With the passing of Lemmy Kilmister this week, so many of us are feeling a deep sense of loss… perhaps more than we expected.
Lemmy Kilmister was a certainly a larger-than-life character in the rock ‘n’ roll universe, and when I started work on the LOUIE documentary, Lemmy was one of the guys I definitely wanted to interview. Motörhead‘s approach to the song was a powerful interpretation that became a personal favorite version for many people I’ve met over the years. I always thought of Lemmy as the quintessential missing link between punk rock and heavy metal.
The interview itself ran smoothly – easy to arrange, which turned to be a very simple setup with just me and Lemmy backstage at the Haze Theater in San Francisco, without any other handlers or assistants hanging around. Lemmy answered all the questions concisely with a no-B.S. approach.
During the interview, Lemmy talked about working as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, hearing him perform LOUIE LOUIE at various times during sound checks, but never during any actual concerts for the general public*. Lemmy also discussed Motörhead’s version of LOUIE LOUIE (which he considered THE best version) and recording the song as their first single on Bronze Records, which peaked at the number 68 spot on the UK Singles Chart, followed by an appearance on BBC’s Top of the Pops, which became their first TV performance.
You see a little bit of Lemmy’s interview at an old promo trailer I created for the documentary project.
Here’s a little photo I took of Lemmy with some friends* backstage after the interview…
*(UPDATE: Sophie wrote “The one to the right is actually Phil Campbell (Motorhead Guitarist) in a wig. I didnt recognize him at first either.”)
It didn’t mean anything to me when this interview was conducted, but this interview took place on April 11th of 1994 – Richard Berry‘s birthday, and the day that an alliance of dedicated LOUIE enthusiasts (that’s “Llamas” to you) chose to declare as “International LOUIE LOUIE Day” quite a few years later.
Anyways, with the death of Lemmy, I was pleasantly surprised to find a wealth of appreciation for the man.
I certainly NEVER expected my hometown paper to mention his death on the top of the front page.
I found some other wonderful tributes to the man that I thought I’d share, recycled from Facebook postings..
My friend August Ragone, host at Shout TV, a writer-columnist-editor at Famous Monsters of Filmland and a world authority on all things Godzila (with an excellent blog at augustragone.blogspot.com) shared this special memory:
Absolutely the single most memorable Motörhead show – as well as my most memorable experience with Lemmy – was at One Step Beyond in Santa Clara. Must’ve been the late 1980s, and myself and co-worker Wayne were instructed to keep stage divers from doing what they do. Wayne and I were stationed on stage left, and two other co-workers were situated on stage right.
The venue was packed. Lemmy and the band were whipping them into a rabid frenzy. Then, it happened. Someone, a young, white kid, tried pulling himself up onto the stage. Wayne and I began to move forward, when something wonderful – something magical – occurred. Lemmy had raised his foot, and planted the sole of his boot, almost gingerly, onto the kid’s face.
Slowly, but with an inherent, inhuman power, he pushed the would-be stage diver back into the sea of writhing rabble, crashing against the stage as if they were a single, violent sea. Witnessing this, I was thunderstruck. Suddenly, time stopped. Everything stopped and went quiet. The music stopped. The silence was deafening. Then, Lemmy took the microphone.
“When I’m on this stage, it’s my fucking stage. Keep off my fucking stage.”
And the band played on. Not a single soul attempted to take Lemmy’s stage.
Afterwards, Wayne and I remained on stage to protect the gear. Eventually, Lemmy emerged from the green room near stage right. He was carrying something in each hand as he walked across the stage towards us. He handed each of us a six-pack, proclaiming, “Good job, boys.”
“But, Lemmy… We didn’t—”, I started, and he reiterated, “Good job, boys.” He winked at us, and disappeared back behind the green room door.
He was a man among men.
Jello Biafra, legendary punk rocker and rebel-rouser:
RIP Lemmy. Much love, respect and inspiration.
We all kind of grew up on him, didn’t we?
It’s strange. I haven’t felt quite this kind of deepening sense of loss since Johnny Cash died. Why is that?
I remember a late night ride in a car in LA with Adam Jones, Dale Crover and maybe another person (don’t think it was Buzz); coming back from the studio, where we were working on the music I made with the Melvins. We were asking ourselves why we were all feeling such a lingering sadness because Johnny Cash was gone. It’s not as though he hadn’t lived a long full successful life, and given so much to the world. This was a life well lived. Finally a voice piped up from the back seat (Dale, maybe? Can’t remember..), saying, “He was our Abe Lincoln..” Yeah.. So now what does that make Lemmy? There will never be another… -JB
Deke Dickerson, rockabilly singer, and guitar enthusiast:
RIP Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead…. I think almost anybody who has been in the rock and roll business for more than a couple years has a story about Lemmy. For me, this is how it went: In the beginning, I was a rockabilly kid who hated anything “heavy metal” and at first I lumped Motorhead in with all the other metal bands. A few of my pals, like Todd Abramson in New York, tried to convince me that Motorhead were different, that Motorhead were cool, that Lemmy Kilmister, the leader and figurehead, was different. He had a pedigree going back to playing with the 60’s beat band The Rockin’ Vickers and after being a roadie for Hendrix and playing in Hawkwind, formed Motorhead right around the same time as punk rock started in the mid-1970s. Even though they were always lumped into the category of “heavy metal,” they were closer to a punk band in attitude and songcraft than most of the metal bands. Around the time that I was learning about music (early 1980s) I had an issue of CREEM magazine with an article on Motorhead that showed the band outside a McDonald’s somewhere in suburbia with Lemmy grabbing Ronald McDonald’s nuts. That made me think–hey, these guys just might be alright! A few years later, a good friend of mine who played bass in bluegrass bands (the much-missed Forrest Rose of Columbia, Missouri) had the Motorhead vinyl album “Ace Of Spades” on his coffee table at his bachelor pad. I picked it up and looked at it. Forrest said, “You know, you need that album. Take it home.” I have to confess, I loved it at first listen, and I’ve probably cranked that album a thousand times, it really is one of the greatest hard rock & roll albums ever made. It’s so great, it’ll make you forget about girls for a little while–the mark of greatness. “Ace Of Spades” “Love Me Like A Reptile” “The Hammer Is Coming Down” “We Are The Road Crew”–great rock and roll songs, played with utter conviction and balls. What’s not to like? After I moved to Los Angeles, Lemmy was always around, whether holding court at the Rainbow just hanging out or showing up at shows that I went to. I remember standing in line behind him at Spaceland to see the Hasil Adkins/T-Model Ford show. When Hasil hit the stage, Lemmy and I were standing next to each other, in the front row, watching Hasil from about 4 feet away. Lemmy seemed completely transfixed by Hasil Adkins. If I needed any more proof, that was it–Lemmy was COOL. You’ll see it all over Facebook today, but it’s true–the dude was just COOL. No pretense, no bullshit, just a rock and roll dude to the core, what you saw was what you got. He was as much a rock and roll fan as he was a rock star. I excitedly got my “Ace Of Spades” album signed by Lemmy at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle back in 2000, where the above picture of he and I was taken. Lemmy choked me–hard–with his left hand from behind. COOL! Their show was intense, it was like having a hammer to your head for a solid 90 minutes, with no goddamn power ballads. If that’s what you were looking for, Motorhead always delivered the goods. A few years later, Lemmy surprised a lot of people by forming “Head Cat,” a rockabilly band with Danny B. Harvey, Slim Jim Phantom, and my buddy Djordje Stijepovic. I caught him a few times around that time, including a truly bizarre weekend in Green Bay at the Oneida Casino where Lemmy just always seemed to be walking the halls and hanging out with everybody. Lemmy dug rockabilly and 50’s rock and roll and he was totally into it. He was good pals with Reverend Horton Heat, too. I saw Motorhead a few more times over the years, and I was always blown away at the level of respect that everybody showed to Lemmy. Nobody but nobody would dare disrespect Lemmy, and I thought that was great. That’s power, that’s respect, right there. Who else can you say that about? A few weeks ago, Djordje told me all about attending Lemmy’s 70th birthday party at the Whiskey A Go Go. It sounded like a fine time, with tons of rock stars playing and jamming and paying tribute to Lemmy, who hung out in the balcony watching the proceedings. When I heard about Lemmy turning 70, I thought to myself–that’s pretty amazing that the dude made it to 70. Tales of Lemmy’s speed and alcohol abuse are legendary, but he seemed like he wouldn’t ever die. I mean, to beat your body that hard and live to be 70–that’s impressive. But today proved that nobody can outlive the Grim Reaper forever, and the great man is gone. I can speak for a lot of people when I say: I loved that guy. Rest in Peace. For the disbelievers, check out the excellent 2010 documentary “Lemmy.” It’s well worth your time. The world seems different now that Lemmy Kilmister is dead. I don’t know, maybe Rock and Roll died today. It kind of feels like it.
Lee Ballinger, Rock & Rap Confidential:
Lemmy Kilmister, bassist and singer for Motorhead, has died of cancer at age 70. In its four decade career, Motorhead left an indelible mark on heavy metal, influencing the likes of Metallica and countless others.
Many people dismiss heavy metal, and those who play it and listen to it, as mindless and meaningless. Read the following words by Lemmy, once a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, and see what you think.
“I am not, nor have I ever been, a racist. Nor should you be. How can you hate a race? Can you not, with your brain (which seems to be inter-racially supplied) distinguish between people who are okay and people who are assholes? Politicians foster racism—it keeps us fighting each other, and that keeps us from throwing them out of office. Vietnam–there’s a thing—blacks and whites, and Japanese and Vietnamese, and Irish and Indians—fighting together. For the wrong cause, though no less bravely. Do you think we could give bravery a fucking rest? Except in the case of a fire, or a woman and child trapped in Oklahoma City? Being scared of people makes you kill them. We got probes in space that go to the stars, and we might go soon, ourselves. What are we going to take with us? Hate? WORK AGAINST IT. Hasta la vista, motherfuckers.”—from Lemmy’s September 1995 magazine column in RIP.
Hasta la vista, Lemmy.
As Deke mentioned, a few years ago, Lemmy had a little side project outside of Motörhead, playing old rock ‘n’ roll songs with drummer Slim Jim Phantom (of The Stray Cats) and guitarist Danny B. Harvey (of Lonesome Spurs and The Rockats) with a 3-piece band they called “The Head Cat.”
I saw ’em when they played the Blank Club in San Jose, and captured a few of their songs on video for posterity…
REST IN PEACE, LEMMY – NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN!
– Eric Predoehl, producer of the LouieLouie.net experience and upcoming documentary
… and here’s MORE on LEMMY…
* = Jimi Hendrix did actually perform a brief snippet of LOUIE LOUIE at a soundcheck witnessed by the public and it turned to be his final concert – Live at the Isle of Fehmarn.