Lemmy Kilmister saved my life.
Okay, maybe that’s a little melodramatic. But high school is a pretty melodramatic time of life, and that’s how it felt to me. The situation was this:
I was a 15 year-old, sheltered little nerd boy, starting huge new high school. Lockers were assigned alphabetically, and none of my friends had lockers anywhere near mine. As fate would have it, one of the punk rockers had a last name that began with “Mey” so his locker was pretty close to mine. And a group of like minded young punks would always hang out at his locker, sometimes blocking mine. I’d never spent any time with people who had spiked hair and leather and piercings, and I was honestly pretty freaked out. And did I mention that our lockers was tucked under a stairwell, away from doors or monitors or anyone who might save me?
But something wonderful happened. Once I got over my initial nerves and said hello, it turned out that even though they were into punk and I was into new wave and hard rock, we had one band in common: Motorhead. And we all liked The Young Ones, where we both saw Motorhead for the first time. You know what? They were actually pretty cool people. I ended up finding some punk bands that I really liked, and they quietly admitted that Led Zeppelin was amazing. I don’t know what happened to them—one by one, they all got expelled for low grades or drug offenses—but I went from being scared of them to being thankful I got to know them, and Lemmy helped make it happen.
I never knew him, but I knew musicians in LA who had met or played with him, and all had stories that he really was as crazy as his image, and he also really was kind and funny and open hearted. When I read that he died, it made me quite sad; in many ways Lemmy represented the best of rock and roll—loud, obnoxious, dangerous, naughty, but ultimately with a good heart. I hope that right now he’s jamming with Bonzo and Hendrix and Jim Morrison and looking back on his crazy life with joy, because he brought joy to a lot of people. Even shy and sheltered 15-year old nerdboys who had yet to discover the music that was inside of them.
This is how I will always remember him. Ace of Spades isn’t the best rock and roll song ever written, and Motorhead was not the best rock and roll band, but this song in so many ways exemplifies rock and roll at it’s best.