Sue and I were driving home last Sunday when I realised that on Tuesday this week we would’ve seen Motörhead live at the Manchester Apollo.
“Do you know what I’m going to do on Tuesday night?” I asked. “I’m going to play thirty minutes of Girlschool, fourty-five minutes of Saxon and then Motörhead, really, really loud.”
I think Sue could sense I was getting emotional again thinking about Lemmy and to lighten the mood she replied; “We could drink pints of beer out of plastic cups and jostle each other all evening too.”
She’s funny. I wish I’d thought of that.
I’ve been sadder about losing Lemmy that I’d expected I would be. For the past few weeks I’ve listened to Motörhead albums most days, watched countless YouTube concert videos and interviews with Lemmy and joined several hundred thousands of other people who streamed his funeral service.
I remember seeing the ‘classic’ Motörhead line-up of Lemmy, Fast Eddie and Philthy miming to Bomber on Top of the Pops in 1979. I was fourteen then and my musical tastes had been getting heavier. Motörhead suited them perfectly and I was an instant fan. I bought a snaggle-tooth patch from my local record shop and Nana, bless her soul, sewed it onto my denim jacket.
After Bomber came Overkill and then Iron Fist. My mother drove me to Leicester’s DeMontfort Hall and waited outside in her car while I saw Motörhead live for the first time on their Iron Fist tour. It was the seventh of April, 1982. Somehow I managed to squeeze myself to the front, right side of the stage and when Philthy Phil threw his sticks into the crowd after the encore, I caught one, dropped it and had the skin kicked off the backs of my hands picking it up again. I kept that stick for years. I wish I knew where it is now.
I saw plenty of NWOBHM bands play live in Leicester. Girlschool, Iron Maiden on their first tour, Judas Priest and Saxon, but Motörhead stayed favourites. When the eighties turned to nineties, we parted company for a while. I stopped seeing them live and album releases came and went without me buying them.
Alex grew up listening to the same music. We played music in the car and sometimes, on long journeys I’d play Motörhead. Alex and I didn’t fish or play football together as I suppose many Dads and sons do, but music was something we shared a love of and that included Motörhead. I don’t know if Alex enjoyed Motörhead as much as I do, but if he didn’t he never let it show.
When Alex was as old as I’d been when I first saw Motörhead live, we started seeing them together, first in a short set supporting Alice Cooper, then their Kiss Of Death tour on the eighteenth November 2007. My birthday is the twentieth of November and Motörhead often toured the UK that month, so over the next few years, Alex and I saw them together as a birthday treat, even after he moved away and we switched venues from Manchester back to Leicester.
When Motörhead cancelled their tour in 2013 because of Lemmy’s ill health, I was sad. Not just because I’d miss seeing them but because I’d miss seeing Alex. Their 2014 tour dates coincided with Sue and I taking a trip to Berlin for a conference and their 2015 UK tour dates included just two festivals. When they announced dates for this year, I bought two tickets as usual and when we knew that Alex couldn’t join me, Sue offered to come for the first time.
She’s not a metal fan, but wanted to stand down in the pit, jostling with everyone else. We joked about her wearing ear plugs but honestly, I was really looking forward to enjoying Motörhead with her. It had been something that I’d shared with Alex and now it could be something else that we’d share together.
When I read that Lemmy had died, I cried. It had been a terrible December for both of us and I stood in our new kitchen bawling and shaking and clinging to Sue. Over the next few days I couldn’t bring myself to do as the remaining band members asked and play their music loud. It’s only been since watching Lemmy’s funeral that I’ve been able to.
I didn’t meet Lemmy, I wasn’t a super fan, nor particularly loyal. Being so sad about losing Lemmy took me by surprise. I’ve thought a lot about why his death has affected me so much and I think it’s because as well as losing him, I’ve lost Motörhead, who won’t play together again.
I know that they wouldn’t go on for ever, but in losing them, I’ve lost something else important. Seeing Motörhead, first with Alex and then Sue was a thing that helped bring our little family together, at times when we really needed that. It’s taken me some time to adjust that we won’t see them together again. It won’t be something that we’ll share.
This Tuesday night Sue and I didn’t drink pints from plastic cups. We weren’t jostled. We didn’t hear Girlschool, Saxon or Motörhead, in Manchester or at home. Losing Lemmy’s left a hole that I’m determined to fill with other things that we can share. Not once a year but every week, every day. No matter what life has thrown at us, we’ve faced it together but now I’ll have to do it without Lemmy’s help:
Nothing’s gonna bring us down,
The way we fly,
Five miles off the ground,
Because we shoot to kill,
And you know we always will,
It’s a Bomber.