It was a dark and stormy night, as it often the case at the start of any good yarn. Actually, this being the north of England in winter time, it was a dark and stormy afternoon, but you get the idea. A bitter wind blew flurries of snow and hail across the mountain pass – the notorious A57 otherwise known as Snake Pass – and around each treacherously blind corner lay another exciting opportunity to plummet into the abyss below. Only two months later, on December 31, 1984, Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen would lose his arm in a horrific accident on this same stretch of road. Frankly, I’d had more enjoyable rides.
At the end of this wretched stretch of road, however, Motörhead were playing the Manchester Apollo, another date on their No Remorse tour, which I had rather foolishly decided to follow on my grubby 550 Kawasaki. My good friend Richard Copcutt joined me a few dates into the tour, riding pillion, and no doubt wondered what the hell he’d got himself into. While this did indeed appear to be a road with no end, an open highway without any bends it was not.
We finally arrived in Manchester and somehow found the Apollo – this being long before the days of GPS – only to discover that the gig was sold out. The doors were already open, but hordes of Motörhead fans were still loitering in the pub next door, and we tried to buy tickets to no avail. No one had any spares and the touts, as usual, wanted more than we could reasonably afford without resorting to prosthetic limbs. It started to rain again. Fuck.
It was then that I struck on the ingenious, if rather cheeky idea of writing a note to Lemmy explaining our situation. Hell, after riding 200 miserable miles it was worth a try; anything was worth a try. By this point the opening band, Persian Risk, were already on stage, the dulled thumping of their set audible through the backstage doors. Signing the note, “love from the two punk rockers outside”, I handed it to one of the road crew, and we waited in the drizzle, more than surprised when less than five minutes later the roadie returned and we were handed a couple of passes.
Needless to say, Motörhead were as awesome as ever – the relatively new line-up including Phil Campbell, Wurzel and drummer Pete Gill offering a couple of new tunes, but they stuck mostly to the classics. The next day, having slept rough in the damp stairwell of a dodgy looking council block on the outskirts of town, we headed for Sheffield, dismayed to find out that it was back across the Pennines on the dreaded A57. Already on this tour there had been many memorable miles and adventures enough to fill a book; I’d done Nottingham, Warwick, Bradford, and Birmingham, riding back to London after each show because I had nowhere to stay, but none of those miles are etched into the mind like Snake Pass.
Although they were fairly common at London shows, so far the sight of punk rockers on this tour was rarer than unicorn shit, and while there was no hostility from Motörhead fans, it was clear that we were something of an anomaly. Alone in Warwick, I’d been approached by Hells Angel Dr Maz Harris, and thought briefly that I was going to die. Instead, he gently reprimanded me about not locking my bike up properly, offering advice on how to make it less stealable, and we became friends. Elsewhere, however, we stood out the proverbial turds in a swimming pool, so it was a relief to see a handful of punks in Sheffield, and even more so when we were offered a place to sleep after the show. It was also the place where Lemmy began to notice our presence, the same faces jammed up against the barrier every night.
By this point though, money was starting to run short, and the tour was heading further north: Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and back down to Bradford. We headed back to London in the pissing rain, opting to rejoin the tour at Margate Winter Gardens on November 5. And, yes, we will always remember the 5th of November…
I’d met Lemmy twice before that night – once in 1981 when I asked for an autograph, and again two years later when Motörhead played several nights at the Marquee Club on Wardour Street, with Brian Robertson on guitar. Remarkably, Lemmy was hanging around the bar before they went on stage and he complemented my foot long mohawk, dedicating a song that night to the punks… all two of us. That night in Margate, he dedicated another song to all the punks (all two of us), and, keen to show my appreciation, against all better judgement, I waved a bag of speed at him from the pit. And, yes, I know it was a fucking stupid thing to do!
How I didn’t get thrown out or arrested I will never know, but instead there was a knowing nod from Lemmy, and after the show he sent one of the road crew out to find us and invite us backstage. I shit you not! Moments later, we were hanging out with Motörhead in the dressing room, drinking their beer, doing speed with Lemmy, and meeting the rest of the band. Wurzel, incidentally, was instantly likeable and down to earth, while Phil Campbell was polite but a little standoffish. Pete Gill, perhaps understandably, wanted nothing to do with us.
Some hours later, we were back out on the seafront, and adding further to an already remarkable night, I had somehow managed to attract the attentions of a pretty blonde girl who said we could stay at her place. Maybe not so surprisingly, she turned out to be a little odd. Having locked up my bike (properly this time), we walked to her house, only to find that she lived with her parents and we had to sneak in. She then switched her attentions back and forth between me and Rick, seemingly trying to engage in a threesome that was never going to happen, because a) Rick had a girlfriend, b) her parents were in the next room and c) she was weirder than a badger on stilts… not to mention D, E, F and G.
The next morning, having got no sleep at all, we were forced to climb out of her bedroom window to leave the house without getting caught, and, dangling from the plastic guttering, found ourselves covered from head to toe in rotten leaves and muck when the gutter gave way. We removed the muck before getting back on the road to London. It pissed down the whole way.
And so to Reading University, where we were surprised and delighted to find that Lemmy had kept his word and put us on the guest list, this time with backstage passes for after the show. Again, there was a dedication to the punks – Steal Your Face, if memory serves correctly – and another blistering set, after which we headed wide-eyed to the dressing room to hangout with our heroes. Standing in front of an entire wall of Carlsberg Special Brew, with a blonde on each arm and a bag of speed the size of a football, Lemmy welcomed us with the immortal words, “Hello lads. Dig in!” Suffice to say we dug in.
The last night of the tour was the big one, London’s Hammersmith Odeon, but alas there is no happy ending to our tale. As promised, Lemmy had put us on the guest list again, but some complete bastard had used our names, and no amount of arguing with the box office staff would persuade them otherwise. It didn’t matter that my name was tattooed on my arm, we weren’t getting in. Instead we prowled angrily around the building as Motörhead’s set came and went. Maybe Lemmy dedicated another song to the punks, but we would never know.
I followed many Motörhead tours after that, rode thousands of miles, and stopped counting how many times I’d seen them when it reached the 250 mark. But there was something particularly special about the No Remorse tour, not least because Lemmy became a friend and mentor for over 30 years. There’s a hole in my life now where Motörhead used to be, but I wouldn’t swap a single second of it for anything else – even Snake Pass.
Love, as always, from the punk rockers.