It's strange how musical tastes can change at the beat of a single song. I grew up on a diet of 70's pop and at the height of the punk era. The latter had little effect on me back then, although it's certainly a genre I appreciate now. 1980 was the year that music changed forever, for me, as a raw, guttural sound emerged on the airwaves. I had been aware of bands like Iron Maiden, although paid them little attention, yet this heady blend of bass and rasping vocals had an instant effect on the eleven year old me. Ace of Spades, by Motörhead, had hit my eardrums with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. And I fucking loved it!
Suddenly music had a whole new meaning. It had an edge, a passion. It was visceral, brutal and so very, very loud!
In 1975, Lemmy formed a new band called “Bastard”. along with former “Pink Fairies” guitarist, Larry Wallis, and drummer Lucas Fox. After his manager advised him he would never get a slot on the British music show “Top of the Pops” with the band name, Lemmy changed it to Motörhead, the title of the final song he had written with Hawkwind.
Wallis and Fox were soon replaced by guitarist “Fast Eddie” Clarke and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, and it was with this line up that Motörhead began to achieve success, which peaked in the 1980’s with the song “Ace of Spades”, a perennial favourite amongst fans to this day.
During his tenure with Hawkwind, Lemmy developed an appetite for LSD and, in particular, amphetamines.
In an interview he stated “I first got into speed because it was a utilitarian drug and kept you awake when you needed to be awake, when otherwise you'd just be flat out on your back. If you drive to Glasgow for nine hours in the back of a sweaty truck you don't really feel like going onstage feeling all bright and breezy... It's the only drug I've found that I can get on with, and I've tried them all – except smack [heroin] and morphine: I've never "fixed" anything”
In November 2005, he was invited to be a guest speaker at the Welsh Assembly, by Conservative Welsh assembly member William Graham. He was asked to share his views on the detrimental effects of drugs. However he shocked the Assembly Members and the Welsh public when he called for the legalisation of heroin: "I have never had heroin but since I moved to London from north Wales in '67 I have mixed with junkies on a casual and almost daily basis," he said. "I also lived with a young woman who tried heroin just to see what it was like. It killed her three years later. I hate the idea even as I say it, but I do believe the only way to treat heroin is to legalise it." He stated that legalisation would eradicate the drug dealer from society
Similarly his love affair with Jack Daniel was positively legendary. It is reputed that he consumed a bottle a day, and had done so since the age of 30. In 2013, citing health reasons, he quit Jack Daniels, switching instead to vodka.
A proficient bass player, Lemmy was well known for his unusually high positioning of his microphone. He stated that it was for "personal comfort, that's all. It's also one way of avoiding seeing the audience. In the days when we only had ten people and a dog, it was a way of avoiding seeing that we only had ten people and a dog."
He has used Rickenbacker 4001 and 4003 bass guitars almost exclusively since his days with Hawkwind, although some of these instruments were modified with the installation of Gibson Thunderbird pickups in the neck position. Rickenbacker produced a 50-bass run of Lemmy Kilmister signature basses, the 4004LK, which is fitted with three pickups, gold hardware, and elaborate wood carving in the shape of oak leaves.
From 1990 onward, Lemmy lived in Los Angees, in a two room apartment two blocks away from the “"Rainbow Bar and Grill”, his favourite watering hole. As he grew older, his health detoriated, and he suffered from hypertension and diabetes. In 2013, he had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator fitted to regulate the pacing of his heart.
On the 28th December 2015 at 4pm, the last hand of cards were dealt. Four days after his 70th birtthday, the rock and roll legend, who lived fast and hard, died suddenly. The sad news started to filter through on Twitter, and as I scrolled through my timeline, it rapidly became apparent that this was not, as I had initially anticipated, a hoax. Lemmy was gone. A mere two days after diagnosis, an aggressive form of cancer took his life, and robbed the world of a metal legend. On that day, a part of my formative musical years died..
My passion for heavy metal broadened over the years, from melodic power metal to the heavier, more aggressive bands like Slipknot and Slayer. Throughout all of my musical journey through metal, Motörhead were always in my playlists somewhere…
Lemmy will certainly survive in my heart, until the day I join him. The influence he had on me as a metal-head is second to none, and for introducing me to the genre, he will have my eternal respect, admiration and love.
Tributes for Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister are laid at the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Los Angeles.
I no longer drink. But if I did, I'd raise a very large scotch to Lemmy.. Musicians come and go. Legends live forever….
24 December 1945 – 28 December 2015
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