Lemmy is dead. Those are word I can BOTH not believe I am writing and am shocked that I have not written before. Lemmy, the lead singer and bassist for Motorhead and before that Hawkwind, seemed both invincible and feeble at the same time. Think a badder, bolder version of Keith Richards.
Lemmy was, well Lemmy. Ian “Lemmy” Killmeister was a legend as much for his persona as his music. He looked as much like a hit man from central casting as he did a rock star, and he would probably prefer it that way. Despite writing some amazing rock songs, he was still the old guy playing video games at the Rainbow in Los Angeles.
In many ways both Hawkwind and Motorhead are better known by their reputation than their music. Hawkwind was one of the earliest space rock bands, forming during the dying embers of the 1960’s and Lemmy joined as bassist in the early 70’s and only spent a few years in the band before a drug arrest led to his firing and the formation of Motorhead.
Motorhead was a power trio and while they sum up a lot of what is great about heavy metal, they are really a hard rock band with punk and metal tendencies, though in reality they predated both genres. They were, in many ways, the forefathers of thrash, speed metal and crossover, but Lemmy did not want to claim his offspring. He influenced metal heads, got along with the punks and at the end of the day he just considered them a rock band.
They looked like bikers and utterly lacked pretention. If you bought a Motorhead record you knew what you were going to get. You’d get fast guitars, sweet riffs, bombastic drums and Lemmy's trademark voice which sounds as if he topped the obvious years of booze and butts with a healthy habit of gargling broken glass.
This was ugly music, played by ugly guys, which was the perfect soundtrack for a night of dive bars and questionable decisions.
There were no ballads, no concept albums, no 20 minute epics. As NME once said, their guitar solos were just long enough “to open another bottle of beer.”
Their music was a black denim vest and a scuffed pair of cowboy boots with silver toe tips. This music was a shiny black Cadillac with ripped interior and a busted headlight.
The music was not complicated, but neither was Lemmy. He liked his stiff drink, his cigarettes and his black cowboy hat with the crossed sabers. When he was not on the road, he could be found nursing a drink (drinks) and a smoke at the same corner spot of the Rainbow. He lived around the corner with his books and his German military memorabilia.
I won’t pretend that Motorhead was my favorite band, but I dare you to listen to “Ace of Spades” and tell me it is not one of the best rock songs of all time.
Motorhead will always have a special a special place in my heart. For years “Ace of Spades” was my unofficial theme song before I did radio interviews and I pretty much have made it my Las Vegas theme song for the past decade and a half.
Or maybe we should just let Dave Grohl of Nirvana/Foo Fighters fame say it best, “Lemmy's a living, breathing, drinking and snorting f- - -ing legend. No one else comes close.”