I have already blogged a few times about Motorhead and their frontman Lemmy Kilmeister, but after Monday’s show in New York I feel inspired to do so once again, in a slightly more personal fashion.
Every time that Motorhead comes to New York I go through the mental machinations: “Should I buy tickets, who should I hit up for aftershow? Am I going to get to get backstage? Should I call him? I don’t want to bug him. Should I show up at soundcheck? No, that would be too much. How am I going to work this out in the least obtrusive way possible?”
Which is pretty silly, because the man has been my friend for 20 years and he’s never once been flaky or dismissive. But I still don’t trust that it’s real until I’m actually sitting there talking to him. It dawned (once again) that I am an idiot, because each time I come to a show he sends for me afterward for a private audience for a few minutes before anyone else is allowed in the dressing room. It’s just me and whoever my guest is and him, and I get to tell him what I’m doing and hear how he is feeling with no outside interruption. Then he lets everyone else in and people take photos with him and I end up drinking his drink because he is indulgent and I’m too lazy to get up and make my own. I am not telling you any of this to brag, but to explain that I am such an insecure nerd in my core that even with this kind of attention I still don’t feel that it’s true until it’s in progress.
So on the heels of what was a typically killer show and a nice, quiet hang backstage, I thought I’d outline the anatomy of this friendship, which is something I haven’t done yet, either for myself or others:
Cycle Sluts from Hell only did one major tour during our brief career. Our record label dropped us before the record was released and the only professional foray that Sony Records funded prior to that unceremonious boot was one in Europe, opening for Motorhead. We opened for many other famous bands, but Motorhead was the only band that we traveled with for any substantial amount of time.
CSFH sucked the first night of the tour, which was in London. It was a big theater and we were completely green and terrified at having to win over an audience other than our usual enthusiastic New York fans and friends. We stood behind our mikes making minimal movement while the sparse-for-the-opening-band crowd sat back in their seats and stared silently back at us, openly disdainful. The whole thing was dismal and we knew it, but we were still psyched to be on the tour and even more psyched when Motorhead came backstage to introduce themselves.
At that time the band consisted of Lemmy, Philthy, Wurzel, and Phil Campbell. Each one of them would turn out to be funny and fun and generous in their own way. That night Lemmy handed me a beer and said to all of us, “You don’t have to do that much, but you have to move around. You can’t stay behind the mike like a statue, you have to make the connection with your audience. Just walk to the front of the stage and walk back, that’s enough.” He was right, of course, and we took his advice and stepped out tentatively the following night.
By the end of the tour we were in sneakers racing back and forth across the stage like the idiots that we were. Lemmy hated the sneakers and told us to get white boots, which we did, and wore as a joke when the band was being filmed in Munich:
Lemmy wore that slut t-shirt because, although we were pretty well received elsewhere, the Munich audience hated us as openers and pelted us with candy. It was his way of showing support. Phil wore a CSFH hat as well, you can see it throughout the movie.
Lemmy and I felt an immediate connection upon meeting, one of those recognitions that you have with people where you look at them and think, “Oh yeah, you again.” Each member of the band chose a girl to work on, and I got Lemmy. He was relentlessly charming and constantly whispering in my ear. But I had already started sleeping with someone on the tour. I was not a wise soul in those days, and my immediate reaction to feeling uncomfortable in any situation was to grab myself a boyfriend. So I literally chose the nearest available candidate, who turned out to be fairly volatile and someone with whom I had nothing in common. Lemmy knew it was ridiculous, saw exactly what I was doing, and told me as much.
Pretty quickly into the tour I realized that I’d really done myself a disservice by not simply enjoying this time on the road, but I could not extricate myself without hurting my band and creating chaos. I just had to ride this thing out without making waves, and it was not comfortable for me in any way. One night things got particularly ugly and this person threw a cueball across a crowded room and slapped me hard across the face. It was shocking to everyone. I was stunned, scared, embarrassed, and relieved that no one in the room was hurt by the ball, which created a hole in the wall when it landed.
Lemmy was outraged. He was absolutely furious and took me aside and wiped my tears and told me that hitting a woman was bullshit and that I could not allow anyone to do so ever again, and that if it happened again on the tour he was going to step in himself. The next day my band told me that they would support in whatever way possible whatever decision I made, meaning that they would find a way to pick up the slack if I chose to have this person kicked off the tour. Motorhead offered whatever help they could as well.
I simply couldn’t do it to them as friends or as professionals. The tour was such a big deal, and it was my fault; I had made this incredibly juvenile choice and I had to live with the consequences. So I rode it out and it was difficult at times, but it was the right thing to do. And it was a little easier knowing that my band supported me, and knowing that I could confide in Lemmy at any time. He cracked jokes that I had picked the wrong man to sleep with and could still have my chance to amend that error, but he remained consistent as a friend and a confidant throughout that tour. I took comfort in his presence. His advice was always sane and sage, no matter how loaded we were, and we were loaded plenty. Or at least the rest of us were, Lemmy never seemed to flinch no matter what was being consumed.
One afternoon after a hard night of playing and partying I woke up in my bunk and found a pacifier next to my head. He hadn’t slept and had gone shopping as the tour buses sat on a ferry. I got the message, and I thought it was pretty funny. When his book “White Line Fever” came out I was excited to see that he mentioned me as the Cycle Slut that got away. He didn’t state my name but I knew he threw it in there as a little nod, more evidence of generosity of spirit.
Over the years we haven’t communicated much except for those few minutes after the show. We exchanged numbers a few years back and he sent me a Happy New Year text this year, and recently we had a conversation about a book someone thought he might want to buy. Nothing too deep. A couple of years ago he said, “I love you, you know. You’re family.” And that’s been enough, he doesn’t need to repeat it and I don’t wish to be someone who abuses the privilege of being in his periphery by overloading him with requests for attention when he’s here, or overloading him with texts and emails when he’s not.
This week I asked, “How is it going? Is it really crazy with the movie making you so popular?” And he said, “You have no idea. It’s nonstop.” I can see it. I work for someone famous in another venue and I see how rabid people get at certain events when she appears. I can’t imagine doing it on a nightly basis with a tour when you have reached the age of retirement.
It’s a good thing, though, he deserves the recognition and the accolades, the movie and the rock stars hailing his every move, past and present. He remains solid throughout, much more than other people I know with much less smoke being blown up their asses, probably because he’s ridden the roller coaster often enough to know that it’s nothing but a ride. I’m simply grateful that I get to play a cameo in the excellent adventure that is his life, and when I watch him onstage, or on film, or in person handing over his drink once again, I feel nothing but love.