I’m not interested in eulogizing Lemmy by recounting his life story. You can read his autobiography or check out the documentary Lemmy: 51% Mother Fucker, 49% Son of a Bitch for that. But really, everything you need to know about Lemmy (and Motorhead as a band) could be discovered by seeing them live.
In February 2012, my brother and I were fortunate enough to see Motorhead in a rare appearance in the Capital Region, as the third act on a metal tour headlined by Megadeth. We didn’t give a fuck about Megadeth, Volbeat (who is OK) or Lacuna Coil, the other acts on the bill, but this was fucking Motorhead, the fastest, loudest, grimiest band ever.
I don’t even remember how I first started to listen to Motorhead, but I remember the first time I listened to the Ace of Spades album. It’s a pummeling amalgamation of blues, punk and metal, combining songs of hard living, sexual depravity and violence that alternated between a sinister and comical bent. Then there’s Overkill, the preceding album, which is another all-out war on your ears, highlighted by the title track and cuts like “Stay Clean” and “I’ll Be Your Sister.” Even the band’s solid 2000s output was more of the same: loud, rowdy and lethal.
At the center of it all was Lemmy, a smoking, snorting, drinking and fucking titan. God knows how many chemicals were pumping through his veins, but through the decades and line-up changes in his band, he was the constant, ripping away on the bass and dishing out lyrics with his authoritative bark. The guy was just a testament to survival and everything that makes rock ‘n’ roll special.
And this was our chance to finally see the man and the most relentlessly straight-ahead unit in rock music live, so we made the 70-minute drive to Glens Falls for the sole purpose of seeing a 45-minute Motorhead set. And that’s really all we did. We skipped Lacuna Coil and Volbeat and since Megadeth is fucking lame, we left before they played.
Thank God the headliner was someone we didn’t care about, because Motorhead’s set was everything one could hope. The tone was set immediately, with the band hitting the stage to an air raid siren and launching into the song “Bomber.” The sheer volume coming from the stage was deafening. Mikkey Dee was crushing the double-bass drums, Phil Campbell’s guitar was squealing and Lemmy was Lemmy in all his glory.
After that, he gave his trademark intro of, “We are Motorhead and we play rock ‘n’ roll!” What followed that was an unrelenting rock onslaught, with classics like “Damage Case” and “Stay Clean” sounding just as potent sonically as they did on their original recordings, even if Lemmy’s voice was a little more ragged and worse for wear. He still played the bass as deftly as ever and the music was pummeling, never letting up until the end of the set, a one-two punch of “Ace of Spades” and “Overkill” that were so loud and heavy it felt like the Glens Falls Civic Center could collapse.
And that was that. a bludgeoning of the auditory senses courtesy of Motorhead. I hate using corny expressions and colloquialisms, but it felt like my face was blown off, which, if I had to guess, is exactly the way Lemmy would have wanted me to feel.
And that’s the beauty of Lemmy and his band. From the studio to the stage, the dude was dedicated to rocking as hard as humanly possible and pretty much always did that on his own terms.
More than the legendary consumption and excess, that’s what matters most. The guy just wanted to go out and rock. And he did that better and more honestly than most of his peers.
Lemmy did everything louder than everyone else.
That’ll be missed.