Belfast Telegraph

Lemmy sang he didn't want to live forever... but for legions of Motörhead fans, his music will

By Andrew Johnston

Motörhead have been my favourite band since I was 14.

Circa 1987, I bagged a battered Ace of Spades seven-inch and a Motörhead (Live) picture disc in one of the mass record swaps we metallers organised in the locker room at Belfast Royal Academy.

The other guy probably got Marillion and Billy Idol singles or something.

I played those seven-inches to death. In fact, I still can't listen to Ace of Spades without hearing the scratch at the start of that record.

Soon after, a friend taped me the Orgasmatron album (with Slayer's Reign in Blood on the other side), and that was that.

I lapped up Rock 'n' Roll, No Sleep at All, 1916, March or Die, B******s, Sacrifice and the rest of the band's cranium-shattering long-players as they came out.

But because one of their guitarists, Wurzel - who played for them in the late 1980s and early 90s - had served in Northern Ireland with the Army, Motörhead didn't visit these shores between 1984 and 2000, So I had to travel to mainland Britain to get my fix.

I crossed the channel to see the group tear venues apart with their unique fusion of punk and heavy metal in England, Scotland and Wales. Over the years, I saw Motörhead 14 times, including their triumphant return to the Ulster Hall in 2001.

In 2009, I even interviewed Lemmy for this newspaper. He was a gentleman, and stayed on the phone for far longer than the allocated 15 minutes. I think he appreciated that he was talking to a real fan.

And a real fan I was, even extending to ripping off Motörhead's style and sound for my own musical outfit, the Dangerfields. To say we were influenced by them would be like saying The Darkness were fond of a bit of Queen.

We nicked everything from them: the pummelling drum attack, the distorted bass guitar roar and approximately 97% of our lyrics.

We even penned a tribute song to the female contingent of the Motörhead fan base entitled Motorgirl.

We always dreamed of opening for our heroes at a gig, but sadly, it wasn't to be.

The last Motörhead show I saw as a punter was at the Sonisphere Festival in Knebworth in 2011.

It was the same weekend Wurzel had died, and Lemmy was in a more subdued mood than usual.

Also, by then, he was in his mid-60s, and the effects of a life lived at full throttle had started to catch up with him.

Yet, like an old warhorse, he kept ploughing on, refusing to go down without a fight.

Motörhead released their most recent studio opus, Bad Magic, only this year.

It went to number one in three countries, and top 10 in a further nine - their highest chart placings in decades.

Everyone loved Motörhead, and much of this was to do with the man at the microphone stand, neck craned to the heavens, Rickenbacker bass trained like a machine-gun at the crowd.

Despite having a voice that could stop a charging rhino from 10 paces, in person, he was a pleasant and amiable bloke.

Over the years, I managed to meet him twice.

I think I did, anyway. It's all a bit hazy, as it should be.

Once was when a friend and I clambered over a fence into a backstage compound at a festival in Swansea, we found Lemmy's after-party and sheepishly drank with him until he departed for bed around 4am.

Needless to say, he had a lady friend on each arm, a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

We, meanwhile, stumbled back to our B&B in the rain, complete with the patio chair Lemmy had been sitting on, for some mad, drunken reason. It's still in my dad's shed.

The next time I met Lemmy was when he swaggered into the Garage nightclub in Glasgow after Motörhead's Barrowlands show.

The Dangerfields had been playing a pub gig in the city the same night, where we had demanded to go on the minute the doors opened, so we could make it to the Barras.

There's a photo somewhere of me with the great man taken that night.

I wish I had it, but these were the days before camera phones and everything being on social media within seconds.

What I do have and always will have is the music.

Lemmy may have famously sung that he didn't want to live for ever, but Motörhead will.

And they will continue to inspire 14-year-old boys for generations to come.

Belfast Telegraph


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