Lemmy And Motörhead – Underpaid, Underappreciated & Undeniably Unique
Motörhead the most underappreciated band in the history of rock ‘n roll is dead.
That is the news confirmed by Motörhead’s drummer Mikkey Dee. “Motörhead is over, of course. Lemmy was Motörhead. We won’t be doing any more tours or anything. And there won’t be any more records. But the brand survives, and Lemmy lives on in the hearts of everyone,” said Dee.
Motörhead founder, singer, songwriter and bassist, Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister died in Hollywood, CA last week, Monday December 28, 2015 at the age of 70 . The official cause was an extremely aggressive form of brain and neck cancer that Lemmy had just been diagnosed with two days before. After the diagnosis Lemmy was stoic and figured he would live out the two to six months the doctor gave him as best he could.
Monday the 28th, Lemmy was in his house playing on a video game console that was shipped over to his apartment from the nearby Rainbow Bar & Grill where Lemmy normally spent hours playing the game. As he played, Lemmy nodded off and never woke up. With Lemmy’s death also comes the death of a band that toiled for over 40 years with no mainstream commercial success.
After a hellbent, hard-living life of extremes it’s amazing that Lemmy lived to be 70. On the other hand it’s hard to believe he is now gone. I really thought Lemmy would would not die, at least not in my lifetime. If anyone ever epitomized the lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll it was Lemmy.
Lemmy chain smoked, drank Jack Daniels like others drink water and probably took more speed than anyone else who ever lived. Yet through all the “bad” things Lemmy did to himself, he appeared indestructible, remained lucid in conversation and driven to perform until the very end. Lemmy had been battling various illnesses over the last two years and most recently was extremely depressed over the death of best mate, former Motörhead drummer Phil “Phlthy Animal” Taylor on November 11, 2015.
On December 11 in Berlin, Germany, Motörhead completed the second part of its 2015-16 world tour. The band then took a holiday break intending to return to Europe to continue the tour. A little over two weeks later Lemmy was dead.
In the days following Lemmy’s death other musical legends such as Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford and Gene Simmons have praised the founder and frontman of Motörhead. From all walks of life, everyone who encountered Lemmy said the same thing – he was a really good guy, not an asshole. For most rock stars with their inflated egos, being an asshole is an easy attitude to take on.
In Lemmy’s highly readable autobiography Whiteline Fever (Citadel, 2004), he said, “Fuck this ‘Don’t speak ill of the dead’ shit! People don’t become better when they’re dead; you just talk about them as if they are. But it’s not true! People are still assholes, they’re just dead assholes!”
No one will speak ill of Lemmy. He was respectful to his fans and fellow musicians and treated them well. Lemmy knew he represented the common man and there was no pretension of him being somebody he was not. Maybe this is why so many people found Motörhead and Lemmy so refreshing.
Lemmy was opinionated, direct and well-informed when he spoke about a subject, which always seemed to surprise interviewers who expected alcohol or drug addled responses to their questions.
But the mainstream press did not love Lemmy or Motörhead. Reviewers couldn’t understand the music’s speed and readers of the British NME magazine named Motörhead “the worst band in the world.” Their early recording deals were notoriously bad: poor distribution, poor advertising and marketing, poor royalties and generally disappointing sales outside of Europe. It took many years before Lemmy and the latter members of Motörhead (Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee) were financially stable.
In the United States with the exception of a few college radio stations and a handful of heavy metal stations, Motörhead received absolutely no airplay. And in the 1970s and 80s it was very difficult for a band to develop a fan following without radio exposure. But Motörhead persevered and developed a cult following, touring relentlessly, playing in clubs, and theatres and releasing brilliant albums. Eventually Motörhead did play arenas as headliners, but not in the United States where they were almost always relegated to be the opening band.
But in Europe and the rest of the world Motörhead gained rabid followers and did fill up arenas on their own. What fans all over the world witnessed was a band blister through its set with no filler or pomposity. As Lemmy said before the start of every show, “We are Motörhead and we play rock ‘n roll.”
Motörhead remains today a kind of underground phenomenon. Not thrash, not heavy metal not punk, but something unclassifiable. Simply Motörhead.
Besides the Beatles, I would arguably say Motörhead has influenced more bands in one way or another than any other band.
Motörhead remains unloved by the masses, worshiped by the few, respected and admired by other musicians, and ignored by the music establishment, i.e. the joke of an institution called the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Motörhead’s legacy is secure even if the music executives and critics have never “gotten” them. In his autobiography Lemmy had one of the most astute observations not just about the music business, but about life when he said,
“In my life so far, I have discovered that there are really only two kinds of people: those who are for you, and those who are against you. Learn to recognize them, for they are often and easily mistaken for each other.”
They say everyone is replaceable. That is not true. This is my so long to Lemmy, a man who defines the word irreplaceable.