“There’s a fine line between a heavy drinker and an alcoholic,” Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister once told us, and he was a man who knew about these things. “Just like there’s a fine line between fishing and standing on the bank looking like an arsehole. The line is whether the fuck you know what you’re doing when you drink ’cos if you don’t know what you’re doing, you just become a terrible boring drunk. Whereas, if you know when to stop, you become an amazing, anecdotal man of the world. Which is better than being the guy having a shit in the bath tub.”
No-one wants to be the guy having a shit in the bath tub, and Lemmy had a simple rule to avoid that fate. It’s one he told to The Damned’s Captain Sensible. Sensible was also a man who liked a drink or two.
When his solo career took off, the good Captain was hitting the sauce pretty hard. “We used to have this thing called the 24 Hour Club,” he explained. “If you went to bed you'd be ejected from the club. So the 24 Hour Club would sometimes run for four or five days, gambling all night, drinking, substances. The Ruts, the Damned – and a bunch of coke dealers – heh-heh, I didn't say that.
“So I ended up on kids TV several times, completely blitzed out of my mind. I remember Mike Read said to me on one Saturday Superstore: 'Captain, you seem to be on very good form this morning - why don't you sing us a tune?' I was like, 'I'll give you a tune!' I jumped on the table, tap-dancing, kicking everything all over the place, singing at the top of me voice. I slipped on the table, fell off backwards, banged me head on the studio floor and passed out. I was carried out by two blokes on a stretcher, live on Saturday Superstore. Completely zonked.”
Here is that incident (without the stretcher part):
Eventually his friend Lemmy intervened. “At one point Lemmy came up to me and said, ‘I wanna have a word with you about your drinking’,” says Sensible. “Well, when someone like Lemmy says that to you, you listen.
"He said, ‘Remember: it’s not what you drink, or how much you drink, it’s how fast you drink it.’”
It’s wisdom that Sensible has relied on since. “I’m pleasantly surprised to have come through it and still be alive,” he says.
Did Lemmy follow the same rule? Maybe. “I don’t even get drunk any more,” he told us. “A kid once said to me: ‘Do you get hangovers?’ I said: ‘To get hangovers you have to stop drinking.’”
The original line-up of the Damned have reformed for live dates this year (opens in new tab).