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Born To Raise Hell: A Tribute To Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister

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Band Photo: Motorhead (?)

Three days ago, the musical world was devastated when one its greatest icons was taken after a short bout with cancer. Ian Fraser Kilmister, or as we all knew and loved him as, Lemmy, the lead singer and bassist of Motorhead, passed away on this day, a mere four days after celebrating his seventieth birthday in style, and only two days following his diagnosis. Though in the past two years or so, the man who was a specimen of masculinity had lost a lot of weight and looked very frail, Lemmy fought, and rocked to the very end of his life, and the world expected no less. He was many things to all; A hero, an inspiration, a legend, but above all, he was the embodiment of rock and roll.

Motorhead and Lemmy were always special to me personally. At the age of twelve, I'd begun moving away from the nu metal music I loved as I found the roots and legends of metal. After Black Sabbath, the next band I checked out was Motorhead. Having at the same time got into the punk sounds of the seventies, Motorhead were the ideal band. They were heavier than anyone else when they began, but also faster than many, if not all of their metal counterparts, earning them a place in the hearts of punk rockers too. I remember receiving their box set, "Stone Deaf Forever," reading Lemmy's excellent autobiography, "White Line Fever" throughout a family holiday and then, tickets to see the band at the legendary Hammersmith Apollo (formerly the Hammersmith Odeon.) This was my first concert and to this day, I feel proud that it was (my other choice was Def Leppard.) I went with two friends, Chris and Alex and we arrived early enough to queue up outside the doors, talk about what we were expecting, have a thirteen year old argument about something, then run over to the merch area before there was much of queue, all before heading into the performance area, which was sparsely populated for openers, Young Heart Attack but much busier for The Wildhearts.

Then, on walked on three men who live and breathe rock and roll; Phil Campbell, Mikkey Dee and of course, Lemmy. I remember being incredibly excited that I was even in the same room as Lemmy, much less that I was about to watch him perform with Motorhead, one of the greatest bands in the history of rock. Lemmy commenced the show with the standard, but bold; "We are Motorhead. We play rock and roll," after which the band launched into "We are Motorhead" from the 2000 album of the same name. It was a fantastic show, during which the band played an excellent cover of the Sex Pistols classic, "God Save the Queen," (during which, influenced by what I'd seen in punk footage, I attempted to strangle Chris,) as well as "Love Me Like a Reptile," which they hadn't performed since 1980. I left a different person, with a love of live music and the knowledge that one day I'd see Motorhead again.

And indeed I did, at the Download festival in 2005, in my home town of Swindon in 2009 and only six months ago at Graspop Metal Meeting. I was saddened by that last gig, as Lemmy was much skinnier than I remembered and seemed to be struggling through the set, but nevertheless, the crowd loved it, if perhaps only for being in the presence of the man himself. There's millions of other people in the world with stories like mine, probably much better ones too, but everyone who's ever seen Motorhead will attest to them being a band they would never forget, and that for the most part, Lemmy was a man who commanded respect by his presence alone.

But time to talk about the legend himself. Lemmy was, as previously mentioned, born Ian Fraser Kilmister in Stoke On Trent (Burslem, to be precise,) in Staffordshire, England. His father, a chaplain, left his mother when Lemmy was three months old and when he was ten, his mother married George Willis, a former football player who had spells with Brighton & Hove Albion and Plymouth Argyle. The family unit moved to Anglesey, Wales, where he was the only English student at his school. He eventually discovered a love for rock and roll, bringing an old guitar in to school to impress the girls before actually learning how to play it.

He performed in several bands while working menial jobs, before getting a break when he was recruited by a band in Stockport named The Rockin' Vicars, who had signed a deal with CBS and reportedly were the first British band to perform in Yugoslavia. The band lived together in a flat in Manchester and released three singles, as well as touring Europe, before Lemmy left to move to London. After working with bands such as Opal Butterfly and Sam Gopal, he was eventually recruited by Hawkwind to perform bass and some vocals, singing the lead on their only real hit, "Silver Machine." It was while touring with the band that he attempted to undergo a blood transfusion so that he couldn't be tested positive for drugs (an idea he picked up from Keith Richards,) only to be told by the doctor that his body contained more acid than blood and real blood could kill him. Despite growing success, Lemmy was fired from Hawkwind for his drug use, (which he considered to be quite an achievement.)

He joined forces with guitarist Larry Wallis and drummer Lucas Fox and formed a band named Bastard, which was changed to Motorhead after their manager told them that no band called Bastard would ever appear on Top of the Pops. Fox and Wallis didn't last long, with the famous lineup of Lemmy, "Fast" Eddie Clarke and "Philthy" Phil Taylor being born soon after. This lineup released a slew of fantastic albums such as "Overkill," "Bomber" and of course, "Ace of Spades," as well as their only UK number one album, "No Sleep 'til Hammersmith," considered to be one of the best live albums of all time. Clarke departed after the release of "Iron Fist" and in his place came former Thin Lizzy guitarist, Brian Robertson, who lasted for one album, "Another Perfect Day," before getting the boot, during which stint Lemmy claimed to have stopped him from getting killed by the Hell's Angels. After this, Lemmy hired two guitarists, Phil Campbell and Michael Burston, AKA Wurzel, as well as briefly working with former Saxon drummer Pete Boot before Taylor returned, only to be replaced again by former King Diamond drummer, Mikkey Dee.

This lineup released four studio albums and several live records before Wurzel left and the band continued as a three piece up until their disbandment. Mikkey Dee confirmed the day after Lemmy's passing that Motorhead have disbanded, since in everyone's eyes, Lemmy was Motorhead. No one could argue with that and few will argue that Lemmy was more. Lemmy was an icon and a legend. He was rock and roll personified. He was an idol for thousands of metal musicians and he was responsible for changing metal music as we know it. And, to quote the otherwise unremarkable movie, "Airheads..."
"Lemmy is God!"

Ian Fraser Kilmister - Lemmy
December 24th 1945 - December 28th 2015

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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1 Comment on "Born To Raise Hell: A Tribute To Lemmy Kilmister"

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1. Carlos Santos writes:

Greetings, Oz. A very fitting tribute for someone whose intelligence and sense of humour where, in my eyes, his two strongest qualities. Motorhead's influence cannot be measured and the lemmy/dee/campbell produced many excellent albums. I like that lineup a lot. Lemmy was an amazing lyricist.
He will be missed beyond words. We have the music and his interviews. May 2016 be a good year with tons of Motorhead to keep us sane. Cheers!

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