Born on Christmas Eve 1945, founder of seminal English rock band Motörhead, Ian Fraser Kilminster, was the epitome of the 'live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse' rock n' roll myth. Of course, for all that soundbite's tongue-in-cheek impudence, the irony was Lemmy drew as much pleasure from living long as living fast. As he roared into the period of his life when you suspect a daily highlight for many of his onetime school friends would be settling into armchairs to watch daytime TV, Lemmy was still drawing massive crowds to listen to his band's unique take on full-throttle rock n' roll. Alas, four days after his 70th birthday, Lemmy succumbed to an aggressive form of cancer that was to take his life only 48 hours after diagnosis. He died at his home in L.A., playing his favourite computer game.
If California was far more identifiable with any fabled rock n' roll lifestyle than his birthplace of Stoke-on-Trent, one of Lemmy's many attributes was never, ever following trends. Motörhead would have been equally comfortable performing to a gaggle of snakebite-fuelled fanatics in some dingy Potteries pub as a rammed stadium on the West Coast.
His trademark stage stance was always to position the mike to sing up to it (a personal reminder of his long career's nascent days when being able to see the sparse audience would be disheartening). Perhaps this also alluded to shyness that can burden even the most outwardly exuberant performer? Whatever the reason, the sight of the black-bedecked singer growling towards the heavens beneath shades and a battered gunslinger's stetson, flanked by walls of Marshall stacks, became a focal point for audiences the world over.
Despite latterly knocking the chain-smoking on the head, the image of Lemmy that tends to spring to mind is of a bon viveur, unfathomably healthy-looking for someone rarely without a snout in hand or bottle of JD's within reach. And for all that his gruff, death-taunting lifestyle has finally overtaken him, there was an easy-going twinkle in his eye. You suspect charm and self-deprecation would always have come to him far more readily than blind hedonism.
The sight of the black-bedecked singer growling towards the heavens beneath shades and a battered gunslinger's stetson, flanked by walls of Marshall stacks, became a focal point for audiences the world over.
Motörhead looked like a rock band, but Lemmy claimed they were punks. The guitar solos were furious enough to make Deep Purple sound like Bill Haley and the Comets, and Lemmy's vocal delivery was as gloriously nihilistic as anything coming out of the Roxy Club in 1977.
I bought Motörhead's debut 12" in 1977, at a point where the music I'd listened to up until then (mostly heavy rock) was being eclipsed by punk's far more immediate and exciting sonic explosions. Lemmy himself described Motörhead as a punk band who happened to look like a rock band. Motörhead, the song, was an exhilarating slice of rock, its bassline thundering along like a train with failed brakes, its guitar solos furious enough to make Deep Purple sound as tired and outdated as Bill Haley and the Comets, its vocal delivery as gloriously nihilistic as anything coming out of the Roxy Club. Motörhead naturally appealed to a wide cross-section. Transcending stereotypes, their thunderous riffs and frenetic rhythms struck a chord with music lovers of all persuasions.
The world of rock n' roll will universally mourn the loss of his larger-than-life persona. Lemmy was the affable guy who loved partying with fans, groupies and fellow rockers alike; a musician whose life spanned the dawn of rock n' roll in the late 50's, up to the Bring Me The Horizon generation who wear his t-shirts with pride. He lived and breathed his chosen path in life, from Hendrix roadie to maverick Hawkwind star to creator of Motörhead - the band that forged a template that has often been emulated, but never bettered.
The term may be bandied about to the extent it can become glib and meaningless, but Lemmy truly was a star.