He drank a bottle of Jack Daniels every day since his 30th birthday, allegedly slept with over 1,000 women and penned 22 studio albums with Motorhead – iconic frontman Lemmy passed away yesterday, and we may never see another like him again.
In a music industry that values record sales above any semblance or hint of musical talent, full of turgid and transposable singers that excel in producing varying musical shades of grey, Lemmy was a lasting reminder of a different world. A prehistoric beast, one looked on Lemmy in the same way one marvels at the discovery of a carnivorous dinosaur – but this was a T-Rex fuelled on whiskey, speed and punk music. Even though, at 70, Lemmy was taken from us too soon, after several years of declining health he remained the only remnant of a forgotten era who refused to bend to anyone.
As the legends of rock n’ roll’s greatest bands finally gave in to their doctors and sobered up, Lemmy kept at it, making one single concession: he swapped whiskey for vodka. We see things today that we take for granted, and yet they were unthinkable in the 70s and 80s – a sober Ozzy Osbourne for example, or Johnny Rotten selling butter. Lemmy, on the other hand, never slowed down, sobered up or, as in Rotten’s case, sold out.
With the state of modern music firmly caught in a pop stranglehold, it seems we tend more than ever to view rock n’ roll as a relic. The recent rumours of a possible Guns N Roses reunion seems to exemplify this idea, as tour promoters get ready to haul the bloated corpus of Axl Rose around the world to the tune of missed high notes and countless chiming cash registers.
In terms of more mainstream acts, the biggest bands of today may well fill arenas without fail in every continent, but there’s a distinct lack of the enigmatic and mysterious mayhem that underpinned the career of Lemmy and his peers. The tabloid press may well spit feathers when Justin Bieber lights up a joint, but the sheer ridiculousness of living the life of a rock star may well have died yesterday too. Gone are the days of band scandals involving prostitutes and parties; after all, you’re more likely to stumble across Chris Martin shopping for cable-knit cardigans in H&M than doing anything vaguely scandalous, let alone illegal.
Even by the standards of the golden age of rock music, Lemmy was a Phenom. Described by Dave Grohl as a “living, breathing, drinking and snorting fucking legend”, he began as a roadie for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, before a stint with space rockers Hawkwind that ended in him being fired for drug possession and led to the formation of his magnum opus, the indomitable Motorhead. Alongside the drinking, Lemmy is rumoured to have taken speed for more than three decades, been hooked on LSD for eight years and even had an orgy with all of the Nolan sisters, backstage at Top of the Pops. Despite the fact he debunked this last myth, though in his own words “it wasn’t for lack of trying”, the legend of Lemmy grew with each drink downed, each line snorted or each piece of Nazi memorabilia he collected, simply for “aesthetic reasons”.
Though the myths and music of Lemmy will continue, his death signals the end of the last true rock god. It remains to be seen whether any future musician will step into his gargantuan shoes, but it looks unlikely. With Lemmy gone, the rest of his generation drift listlessly towards geriatric sobriety, looking more and more like Beetlejuice’s grandfather with every passing week – his place in music history is secure, but he may well have taken the secret of how to truly live like a rock-star with him to the Great Gig in the Sky.
By Jake Taylor
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