on September 29, 2013
I’d heard good things about this book, and I knew I needed to know more about Lemmy, so I went out and bought it. Good thing I did!! It’s great fun, and like nearly every autobiography I’ve ever read starts with a modern life anecdote before heading into the usual “when I was a lad…” stuff, about growing up, in Lemmy’s case with a single mum, a deadbeat dad (who he at least acknowledges with a picture in the pictures section) and not-much-better jailbird stepdad.
It quickly gets into music, which some people would sneer is an alien concept for this noisemaker and hellraiser. For a hardass like Lemmy, people may be surprised that his favorites are Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, the usual stuff that punkers and heavy metallers usually don’t refer to. But then again, you have to remember – Lemmy’s old enough to have seen them when they were starting out, even if his heart is as young as the snottiest upstart metal brat (there’s a great quote in the movie that Rollins relates: “I remember before there was rock and roll. I remember when there was only Rosemary Clooney records. Then we heard Elvis Presley and there was no turning back.”). He talks about the mods and the rockers. “The Mods used to wear eye make-up too, especially the boys. The crowd of people I was in disliked them, but in retrospect, it was no worse than what we were doing. I mean, we thought they were sissies, and they thought we were yobs – and you know, we were both right.” There’s a great story about befriending Jon Lord of Deep Purple, then living with a young Ron Wood and Art Wood. He also hung out with the Beatles (and, as we find out in the documentary, had a child with a girl who lost her virginity to John Lennon).
The Beatles revolutionized rock ‘n’ roll, and they also changed the way everyone looked. It seems ludicrous now, but for those days, they had very long hair. I remember thinking, ‘Wow! How can any guy have hair that long?’ Really, it was just combed forward, with a slight fringe over the collar. We all had quiffs then – before the beatles, it had been ducktails and Elvis.
He compares the Beatles and the Stones, overturning the impression that the Beatles were mellow and the Stones were dangerous: the Beatles, being from a tough town like Liverpool, knew how to take care of themselves, whereas “the Rolling Stones were the mummy’s boys – they were all college students from the outskirts of London.” There’s also the great story of him working as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix for a year and a half (and in the documentary he talks about helping Hendrix score acid, ten hits at a time – Hendrix was generous and would take seven tabs, and give Lemmy the other three.
When he performed, he would drive the chicks nuts. I’ve seen him go in his bedroom with five chicks – and they’d all come out smiling too. And of course, the road crew got the spin-offs. A stud, Hendrix was; and I’m crass enough to think that’s quite a good thing. I don’t know what’s wrong with being a stud – it’s more fun than not being a stud, that’s for sure!
In the movie there’s a funny quote from Lemmy: “people ask me what I think of Prince; I say ‘I’ve already seen Jimi Hendrix.’” A funny tale about the other guys in The Experience:
I liked the other two guys in the Experience, too. Noel Redding was all right, only he used to wear a nightshirt to bed, and Alladdin-type shoes with the curly toes and a nightcap with a tassel. That was quite a sight. Mitch was nuts, as he still is today, in fact. One time I was standing on a traffic island in the middle of Oxford Street and Mitch bounced up to me, wearing a white fur coat, white trousers, white shirt, shoes and socks – complete vision, you know. ‘Hello, I don’t know who I am!’ he said and ran off again. I don’t think he knew who I was, either!
He talks about some of the albums he played on in the early days, throwing out lines like “I must get a copy of it one of these days”, which means that someone will read this and send him a copy. Nice move.
For most of the second half of the book, Lemmy is consumed with writing about the recording of albums. “We went into the studio and did an album… then we did the next one… then we did the next one…” He also talks a bit about tours, memorable shows, line-up changes, and management grief. Occasionally he pauses for an anecdote, or a bit of philosophizing. Sometimes he talks about writing a song for someone else (Ozzy, Lita Ford, Girlschool, etc), and how he made more money off of writing songs for Ozzy than he ever did in 15 years with Motörhead. He also describes how he got involved in a few unlikely pairings, such as a supergroup he was in with the Nolan Sisters that there’s a cool little video for.
The Nolan Sisters were great fun – we used to run across them quite a bit because they were on the charts at the same time Motörhead was. Everybody thought they were soppy little popster virgins but they weren’t. They’d been around – they’d played with Sinatra at the Sands in Vegas. They were tough chicks, managed by their father, but they were really great. And funny as scoot. Once our manager, Douglas, was talking to Linda Nolan in the Top of the Pops bar, and he dropped some money on the floor. When he bent down to pick it up, Linda smirked and said, ‘While you’re down there…’ That was the last thing he expected out of a Nolan sister! Maybe wishful thinking and he dreamt it up, but it shocked the stuffing out of him.
Naturally, being fired from Hawkwind gets the full treatment.
Ultimately, the first half of the book is way better than the second half, as autobiographies tend to be.
Great book. Anybody who’s ever rocked out to Motörhead songs that they didn’t pay for, do yourself and fork out for this; everybody else should as well.