Today there are seldom seen any more revered idols that capture the true essence or borderline gentlemanly charm and humility measured against clinical maniacal musical fanaticism better than that of Lemmy Kilmister. Lemmy has stood since day one as a departure from the norm, the outlaw personae and resonant echoed light silhouetting his ragged frame emblazoned with his signature Rickenbacker hand carved custom bass. Rickenbacker paid tribute to metal icon with the introduction of the 4004LK, a signature bass limited to 60 pieces that was first spotted in 1995. The bass is half instrument, half art, as each piece’s walnut body features a hand-carved relief of oak leaves and white checked binding. Since they were all done by hand, each bass’s relief a little different from the rest, giving each a unique identity. The bass behind Lemmy is but a mere possession in a rare glimpse into the storied and wild escapades of one of rock and roll’s (not heavy metal) leading men.
When we think over the years of Lemmy and his achievements it’s easy to conjure images of a man wealthy beyond our dreams, writing songs when he feels like the fans are owed a follow up album, walls in a large palatial home adorned with awards and custom instruments, supermodels readily dispensed as necessary. This is of course the tale of a man other than Lemmy. Lemmy is and always has been a man focused and driven to succeed; within his focus and drive reside a strong respect for his fans, a well rounded and serviced intellect of military and social history and above it all the humility and dignity of an elder statesman. This is the man we’ve grown to love and cherish as our brother throughout the world. A man who put himself second and most notably his fans first and until his final 20 days of his European tour pounded out the throttle heavy lyrics to “Overkill” in Berlin, Germany. As has been the signature of Lemmy in the final throes of each Motorhead show finale / encore rises the song “Overkill”, in a grim sense of odd foreshadowing he never backed down and hit it head on even hearing the straining in his core like an engine running white hot and ready to crack – but Lemmy was for all intensive purposes in all given circumstances invincible.
Lemmy brought an unmistakable edge to rock n’ roll, with his group of bandits in Motorhead numbering among the following Larry Wallis, Lucas Fox, Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, “Fast” Eddie Clarke, Brian “Robbo” Robertson, Michael “Würzel” Burston, Pete Gill, Phil “Wizzö” Campbell and Mikkey Dee. These men changed the face of rock n’ roll forever and with Lemmy at the helm as General, the brought an artillery / booze fueled, amphetamine boosted fast, loose, flowing and soul gripping and grinding rhythm that finally found it’s final ascension to immortality December 28, 2015.
Motörhead released 23 studio albums, 10 live recordings, 12 compilation albums, and five EPs over a career spanning 40 years. Usually a power trio, they had particular success in the early 1980’s with several successful singles in the UK Top 40 chart. The albums Overkill, Bomber, Ace of Spades, and particularly No Sleep ’til Hammersmith cemented Motörhead’s reputation as a top-tier rock band. The band are ranked number 26 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. As of 2012, they have sold more than 15 million albums worldwide.
A rare glimpse into the man came in 2010 with the rockumentary Lemmy “49% motherf**ker. 51% son of a bitch“, this lead us past the doors of suspect and shone a light on the gentle kind man beneath the black, the sound, the Rickenbacker, the gravelly voice and the twin moles. In this we see Lemmy as he is – was and ever shall be remembered; in his apartment a block off Sunset Strip, amidst a lifetime of memories, musical achievement awards, toys, fan base art, Jack Daniels, english fried potatoes, war memorabilia and a rather large daunting collection of Damascus steel bayonet blades and knives. We saw a glimpse into the road life that we feel we know all too well as fans, expecting a chorus line of beautiful women waiting for their moment to meet the man himself; in the interview he is asked “where are the groupies?” – his response ? a calmly put: “do you see any?”. We see the day to day grind of what a man has achieved in a worldwide army of fans united in respect and most importantly music. Continent to Continent, City to City, Mile after Mile – he and the affectionately referred to “roadcrew” are the family he knows most closely beside his son Paul. A brief touching moment within the documentary with the two generations of Kilmister occupying opposite ends of the couch, Lemmy reminiscing on years gone by and the chance meeting of Paul. Among all the towering piles of paper and road artifacts in the Motorhead archive / residence the interviewer asks: “What’s your most cherished posession?” – simply put – “My son”. If ever there is a man who is all business on stage and all heart in the moment it was Lemmy – never kinder words could be written.
Lemmy was many things to many people and since his passing, the memories and cards of condolence flood from all corners of the world. It’s in times like these I think of what this man has left us in his wake. He has left us his music that is for certain, the music that has introduced us to each other and forged friendships, the music that he encouraged us to follow as we sought to know who influenced our favorite artists. He has left us his spirit in many ways – Lemmy was the last of the “renegades” – as Joan Jett referred to, we far to often “go along to get along” – Lemmy wasn’t like that, he did what he did on his terms, you either liked it or you didn’t. There aren’t many people among the artistic community that depart this mortal coil with a legacy intact and entrenched firmly on earth, Lemmy achieved this through his direct and honest approach with nothing added. The legacy I believe is one of metamorphosis that gives us reason to grow and yet always stay firm to our roots as did Lemmy, never be wavered by the masses, do what makes you happy and make others happy doing it.
The world will be a vacant place as we move forward knowing that the “Chief” is on the other side, I guess the best reassurance we have is doing what he loved in the wake of this event. To honor this wonderful man he would not want tears to be shed or grief to be a wide and painful streak through many a fan. I believe what he would want is for the music to be first and foremost loud and the drinks to be poured and the memories to be shared and remember what great times we had with that man and his music. Lemmy was once asked “Do you have any regrets?” – simply put his answer was “None!”. Remember those words my friends. . .simple as they are; we will see you again Lemmy.
Thank you for the spirit, the music, the body and the memories. . .
There is no easy way to say this… our mighty, noble friend Lemmy passed away today after a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer. He had learnt of the disease on December 26th, and was at home, sitting in front of his favorite video game from The Rainbow which had recently made its way down the street, with his family.
We cannot begin to express our shock and sadness, there aren’t words.
We will say more in the coming days, but for now, please… play Motörhead loud, play Hawkwind loud, play Lemmy’s music LOUD. Have a drink or few.
Celebrate the LIFE this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself.
HE WOULD WANT EXACTLY THAT.
Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister
Born to lose, lived to win