That’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever….
There’s nothing like music to make you feel your age. I was reflecting recently with somebody that even the 1980’s, which at the time seemed to produce music so effete and derivative, is a quarter of a century ago. And so time marches on, yet somehow those involved in the rock ‘ n ‘ roll business seem eternally gripped by a Peter Pan – style spirit that won’t let them admit that they, like all of us, are far from immortal. You only have to witness Jagger these days, prancing around like a nineteen year old whilst the wrinkles on his pouting face betray the onset of not just middle, but now almost old age.
But there was one artist whose appearance and general demeanour were so startling and gnarled-looking to begin with, that the onset of the aging process seems hardly to have altered him at all. I’m talking, of course, about Ian Kilminster from Shropshire, better known since the late 1960’s as Lemmy from Motorhead.
Lemmy is almost the personification of the rock ‘n’ roll culture gone bad. He seems to out distance every contemporary, and a good few who went before as well. He even gives Jerry Lee Lewis a run for his money. Sacked from Hawkwind on the verge of their breakthrough, legend has it for being ‘too good looking’, he has also appeared in a variety of blues/rock acts, notably the Pink Fairies and the legendary Motorhead.
I always liked their style. Famously self-deprecating, Lemmy once said of an early but classic incarnation of his band that ‘if we moved in to the house next to you, your lawn would die’. And as he went on strumming chords on his Rickenbacker bass, he gained the respect of Hells Angels, rockers, punks, and pretty much any band who wishes to quote influences in the metal sphere.
The visual aspects of Motorhead were always very simple, which is maybe why they appealed to so many people. Not for them the spandex and glitter of Roxy Music or the contrived skinhead chic of Slade, they relied on a simple formula of long hair, warts, tattoos, narrow jeans, cowboy boots and an ever present bottle of Jack Daniels to make their presence felt. And so it was with their branding, as music-biz people no doubt now refer to it. The famous logo and the Teutonic script have emblazoned a million t-shirts, school bags and leather jackets over the last 35 years.
And now, having as usual taken a rather ambling path around the houses, comes my point. There was always a sense of irony lurking below the surface of Motorhead’s image. Some fools took it literally over the years, but these guys were never of the Ozzy style genuinely unhinged variety. They had a canny understanding of the way they were seen; you only have to look at the way they parodied themselves on that classic episode of The Young Ones all those years ago.
And now, that sense of ironic overstatement has found a new outlet; a
tribute, un homage, call it what you will. No, not another ‘Head tribute band. But a t-shirt issued by the mighty Rohloff from Germany, builders of the 14 speed hub gearing that adorns many fabulous bicycles. First, there was the one depicting a cartoon man dropping a deraillieur in a bin, a la the universal ‘bin it’ icon.
But now, there is this – the best tribute to Motorhead I have seen yet. See, there was a cycling theme in there somewhere!