I think I just saw Motorhead for the last time.
As I covered in my last post, Lemmy (the frontman/God Among Us to many metal-heads) has not been well for a couple of years. He recently had to cancel a week of shows due to what the Motorhead camp is calling a lung infection. (It probably WAS a lung infection, but it’s a different kind of lung infection than you or I might get. Lemmy has a true story of having had blood so toxic from drug use that a proper infusion of clean blood would’ve killed him and his blood would’ve killed others. That’s not a joke.) Tonight was the band’s return to the stage after a week-ish off. And…it was rough.
Lemmy struggled. A lot. In a way that was hard to watch at times. Even on “Ace of Spades,” which he should be able to do in his sleep, he struggled with the timing and phrasing of the vocal. Maybe it was the lung infection…but us long-time fans have been hearing a decrease in quality/power of voice for a few years now–and we’ve had a lot of trouble admitting that to ourselves. I think we all knew going in that tonight’s show would be rocky. First show back after time off and the main-man is sick. The odds are against you… But I don’t think any of us were prepared to be three songs in and think, “Maybe he shouldn’t be doing this…” It was difficult…but ultimately they played a full set (which got better as it went) and I am very grateful to have been there.
Motorhead means a lot to me. It’s stupid how much they mean to me. They’re this ugly, profane, sloppy, angry, kinda goofy rock band with a singer whose voice is so immediately off-putting that you actually need to DECIDE to like it. And I love them. Genuinely. Their music has fit into my life in significant ways–even when I don’t identify with it. The “1916” album is my personal favorite, with the title-track being a stark departure-piece–a ballad done in an almost folk-style with lyrics reflecting a soldier’s last thoughts as he dies in the mud of a battlefield. I’m anti-war. I’m anti-soldier, in fact (sorry/not-sorry)…but damned if that one doesn’t make me want to hug a veteran every time I hear it. That’s the power of music.
But mostly, it’s the fun that keeps drawing me to them. The anarchic, crazy energy. The stupid-fast, break-neck backbeat. The screaming guitars. The screaming vocals…and how the FUCK does he get his bass to make that noise? And the shows…the shows have been celebrations of rock music. When each member of the RAMONES died, I didn’t reach for my RAMONES anthology first…I reached for the Motorhead penned “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” and screamed along with them. I’ve travelled to see them play with Iron Maiden and Dio. I only saw Dio because of my fandom of the other two acts on the bill–and he would be dead about a year later. I’ve seen Nashville Pussy more than once because they were Motorhead’s opening act. Mixed emotions on that one.
And…I share Motorhead with my brother, Dave. Music’s one of the things that unites us (although if it went away, we’d have plenty else) and Motorhead is one of those bands we don’t even need to talk about. When the StL gig was announced, I texted the date to Dave, asking if he was in, and didn’t hear back for several hours. I texted him a second time saying I was disappointed in his lack of response. Dave’s reply was, “What is understood need not be discussed.” Of COURSE we were going. That’s what we do. I can’t thank bands like Motorhead enough for that.
It sucks to watch your heroes (yes, heroes) get old. Lemmy is 69. He’ll be 70 on Christmas Eve. And he’s every BIT of that age. He’s hurting, he’s struggling, and he needs to quit. Dave put it best earlier in the week: “We all know he’s going to die on the road, but that doesn’t mean we want to watch it.”
At the end of the show, Lemmy said the same thing he says every time. “We are Motorhead, and we play Rock and Fucking Roll.” And the audience clapped. And clapped. And clapped. And screamed. And cheered. And so on. It was so loud and enthusiastic that you could see it give the band pause for a few moments. It went so long that I think everyone in the room was hit with the thought of, “Oh shit…this might be the last time we do this…” I think the band felt it too.
I am not ashamed to say I got a little teary-eyed.
Motorhead has been going for 40 years. How in the galloping FUCK have they been going for 40 years??? That shouldn’t be possible. They should’ve exploded after TWO years, just from the speed of the goddamn songs alone! But it’s been 40 years. I’ve been alive for 35 of them. I’ve never known a world without Motorhead. But if this was the last time–this is so weird to say–I am forever indebted to Lemmy and the boys for making my life better. Even though the show was rough, I’m glad I got the be there to say thank you, at least one last time.
…but to be honest, there’s still a massive part of me that hopes I’m wrong, Lemmy just needs another week on the mend, and I’ll be at their 50th anniversary tour, with him aged 79 and still kicking asses.
But if not… Thank you, Lemmy. From the bottom of my heart.