Most people are surprised to get in my car and hear electronic dance music… which I listen to almost consistently.
It’s a downright shock for folks to learn that at the top of my all-time top 5 favorite bands is the legendary Motörhead. That’s right, Motörhead. What makes them legendary? The legendary Lemmy Kilmister.
Lemmy’s death at the end of 2015 was no shock, though. He died from the way he lived.
Let me be clear: Lemmy is no hero. Excessive drinking. Glorified drug use. Blatant sexual escapades. I’d hazard a guess, the phrase “Sex, Drugs, & Rock n’ Roll” was originally someone trying to describe Lemmy. He embodied debauchery. In short, he was certainly not the guy you want your daughter to bring home.
“If they moved next door, your lawn would die.”
Ask any rocker from Ozzy Osbourne to Dave Grohl and they’ll have a Lemmy story. Anyone in the Rock n’ Roll niche has admiration, respect, or flat out been influenced by this guy. So, how did Ian “Lemmy a fiver” Kilmister become Rock n’ Roll’s legendary Lemmy?
Believe it or not, doing the same things we need to be doing.
Lemmy wrote all of the songs Motörhead recorded – that weren’t covers, of course. They released 22 studio albums and 9 live albums from 1977 to 2015. That’s more than an album every year. Know any other bands that produced that much work? When CD’s came out, the first one I ever bought was No Sleep At All… and the last album I downloaded was their 2015 work, which I bought from a coffee shop in Portland on the Vision Quest.
Keep creating! Don’t wait for perfect. Lemmy blasts some of his own work noting that it “could have been better.” Between you and me, I love some of the albums, he himself pans. Fans love your stuff. That’s why they’re fans.
I saw them about 3 years ago – Lemmy in his late 60’s. The then three-piece Motörhead shook the stadium, after two much younger bands hardly got people out of their seats. Pure, simple, deafeningly loud Motörhead. About half the hall left when they exited the stage. The headliner paled in comparison, and I, too left about 20 minutes in.
Everything louder than everything else.
If you’re going to keep doing it, keep doing it right. The show a few years ago was just as good as the decade before. Maybe better. Don’t let up because it’s easy. Keep moving.
It’s hard to tell the 1975 penned Motörhead anthem from We Are Motörhead written, recorded, and released 25 years later. Motörhead fans knew what they were going to get when they picked up an album, cassette, CD or downloaded .mp3s.
That’s not to say that the band didn’t grow as musicians. In fact, Motörhead changed members throughout their run and even went from a trio to a quartet and back to a trio. Their songs are surely different from album to album, but the core of what makes a Motörhead album stayed.
Don’t lose your roots. You are who you are. Don’t let that next big thing, shiny object, or newest ‘trick,’ sway you from being you.
What About the New Stuff?
One of the most poignant stories about Lemmy comes from a 2007 interview. He tells the interviewer that he only plays Ace of Spades because they expect it. “Kids come up and tell me they love Bomber and Ace of Spades (the early stuff) or Rock n’ Roll and Orgasmatron (their most popular genre), but I don’t care. I want to know what they think of the new stuff.”
During my hippie years, I stopped buying albums as they game out. When I started going back and getting the older ones, this quote taught me to look at Motörhead’s body of work from a whole new angle. I stopped comparing each ‘new’ album to this one or that one. I actually listened to the albums imagining what I’d say about that specific album had I met Lemmy in person.
How many different ways can you say ‘stay present’ or ‘be in the moment’ before it sounds trite? Don’t worry about what you could be doing or what you used to be doing. Keep your focus on what you’re doing now.
Lemmy was known to be crass to interviewers trying to make him look petty and he’s often photographed giving the finger. But, he spoke honestly and directly about things he thought mattered. A young fan told him, “I’m black and I love playing guitar. All my friends make fun of me for listening to Rock n’ Roll.” Lemmy’s response wasn’t arrogant or insulting. He didn’t say tell them to go to hell. His response? “That didn’t stop Hendrix. Keep kicking ass.”
That’s why Lemmy is a legend. He was never a hero. He was far from perfect. But, he touched the people he could. He did it the only way he knew how and he never apologized for being himself.
People always talk about changing the world. That’s hero’s work. I figure if I can help my neighbor, that’s good enough for me. If one person remembers me because their life is better having known me, then I am legendary.
Don’t let your perceived flaws keep you from realizing who you truly are. If you have touched just one person, you too are legendary.