MOTÖRHEAD - Lemmy Remembered By BraveWords
December 31, 2015, 5 years ago
R.I.P. Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister
December 24th, 1945 – December 28th, 2015
"Metal" Tim - The Closest I've Been To God
Death, taxes and Motörhead - pretty much the things you can count on, an old band bio once told me. But now Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister has passed and the band are laid to rest, for good. But man, what a run. And what a wild reputation, the epitome of rock n’ roll. And truly a good-hearted soul no matter what face he had on.
No doubt it was the first three albums that slowly made their way into the import shops on these shores and the videos that coincided with them (namely “Overkill” and “Bomber” on the famous UK show Top Of The Pops) that first made the mark on me. But I distinctly recall returning from the Barrie Fair late one night in 1980 and Toronto’s rock station CHUM FM (before they turned soft pop) showcased full albums and Ace Of Spades was the chosen one. Yes, from start to finish in all it’s glory. And to this day the album still stands as this monumental achievement, despite the fact that the title track sees all the focus. But give me "The Chase Is Better Than The Catch”, "Fast And Loose”, "(We Are) The Road Crew" and the brutality of "The Hammer" any day! And of course one of the greatest live albums of all time followed in 1981, No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith vaulting straight to #1 in the UK. When Iron Fist reared its ugly head two years later, Motörhead were on a roll and seemed unstoppable. “Loser”, “Go To Hell”, and of course the title track spearheaded the album, but it was a step down musically. The infamous simulcast show at Toronto’s CNE in 1982 saw the classic incarnation of Motörhead implode - Lemmy, Filthy parting ways with Fast Eddie. But it was the first time most of us had ever seen the band live, even if it wasn’t in person. I still have my cassette recording of this show!
1983’s Another Perfect Day followed and this is where I give Lemmy and Co. full marks on reinventing the name and brand. The band didn’t last long with former Thin Lizzy man Brian “Robbo” Robertson, but "I Got Mine", "Dancing On Your Grave”, “Shine”, "Die You Bastard!" and the title track are pure genius and stand out as their finest hour behind Ace Of Spades, most of the album the band rarely played live.
Then it started to require effort to follow Motörhead as they continued to tweak the line-up and jumped from label to label. I still own the leather version of No Remorse, where the band became a four-piece for the first time (welcome Würzel and Pete Gill) and we were greeted by the “Killed By Death” and “Snaggletooth”, the latter has never resonated so strongly since Lemmy seemed to have cheated death for years.
Not until Bastards would Motörhead find their stride again. And truly I don’t believe the band has come close since. And it was around this time that Lemmy left the UK and settled beside the Rainbow Bar And Grill for good.
The first time I met Lemmy was at the CMJ Convention in 1991 and after a speech I approached him and said: “I’m not very religious, but you are the closest to a God I will ever get to.” He responded: “Stay away from religion kid, stick with rock n’ roll.”
The term heavy metal rarely entered Lemmy’s mind. Although every band that grew up in the late ’70s/’80s were nurtured on Motörhead’s mix of punk and hard rock, the band distanced themselves from the term. Lemmy was weaned on good ol’ ‘50s rock n’ roll, the likes of Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry. And his love for American rockabilly shone through in the The Head Cat.
Although I’ve seen the band countless number of times, I feel most at home with Motörhead on record. And when I worked at retail (HMV) we stocked them all. And I must admit I became a bit of an addict and to this day I can count hundreds of CDs in my collection. Albeit, the parade of reissues, compilations, live albums and more is pretty disgusting as numerous labels over time tried to suck the band dry.
But Motörhead continued to churn out albums at a frantic pace and support each with extensive tours, the ultimate road warrior Lemmy was.
In late 2006, BW&BK was approaching issue #100 and we were trying to figure out who should grace the cover and Lemmy accepted the honour, even put in a few hours to decorate our cake. I’m forever indebted to him for that gesture.
And every time I reach for a bourbon his image pops into my head. Shame I never got to share one with him, but certainly watched him down a few backstage! The last time was with Ronnie James Dio at the Molson Ampitheater.
From where I sit, the countless tributes continue to pour in. That’s the mark of a man, a legend. The impact on society. And Lemmy left a helluva lot of impact!
Perusing through my files, I noticed an interview from 1999 by my bud Mitch Joel. Not sure if this was for BraveWords or not. But when asked what song he’d like played at his funeral, Lemmy responded: “‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ by Little Richard. That’s the song that brought me in - it made me leave my profitable job, join a band and become broke, really - so it may as well send me out.”
For some reason I don’t believe Lemmy will rest in peace. He lived his life way too loud.
You are terribly missed… may your star shine forever.
Mark Gromen - Lemmy; Lifetime Of Memories
Ever since I started to listen to metal, there's been Motörhead, and by extension, Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister. Sadly, that's no longer true. For the last couple of years, initiated that fateful day at Wacken, 2013, looking unhealthy and unable to finish the set, we learned he was a mere mortal (despite a persona to the contrary). Thankfully, he lived long enough to enjoy the accolades and bio-documentary. As a small, but ineffective, token of thanks, wish to share my recollections with the fans, about the man and his music, over the last 30-plus years:
No Sleep Til High School: Thankfully, a fellow classmate turned me on to early discs like Bomber and Overkill, before the full-on live Hammersmith album. The classic trio: Lemmy, Fast Eddie and Filthy (who just passed a month ago himself) was the loud/dirty underbelly of the NWOBHM. There was something about those early days: the frequent middle finger poses, a black and white photo book of pictures with topless model and an ode to a vibrator. Sadly, they broke up on the Iron Fist North American tour, two days before I could see them in Philadelphia.
During college, was able to see the Another Perfect Day tour, with a buddy who was not a metalhead (more of a Rush/Neil Young fan), the "different" album appealing to his musical sensibilities. Took decades for Motörhead fans to embrace the album. On a weekend trip to Toronto ($20 bet to drive almost 600 miles, roundtrip), purchased the Deaf Not Blind VHS on Yonge Street, before heading back to the USA.
Bringing Down The House: December 1984 - Legendary show at the Variety Theater, in Lakewood, Ohio. The sound was so loud, large chunks of plaster fell from the ceiling of the ornate old theater. Actually watched one of the loge box railings disintegrate, in front of my eyes, leaving just the expose wrought iron! All "loudness" has since been judged by that experience. Show was cut short and the theater's permanently shut shortly after!
First in-person Interview: Still just a snot of a kid, recent college grad, with a few years radio/interview experience under my belt when I had the opportunity to talk with Lemmy, backstage at the Cleveland Agora, on the Orgasmatron tour. Despite my "credentials" was still nervous, especially when asking (and then rebuked/corrected) by the bassist about a line of questioning that insinuated similar titles like “Stone Dead Forever” and “Deaf Forever” suggested writer's block and/or laziness on his part.
German Dominance: There was a time, for about a decade in the new millennium, when Motörhead at least co-headlined either Bang Your Head or Wacken. Since I annually attended both, for 15 years, there were plenty of highlights, including the full Bomber lighting rig production. On occasion, saw him backstage, always THE person all the other rock stars wanted to see. Can remember a giddy Sebastian Bach, running around like a kid on Christmas morning, shouting "Lemmy's here!" and wanting a photo. Naturally, the bassist was in black, drink in hand, Doro on his arm, smoking and joking, the center of the artist encampment.
Who else could Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles magazine get to commemorate the 100th issue? Complete with cake, Mr. Kilmister was the celebratory cover.
In 2011, Motörhead played the House Of Blues, in the Showboat casino, Atlantic City. Prior to the show, while most of the black shirted horde was sipping beers one of the numerous bars, there was Lemmy, in full stage regalia, including Civil War era military hat, feverishly dropping coins in a slot machine, unescorted, and everyone left him alone. Metal Tim and I were present in Germany when Lem was unable to complete the '13 Wacken gig. From that point on, made a point to see every possible local tour date, never knowing WHEN it would be the last time, not necessarily due to his death, but deteriorating health (diabetes, etc.) preventing further shows.
Put on that leather jacket, light a cigarette (if so inclined), crank the stereo and pour a Jack and Coke to a true original. Rock/metal will never be the same!
Carl Begai - “There's No Better Testament To The Spirit Of Rock N' Roll”
I'm not going to launch into this tribute with claims that Lemmy and Motörhead changed or influenced the way I devoured my rock n' roll upon discovery, because they didn't. The simple fact is that when I picked up my first Motörhead album in 1986 in downtown Toronto and Cheapies, it was on a whim inspired entirely by the Orgasmatron artwork. This was before the age of listening desks, thus all I had to go on was word of mouth, MuchMusic, and judging a proverbial book by its cover. In this case the initial Orgasmatron spin was the first of a gazillion, and from there Motörhead was simply "there" in the best way possible. Aggressive high energy go-to music good for any occasion, something decidedly different from the Metallica, Judas Priest, Megadeth, Helloween, Iron Maiden, Ratt and Mötley Crüe albums that otherwise occupied my brain for hours on end. Year by year, forward and back, my Motörhead album collection grew to the expected size for that of a true fan. In short, all of 'em.
I had the pleasure of seeing Motörhead play in both Canada and Europe several times, the first being in Toronto at the infamous Operation Rock N' Roll show in 1991 with Judas Priest, Alice Cooper and Dangerous Toys. Regardless of which side of the world they played on, the trio was welcomed with a reverence worthy of royalty and Lemmy was most certainly the king. Even from the back of the room he was larger (and louder) than life. A living legend in the truest sense.
Not only has Lemmy been that hard-hitting whiskey-and-gravel rasp between my ears for almost 30 years (!), he's also provided me with repeated amusement at the house parties thrown here at the office. Knowing that Motörhead may in fact do serious damage to those unfamiliar with full-on rock and metal, I've often played his rockabilly side-project The Head Cat as a palatable portion of Lemmy for the uninitiated (but surprisingly, not clueless). I've lost count of the number of times friends have asked me "Is that the guy from Motörhead?" Their drop-jawed reactions are priceless when they learn the truth.
On the evening following the news of Lemmy's passing, word went out amongst my friends and acquaintances that there would be an unofficial Motörhead night at a local rock bar dive. It was a move that was undoubtedly echoed in hundreds of cities and towns around the world. The Motörhead faithful turned up on what would have been a slow Tuesday night, dressed appropriately in Motörhead regalia, Lemmy's voice ripping through the room, the consumption of Jack Daniels enough to have the bar staff worried they would run out before 11:00pm. In amongst the toasts to Lemmy's memory and banging of heads to favourite Motörhead tunes, the topic of discussion focused on the fact news of Lemmy's death was everywhere. On every news site, on every news broadcast, on seemingly everyone's lips.
One fan on the younger side of 30 made the point that even the people who don't listen to metal or rock, and news agencies that would never touch anything resembling loud and rebellious music, they were all aware of and sharing the news that Lemmy had died. And then this fan said something that summed it up for me completely:
"Lemmy is omnipresent, like Elvis."
There's no better testament to the spirit of rock n' roll. Somewhere, Mr. Kilmister is smiling.
Rest in peace, sir. Thank you and good night.
David Perri - “All Of Rock 'N' Roll Will Never Be The Same”
The fact that my first memory of Motörhead is seeing 1916 as a new release in 1991 means that, objectively, I missed Motörhead's heyday. But, on that day in 1991 as the ten year-old version of me was buying the Black Album and Use Your Illusion II on cassette, I remember having a visceral reaction to 1916's artwork: not even the cassette covers with Eddie or Vic Rattlehead had filled me with the sort of fear 1916 created. I needed to know more.
Fast-forward a couple of years and a few Motörhead cassettes (remember, at the time they were cheaper than expensive CDs) and the band's importance began to dawn. Kill 'Em All, for starters, made a helluva lot more sense. So did those fuzzed-out-to-space, massive bass lines on Dimension Hatröss and the down-tuned bliss that is the Sunlight Studios sound. But it was more than just Overkill, Bomber and Ace Of Spades' speed and distortion that resonated (literally) and infiltrated metal writ large. It was Lemmy himself, and his larger than life persona.
In the fractured world of metal's numerous genres and sub-genres that have sometimes literally been at war with each other, there's an unholy triumvirate of bands that are beyond reproach: Slayer, Venom and, of course, Motörhead. To diminish the importance of any of these three would be naive, ridiculous and wrong, as each is vital and massively influential: they unite metal's various factions underneath a trusted common cause. But, of the three, Motörhead's legacy is probably the one that stands untainted. There was no trend-obsessed Diabolus In Musica or by-the-numbers Resurrection/Metal Black/Hell in Lemmy's being. He knew who he was and who he wasn't, and he was fiercely loyal to both his 'born to lose, live to win' creed and to his Jack-and-Coke lathered sound.
In the live environment, Lemmy was like no other. "We are Motörhead, and we play rock 'n' roll" was a rallying cry for Lemmy and his worshipers ("Lemmy IS God", that old joke - or was it? - taught us). And play rock 'n' roll they did, each of the group's live performances raw, honest and absolutely void of any pretension. What you saw was what you got and, man, if only we could have a lifetime more of it. Though this scribe only saw Motörhead live a handful of times, the moment that probably stands out the most was just how goddamn loud and full of attitude Lemmy's acoustic guitar sounded on "Whorehouse Blues" during his band's encore in 2005. So many metal pretenders that had played the very same venues could never hold a candle to even Lemmy's acoustic guitar.
On December 28th, the metal world lost its undisputed leader who, with steady hands on the bass, always guided this genre without wavering even an inch. And when he could no longer physically perform a full set for us due to the devastating toll sickness was taking on his body, as was the case in Austin, Texas this past September, he still came out on stage to address the crowd - his adherents, his supporters, his flock - in defiance of disease's cruelty: "Austin, you're one of the best gigs in America. And I would love to play for you. But I can't. Please accept my apologies. Next time, all right!"
All of rock 'n' roll will never be the same.
Greg Pratt - “He Was Pure Rock And Roll”
My favourite Lemmy memory was one that others here will probably bring up as well: when he baked the Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles (as we were known then) team a cake to celebrate our 100th issue. It actually says a lot about the man, who, by all accounts, was always a perfect gentleman. And Lemmy was unwavering, he was honest, he was pure rock and roll. He was an inspiration, an example of how to live a totally pure and no-bullshit life. Sure, we're all born to lose, which is why we are attracted to music like this in the first place; Lemmy, however, proved that we can be winners regardless.
Greg Prato - “Lemmy Was One Of The Few People That Was Deemed A Legend Years Before His Passing”
The thing about Motörhead that made them so special is that they were one of the very few rock/metal bands that never veered off course. No dance tunes. No hairspray and make-up. No aid of professional pop songwriters. No hiring of a keyboard player to help sweeten their sound live. No sudden embracement of grunge fashion. And while some artists make a career out of touching upon a variety of styles throughout their career, you always knew what you were going to get with a new Motörhead album. And that was perfectly OK and reassuring, to know that no matter what subgenre of rock or metal was thriving at that moment, you could always count on getting your needed dose of Motörhead. While a few of my favorite all-time rock bands utilized every inch of the recording studio to their full advantage, by and large, I seem to enjoy rock n’ roll the most when an artist simply attempts to recreate their live/concert sound (in other words, the sound of a band playing together live in a room). Motörhead is one of the prime examples of this. And that’s one of the main reasons why albums such as Overkill and Ace of Spades sound as jolly good now as they did in 1979 and 1980, respectively. Lemmy was certainly one of rock’s most larger-than-life and intimidating figures, but from the several times I interviewed him over the years, he was always extremely kind and friendly - going so far as to invite me to go backstage at a show this past summer, to say hello (I attempted to take him up on his offer, but after waiting about an hour and being told he wouldn’t appear for another hour, I opted to exit). Lemmy was one of the few people that was deemed a “legend” years (decades?) before his passing. And while that word sometimes gets used a bit too freely, in Lemmy’s case, I couldn’t agree more. Lemmy the legend - rest in peace.
Kim Baarda - “One Badass, Yet Stylish, Motherfucker”
Many of my fondest metal memories are intertwined with the audio and visual experience of live shows. I have been fortunate enough, through my work in this industry, to have attended many, many shows - some incredible, and some, well, not so good. One band who sits near the top of the 'incredible' list is Motörhead. My first, and only, Lemmy live experience was way back in '99. Headlining a tour that saw Hatebreed and Dropkick Murphys on the bill, my friends and I made our way to the venue excited, but slightly confused by the choice of support bands. As predicted, the night started off a little slow. You could literally smell the sweat of anticipation lingering in the air for Motörhead. Literally the entire room was there for Lemmy; everyone from the leather bikini-clad women, right up to the roving gangs of patched-up bikers... it was like a snapshot straight out of the 80s. With every beer raised, Motörhead took the stage. As I watched Lemmy control the crowd with his humble-yet-gargantuan persona, I couldn't help but notice the man's boots, and thought to myself this is one badass, yet stylish, motherfucker! You will be missed by million, Lemmy.
Jason Deaville - “My Immediate Reaction Was One Of Pure Horror”
My very first introduction to the all-consuming genre of music known as metal is one that comes with both good and bad memories. Recalled like it was yesterday, the year was 1981. The location, an old hockey-arena in a mid-sized city that had, over the years, played host to such legendary acts as The Rolling Stones, KISS, and Alice Cooper. This particular night saw Motörhead opening for the latter of the legends. Up until this point, I was only vaguely aware of Motörhead. I have memories of flipping through my father's vinyl collection and coming across their now classic album, Ace Of Spades. I was immediately struck by the absolute badass-ery of that cover - Lemmy and crew looking like a marauding gang of rock n roll bandits straight out of the wild west. Transfixed, I had to hear this. My father, in an effort to not completely scar his overly-inquisitive son, allowed a decibel-reduced listening session. From this moment on I was hooked. If this wasn't enough, I can also recall the framed picture of Lemmy and crew in the living room, where it hung like an artifact of biblical proportions. With the metallic, gritty taste of Motörhead lingering in my mouth like a bad filling, my father decided it was time for his son to be inaugurated into the caustic, abrasive world of the Lemmy live experience. Now, for anyone who has seen Motörhead, even as an adult, it is one hell of an auditory beating; it's not uncommon to leave the venue with a fraction of the hearing you had before going in. Now, imagine, if you can, that same experience, but from the naive eyes and tender ears of an eight year-old. With the arena brimming, Motörhead literally exploded onto the stage like the thermonuclear breath of a thousand dying suns. My immediate reaction was one of pure horror. Looking up at my now transfixed father, the only thing I could do was cover my ears while letting out an inaudible scream. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I recall my utter confusion by those around me who seemed to be enjoying themselves - their eyes and bodies succumbing to the force emanating from the stage. Tugging on my fathers shirt was, at this point, utterly useless - the man was under Lemmy's spell and there was no return from that abyss until the music stopped. So, with no other choice but to put my big boy pants on, I slowly lowered my hands from my throbbing ears. With no sign of blood on my palms, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Slowly, a smile crept across my face as I watched Lemmy howl into the mic, his hair blowing in the artificially created windstorm like that of a bandit riding into town. This image of him has been etched into my memory forever, and it's one I will share with Lemmy on the otherside over a coke and JD. Rest in peace, my friend.
Matthew O'Shaughnessy - “When Giants Walked The Land”
The king of heaviness arguably is gone but he will never be forgotten. Lemmy Kilmister carved an uber-unique sound with those earth-shaking amps that pounded out a wall of sound instantly recognizable as Motörhead. The legendary bassist and frontman of one of Britain's and the world's most pioneering trios has left us at the age of 70, leaving his diehard global fans in awe, shock and extreme sadness.
I first had the honor and great opportunity to interview Lemmy backstage at the Beacon Theater in New York City in the 1980's. He was kind, gregarious and on fire that night talking to me about Motörhead's longevity, the fact that they also marched to the beat of their own drummer so to speak and much more. The band that would spawn out of Hawkwind, would go onto produce one of heavy metal's most esteemed, renowned frontmen ever in Mr. Kilmister.
I also fondly remember the very first time I played Motörhead albums on my New York WVOX Metal Mayhem show. From the first chords of Ace Of Spades, Orgasmatron, Iron Fist, Overkill and many, many more; my listeners always made sure the iconic group was well represented on my radio show by calling in and requesting them. Motörhead was and will always be a main staple of any true heavy metal disc jockey's playlist.
The fact remains that Lemmy's vast, sweeping and massive contributions to our heavy metal fraternity are simply something legends are made from, and he certainly was just that, a legend and so much more.
Lemmy Kilmister…when giants walked the land.
Kelley Simms - “Lemmy Is God!”
When actor Steve Buscemi in the 1994 movie, Airheads, asked, “Who would win in a fight between Lemmy and God? Trick question, Lemmy is God!,” it spoke volumes about the man everyone in rock and metal has revered for decades. As a journalist, I never got to interview Lemmy, but as a fan I once met him when Motörhead and Overkill opened for Slayer on their South of Heaven tour in 1988. After their set, Lemmy was just walking in the crowd saying hello and shaking hands with anyone that greeted him. There was no ego or star attitude, just a cool dude being himself. We will miss you Lemmy!