The news that Motörhead’s legendary frontman died today came as a shock to music fans everywhere, mostly because we had sort of assumed he would live forever. Despite his affirmation that ‘I don’t want to live forever’ in Ace of Spades, he seemed like Keith Richards or Iggy Pop to be among the pantheon of rock gods who no amount of sex, drugs or rock n’ roll would finish off. Either that, or we assumed it would be something like an epic speed-induced motorcycle crash that would send him off like the protagonist in his song Iron Horse/Born to Lose, rather than something so terrifyingly mortal as cancer.
His death is a particularly personal blow to me, as the music of Motörhead meant a lot to me growing up. Between 2007 and 2011, I saw the band every year at their annual gig at the Bristol Colston Hall. I had grown up with the music of the band, probably first hearing their songs in the womb. An overarching memory of my early childhood is being woken up on weekends to the sounds of my dad singing along to his metal records, and Ace of Spades definitely got heavy rotation as part of that.
My dad and I had very few bands and albums in common that we both liked. As such, those weird intersections we had, such as Blondie’s Parallel Lines, Who’s Next by the Who and the early albums of Tom Waits are charged with a special significance, areas we could share without my dad being disappointed in my disinterest in sports and love of cheesy pop music. Motörhead was prime among these.
So naturally, when I was old enough to go to gigs, but not old enough to go with friends or on my own, we ended up seeing the band a lot. Although we were definitely getting different things from it – I like the sheer noise and aggression of songs like Bomber and Eat the Rich, dad liked the prog-metal moments that remained from Lemmy’s time in Hawkwind – it was time we could spend together .
So in a sense, Lemmy’s death is the end of an era for me, as my dad and I will never spend an evening watching the band, him at the bar waiting for the Damned or Girlschool to finish their support sets, me at the edge of the moshpit having my yearly evening of pretending to be a punk. Of course, it is more than that. I am sure that my sadness at this is shared by many other music fans, whose early exposure to Motörhead through their parents brought them to other music with, to quote the band’s motto, ‘everything louder than everything else’.