All of our heroes are leaving. I guess we’re at that age; our rock gods are in their dotage and there are no new deities to take their place. The loss permeates our daily existence. I can’t even talk about how rock is dead anymore. We’ve talked the death of rock to death.
I have acceptance. I’ve mourned my neighborhood, my city, my subculture, all of it, for quite a while, and now I’m in a fairly serene mental state over it. I still mutter under my breath at screeching sorority girls when I’m walking through my neighborhood on a Saturday night, but for the most part I know it’s their hood now and that’s the nature of things. I’m old enough to stop taking the cycle of life so personally.
This December the world lost the one rock god I knew personally, Lemmy Kilmeister. Many writers have listed his accomplishments and planet-wide influence, his integrity, intelligence, individuality, sense of humor and talent. There will never be another like him and it’s wonderful that much of the world knows it and mourns his passing.
I have documented him often in this blog, and friends already know the stories well enough: CSFH toured with Motorhead in 1991 and the band was very good to us. It was a hilarious few months, and I learned more about being a proper rock musician during that brief time than in all my other earth-hours combined. Lemmy took a shine to me in particular, enough to mention a crush in his autobiography. I probably should have gone for it when he leaned in on our second night in London and whisper/growled into my ear, “I fancy you, Raffie.” But he scared me; I liked pretty boys that I could share clothes with and control. I politely declined. He didn’t mind; he had plenty of other appealing opportunities, although he never gave up the good fight. We got close as we traveled and remained friends throughout his life. Not enough to speak on the phone regularly, I can’t say I was one of his closest, but enough that I sent him text messages on birthdays and holidays, and saw him and the band when they played New York. After the shows Lemmy usually allowed me and a couple of his other female friends into the dressing room first. He liked the feminine attention; beyond that I think he simply wanted to unwind with people he knew before the inevitable hand-shaking and fielding of repetitive backstage comments and questions from mostly strangers. Whatever his reasons were, he treated me like a queen. He always made me feel special, he often said, “I love you.” upon parting. I know I am not alone in this experience. The night Lemmy died I got a call from a mutual friend that he had left the planet some 10 minutes before. The friend wanted to tell me before it hit the public. I felt kind of room-spinny, overwhelmed by the information. I spent the rest of the night skimming the surface of my thoughts and emotions; not allowing myself to drop into the truth of it too deeply. I was afraid of the depth of that emotional hole. The next day I took irrational offense to any facebook post not having to do with him. How could people act normal or pay attention to their dumb food photos when he had died? I saw Lemmy three months prior, in September 2015 when Motorhead played Jones Beach. He was visibly not in the best of health: the show was short, they didn’t play a lot of the faster songs, and he seemed weary, his energy and body smaller than it used to be. Afterward he allowed only a very small inner circle into his dressing room, about five people, plus a couple of our guests. Lemmy’s dressing rooms were usually full of his exuberant energy, friends, fans, groupies, and food and alcohol–primarily his beloved Jack Daniels, surrounded by large bottles of Coke. I hate the hangover that comes from that combo but I drank it anyway when Motorhead played. Plus Lemmy would always let me nab his own newly made drink and quietly make another one for himself. I liked drinking his drinks rather than my own. It was another unspoken way in which he allowed me to feel special. This time there was no whiskey, no large tables of food or drinks for a horde. Just some cups and ice and vodka and Lem sitting down, looking weary. He said hi and got his hugs from everyone and we settled in. I poured myself a vodka on the rocks and sat across from him. I put my hands on his knees and looked him in the eyes and said, “How are you feeling?”
He cocked his head and said, “Eh…”
I said, “What are you gonna do?”
He replied, “I’m gonna keep going. Drop dead onstage.”
I said, “Okay, then.” And swung around and sat on his chair with him and took this selfie. I love his sweet and open expression here.
Everyone stayed for some chit chat and photos, but we were all conscious of overtaxing him, and didn’t stay overlong. Before we left I looked deeply in his eyes and said, “I love you, Lem. Take care of yourself.” I worried afterward that I was too heavy in that goodbye, my demeanor too indicative of fear about his health instead of upbeat and encouraging. But it was how I felt at the moment and he knew it anyway.
Lemmy always saw through the “badass” trappings I put forth and understood a deeper truth. He gave me the original mock up of the 1916 CD cover (sent to him for approval before it went to print) and wrote on it, “To the Slut who is not, from one original to another. Love, Lemmy.” It’s framed and hangs over my bed.
This is a story that only my band and a handful of those closest know. I’m telling it now to illustrate what kind of person he was and why he meant so much to me personally.
I was a mess on that tour. My father had died unexpectedly a few years beforehand and I wasn’t even close to processing it. I had just been through a nasty break up with someone I loved desperately that sent me into a years-long spiral. I didn’t know who I was, I hated myself and was acting out in the usual ways–drinking and smoking too much primarily. And then there’s my personal favorite: numbing pain by using people as drugs.
I couldn’t stand my thoughts when I was alone; I wasn’t comfortable without distraction. And being on tour, even though you’re constantly surrounded by people, is essentially lonely. So I picked the likeliest candidate among our band of travelers to be my tour boyfriend. We weren’t compatible in any real way; no history, no thoughts or ideas in common. He was simply attractive enough and in the right place at the right time. I don’t think he knew what hit him.
It got volatile almost as soon as it began. It scared me and I knew I wanted out after a couple of weeks. But we were on the road in foreign countries and all trapped together and I felt terrible about being so unprofessional and about bringing this energy to my band. I was willing to deal with everything as peacefully as possible to make up for my bad behavior.
Lemmy and the other members of the band (Phil primarily, sometimes Wurzel and Philthy) and a couple members of their crew would often ride overnight on the Slut’s tour bus. They wanted to be near the girls and we loved watching them pile on with their overnight bags. Lemmy never slept anyway, he would sit with the driver or in the overhead front lounge, watching oncoming traffic, smoking cigarettes, drinking Jack. He saw everything that was happening with me and in quieter moments he chided, always gently. He was never annoyed that I chose someone else, he just rolled his eyes and whispered things like, “You can’t be serious…”
One night he bought a pink pacifier at a truck stop in Germany and left it in my bunk next to me while I slept. I knew it was from him the moment I opened my eyes. I got the message. I wish I’d kept it.
Somewhere in France there was an extremely drunken night exacerbated by the fact that the tour boyfriend was angry at me about an incident that had happened earlier in the day. As we sat in a club drinking, he reached out and smeared my red lipstick across my mouth and up across my face. I took out a mirror, wiped my face clean, and reapplied the lipstick. He repeated the smear. I took a deep breath, took out my mirror and repeated the clean up. He reached out and repeated the smear.
I dumped my drink in his lap and stood up to leave. He stood up and slapped me so violently across the face that I saw stars. Then he took a cue ball off a nearby pool table and threw it at full velocity through a room crowded full of people. It cracked a hole in the wall and stuck there. Someone could have been killed. He was hauled out immediately and I stayed behind to clean myself up and give people a chance to calm him down before we all had to get on the bus again.
I was weepy and Lemmy was furious. I’ve never seen him so angry before or since. He took me into a corner and wrapped his arms around me. I pressed my face into his chest and he said, “No man ever hits a woman. Ever. Not on my tour; not in my presence.” He didn’t tell me that he told me so, that there are consequences to poor decision-making. He didn’t ask me what I did to instigate the fight. He just took over and took care of me and made me feel safe, probably for the first time in years. For a few moments he filled in for the father I desperately needed but didn’t have. At his core he was a gentleman who loved and respected women, and he understood me better than I did myself.
My band generously allowed me to make the choice on how to proceed, and I chose to forget the night and get on with the tour. Lemmy didn’t say much more about it. He knew I’d learned a lesson and I stuck as close as I could to him for the rest of our time on the road. He hated that I kept my glasses on and didn’t dress up on travel days, he regaled us with history lessons, and he sang all the lyrics to Orgasmatron (the song he was most proud to have written) into my ear as we all drank in the back of the tour bus listening to tapes made of the shows each night.
When our record company refused to cough up for hotel rooms on occasion, Motorhead paid for them rather than allowing us to sleep in a cold bus parked for the night. On the last night of the tour the Paradiso in Amsterdam neglected to put in an extension to the front of their stage so that CSFH had room to play in front of all of Motorhead’s extensive gear. Lemmy cancelled the show, causing a full blown fan riot. They set things on fire and broke up the place. He didn’t give a fuck. if we couldn’t play, they wouldn’t play. We went out and got way too high on space cake instead.
I will never forget his kindness, his friendship, his wit, and his generosity of spirit. He was a true rock star in every sense of the word. I hope I get to see him on the other side.
I’ve posted this one many times. It’s my favorite, standard bus shenanigans.
Somewhere in France. Just found this one, it feels like a little nudge from beyond.
Backstage convo, standard Kilmeister light reading on the table.
Update: 1/27/16: I’ve had a few messages regarding the tour boyfriend and I’d like to clarify. He is a great person, we are still friends and there is no ill will. Things just got too crazy. I don’t want to vilify anyone over one mistake they made 25 years ago.