Unless you have had your head under a stone today you will probably have registered the death of Lemmy, the moustachioed, mutton chopped, gravel voiced vocalist and bass player from the Heavy Metal band Motörhead , who died yesterday aged 70. All day tributes to the great man have surfaced, from James Hetfield (Metallica) to Ozzy Osborne to Alice Cooper and his passing even made headlines on Sky News and in national newspapers.
“He will not just be missed. He is irreplacable and there will never be another person like him.”
Just what is it about the passing of this one ageing rocker that has created so much interest and such a genuine outpouring of public grief? Unless you have an interest in Rock it is hard to understand. Luckily our resident metalhead – Lord Pyre, from cult Heavy Metal band Stuka Squadron – is on hand to explain it for us.
“Lemmy was Heavy Metal royalty. Up there with Ozzy, Bruce (Dickinson from Iron Maiden), Angus Young (AC/DC) and Toni Iommi from Black Sabbath. He was a towering, iconic, universally admired figure, spoken of with awe and reverence by Metal musicians everywhere.”
“He was a towering, iconic, universally admired figure, spoken of with awe and reverence”
“In musical terms he was a Metal pioneer. Motörhead were one of the most important bands in Metal’s first heyday in the early 1980s. Some of the early Motörhead albums, ‘Overkill’, ‘Bomber’, ‘Iron Fist’, ‘Orgasmatron’ are absolute Metal classics. ‘No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith’ is renowned as one of the great live albums of all time and surely everyone knows their anthem ‘The Ace of Spades’! Lemmy was still making great albums into his late 60s. He only just came off tour. They had gone through with it even though it was obvious he was pretty poorly.”
“Motörhead had attitude. They were fast and mean, uncompromising, ugly and distorted.”
“There is a lot more to it than an impressive musical back catalogue, though. Motörhead had attitude. They were fast and mean, uncompromising, ugly and distorted. They were voted Worst Band in the World. They were voted Best Worst Bad in the World. They were literally the loudest band in the world. They inadvertantly invented Thrash, inspiring the likes of Metallica and Megadeth. Lemmy’s glass-gargling vocals might not be to everyone’s taste but they influenced heavy music eveywhere and inspired countless thousands of imitations.”
“And then there is Lemmy as a man, or rather as a legend. Motörhead was all about Lemmy. He started it and he was there all the way through. It is his sound and his music. As a man he was an icon. With those biker looks, the denim, the bullet belt, the leathers, the long hair and the motorcycle he defined what Metal guys should look like. Look at any Metal band and you can see it. Look at my band, Stuka Squadron. My bass is a Rickenbacker. That’s from Lemmy. The Iron Cross on my arm? That’s from Lemmy.”
“He was the original Metal badass and he looked as hard as nails. He was a human juggernaut who could consume epic quantities of Jack Daniels and continual, apparently life-threatening quantities of narcotics without any ill effect. He was a speedfreak who would stay awake for a week on amphetamines, sleep for two days and then start the process all over again. One of the stories about him was that he wanted a blood transfusion but was told that the (non) toxic shock would kill him. He was rock n’roll incarnate. Nobody else could do this stuff and live, but he seemed unkillable.”
“He was the original Metal badass and he looked as hard as nails. He was a human juggernaut…”
“For all that and his relative lack of education he was a smart man who wrote sharp lyrics and thought hard about the world. Some of my best lyrical ideas were Lemmy’s ideas first. His abiding interest in the Third Reich, Third Reich memorabilia and World War II was another huge influence on the Metal world. ”
“He will not just be missed. He is irreplacable and there will never be another person like him. When you have grown up always having him there, it leaves a huge gap to know that he is gone. The reaper has been cruel to the Metal world recently, with the loss of a few heroes, particularly Ronnie James Dio, and with both Toni Iommi and Bruce Dickinson also being diagnosed with cancer recently. It is horrible to think of a world without giants like this.”
Lemmy, born Ian Kilmister in 1945 was employed as a roadie for Jimmi Hendrix before joining the space rock band Hawkwind on bass in 1971. He left Hawkwind in 1975 after a drug bust on tour in Canada and formed Motörhead. After a slow start Motörhead acheived considerable chart success starting in the early 1980s, ultimately selling 15 million records worldwide. The band remained popular and continued to tour until and through 2015 including shows in the month before Lemmy’s sudden death, three days after being diagnosed with cancer, on 28th December. His last words are reputed to have been “Keep playing our music, and play it loud!”.