Ian Fraser ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, (24th December 1945 – 28th December 2015)
Three years. Three whole years has passed since the unthinkable happened.
At the age of 70, Ian Fraser Kilmister had passed away. The name known to his family and his friends. But they, and the rest of the world, knew him as Lemmy.
The Motorhead front man, the charismatic, bass playing, good time rock ‘n’ roller, had gone. But what he left behind was incredible. The music was something the world had never heard of before. The band itself was larger than life, Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor and ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, making up the most successful lineup of Motorhead, alongside the lynchpin lead singer.
You have to thank Hawkwind though for introducing the world to Lemmy. Come to think of it, The Nice and Jimi Hendrix had a hand in it too. Lemmy roadied for both The Nice and Hendrix, before he joined Hawkwind. And that stint between 1971 and 1975 cemented Lemmy into rock history, when he provided the vocals for their most memorable track, Silver Machine. The front man persona was born.
But it also brought the usual rock n roll problems that a front man of a rock band has sometimes. It was drugs that brought a premature end to his Hawkwind stint, when he got busted in Canada on a possession charge. Despite the charges against him being dropped, Lemmy was promptly fired from the band. But giving up wasn’t in the vocabulary of Lemmy. He just simply started a new band. His band. The name? Bastard. Yup, Bastard. Only Lemmy could choose to call his band that name.
With Larry Wallis and Lucas Fox making up the trio, the name Bastard would prove to be a stumbling block if they wanted to appear on the biggest music programme on television, Top Of The Pops. So Lemmy would go back to the past to give his band a future. Motorhead would be the chosen name, and it would become synonymous with people if you mentioned the words, ‘British’, ‘Heavy’ and ‘Metal’. But a heavy metal sound that nobody had come across before. Speed metal. And it not only embraced the metal heads, it would embrace the punk rockers as well.
To gain success, it meant that the line up would change. Out went Wallis and Fox, and in came Phil Taylor on drums and Eddie Clarke on guitar. The result? One of the most defining heavy metal albums ever made. The all conquering Ace Of Spades. The songwriting style of the album from Lemmy was astonishing. Sure, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath had made defining albums, but this was something else. Absolutely uncompromising, bare knuckled, faster than you can blink, heavy metal music. The title track being one the most recognisable songs of all time.
Drink and drugs were certainly playing a part in the Lemmy enigma. Jack Daniels being a particular favourite of his. But it never stopped him from writing tracks that made heavy metal music heavy. Their live album, No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, went to number one in the charts. Fucking unheard of then, and most probably unheard of now. But it happened, the fans love of this band and of the lead singer, made it happen. But as the fame increased, so did the consumption of the alcohol and pharmaceuticals.
The line up changed more often than not, but Lemmy was always there. In 1990, he moved to Los Angeles. And the Whisky A-Go-Go became his favourite haunt. His regular, if you will. The Rainbow Bar and Grill, too. Over the years, his health started to cause problems. Lung infections, dehydration,a haematoma and diabetes. The lifestyle certainly took it’s toll. When one doctor told of his diabetes, he said that they had reached an agreement. Lemmy simply changed from Jack Daniels to vodka. But not as much, and that went for the drug use too.
Lemmy continued to make music and tour the world. The fans still catching a glimpse of their idol, a man who could seemingly defy any odds life threw at him. Until the 28th December, 2015. Lemmy passed away from prostate cancer, cardiac arrhythmia and congestive heart failure. It took an army to take him down, with the cancer only being diagnosed two days before his death. But take him down it did. And with it, Motorhead was no more.
I remember reading the news before I went to work that morning, and never felt so stunned about the death of someone you thought wasn’t capable of doing that. I went home on my dinner break, opened all the windows of my flat, put on Overkill full blast on the stereo, and let the world, and the street where I live, know that the music that Lemmy made for everyone would always be there. And it still gets played, as does the other classics he brought to us all. Loud, hard and fast, the way he intended it to be.
Lemmy lived life to the absolute maximum, and that still probably wasn’t fast enough. A man who played the rock n roller so well, yet was an absolute gent to go with it. The songs, the look, the persona. Nobody will ever come close to Lemmy. “If you think you are too old to rock n roll, then you probably are”, he once said. And that quote could only come from someone who didn’t believe you were too old for anything.
Rest in paradise, Ian Fraser ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister