December 28, 2015 was a day that everyone knew was inevitable but the news was still a complete shock. One of Rock N’ Roll’s most colorful icons, Lemmy Kilmister, was dead. It hit many like a baseball bat to the face, myself included. The words “Lemmy is dead!” being used in the same sentence seemed impossible. We all thought he would live forever or at least outlive Cher, Keith Richards and cockroaches. Sadly, the news was true.
At first, I was severely bummed at the news. I still have my moments! Although I did not know Lemmy personally, it still feels like losing your favorite Unkle. The fact he died still sucks but I soon realized that Lemmy wouldn’t want anyone to feel down about his passing. Instead, he’d want us to celebrate him, his life, his music, his charm, his humor, his wisdom and his uncompromising spirit! So, that’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what this piece is for…..
I first saw Lemmy when at five years of age, in 1983, my sister was babysitting for our neighbors one weekend. She had MTV on and up pops this video for a band called Motörhead, the song was “Ace Of Spades”. I was struck that his head was titled upwards to the microphone above his head. I’d never seen anyone sing like that nor had I ever heard a voice like that. What also struck me is that unlike a lot of the other bands my siblings liked, who were six and eight years older than me, was he didn’t look like all the other guys in Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Wham or Michael Jackson. Lemmy looked like one of the bikers who frequented the bars my Mom tended bar in. To me, bikers were the coolest people on earth with their tattoos, long hair, denim n’ leather and drinking n’ smoking so Lemmy was automatically cool in my five year old eyes.
Fast forward to 1987, my siblings are having a party. The TV is blasting through the stereo and up shoots these videos, back-to-back, unsure if it was MTV or someone popped in a VHS tape. That cool looking biker dude who sings weird, in more ways than one is in both of them. In one, he is riding a motorcycle…..a-ha, he is cool but in the other he sings a lyric that cracks me up, “Sittin’ here in a plaid tuxedo. You wanna see my bacon torpedo!” From then on, I was constantly singing that lyric until one day I sang it in front of my Mom. She about shit! She asked what I was singing so I told her about the video. She quickly explained to me what the lyric was about which made it even cooler! It wasn’t until years later that I learned he wasn’t singing “plaid” but was instead singing “Sittin’ here in a hired tuxedo. You wanna see my bacon torpedo!” Ohhhh, to be nine years old again.
Over the next eight years Motörhead remained on my radar through Lemmy’s work with Ozzy and through articles in magazines like Metal Edge, Hit Parader, RIP, etc. It wasn’t until my Junior year of High School in Goddard, KS. when I placed in a foster home there and I met a guy at school named Matt who was into many of the same bands I was at the time that I truly became a fan of Lemmy & Motörhead. Matt gave me a couple of tapes, “1916” and “March Or Die” after I told him of my limited knowledge of Motörhead. That summer I purchased my first Motörhead CD, the newly released “Sacrifice” and was hooked. Motörhead became an obsession. I had almost twenty years of history to catch up on and I did so by hitting Yesterday’s Discs for all their back catalog. I had them order me the t-shirt with the “Sacrifice” cover on the front and they hooked me up with a 12”x12” promo flat of the album. I was officially a Motörheadbanger!
My foster parents were devout Catholics and were always opposed to my appearance, sense of humor and taste in music. I was forbidden to have posters in my bedroom except on the wood panel closet doors. You shoulda seen their faces when they discovered promo flats for “Sacrifice” alongside Danzig’s “Thrall:DemonSweatLive”, Megadeth’s “Youthanasia”, KISS’ “Revenge”, Poison’s “Native Tongue”, Izzy Stradlin & The JuJu Hounds and a Metallica “Scary Guy” centerfold tacked up on their precious property. They attended church 3-4 times a week so it wasn’t uncommon to be dragged along wearing a shirt from some of my favorite bands. Imagine how much more they would have prayed for my salvation had they noticed Snaggletooth’s tongue was a penis!
The early 2000’s saw Lemmy collaborate with Slim Jim Phantom and Danny B. Harvey on an album of Rock N’ Roll & Rockabilly standards, they later christened themselves “HeadCat”, lend his talents to multiple tribute albums, release his autobiography “White Line Fever” while Motörhead started a successful collaboration with WWF/WWE & won a Grammy in 2005. In late 2003, my wife and I divorced. I spent the winter holed up in my new apartment reading Lemmy’s book, Waylon Jennings autobiography and Neil Peart’s “Ghost Rider”. Those book got me through a difficult and messy time. For my birthday on May 14th 2004, I purchased Motörhead’s five CD boxed set “Stone Deaf Forever”. It was the ultimate birthday present as it came with a replica gig poster from a gig that happened on my birthday in 2002.
In 2001, Lemmy lent his trademark growl to the tune “The Law” by Hair Of The Dog or as some may remember them by, HOTD. My buddy Mike was their drummer at the time so I’ve heard the story of that infamous session but it never gets old so I reached out to HOTD frontman/rhythm guitarist Ryan Cook for his memory of that session. He provided me with a photo from that day and this memory of it, “In the late 90’s, Hair of the Dog was the opening act for Motörhead. Lemmy & Co. were kind and accommodating & we all became fast friends. When we recorded our next album, Ignite, I wrote a song (The Law) with Lemmy in mind and he was kind enough to sing it with me on our record. When we asked him about compensation, how much we needed to pay him for his services, he said “A bottle of Jack and a bag of Ruffles.”
Not only was Motörhead’s music and anything Lemmy collaborated on a must have. I’d read anything I could on the subjects as well as watch any interviews with Lemmy that were online. His charm and humor were addictive. A lot of people do not realize that underneath all the Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ roll was a very well read and self-educated man. He was a walking encyclopedia when it came to history especially military histories as well as the history of Rock N’ Roll. His lyrics were poetic and often deep. Subjects such as injustice were touched upon in “Brave New World”, the harsh reality of incest is brought front and center in “Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me” while “1916” is a tribute to & reflection on young soldiers who died in battle during World War I, specifically the Battle of the Somme.
I was religious in purchasing anything Lemmy over the last 20 years. In March 2009, my ex and I went to California on vacation to visit my friends & family. We were scheduled to photograph the Big Elf show at The Key Club on March 5th. Prior to the show we met up with Mike Dupke for dinner at the LEGENDARY Rainbow Bar & Grill. As we pulled into the parking lot, there was Lemmy plastered all over a billboard atop the Rainbow. While talking Tony at the door, I complimented the billboard and he asked if I was a Motörhead fan. My ex replied for me by stating “He’s a HUGE Motörhead fan!” We chatted for a few minutes, he asked where we were from and what brought us to the Rainbow then he stepped aside for a moment and returned. Apparently, he’d tried calling Lemmy to see if he’d planned on being there that night and was informed he was out of the country as the band had a gig in the United Arab Emirates the next day. He had me a business card and asked me to write down my address and phone number on it & said he’d be in touch. Less than a month later, I received a package from him with a copy of “Motörizer” signed by Mikkey, Phil and Lemmy.
Lemmy had always been on my bucketlist when it came to who I wanted to interview, Jewel and John Fogerty are the other two. This past August, I received word that in the near future, I’d be interviewing Lemmy. He was scheduled to do some press during the first week of their U.S. tour. Unfortunately, he became ill and the interview along with several shows were cancelled. I was told we’d try to reschedule an interview in the future once the tour concluded. It was never to be.
Lemmy was asked how he’d like to be remembered on Motorhead’s Behind The Music special for VH-1, Lemmy replied “No bullshit! I’m proud of being honest and I’m proud of being a gentleman. I know both are kind of irrelevant these days but I’m quite proud of them, you know. If they are virtues then I got ’em. Apart from that, they can all go fuck themselves!” (Laughs) Classic Lemmy!
Motörhead – My Timeline & Favorites YouTube Playlist:
With Lemmy’s death also came the death of Motörhead. However, the spirit of both with live on through past works as well as posthumous releases. I wouldn’t be shocked if there are some unreleased songs in the Motörhead vault, multiple live recordings will no doubt be on the horizon, I’ve heard of unreleased HeadCat sessions plus Lemmy spoke for the last few years about work he’d been doing on a solo album. Hopefully, those will see the light of day. Undoubtedly, his spirit will live on thanks to the countless Motörheadbangers worldwide!
In closing, I hope the afterlife is overflowing with Jack Daniels, Coca-Cola, Speed, Marlboro Reds, Rickenbacker basses, a wall of Murder One’s, bountiful beautiful women, the ultimate Rainbow Bar & Grill, touch trivia machines and a one armed bandit or ya know there will be hell to pay!
Thank you for a lifetime of music and memories, Rock On Lemmy!
Official Motörhead website:
Follow Motörhead on Twitter:
Official Motörhead Facebook:
Follow Motörhead on Instagram: