My Lemmy Memory:
Lemmy Kilmister died yesterday. You might not be familiar, but trust me: he lives on in all of us.
Lemmy accessed a deep reserve of antisocial anger and rebellion somewhere beneath the sheen of good times and prepackaged adolescence most know as Rock n’ Roll. He drank from the waters of this fount, and spat it back all over us in a stream that gave life. As with most other transcendent religious figures, his actions in life point to eternity. His drama stands outside both time and space. We are all Lemmy in some way. We always were, and so we shall always be.
Lemmy wasn’t just a rocker: He was the sort of rocker who told his old man to get fucked. His old man — no slouch in such things himself — had responded with a dirty crowbar aimed at his temple. So Lemmy — one imagined — hopped on the filthy chopper he’d cobbled together from various stolen parts, kicked the starter, flipped the family bird one last time, and took off for parts unknown, but surely inhabited by women sustained by cheap vodka, antibiotics, and occasional tips from “dancing.” Somewhere on the back of that chopper was strapped a Rickenbacker bass guitar. Eternity awaited him.
It might not sound like it, but this fantasy persona — an aura as golden as a glob of hacked-up phlegm — made Lemmy very appealing to 17-year-old me. He was REAL. He was FREE. He knew how to LIVE, dammit. I certainly wasn’t alone in my admiration.
But really, I never did that “fuck you, gonna ride my motorcycle and screw around with questionable company” thing until I was far older and could no longer claim youth as an excuse. This is because I am a backwards person. When I was seventeen, I wore cardigans and penny loafers. I was a nice boy, and only intermittently suicidal. But I had dreams, dammit.
It seemed like a dream that one night in the summer of 1986 when I heard the sound wafting over our backyard in Maryvale. It was the sound of . . . well, I can’t really describe it. It sounded like what I’d imagine residents of London heard from an impending blitz — just before the sirens went off. Thousands of enormous German cylinders pumping at once, filling the sky with the sonorous drone of death.
I felt compelled to find out where it was coming from. I looked towards Pride Pavilion.
Pride Pavilion was a giant metal pre-fab building erected near the fading Maryvale Mall as it was entering its final years. It hosted an indoor soccer team — the Maryvale Pride. The Pavilion was large enough to hold something like skyboxes, and even a little restaurant. I had seen the semi-trailers lining up in parking lot outside in the days before. They held generators and amplifiers. There was going to be a show. A Motörhead show.
And you know which band Lemmy fronted, right?
As I walked through the dark residential streets towards Pride Pavilion, the sound grew more intense. I turned the corner to see Walking-Around Guy. He startled me. Walking-Around Guy was a neighborhood fixture. He was palsied and walked with a cane. He usually wore a dirty pork-pie hat on his misshapen head. His poorly-shaven, scarred face was accented by thick glasses which did nothing to detract from his permanent, goofy-yet-pained smile. He appeared to be in his thirties. He lived with his father in a neglected house on 55th Avenue surrounded by overgrowth and broken trucks. I remember meeting his father once — a sorrowful, hollow man in his 70s. He had done the needful after his son rode his tricycle into traffic on Indian School Road that one day in the early 1960’s. Brain damage or not, he was still his boy.
Walking-Around Guy usually only walked, briskly dragging one leg behind him as he traversed the palm-lined streets of this suburb as damaged-yet-determined as he was. He never caused problems. I think he spoke to my parents once during a yard sale. I kind-of avoided him when I saw him coming. But this time, avoiding him wasn’t going to happen.
“There’s been . . . a commercial . . . airliner crash,” he told me in a grave, halting voice — still smiling somewhat. He pointed his cane over his shoulder in the direction of the Pavilion. “I hear . . . there are . . . many casualties.”
I nodded and smiled. He was out of it, but no worse than most people I spoke to then, or have spoken to since. Not all of us embody the Lemmy equally. Few of us even bother to try. “Oh, ok. Well, I’ll go check it out then! Have a good one!” I said in my cheeriest tone.
I walked on. The sound grew more intense.
When I got to the parking lot, I beheld an amazing shrine. It was a moment like in those movies about jungle explorers chopping away at the last of the underbrush to reveal an exotic temple.
There was Pride Pavilion, its walls and roof all vibrating with the intense graunch of 50,000 watts’ worth of Lemmy n’ Friends. It was almost glowing. The whole building had become a resonator, further amplifying the sound of some asshole getting his teeth knocked out with a pool cue, or whatever song they were playing then.
It was beautiful.
* * * * *
I didn’t see Lemmy perform that night. I was too overwhelmed to even consider buying a ticket. I was also chickenshit and didn’t know what I’d say to a girl should one actually be in that building there. But I did manage to see Lemmy and Motörhead the following year. They opened for Alice Cooper at the “new” Compton Terrace at Firebird Lake. I squinted into the distance and saw my ragged idol, Lemmy. He played a few bars, then the band stopped. He shouted at someone in the audience: “No, whoayyy don’t YEW faaack yahr own MOTHA?” Great applause! The music resumed for a minute or two. Someone threw something on the stage. They stopped again. They left the stage. The emcee came out to chastise the crowd. Presumably, they promised to be good. The band came back. And so it went wash-rinse-repeat for their whole set. I was delighted, but I found myself alone. The people I was with didn’t understand Motörhead. They didn’t fully accept the Lemmy.
But I did.
Lemmy, your Valhalla lies beyond the grave. Deaf forever.
* * * * * *
Want to read something interesting? Try my novel. Diamond-T