So Long, Lemmy, and Thanks For 1980

Lemmy’s dead. Days after his seventieth birthday.

I saw Motorhead in July 1980 at Bingley Hall, Stafford. I have a good memory (I think) so 1980 still feels like yesterday to me, and it takes me a minute to accept that the guy I saw on stage yesterday is, or just was, seventy years old, but he was. It still surprises me sometimes that some of the so-called hell-raisers from the seventies and eighties are still kicking around, but they are.

Back in 1980 Motorhead head-lined a concert also featuring Saxon, Girlschool, Angel Witch, Mythra, Vardis, and White Spirit. Not all of those became household names. The music started in the afternoon and went on late, but I remember one of the guys I went with was comatose through alcohol before the first note was played and spent the whole gig in the first aid room.

Bingley Hall was just that, a hall. No seating. You stood and you swayed and you headbanged. There were other concerts at Bingley Hall where I was close enough to the stage to have my head almost inside the speakers, being blasted to death. My ears rang for days afterwards. There were those who said such stupidity would see me deaf by the age of thirty. Ha! But for the Motorhead gig I was about two-thirds back from the stage in the vast hall that was Bingley, and Motorhead were still almost too loud to bear. When people say Motorhead were loud, it’s no exaggeration.

I’m not a big fan of so-called celebrity culture. I don’t go ga-ga when celebrities croak. Not even ones I’ve seen in concert. Still, I tip a nod to Lemmy in passing. Those were fun days, and Lemmy was a part of that. He was a character, larger than life, but very much what you see is what you get. I can’t say that Motorhead’s music evolved much since those Overkill and Bomber days. The last Motorhead album I bought was Aftershock which came out in 2013 and the songs on the album could have fitted onto Overkill or Bomber. But that’s part of the appeal; you knew what you were getting.

Knowing what you’re getting is so often a good thing. Lemmy was diagnosed with cancer just a few days before he died, and I doubt that he had time for anything much between diagnosis and last breath. My mother on the other hand, who died a year younger than Lemmy almost twenty-five years ago, knew what she was getting. Her cancer was diagnosed some months before last breath, which left a lot of time for those things that people want to do, want to say, before they pass.

In the end, it is what it is, and we don’t usually get to choose.

So long, Lemmy, and thanks for 1980.