Updated: Dec 24, 2019
When Lemmy permanently left the building an era ended, it's as simple as that. The original debauched rebel rouser who would come to embody the very spirit of uncompromising, no-holds-barred, in-your-face, sweaty, badass rock 'n'roll. Lemmy was a force of nature, wild and indestructible, or so it seemed for a while. A warty stalwart in cowboy boots and German WWII regalia, un-PC perhaps but thankfully no fascist. He was Lemmy and if you didn't like it? Well then fuck you. And as he stated many times, he was about as far away from Nazi ideology as it's possible to be. Freedom was the name of the game, not repression.
So, it was a thrilling moment back in 2010 when we learned we would be supporting Head Cat, a rockabilly band featuring Slim Jim Phantom, Danny B. Harvey and one Lemmy Kilmister. We were touring America at the time and the date would be in Portland at the suitably named Dante's club.
American tours are always a slog for us limey snowflakes who are used to getting from town to town in less than 16 hours per day. So it was a groggy and sleep-deprived band that loaded into the club, all grumpy moods and snarling snipes. The friendly staff diffused the tension as we plonked our amps down in front of the stage. We were led down a narrow staircase to the dressing room. And by dressing room I mean underfloor cavity space requiring a slight dislocation of the neck to traverse. Noisy and sweaty, the claustrophobic Das Boot atmosphere was not helped by the maze of gurgling pipes that snaked across the perilously low ceiling, threatening to decapitate the unwary. But we were happy to be there and gleefully chomped down the tasty vegan pizzas they supplied, Portland apparently being the capital of all things vegetable in the United States. It even boasts the first all vegan strip club. Well whatever next?
We had time to kill so repaired to the upstairs bar, slowly supping on weak yankee lagers as the September sun crawled across the empty room, tracing a path across stacks of battered chairs and glinting off the freshly mopped floor. Eventually the dusty stillness was broken with the clattering hubbub of arriving crew and yes, Sir Lemmy himself, bedecked in trademark mutton chops and military gear. He wasted no time in heading over to the slot-machines as the crew loaded the gear onto stage. Jim strolls over and introduces himself.
"How's it going?"
"At my age I don't fookin' care"
We were treated to a personal performance in soundcheck as the band knocked out a couple of rock n roll classics to balance their blistering volumes. One hell of a bass tone, I can tell you, fair set me dentures rattling. It was a small stage and we were left with but a tiny strip on which to plant our gear after they vacated. Cramped, but we've worked in smaller spots. Just rules out the star jumps and Pete Townshend style floor slides.
The club slowly filled up and it was time to go over the top. Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes, chaps. We take to the stage and launch into 'Rock n Roll Psychosis', determined to give a decent account of ourselves with such an auspicious figure within earshot. Thankfully not a bad set and I was encouraged to see Slim Jim watch approvingly from side of stage. Afterwards I head downstairs and see Lemmy sitting there.
"That weren't bad, even for a fookin' bass player"
That is the single greatest compliment I have ever received and quite possible my epitaph.
He shakily pours us all a Jack Daniels and invites us to sit down. The non-boozers head back to the hotel whilst the rest of us decide to make a night of it. The bourbon flows and the stories soon follow. And I have to say, what an affable fellow. We talk about rock 'n' roll - of course - Little Richard and the MC5 but then onto British 1950s comedy, Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howard, which gets us all doing our worst impressions. The bottle vanishes to be replaced by another, my speech begins to slur but Lemmy, a hardened professional, remains erudite and witty throughout.
I glance at the clock and spot the number six being rudely pointed at. We have to leave in three hours for another mammoth drive. Ho hum, time to wrap things up. We pause for a couple of pics before heading out blearily into the harsh sunlight and on to our next adventure. I am forever heartened to have the blessing of such a rock 'n' roll original - Lemmy, I salute you.