Chance encounters can spur all kinds of unexpected opportunities. A few years ago I was standing outside The Paradise Club in Kensal Green when a woman called Patti started talking to me whilst smoking a cigarette. She explained that she was a singer. I replied, pointing out that I also played a bit of music, ran events and did a bit of coaching and consulting. I offered her my business card at the end of our chat and thought no more of the matter.
The following morning she called me and asked to meet up in Kensington at her favourite hotel. It turned out that she was Meatloaf’s singing partner over many years and had also performed as a lead singer with Queen. Patti explained that she had not sung for a year after Meat sacked her by text, due to his own declining ability to sing at the end of his career. Devastated, Patti asked if I would help her to pick up the pieces. Here is Patti performing ‘The Show Must Go On‘ with Queen.
Having also worked with Dr Raj Persaud, Harley Street psychiatrist and BBC Radio 4 anchor for “All in the Mind”, I am aware that celebrities often expect better than a ‘friendly co-pilot’ approach to coaching, but they also have fragile egos. This is a difficult mixture if you are to engender any positive transformation and challenge sacred cows.
Patti and I arranged to meet in London for several ‘tough love’ coaching encounters over a few months. In our initial dialogue, it quickly became obvious that Patti is a tough cookie with a soft centre who constantly wants to power herself forwards rather than dwell on the past or present. But all of her valuable skills and life experiences were located in the past. I decided at the outset to insist that we go backwards before going forwards. This was quite hard for someone who works at the speed of sound.
As a feisty Italian New Yorker with rock’n’roll in her blood and a great deal to say, Patti got used to me asking her to stop by saying the magic words “shut the f… up” a lot! I realise that this is not a recognised technique mentioned by coaching gurus! However, it proved to be an essential ritual to keep her on track.
I helped her pick the most sensible options from her many dreams and desires. Artists are often great divergers and dreamers. I insisted that Patti pick goals and pathways that combined her many talents, thus making any plan pragmatic and sustainable. After considerable reflection, categorisation and analysis of Patti’s many options, we came up with a career map which eventually guided her to make some positive choices:
The road to success
Coaching is often a mental preparation sport, but music is an experiential artform. I considered that talking therapies were therefore insufficient to achieve the desired changes and set about supporting Patti with some sense of ‘rehearsal’ for her reinvention. To help her back on the rock’n’roll road to recovery, I invited her to be a secret guest for a corporate gig I had organised at Henley Business School. It was a massive success.
During the event I called Patti to perform with the band, saying “What’s your name? Oh, OK Patti. You look like a rocker. What songs can you sing?” then she launched straight into ‘Dead Ringer For Love’ by Meatloaf and ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ by Queen, to the utter astonishment of an audience of business executives.
Driving back after the event, Patti was overwhelmed by emotion, laughing, crying, primal screaming and so on, all the way back from Henley to South-East London. I had not realised the impact that playing with a live band after a year of silence would have on her. Although she had not told me, it seemed that the evening had demonstrated that she could sing again and this was a huge release for her. It proved to be something of a tipping point in terms of Patti’s propulsion forward. Here’s Patti performing with Meatloaf in better times:
Patti eventually embarked on a theatrical career alongside a solo singing career, touring as lead vocalist with Symphonic Rhapsody of Queen. Her kind words about my coaching have stayed with me till this day.
There are a wealth of life lessons from Patti’s story:
- Chance favours the prepared mind. Had I not given Patti my card, none of this would have happened.
- If you are coaching someone, it helps to deliver the service in a way that respects their preferred way of receiving guidance. Personalisation of personal services is key.
- Finding ways to move the person from thought to action is pivotal to ensure that there is some positive change and impact.
Musicians face a very tough environment these days and sometimes this kind of support can be invaluable on the road to success. For example, the digital environment of streaming means that you can be relatively famous and extremely poor, as royalties from Spotify are wafer thin. Brexit has restricted free movement of all but the most famous artists, due to all kinds of restrictions on transportation of equipment, VAT on merchandise and complex bureaucracy, now that we are a third country. And the digital environment makes things harder, as music crosses borders freely, whilst humans do not.
Patti was in the enviable position of having one of her songs being considered as a James Bond theme tune for the film ‘Spectre’. But then arguments about the track, ‘When It Comes To Love’, erupted as a couple of people in another country appropriated the song, remixed it and claimed ownership. Sometimes rock’n’roll and business don’t mix!
I also helped Bernie Tormé, former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillian, on his path to reinvention. Bernie credited me on an album cover next to Arthur Brown. Cool as ….
Working with extraordinary people provides an excellent palette of skills to work with anyone needing to gain focus in their business or life in general.
I cannot finish this article without a celebration of Bernie’s work in the form of a song I composed and recorded in his honour with a bunch of musicians from across the world. A citizen of Dublin, Bernie was unusual in the world of music in so far as he spoke out on the perils of Brexit for musicians.