It’s a cold, grey day in Los Angeles on Saturday January 9 as we gather at Hollywood’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park to say a final farewell, but a shot of Jack helps to take the edge off.
There are crates of the stuff, shots handed out as we enter the chapel, and no one says no. It wouldn’t be right, not today, because today we say goodbye to a legend and we do so as he lived his life, entirely on his terms. Besides, we’ll all need a little Dutch courage. Of course, there are tears, but more than anything else this is a celebration. We mourn a great loss, but it is our loss. Lemmy had no regrets.
To be honest, it’s difficult to know what to share with you, but rest assured the end was perfect. The floral tributes, - one with an iron cross and the words RIP Lemmy, another made to look like a line of speed – the Marshall stacks on stage, Lemmy’s trademark cowboy boots and downward pointing microphone, all of it perfect. Some of the rest may be too personal, too intrusive. Just know that it was right.
And perhaps some other moments need to be shared. There are tears in Dave Grohl’s eyes as he shows me his Lemmy tribute tattoo, an ace of spades (naturally) with the words Shake Your Blood. I tell him to stop wincing about and he smiles, recognising the words from the start of Motörhead’s Jailbait. Instead we share Lemmy tales, that first time Lemmy poured him a Jack and Coke – half a pint of Jack with the merest splash of Coke, stirred with his finger; that time I sucked speed off that same grubby digit and was awake for three days. And yes, it was as disgusting as it sounds. The important thing is that today there are as many smiles and fond memories as tears.
Doubtless you watched the live feed with a large drink in hand, the beautiful words from Lemmy’s son Paul, from Lemmy’s long-time girlfriend Cheryl, from Lars Ulrich and Slash and Scott Ian, Rob Halford, Dave Grohl and many more. On a personal note, it was an honour to be asked to speak. Honour is not a big enough word. And if there’s one way to cure an abject terror of public speaking it is doing so in front of a quarter of a million people. Any less would be to let Lemmy down, to do him a disservice, and there is no fucking way that was ever going to happen, not when he gave us so much. Moreover, there was so much love, so much strength in that building, that it was impossible to fail. When Lemmy’s personal assistant falters, choked by emotion, the entire room is there for him. And bless you, Ian, for having the balls to finish that joke.
The ceremony ends the only way it could, with Lemmy’s bass cranked up and left to feedback one last time.
Lemmy has left the building.
And with that it is time to celebrate his magnificent life so we head to his favourite watering hole, the Rainbow Bar And Grill on the Sunset Strip, where the entire street is alive with Motörhead fans who have come to pay their respects. Forgive me if things get a little hazy. We order a couple of Lemmys (now the official name for his beverage of choice) and squeeze through the throng to sign the huge tribute picture that hangs on the wall. There’s Dave Grohl and Glenn Danzig and Mikkey Dee and Ron Jeremy and Ginger Wildheart (with a fantastic new Motörhead chest-piece) and Pinch from the Damned, fans and friends alike. For the purposes of this article I was supposed to gather some quotes, but there are TMZ vultures lurking about, shoving cameras in people’s faces, and it doesn’t seem right. Nik Turner is playing When The Saints Go Marching In on the saxophone, and that is right, that is perfect. “I’m the man who sacked Lemmy from Hawkwind,” he smiles, knowing that without him there would have been no Motörhead. There’s the only quote we need.
We drink more Lemmys, a lot more Lemmys, the bartenders correcting anyone who asks for a Jack and Coke. We help a fan out of his wheelchair so he can sign the tribute wall. We share more memories, so many memories. Ironically, in death, Lemmy has brought so much life back to the Sunset Strip, every venue sold out, the sidewalk heaving with people from all around the world. He’d have liked that.
It’s late when we leave, maybe 1am, but there’s no need to stay until the bitter end, no need to hear last call. It’s enough to know that Lemmy’s spot at the Rainbow is now permanently reserved, enough to know that he was so loved. I go and sit alone on the roof of my old apartment block overlooking the Strip, a moment of quiet contemplation as music and chatter drifts up from the street below. It probably sounds stupid, but I call Lemmy’s cell phone one last time, just to hear his voice. “Hello, hello, hello! Hello playmates, before your very eyes! Leave a message and I probably won’t get back to you.” And this time he really won’t, but there are no more tears.
The hangover gods were kind on Sunday, but that’s probably because there’s a new one and he is unfamiliar with such things. As he once pointed out, you have to stop drinking to get a hangover. Instead there is just this strange numb sensation, and with it a sense of satisfaction that we did the big man proud. Fuck, that was one hell of a send off! Rest in peace, Mister Kilmister.