Today we've hit the thirty year anniversary of another rock god's passing. Phil Lynott slipped this life on Salisbury plain and while he's similar to Lemmy in his legendary status and appetites, Lynott never saw his fortieth birthday. Kilmister, a contemporary who perhaps absorbed a bit of bodily awareness from observing Lynott's (and others) early departure, sustained.
Now if you're like me, Thin Lizzy was ubiquitous FM and anyone who listened to rock radio after 1976 knew the lyrics to The Boys Are Back In Town, but that was pretty much as far as it went. It wasn't until years later when Angelina Butera and I hopped on the Mondo Generator tour bus in New Orleans with Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork and rode with them to Birmingham, Alabama that I began to appreciate the impact that this artist had on my musically influential friends.
**Now THAT was an epic trip to Alabama and to be honest I had to stop dry heaving before I could absorb (really) anything. The ride back was even more of a hoot with Angelina witnessing a live sex act on the Greyhound Bus, to which we were committed because I had left all my identification in NOLA thereby annihilating our return flight home. Angelina is the forgiving sort and she is still my friend after I dropped the ball on the ID situation but she was absolutely disgusted with whatever was happening in the back of the bus (I found out later). However, if she had told me what was going down I would have really enjoyed seeing it as that would've made those hungover bus miles worth every rotation. Anyway, there I sat obliviously reading The Birmingham News while strangers publicly collided behind me.
I know you're reading this Ange and I forgive you too, girl.**
Anyway about a year later I go see Brant perform at The Knitting Factory in New York and he's like, "Let's do that Phil Lynott tattoo!" By then I had come more up to speed with Lynott's powerful presence and backstory and was very proud to burn up the midnight oil along with my friend's arm...who somewhat resembles Phil and like him, was the blessed issue of a mixed-race family.
Now I'm like Brant and Lynott lives on in my soul. I've been over to Ireland twice this last year, drawing similar inspiration as Phil did from a land seemingly made up entirely of singer-songwriters. Just before Halloween my mates and I were pub hopping in Galway, a town that rivals Austin and Nashville for brilliant nightly live music. We hit gold at Taaffe's with a pair of troubadors and their classic-through-contemporary Irish repertoire. Ears wide and dewy pints clasped to our hearts, we angled towards the front. As the lights came up on the last set I breathlessly piped "The Cowboy Song!" but the show was over.
"Oh aye? The Cowboy Song didja say?" I had pricked the ears of my target. "That's a very special song. Very special. Phil Lynott is a mighty hero of our land."
Ours too, I told him.
RIP Phil Lynott 1949-1986
Sure, I knew Lemmy. Lots of us in Hollywood have approached the wooden, wobbly throne under the video poker machine at the end of the patio bar. The Lemmy I knew in 2001 was only a legend among a small, hairy minority and already supposed to be dead. Decades of hard living had taxed his liver and it was rumoured he was on his last legs. Still there he sat, the approachable and stoic living relic holding court at The Rainbow Bar & Grill. I always thought it was because I was such a hotshot artist that he agreed to let me reline the sexy, well-weathered Montie Thunderbird he had on his forearm. More likely I was just more fresh meat from The Strip, but he always called me by name and had me sit by him while he pokered. When the evening of the tattoo arrived, Lemmy loudly cautioned me before heading to the studio. "Be on time and don't be too fucked up!"
At the time, Motörhead was pulling late nights in the valley working out Hammered which was to become their top-selling US album, anchoring Lemmy firmly in the lexicon of LA rock legends and providing feral leadership for a new generation of rock.
Me, I bloody slept through our 3am appointment.
Years later I had the opportunity to perform Motörhead at Punk Rock Karaoke in New Orleans' Lizard Lounge before Pepper Keenan, Jimmy Bower and Arthur Seay and killed it, thank you very much. That missed-opportunity-chip on my shoulder burned a torch that drove my performance so hard our guitar player asked me to pull another one. But I only had pipes for Lemmy and "Ace of Spades" was the only load we blowed that night or ever.
Last year, bouyed by that particular experience and my own modest media success, I dragged my pal Harry the Dog along to The Rainbow to say hi to fellow Brit Lemmy and tell him about my tv show. Hot pink phone aloft as a beacon, I led Harry forward through a packed crowd towards the dimly lit black cowboy hat in the back. Suddenly, a pimply blonde millennial in a leather duster and peaked cap leapt up from the bar. "NO PHOTOS!" he spittled at us, gesturing to my phone. "Oh no we're just going to say 'Hi!' and I began to manuever around him. "I SAID NO PHOTOS!!" he shrieked and shoved Harry hard back against the barstools and into the thick crowd behind.
Neither Harry nor I pass The Rainbow without recalling that night of semi-violence and rock n' roll, which is the precise alchemy that embodied Lemmy Kilmister. He was a man who lived long and dangerously and in full public sight. He had an anarchistic and unapologetic rock vision that reaped brilliant financial succcess both early and then again late in life. The opposing values of the mercenary and the marketer lived in Lemmy, and he lived in sex, drugs and rock n' roll. Metal in America and everywhere will be forever enthralled with that vicious and vital Brit. Hail.
'Tis the season of gratitude and I'd like to dedicate this post to my very special clients who continue to inspire my life and work. You've taught me over the decades to love people and to have faith in the human spirit. You make my life remarkable. Mahalo forever!
Banner photo of ALex McCord and Friday Jones courtesy of Eddie Garou ©2012