Ian Kilmister (Lemmy) 1945 – 2015

I was just about to turn the computer off as it was long gone midnight, when my Twitter feed started to trickle through tweets that Motörhead’s Lemmy had died, only days after passing his 70th birthday.  That trickle soon became a flood, as it was confirmed and posts from contemporaries such as Ozzy Osbourne and David Coverdale paid tribute.

As everybody knows, Lemmy had not been in good health for some time, and fans were becoming increasingly concerned as shows were cut short because of his health issues. He did take some time out, but could not stay away from the stage for long. Indeed, a UK tour was due to take place in January, a triple bill of Motörhead, Saxon and Lemmy’s old friends Girlschool. He only turned 70 a few days earlier, and although many knew of his troubles, what actually claimed him was the dreaded cancer – reportedly he had only recently been diagnosed.

I won’t write a long biography of the man’s life and career; it’s pretty much all out there from his early days with 60s troupe the Rockin’ Vickers, through his stint with Hawkwind (yielding the space rock classic ‘Silver Machine’), and finally with Motörhead. The latter band was very much his project, but despite several changes in the ranks it should be noted that the most recent line-up of Lemmy, guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee had been in place for 20 years, following the 1995 departure of guitarist Würzel.

Without doubt Lemmy and by extension Motörhead will be remembered for ‘Ace Of Spades’ – the 1980 hit that took on a life of its own and has come to define the group. Ask anyone to name a Motörhead song and it’s likely the first answer will be ‘Ace Of Spades’. The album of the same name is itself a classic of the time, when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal ruled the scene (although Lemmy himself always stressed to anyone who would listen that Motörhead’s music was nothing more than ‘rock ‘n’ roll’). That success for the band didn’t last much beyond the NWOBHM scene itself; by 1982 the classic line-up was tearing itself apart and Lemmy rebuilt the band, enjoying a revival in the mid 1980s. Lemmy himself had started to branch out into acting during this period, taking a role in ‘Eat The Rich’ (1987), a comedy film featuring members of The Comic Strip.

By the 1990s he had relocated from Kensal Rise in London to LA, reasoning that the weather was better and everything was cheaper (!) He continued to tour and record extensively with Motörhead right up until his passing, with their most recent album ‘Bad Magic’ (released August 2015) being hailed as their best in years. Lemmy leaves a huge void – whatever rock era was yours, be it the late 60s hippy days, the early 70s, punk, the NWOBHM, hair metal, sleaze, grunge, nu-metal – Lemmy was there throughout it all.  He went back so far, he was a roadie for Jimi Hendrix! His presence was constant pretty much through every important phase in what we term rock music, now that he is no longer with us there perhaps isn’t that unifying figure any more who we can all look up to.

I’ll close this (hastily-written) post with a couple of the man’s songs:

‘(We Are The) Road Crew’:

‘Nightmare/The Dreamtime’:

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