Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lemmy is Dead

That's a hard line to write.

Lemmy passed away on December 28th, 2015, after being diagnosed with an "aggressive" cancer on December 26th. Two days after his 70th birthday.

There's that old joke that Keith Richards is immortal, that when the Earth is a barren wasteland, it'll just be Keef and some cockroaches. That Richards somehow embodies rock n' roll...

But I'm here to tell you, Lemmy Kilmister was more rock n' roll than Keith Richards will ever be. Lemmy had a small apartment in LA a few blocks from the Rainbow Bar & Grill, where he could regularly be found sipping drinks and playing video poker (a video poker game that was actually moved to his apartment for the last few days of his life). Lemmy played his final show just 20 days before his death. Keith, for all his awesome qualities (and there are many), lives on an estate in Jamaica, ensconced from the world between Stones tours. Motorhead toured hard, and was never so popular as to have the comforts of massive success. They played - worked - because they had to.

Motorhead released 21 albums in 28 years, and still had to push themselves on the road constantly. This year, they played 54 shows, all while Lemmy was suffering with multiple medical problems. Lest I ignore facts, it's clear that Lemmy LOVED touring, and mentioned several times that he'd be happy to die on stage. I'm sure there would've been lots of shows either way, but perhaps Lemmy could've traveled in a bit more comfort. I won't even go into the weird merchandising choices the band has made in recent years.

A few years ago I found myself listening to a lot of Motorhead, right about the time AC/DC was issuing another cookie cutter album and launching a world tour. It struck me very strongly that AC/DC and Motorhead were very much in the same business, but Motorhead was simply miles better at it. There is a certain cynical, distanced quality I always detect in AC/DC, they have an understood, practiced formula, whereas Motorhead felt honestly raw. They weren't the best players, their songs tended to be blunt-force instruments, and Lemmy's influences, in many ways, began and ended in the 1950's with Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. Their catalog is filled with riffs that are lifted from the earliest days of rock n' roll, but played with the attitude (and volume) of a man who'd lived though the eras of Hendrix and Zeppelin.

I may be kidding myself about that, but I can only go by what I know of the man who simply was Motorhead, Lemmy Kilmister. There is a palpable sense in everything about Lemmy that the man simply didn't care to play by your, or anyone else's, rules, because his rules were working fine for him. His interviews ring unflinchingly honest, and the man clearly had no interest in insulting anyone, yet also had no time for PC self-censorship. He spoke the truth, as he saw it, and didn't expect his truth to be universal.

If you want a really good look at who he was, I'll recommend the documentary Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son Of A Bitch

Lemmy was singular, he was an original, he was an icon, warts and all (no pun intended). I'm very aware that we shall not see his like again. RIP, good man...you deserve it.

Lemmy Kilmister
1945- 2015

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