Bassist Duff McKagan is getting ready to rejoin his old muckers Axl and Slash in Guns N’ Roses. But that’s not important right now, not when memories of the late Motörhead frontman are preying on his mind…
When I was a youngster and Ace Of Spades came out, all of us in the Seattle punk rock scene instantly recognised the weight of Lemmy and Motörhead. They embodied what all was good and great about rock’n’roll. Snarling vocals and to-the-point lyrics. Drummer Phil ‘Filthy Animal’ Taylor pounded the fuck out of the drums, and ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke complemented it all with his no-nonsense guitar. It was the perfect meld of punk and metal, and it seemed to rise above any pre-described genre. Motörhead seemed always more ‘punk’ than ‘metal’ – and to that fact – they always somehow portrayed to be ‘in’ on the joke; whereas the metal bands seemed to take it all much too seriously back then.
When I moved down to LA in 1984, it was the influence of guys like Lemmy, Phil Lynott and The Clash’s Paul Simonon that steered me to choose bass, back when I was still a somewhat able drummer and guitar player. I was going to Hollywood to sort of ‘invent’ myself, and I chose bass playing as the coolest of the rock-instrument triumvirate because, hell, it was the baddest choice and these guys were the coolest motherfuckers out there.
And especially Lemmy. He was the type you couldn’t ever hope to emulate. He was much more than just a bass player or a singer, or some guy in a band. Back then, and to this day, Lemmy is a guy you just simply reference as the baddest and most hardcore. When I chose bass back then, sure, it was because of Lemmy… but I never had hopes of being just like him. That isn’t humanly possible for us regular people. And we are all just ‘regular people’ compared to Lemmy.
Lemmy lets us know that you don’t have to be perfect and beautiful and polished to shine, to succeed in this life. This guy has always just stuck to his guns and never bit into a trend or a new technology recording-wise. Most of us just sort of naturally change with the times… our style of dress, our ‘take’ on life, the bars we go to and all. Lemmy has changed nothing – bringing to fore the fact that he just had it right from the beginning.
On a more personal note, I got to meet Lemmy for the first time in London back in 1987. Guns N’ Roses were a new band, and we were playing some club shows in town, and somehow we got the invite over to a recording studio where Motörhead were recording.I’m sure I must’ve seemed nervous and tongue-tied, and I am quite sure he noticed it. He passed me a beer, and asked me how I liked the girls in England… putting me at ease from then on. He knew he was every bass player’s hero at that point, and singled me out first. It was completely awesome, and something I’ve never forgotten.Over the years, I’ve either played gigs with Motörhead, or just simply seen them play countless times. Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee are awesome men, and their whole crew have become like this vagabond family that I can jump in and out of from any place on this planet; welcomed like a brother no matter how busy or tired they might be.
And I saw Lemmy be like that to so many people in countless countries. He just simply knew so many people from all of the touring. I never saw him be short with anyone, nor lose his temper. Lemmy was just a flat-out cool motherfucker.
I was able to see Lemmy a few weeks back at his 70th birthday party. There were so many people there who wanted a minute or two with him, and I knew he was overwhelmed, because he simply started to read a book (with a flashlight, no less), and that thwarted all the drunks who wanted a stupid selfie with him. What a bad dude.
Lemmy has lived for so much longer than the rest of us, and lived hard. He has earned every right to preach down to the rest of us, but he never has. He has also earned the right, and enough money probably, to retire gracefully if he wished. But he didn’t wish it. “What else would I do?” he says in the Lemmy documentary film.
Motörhead came to be sometime around 1975. With a perfect mix of all the good parts of punk and metal, Motörhead forged the way, as leaders to all of the rest of us who would shortly form bands. From Metallica to Megadeth to Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, GN’R, and on and on…they all note Motörhead as a key influence.
And it’s not just the music of Motörhead that sets them apart from all of the rest of us. Lemmy’s no BS attitude toward touring and making records – and his relentless touring stamina – make everyone else rather pale and weak in comparison.
Through all of the fads and assorted ‘press darling’ bands and artists over the past forty or so years, Motörhead have just simply pinned their ears back and did what they wanted. They could never be bothered with trying to fit in. And their consistency remains a sort of explosive touchstone for all of us that need to be reminded of what is real and true and honest about the rock music.
Lemmy isn’t dead. No, no… No. Lemmy is alive and well… and will carry on, clear and strong through the legions of us who got to witness him.
Motörhead for life.
Remembering Lemmy: The Bandmate – Mikkey Dee
The first time I met Lemmy was at the St Moritz in London.
He was always in that place back in the 80s. I was the drummer in King Diamond’s band, but really I was just a young lad, a cocky little Swede, and I was drunk when I walked up and introduced myself to Lem. Of course he was playing a fucking fruit machine, and he didn’t want to be disturbed by some drunken guy that he didn’t know. But he still took the time out to shake my hand and talk to me. That was just how he was.
A few years later, King Diamond toured with Motörhead in Europe, and from that moment it was like Lem and I had known each other our whole lives. I was very straightforward, and I think he liked that – in me, at least. He used to say that I reminded him of himself when he was younger. Right after that tour was the first time he asked me to join Motörhead. I said no – I was happy with King Diamond. But Lem kept in contact with me, sending me postcards from all over the world and calling me once in awhile.
And in the end, in ’92, I joined the band. It was the best decision I ever made.
Remembering Lemmy: The Flatmate – Motorcycle Irene
Given even Lemmy had a private as well as a public persona and Classic Rock does not run a witness protection programme, I am rather constrained as to what I can tell you about him.
Lemmy and I were flat/housemates in the 70s and we lived together in several different properties. We were introduced by the people that Chrissie Hynde calls ‘Heavy Bikers’ – who, having freaked out my flatmates so much that they scarpered, brought me round a potential replacement – Lemmy, a member of Hawkwind.
I was working as a freelance photographer at the time. Lem inspected my record collection, browsed my bookshelves and decided he would take the spare room.
Our first flat in Gunter Grove, Chelsea, was on the top floor. When the doorbell rang, one would look out of the kitchen window, check who was there and maybe chuck the key down.
One night, hearing the doorbell, I went to the window. There was Lemmy, wearing a black stetson. “You’re in America!” I yelled.
Turns out Hawkwind had fired him while on tour. He was absolutely distraught, so we started drinking the duty-frees (heavily).
“Fuck ‘em,” I slurred, “get your own band…”