Belfast Telegraph

Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister: A life lived on his terms

By Ruth Booth

You couldn't make up Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister. Frontman and bassist for Motorhead, he once claimed that "if we moved in next door to you, your lawn would die". His body was reputedly so toxic after years of drug-taking, a transfusion of anyone else's blood would have killed him.

In Hawkwind, he was a speed freak in a band of acid heads, a bassist who'd never touched the instrument before he was drafted in at the last minute to cover a festival. His unique style, perfected in Motorhead, owed as much to that experience being a rhythm guitarist playing bass.

A friend once told me of first hearing Ace of Spades at the age of 11, of him and a friend sitting around the record player, playing it over and over again, as if they were trying to work out what was happening to them.

Lemmy was a legend in his own lifetime, an everyman god of the gutter whose music shook you to your core, but who you could still chat to in the pub afterwards.

Friends who knew him talk of a gentleman with a taste for misbehaviour, a well-read, hard-drinking historian with a taste for Nazi memorabilia.

While his collection gave many pause, he'd never espoused the ideology, speaking instead of how "throughout history, it's always been the bad guys who dressed the best: Napoleon, the Confederates, the Nazis".

As readers of 2002 autobiography White Line Fever will know, Lemmy would be the last to claim perfection. Yet, for me, Lemmy stood for doing it all in spite of that.

With his death on December 28, he missed all the end of year farewell issues. He couldn't have timed it better.

That this happened so soon after the death of bandmate Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor, is salt in a wound already cut straight to the bone.

Undeniably human as he was, the idea that one day we'd be without him had never even crossed our minds. Cancer? There's just no way.

As on the 1984 single from No Remorse, Lemmy was Killed by Death - the only thing that could keep him down.

  • Ruth Booth is a music writer and photographer based in the north-east of England

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