Friday, 14 March 2014

March 1979

Giving Head

Tim and I decide we should use the Stranglers in Japan story as the main feature of our first syndicated column along with record and concert reviews. We do a mass mail-out to every local paper in the country with a covering letter saying they have permission to use this free of charge, then pay twenty-five pounds for each subsequent weekly column.

Lots of papers use the column, but only two agree to pay for a regular supply. Tight bastards. The road to riches is closed for extensive works and won’t be opened again for a year. It’s back to the bread-and-butter stuff of phoners and phonies.

It’s a never-ending story of love, hate and redemption. An orgy of celebrity that demands cynicism. The boy can’t help it and it leaks out during a speed-fuelled meeting with Motorhead in their manager’s London office …

Well, first of all there’s Lemmy – a couple of protuberances on his face (de rigueur for a heavy metal beast), Quo coiffeur (that’s long, no-nonsense greasy), hirsute top lip (curling Zapata moustache currently fashionable among London taxi drivers), mean look (very effective behind a mike), hairy chest with medallion (the Greek pose) and leather jacket. Bassist.

Then there’s Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor – thin eyebrows (sign of a psychopath), narrow, piercing eyes (sign of a psychopath), Sid Vicious barnet (sign of a psychopath), two days’ facial growth (sign of lazy psychopath), not so tall as other members of the band (sign of short psychopath) and leather jacket. Drummer.

And, of course, there’s Eddie Clarke – er, no painfully obvious physical characteristics (is this man really a member of Motorhead?) and leather jacket. Guitarist.

These men actually appeared on Top of the Pops.  
And they are probably the most slagged band of our time. Just a few years ago they were voted the Best Worst Band. They’ve been ridiculed, accused of having no musical talent and even disliked a bit too. And because of that they now have a single and an album in the charts. Nobody could accuse them of being insidious.

‘We’re resigned to the fact that we’ll never be accepted on a musical level by the critics,’ says Lemmy, lounging on the lino of his manager’s office in West London. ‘All they ever review is our stance. Okay, at the beginning it’s a laugh, but after a while it becomes both boring and annoying.’

That attitude has recently escalated with the release of their aptly titled second album
Overkill. Record Mirror’s lithe, libidinous Chris Westwood has just been awarded the coveted Motorhead Intellectual Nerd of the Year Trophy. His album review really got to their dandruff.

‘He said I should grow up,’ Lemmy complains. ‘Christ, if I grew any bigger I’d be out of reach! He wasn’t constructive at all. It was just one big bitch. Fancy some speed?’

I acquiesce. Hot stuff. In fact, I’m sitting here eating my heart out, baby …

‘Yet when we met him he was really nice – drinking our drinks, smoking our fags. Maybe we didn’t give him enough.’

‘People like that are really beginning to get to me. I seriously think they regard us as three geezers wandering around in leather jackets and gun belts causing mayhem. Well, I regard them as pseudo-intellectuals who lock the world out when they sit behind their little typewriters. I’ve got a really good wall for them to bang their heads against.’

So we’re confronted by two opposing Motorhead schools: (1) the pupils who think the traumatic trio are just another bunch of metal gurus; (2) the pupils who like Motorhead quite a lot.

‘Rock ’n’ roll refused to die and now heavy metal is refusing to die,’ says Lemmy, white speck in a nostril hair, white heat in a brain cell.

‘I hate that term "heavy metal",’ interrupts Phil. ‘It immediately conjures up visions of heeled boots, Spandex trousers and demented fools.’

‘Right,’ says Lemmy. ‘I think we’re more a molten-metal band.’

A molten-metal band that was just a solid mass four years ago when Lemmy first formed it after leaving Hawkwind. You remember them − unidentified flying objects in Lurex strides. Motorhead number one recorded an album that was never released. Lemmy drafted in two new musicians – Taylor and Clarke – and they’ve never looked back.

Mind you, they’ve never looked forward either.

Their first album sold around 50,000 and a single, ‘Louie Louie’, actually showed in the charts. Grown men were seen to break down and cry when they saw the record at number sixty. And now the new success, which has jettisoned Motorhead into the £45-a-week bracket -- each!

But things weren’t always rosy. ‘We looked like splitting at one point,’ says Phil. ‘One night, just before a gig, I punched our tour manager on the head and broke my hand. It was over a chick …’

Lemmy’s eyes light up. Not sure if it’s a chemical or spiritual reaction. ‘Never take chicks with you on the road -- they’re bad news. Hawkwind were destroyed by chicks.’

‘Now we’ve got a good manager and a great lawyer,’ says Lemmy. ‘With a combination like that we’re impregnable.

‘That’s the thing about punk. They were all such a bunch of kids. If you don’t get yourself organised in this business, people will walk all over you. People had been walking all over us for a long time. What do you do when people hate you? You just keep going. You fight back. You survive. That’s why punk was destroyed – it never fought back. Mind you, heroin also helped it along the path to destruction.’

Lemmy and Eddie continue to slag off the use of heroin.

Lemmy: ‘Smack has killed three musical movements – first acid rock, then pub rock and now punk. Okay, I admit I’m a bit of a speed freak – and I’m afraid I’m influencing the rest of this band – but I’d never touch smack. People who like smack also like Lou Reed and that can’t be anything in its favour.’

Eddie: ‘I knew a guy who was into needles so much he once stuck an eye dropper into the veins of his wrist and bled to death in a public toilet.’

Lemmy is thirty-three, nurtured on Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, Gene Vincent and those other two tasty trios, Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He once worked as a roadie for Hendrix. He’s a man who lives very much in that Middle Earth world of Trafalgar Square hippies and kimonos. ‘I play the kind of music that I’d like to go and watch. There ain’t a band in the world that enjoys doing what they do more than us. We’re so happy doing what we’re being.’

(The indomitable Lemmy has ensured that Motorhead – minus Taylor and Clarke − have continued to record and perform to the present day. They have become something of an institution and even picked up a Grammy in 2005 for Best Metal Performance. They released the their 21st studio album, Aftershock, in 2013).

Apparently, Lemmy, who I actually think is a pretty groovy guy, isn’t terribly enamoured with the intro to the article (unsurprisingly) and tells a colleague that he’ll beat the shit out of me if ever our paths cross. I thought he’d laugh at what I considered to be an obvious joke but, in the cold light of print, it may not have come across that way. So it’s official − I’ve turned into a cunt.

But not where Steve Jones is concerned. He’s always good for a laugh…

Next: Nice, quiet, Steve Jones

Adapted from the book Tell Me When by Barry Cain
© Barry Cain 2013
Check out Barry’s new novel, Wet Dreams Dry Lives:


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