that Meat Loaf threatened to leave the stage in Moate after being bombarded by flying cans from the audience, Bon recounts there were no major security incidents on the night in Ennis. “Not at all, anyone that went there enjoyed it and they were there to see Meatloaf.” Reflecting on the night, he adds that doing security for Meat Loaf became “something to talk about. It was grand. I did a lot of security in bars and hotels but that was the first time I did a gig. And the last time!”

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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