Usually, I wouldn't dream of reviewing a programme presented by Kate Thornton. The frontwoman of ITV's X Factor has one of the most annoying and transparent manners around, and I want no part in helping the pushy little minx to clamber yet further up the greasy pole. But, pop pickers, a new Radio 2 series called Ten Million Can't Be Wrong (Wednesdays, 10pm) has proved impossible to resist, for all that Thornton is at its helm. You see, some things in life are bigger than all of us - Thornton included. One of these things is Meat Loaf.
Yeaarrgh! Meat Loaf! Come on, don't pretend you're not a little bit interested. In my experience, there is something about Meat Loaf that gets people going - even people who, like me, claim to find him deeply embarrassing. We headbang in time to "[I Can See] Paradise By the Dashboard Light" even as we clench our buttocks. I may not know a lot about life, but I do know this: you cannot tell only by looking at a man whether he knows all the lyrics to "Bat Out of Hell". One minute, your dinner-party guest is a Philip Schofield lookalike with a thing for the novels of Anita Brookner. The next, he's singing: "Oh, I swear I saw a young boy/Down in the gutter/ He was starting to foam in the heat," into the neck of the nearest Burgundy bottle. It's terrifying.
As its name suggests, this new four-parter tells the stories of albums that have sold more than ten million copies worldwide - of which Bat Out of Hell is one. Actually, it's a wildly misleading title for a series (unless the funsters at Radio 2 are being
ironic, which I doubt) because of course ten million
people can be wrong - at the turntable as in the voting booth. Even Meat himself acknowledged this by comparing Bat Out of Hell to a car crash. "You don't want to be in the road traffic accident," he said, "but you definitely want to look at it." He described his partners in crime - Jim Steinman, who wrote the songs, and Todd Rundgren, who produced them - as "these weird guys".
Meat was the filling (full-fat) in this somewhat sticky radio sandwich. It was his voice that joined together all the barmy bits of music, leaving Thornton to read the minutest of scripts - a very good thing. Her voice is deadly dull, while Meat was delightfully waspish and camp for a rock star, more Russell Grant than Axel Rose. When executives at CBS first heard a demo of Bat Out of Hell, they complained there was too much vibrato in his voice. "I am nothing but vibrato," he told them. Radio 2 is extremely good at dishing up this kind of stuff: shows that are both nerdish and funny and which, therefore, appeal to two constituencies. I for one can never get enough of classic albums, but I do like their virtues to be detailed by a presenter who has his or her tongue firmly, though not too firmly, in one cheek. You need a clever, wry presenter for this - not the
flotsam and jetsam washed up by TV reality shows.
Perhaps Meat should have his own podcast. Yes, I have got into podcasting at last. I've never been able to make the "Listen Again" facility on the BBC's website work, but now I find that many of the best shows on Radio 4 - and elsewhere - also come as podcasts, to be downloaded for free via iTunes. This is excellent news, and I've no idea why James Naughtie sounds so snotty whenever he mentions Today's efforts in the field. I love podcasts. There's nothing better than listening to Start the Week at a time when you have . . . started - which, in my case, is about an hour later than Andrew Marr and his plugtastic guests.