Well, not YOU you, but some people. Give me a moment to set this up.
The last two weeks involved our hanging out with some new friends, a(nother) American/German couple. The expat half of the partnership and I, obviously, had loads in common at the get go. First and foremost, we both left the homeland to shack up with Bavarian men. It’s great to have someone to talk to who has been down the same road as I. After that, any other commonalities are icing on the Kuchen.
After hosting a brunch of epic proportions I, of course, loaned her several CDs. Brunch was followed up a few days later with a night of watching a ridiculous program called X-Factor, the German version of American Idol. In other words: a good excuse to eat magnificent Italian snacks and drink copious amounts of wine. Shortly after our arrival she had the loaner CDs in hand and laughed, “I hope we can still be friends.” Being a magnificent photographer earned her a get out of jail free card as far as not being down with My Bloody Valentine is concerned.
We chattered about music reality programs and somehow the subject rolled to Steven Tyler, the unusual and newly esteemed judge of American Idol. I never watched the show, but I’ve heard and read interviews with the Aerosmith front man and admired his path to sobriety. I mean, he was pretty fucked up and doesn’t mince words about it. The conversation went on and one of our hosts, I don’t know which one, said, “Did you know that at one time Lemmy’s blood could kill the average healthy person?” Huh?? A dog-eared paperback was then plucked from a wall of travel narratives and phonebook-sized photography lexicons. It was “White Line Fever” (2002), the autobiography of Ian Fraser Kilmister, known to all the Earth as Lemmy.
I was never a fan of Motörhead. I do know Lemmy from Hawkwind, for sure, as any kid into Spacemen 3 or Spiritualized discovered with a little digging. That said, every music nerd, unless you’ve lived under a rock since 1980, I don’t care what genre pulpit you stand behind, at least knows Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read an interview with a musician who mentions Lemmy and his revolving door of band mates being one of the reasons they wanted to play guitar, go on tour and be a rock star in the first place. Yes, so I wanted to read this baby immediately.
So sex and drugs. He was told by a physician in 1980 when he wanted to have the same blood transfusion/detoxification that Keith Richards is fabled to have had, that he was so toxic that “new” blood would kill him. His body became so used to speedballs and Jack Daniels that it needed the chemicals to survive. And women? He likes them. 2, 3, 4 at a time and they want him just the same. Again, I/we knew this already. What I didn’t know is that from day one he’s been anti-heroin, how goddamned witty he is and, on a business-level, ironically sensible.
He chronicles his life in the UK as a kid and his desire to move from one city and band to the next, outgrowing groups and moving on. One doesn’t have to be a metal head to revel in what he has to say. In his early years he was a roadie for Hendrix. He adores rhythm and blues and claims that is all Motörhead is: rhythm and blues, albeit spinning at an ungodly speed. He makes mention of tons of bands and artists he has communicated with throughout the years (but never in a name dropping kind of way): The Plasmatics, Sid Vicious, Eric Clapton, Michael Palin, Ozzy Osbourne, Eurythmics, The Police…to name a few. His tales of continual bullshit dealings with gigantic record labels breathes life into a subject that has been forgotten in the recent days of indie labels and self-production and distribution. Terribly interesting.
The book is most definitely a quick read. I never would have picked it up on my own, that’s for sure. Shakespeare it isn’t. I view Lemmy as a twisted-up, warmish fellow now and with what some might call affection, compared to the somewhat frightening, drug fueled, well, hell-beast I believed him to be. It is worth the 24 hours it will take you to get through it, as long as you can stomach a few grisly stories and his stream of consciousness way of getting everything across to the reader. Perhaps it is/was the speed, but I’d like to believe that he is just a dude who has paid his rock and roll dues threefold and enthusiastically (and honestly) wants to talk about it.
[Abby’s Road is a Knox Road feature published every other Friday.]