Motörhead and Me
This Monday, December 28th, Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, finally—
Well, so the first time I saw Motörhead was at The World, a club/venue owned by the WWE in Times Square that surprisingly hosted some of the cooler metal shows in New York between 2000 and 2003. Morbid Angel opened for them. Right? They were in the middle of that ‘I don’t give a flying dogshit’ era of Gateways To Annihilation, when everyone was back to admitting they were death metal. This was an era that didn’t know what to do with metal’s changing face, so they lumped it all into one broad term: METAL. ‘METAL’ could be Disturbed or Severe Torture, Killswitch Engage or Marduk. So when Motörhead went on tour, they were packaged with a bunch of other bands whose album covers had monsters on them. It didn’t matter. Motörhead destroyed them all.
Just moments before my Motörhead baptism, I’d been at a college fair for my school, but I’d left earlier than everyone else. When my teachers asked me why I was leaving so soon, I responded immediately, “I have tickets to see Motörhead tonight.” No one questioned me after that. Some of my teachers urged me to leave quicker.
Motörhead fucking ruled. Lemmy announced that they were them, and that they played rock and roll, and then I danced for an hour. Me! I fucking danced! I twisted and shouted and bobbed and pumped my fists like an asshole. That’s what Motörhead does to a person. You know that metalhead you want to be? That’s who I was, seeing Motörhead. A little tipsy, a little silly, but in love with life. It’s nice to believe we’re always that, but let’s face it, most of us are a little too bitter and too simple to fucking respect how we actually feel. No matter how cool or true you think you are, you have weird shit about yourself that you hide. Lemmy, meanwhile, was honest with the world. He was human in the repulsive utmost.
I cannot for the fucking life of me remember smiling at a show before that one. I had to leave early, because I had school the next day.
Kilmister, who turned 70 this Christmas Eve, formed Motörhead after being dismissed from his seminal psychedelic rock band Hawkwind for his rampant drug use. While forming his new band, Lemmy looked to separate from Hawkwind’s progressive sound and streamline his love of biker rock into
Sorry, but, I remember as a kid watching Airheads. You know, the Brendan Fraser comedy where a bunch of hard rockers take over a radio station. And while I hated that term’s proliferation throughout the ‘90s — it was such a pathetic attempt not to say metal, right? — I think it perfectly suits the band in the movie, The Lone Rangers. Sure, Chazz, Rex, and Pip were obviously metalheads, but more than that, they were Motoörhead fans, and as much as I’ve argued that Motörhead were metal incarnate the fact remains that Lemmy was never 100% behind labeling his band heavy metal. As metalheads, we see the breadth of the genre, but for Lemmy it just meant saying what his band could and could not play. Motörhead were a rock and roll band, and The Lone Rangers were just a reinterpretation of Motörhead, fun-loving jackasses who lived for their music but also dealt with the very human sadnesses of everyday life.
As an eight year old watching this movie on TV, I loved the music playing over the credits, the joke about the wrestling match, and the churlish biker who admits that he was editor of the school magazine. It was only when I asked my brother about the second of those three things that I found out they were all connected. And of course they were. Of course the gnarly motherfucker growling about putting some boogie in your ear was the unapologetic geek who might just be God in all his infinite wisdom walking amongst the crowds outside of a hijacked radio station. Of course that dude was the kind of guy The Lone Rangers worshipped.
I love Airheads. I think it gets down some of metal’s truths in a very poignant and funny way. But man, a lot of folks hate on that movie. Rob Zombie shat on it for making metalheads out to be a bunch of glam cavemen, and I’ve read plenty of critical reviews that call it a silly half-cocked comedy with menacing overtones. Fuck, given the current national climate, there’s no way that shit could’ve been made today. But let’s face it, they got something right.
While the band’s storied discography stretches across five decades, fans will forever remember the band’s speed metal anthem “Ace of Spades” as their defining—
I’ve got two Motörhead MSG shows under my belt. The first was when I was a teenager and I caught them opening for Dio and Iron Maiden at the Garden. My buddy Ian and I went. It fucking slayed. In my complete dedication to classic metal, I decided to wear a pair of skin-tight black jeans and a bullet belt, neither of which can wrap around my fat fucking waist anymore.
It’s funny, because the stage was set up for Iron Maiden, so it was this huge arena stage, and when Motörhead were on it they looked a little tiny and the stage looked kind of empty, but man, they just destroyed it. Three dudes, one of them a psychotic biker warthog, in the middle of this huge stage, just blasting the face off of an MSG crowd. I love Dio, but man, all his swords and magic paled in comparison to Motörhead’s whiskey-fueled war machine.
The second time was a few years ago when Motörhead opened for Megadeth at MSG for some stupid fucking reason. This was much more of a traditional seated experience, but fuck me if everyone wasn’t on their feet losing their minds for Motörhead’s set. Lemmy had aged, certainly, but that rasp only strengthened the viciousness of his growl.
And when they finished, Megadeth took the stage, and while I don’t love Dave Mustaine, I respect that band, and man, they sucked. They sucked like they’d been trained to do so. They sounded small, tinny, and awful. There was just no following, you know… that.
Right, right, okay. In recent years, Lemmy’s health had seem some decline—
Quick Lemmy story, though. So I’m in LA attending the first Revolver Golden Gods Awards. I was their intern, and figured it would be a fun trip. So I’m at the awards show, and I run into Brandon Geist, then Executive Editor of the magazine. I ask him how things are going, and Brandon looks like he’s at the end of his rope.
“I gotta go get another handle of Jack for Lemmy,” he tells me.
“Fuck, man,” I say, “Lemmy drinks a handle of Jack a night.”
“No,” says Brandon, pointing at me. “Lemmy has drunk a handle of Jack. And now we need to go get him another one.”
Ugh, okay. For those fans who—
You know what, I bet Lemmy never used the word “seminal” in his seventy years of existence, and if he did it wasn’t to describe his own music. Maybe he was talking about the Beatles.
In fact, I bet Lemmy never wasted a second of time blathering on about how he or his band were important, or changed things, or straddled genres. While other assholes were expostulating over Lemmy all the time, Lemmy was busy wearing short-shorts and chain-smoking Marlboros and bringing home women half his age and reading good books. He wasn’t singing his own goddamn praises using some bullshit journalism language, so why the fuck should I?
When I listen to Motörhead, I feel good. I feel honest with who I am. I don’t dwell on drama or misery or the horrors of the world, even when Lemmy is singing about those things; if anything, when he sings about them, it’s as though they’re exorcised from my psyche and I can just dance and party rather than mope and grumble. And while plenty of other bands make me feel a ton of conflicting and important things, the band that only makes me feel liberated and happy and true to who I am is the band I want to celebrate more than any other.
My life has been kind of fucked up — mostly good, but sometimes really bad — but nothing in this world makes me happier than the reckless rock tunes of a shoe-faced speedfreak who roadied for Hendrix, got tossed out of a psychedelic rock band for partying too hard, lost the love of his life to a terrible drug, wrote twenty-three albums of awesome rock and died without compromise or embarrassment or apology.
Here’s to Lemmy. Here’s to rock and roll.
I’ve got rock and roll to save me from the cold. And if that’s all there is, it ain’t so bad.