Waking up this morning to the news that Lemmy had shuffled off this mortal coil aged 70 was a little surreal. The infamous Motörhead frontman was at once both one of those people who you’d never think would actually make his three score years and 10 and the sort of permanent fixture who seemed to be immortal. Like they’d be here for ever. Growling, warts twitching, glugging Jack Daniel’s, fantastically unrepentant.
Obviously during the day a good many people who knew the Lemster well have written, spoken and blogged about their personal knowledge of the man whom no one thought would ever be, well, killed by death. In particular, my old boss at Kerrang! Towers, Phil Alexander, has written a very moving tribute to his idol here for Mojo magazine. Phil (or The Gumby, as he was and is still known to me) has been a huge Motörhead fan for probably almost 40 years and came to know the Lemster well. Many was the morning when I would arrive at K! Towers to find Gumby blasting out Overkill or Ace Of Spades while he tried to think up cover lines which didn’t contain any swearing.
However, thinking back to those days brought to mind my own particular encounter with Mr I.F. Kilmister, and as many people have nagged me to blog over the past few years, I thought this is as good a start as any. It was the day of one of the early Kerrang! Awards, the now legendary Bacchanalian events from which many people never came out alive. The year was either 1994 or 1995, I’m not sure which (it was held at the Cumberland Hotel two years in a row, and I’m sure someone else who was there will confirm the year. I know it wasn’t the year that I spent the evening trying to evade the attentions of a member of W.A.S.P., but that’s another story). A number of infamous and potentially troublesome rock overlords were expected to attend. The Gumby was like a cat on hot bricks because, in particular, members of the notoriously party-shy AC/DC were set to attend, which was regarded as a bit of a coup.
The hotel was already getting packed and I’d been tasked to do a spot of meeting and greeting in the lobby. Normal people were actually still staying at the hotel, and the looks of horror on the faces of the foreign tourists as the line-up of usual suspects stumbled in already the worse for wear mid afternoon was pretty entertaining. All was Under Control when The Gumby sidled over and informed me sotto voce that I needed to look out for Lemmy because word was that he was “on his way over”, “in a taxi” and had “just come from his dealer”. His antiques dealer, that is. And that he might “have something on him”.
The info appeared to have come from a reliable source, probably Ross Halfin, the famously obstreperous photographer who knew everything about everyone. (Halfin’s recent classic Motörhead box set can in fact be seen here, though I’m guessing he photographed Lemmy and the band hundreds of times.) Halfin was also the only person I knew then who had a mobile phone which they actually used rather than just kept for emergencies.
The Gumby was concerned that Lemmy might already be three sheets to the wind, and could I ensure that he was met and escorted to the right place on arrival? Phil had enough on his plate trying to spot the AC/DC lot when they arrived, bearing in mind they’re the size of garden gnomes and the venue was now heaving. On the basis that I was possibly the soberest staff member apart from big G, I was placed on Lemmy Watch.
Sure enough, a few minutes later Lemmy was uncoiling himself out of a cab, white winkle pickers first. He was plainly (a) three sheets to the wind and (b) concealing something up his leather jacket, as he weaved his way through the hotel lobby and towards the function room.
I strode purposefully across the lobby in order to meet any problems at the pass. As I was wearing a very tight long dress and a very high pair of platforms, neither of which I was used to, I’m not sure whether the purposeful bit actually came off, but that was the idea. I intercepted the Lemster before he could get too far, and enquired politely as to whether I could help him find his table and get where he needed to be.
At which point, he yanked open his jacket and hoiked out a very large, and very sharp, knife which looked about two feet long and nearly cost me the front of my hair.
“Yes, you can, darling,” Lemmy guffawed. “You can tell me where I can stash this, for a start.”
Pursing my lips, I said firmly, “I think I’d better take charge of that.” I then discreetly disarmed the gruffalo of an antique Third Reich dagger which was clearly worth a packet and had just been collected from Lemmy’s regular artefact supplier. Behind him I could see the hotel manager blanching as I grasped the weapon and scuttled over to reception to find out if they had a safe in which it could be temporarily deposited.
Lemmy cackled and clearly found the whole thing mightily entertaining, and after I directed him towards the vodka luge I lost sight of him for the rest of the day. I hope he actually collected it.
It’s not every day you get to disarm a heavy metal legend. It’s not something I’ve been called upon to do since. But when I heard the news this morning, the memory of it did raise a chuckle.
And Lemmy, if you’re still at the vodka luge, mine’s a mineral water.
(There’s some classic Motörhead here.)