December 24th, 1945–December 28th, 2015
I originally planned to take the rest of 2015 off from writing so I could spend time with friends and family, plan Head of Metal’s year ahead for 2016.
But I cannot, and will not, avoid the death of yet another one of my favorite musicians. As saddened and pained as I am today at the news, I have to quite literally force myself to sit down and write for the first time with the knowledge that my buddies and I will never get to see another Motorhead show. Doing this around the holidays is especially difficult.
Unbelievably, the last time I saw Motorhead almost didn’t happen. I was sitting at work, only a few minutes before quitting time (beer ‘o clock), when I receive a text from a good headbanger friend that reads, and I quote: “Dude, need an answer ASAP. Extra ticket for Motorhead tonight out in Jones Beach. Friend is driving. Wanna go?”
A couple of hours later, the three of us are roaring away from New York City with Bad Magic cranking, but we were so late that we missed Anthrax, who was the opening act that night. We quaffed down some excellent wine in the parking lot and toasted to Lemmy’s health, to our health, and to the health of all headbangers everywhere, thank you very much (once we got inside though, we switched up to beer. One must drink beer at a Motorhead show).
The shadow that hung over our rapid-fire pregame ritual was the unspoken, and sadly now prescient reality that this may be the final time we got to see Lemmy in concert. I distinctly remember a toast I made:
“I hope and pray to God with every fiber of my being that this not come to pass…but if this is indeed the last time we see Motorhead onstage, that it may be the most metal, most fun, and most meaningful of all shows, and may we be proud to say that we saw Mr. Ian…Lemmy…Kilmister.” (Yes, Head of Metal grows eloquent when he’s buzzed!)
It was a wonderful, loud, raucous show with a good crowd, a greatest-hits setlist (with a few new, non-Bad Magic songs sprinkled in). Lemmy looked and sounded fine, and seemingly dispelled all the worries about his health by doing what he loved, lived for and did best: rock and roll. Of course, my body ached and my voice was gone the next day. I talked to my dad on the phone later that day and when he asked me what I had done the night before, I smiled and said hoarsely, “Actually…I was at the Motorhead show!” with the same pride I told my stunned coworkers the next day. I have no doubt I’ll suffer through miserable days at work following metal shows, but never again as a direct result of Motorhead.
That was the second time I had seen Motorhead–the first was at the best show I’d ever seen, the 2008 Metal Masters Tour with Testament, Motorhead, Heaven and Hell, and Judas Priest. At that same Jones Beach venue, too. Not just one, but now two, of those bands will now never have the chance to play live again. My dad was at that show with me, and he had just as much fun as I did–perhaps most importantly, that turned him into a Motorhead fan! What a rare treat to see a band both father and son each admire.
Much like his brother in metal, Ronnie James Dio, and my other favorite singer Joe Cocker (who died around this time in 2014), Lemmy had released one of his best albums in twenty years in Bad Magic…one so good, that it is worthy as his swan song that it became. And just like those other two, I feel a mix of pride that I got to see them when I did, but also a lost hope that I would never get to bring anyone else to see their show and share my passion for their music.
Motorhead is (I can’t bring myself to write “was” yet) always a band that you expected would be on tour forever. They were rowdy and accessible, and I truly believe you could have brought anybody to a Motorhead show and they would have a great time. No matter how disappointed you were, about metal, or music, or life in general, one could always take solace that at least Lemmy and Motorhead were still out there stomping on everyone’s ears.
When I first heard of them, I was watching School of Rock. And I remember when Jack Black desperately tried to rally the little kids to make some loud music by naming bands in rising order of badassery:
“What about Sabbath?……..AC/DC?………MOTORHEAD?!?!?!?!?”
The kids in the movie had no idea…but the young teenager watching the movie took heed and looked them up. My life in metal has not been the same since.
As I plan to do with the guys who were at that show with me, get together with your metal friends, put on your Motorhead records, and crack open a case of beer. But before you hit play, open your first beer and have a moment of silence for Lemmy. I can imagine what he might say to such a display, perhaps even think it a waste (“Pour a drink for something living, like rock n’ roll or coitus, ya know?” or “Don’t carry on about it, rock the f*ck on instead.”).
And then, right as you press play, remember Lemmy’s words to all of us, his millions of fans that he’s touched over four decades of shows, right before he kicks it off…
“We are Motorhead…and we play ROCK AND ROLL!”
Dead at 70. RIP.
Written by Matt P