In the three page prologue of White Line Fever, Lemmy talks about getting thrown off a plane for having a bottle of Jack on his person, how absurd he finds the biblical tale of the Virgin Mary, and the poor reunion with his estranged father (who walked out when he was only 3 months old) that ended just as quickly as it began.
And that’s all just in the first three pages!
Lemmy has lived a life unlike anything most of us could think possible, and White Line Fever is his remembrances going all the way back to his childhood. The pre-Motorhead part of his life is just as interesting as the rest of it. As a lot of us know, Lemmy played in Hawkwind before becoming Motorhead’s founder and only constant member. He was in a few other bands before Hawkwind too! We fans know the guy is a character, but wait until you hear about some of the psychos he used to jam with in the 60s.
So if you wanted to skip ahead to the Motorhead part of the story, you’d do yourself a disservice. The laughs just keep on coming, but so do the unsavoury drug tales. Let’s just say the 60s weren’t as free and loving as you might think. One page you’re reading about how much fun he had tripping on acid and on the next you’re reading how the love of his life OD’d on heroin and died. The mood whiplash is real with this one.
Many of us would have loved to simply run into Lemmy in a bar and just listen to him tell stories, and White Line Fever is written in that conversational style–right down to his many proclamations of “you know?” If you imagine Lemmy’s gruff voice as you read the words and pause once in a while for a cigarette puff or a long pull of Jack and Coke, it’s as if that scenario is playing out before your eyes.
His very northern British sense of tongue in cheek humor really comes through. When he ran into a lovely lady he had entertained ten years previously, Lemmy observes, “luckily she hadn’t changed into a drooling hag. Some of them do, you know!”
But Lemmy’s wisdom from over the years does not just cover sex, drugs, and metal. For example…at one point (1981) Motorhead had peaked in British commercial popularity. But Lemmy writes that he’s actually okay with that. If Motorhead just kept getting more and more famous, he writes, the band members would all be sick of each other, stuck in their own little worlds and not get to do things like meet fans at the pub. Some very good self awareness there on his part. I also loved hearing his story about seeing his favorite band, The Beatles, live. He gets to showcase his knowledge of military history occasionally too.
But let’s be honest, we’re all really here for the smutty drinking stories, and they are here in spades.
About Lars Ulrich, Lemmy says this: “…it’s a fallacy to say I taught him how to drink – I actually taught him to throw up, and that’s what he did, all over himself. That’s what he got for trying to keep up with older people’s habits!”
I laughed hardest when I read about the end-of-tour prank Lemmy played on Jeff Hanneman from Slayer. Apparently during Slayer’s set, Lemmy just stood completely motionless behind Jeff…dressed in an Adolf Hitler outfit. Picturing it still cracks me up!
Lemmy observes frequently in the book that he wishes Motorhead’s later studio albums received more love. As informal as Motorhead’s approach to creating was, they had a ton of pride in their work…even if there’s the usual “I’m sick of my hit” attitude toward “Ace of Spades.”
An updated version of White Line Fever containing some stories about those latter-day good times before Lemmy departed this plane would have been even more interesting (the book stops at 2002’s Hammered). There were 13 more years of Lemmy stories to get through!
Just a fun, entertaining read that was all I had hoped it would be. We will all most fondly remember Lemmy through Motorhead’s music, but his spirit and personality are also very much alive in these pages. Recommended for a re-read anytime you need to feel revved up to squeeze all the juice you can out of life.
Written by Matt P
Author’s Note: Part of a deep dive series on Motorhead. Read the rest of the series: