THE CHAMBERLAYNE ROAD ERA
Part One: House of the Kensal Rising sun
“Come on baby, go back to start, I got your picture in my heart, It’s only me, babe, it’s only me, refuse disposal refugee.” (I GOT MINE)
In 1984, shortly after Phil, Würz and Pete Gill joined Motörhead, the band moved into a house on Chamberlayne Road, in leafy Kensal Rise. As it turned out, from time to time, over the years, I would live there, too.
It was a nice old place. Upstairs was where the bedrooms and bathroom were kept – downstairs supplied the big front room, a toilet and a cupboard. In addition, despite the overwhelming indifference to eating displayed by a large percentage of the residents, the landlord had seen fit to waste the sizeable space at the rear of the house by declaring it should be a kitchen. Ignoring his food-related mandate, we chose, instead, to treat it as the place we kept the back door – through which we could access the lovely garden.
I say lovely – sadly, it actually looked as though the last people to have shown it any real attention may well have been the Luftwaffe, whose visits, during the last unpleasantness had, by all accounts, resulted in a great deal of the ‘light weeding’ which was performed in the area.
But, it was in the main front room that the bulk of the action occurred, and it was here that Lemmy spent most of his time; making stuff, reading stuff, watching stuff and listening to stuff – amidst an ever-growing mountain of crap, made up of things he’d either bought, been given, or for which he had foraged.
To most people, a skip is little more than a giant yellow bucket, piled high with fragmented debris that sits in the street for weeks until someone finally deigns to nip round and cart it off to the landfill site to die. To Lem, however, it was something entirely different. To Lemmy, the skip was like a kind of al-fresco treasure trove that represented an endless supply of possibilities – and a place from where he could satisfy the bulk of his furniture and horticultural needs.
Chairs, tables, bookshelves – if he owned them, then, chances are, they’d been dragged from the wreckage, given a cursory wipe with a damp cloth and thrown straight back into service.
And, to be fair, he didn’t have a bad eye.
Television these days is riddled with “top” interior designers, who waltz across our screens, hurling around phrases like urban style and utilitarian shabby-chic, as if they actually mean something – and every time I see one of them droning on about the stunning reclaimed elm and beech chest of drawers, with distressed-look panels and mis-matched handles that they just picked up for a steal at a mere three and a half grand – I think – 30 years ago, we described that exact same thing, as “the piece of shit Lemmy just dragged off the skip!”
I see, now, that he was just way ahead of his time.
Perhaps, if he hadn’t been so focussed on making it with the music thing, he’d be hosting Extreme Makeover by now. I’m seeing him in a pair of ochre-yellow slacks, a classic, raw silk blazer, in robin-egg blue to match his hand-stitched, Antelope leather boat moccasins. No cravat, though… that would just look stupid!
But, it was with plants that Lemmy truly excelled. In fact, he was the most green-fingered person I ever met – which, considering I worked at Covent Garden Flower Market for a while is saying something.
For some reason, the feature that most attracted him to them, seems to have been their, at best, 50% chance of surviving to the weekend. So, every time he walked back through the door, carrying something that had long since lost the right to call itself green, you immediately knew that, somewhere in town, there was a skip, bin or dumpster which was one dying item light.
Nevertheless, he’d gently remove the bits that looked the most dead of all the dead bits, lavish his love on the remainder and, in no time, the thing would be flourishing – it was really quite extraordinary.
And, if a flower bud appeared – well… He’d wait for it to open and then stare at the petals, with the look of a man responsible for giving the gift of life.
And, he did have a spiritual side – not in the Dalai Lama sense, in the Lemmy sense – which involved no meditation, deprivation, concentration, contemplation, searching for inner this or trying to control inner that – no chants or mantras (well – he did repeat “we’re not a heavy metal band” regularly but that was different) and, definitely no getting smacked in the nads by a monk holding a big bamboo stick – but it was around his plants you sensed it most.
One day, however, I realised that, at last, he’d gone too far – when he turned up with an old stick in a pot. Saving them just before death was one thing but after? Perhaps, all the “Lemmy is God” business had, finally gone to the poor dear’s head?
And, as the weeks went by, it became increasingly sad watching our “Supreme Being” doing all the things he usually did, while his dead stick did what dead sticks usually do – fuck all!
And, it also became harder not to bring up the fact that he was now completely delusional but, let’s pretend I managed to!
Which was all fine, until the day he excitedly dragged me down to see the stick and, there, half way up its lifeless stem, he pointed to what looked a bit like a tiny green sprout. As this was impossible, I chose to ignore it – however, when more and more green sprouts appeared, it started to look a bit like, maybe the former stick had never really been dead at all – merely resting.
Soon, it had grown some leaves and, a year-or-so later, Lemmy was the proud owner of a lovely rubber plant. Truly, it was a miraculous feat.
I’m sure it must have been hard for him not to go on about it but, let’s pretend he managed to!
THE CHAMBERLAYNE ROAD ERA
PART TWO: Neighbours – everybody needs good neighbours
“If you moved in next door – your lawn would die!”
“I don’t need no blind belief, I don’t need no comic relief,
I don’t need to see no scars, don’t need Jesus Christ Superstar,
Don’t need Sunday television – You bet your life I don’t need religion”
((Don’t Need) RELIGION)
What a thrill it must be – to discover that new people are moving in next door?
You stand at the window – peering, excitedly, through the net curtains – hoping to catch a glimpse of whomever it might be – all the while, thinking – perhaps it’s that nice retired couple who looked at it the other day? Or, what about the mime artist and his deaf mute girlfriend… just think of the peace and quiet – yes, they’d be perfect.
As one good possibility after another, criss-cross your mind – and you plan to rush out and greet them – suddenly – a car pulls up.
Moments pass – the excitement is becoming unbearable – then the door slowly begins to open…
And – out gets – Lemmy!
* * *
As you start to come round – and the shock finally begins to subside – your first thought would probably be – “Why couldn’t it have been a satanic death cult – or, a halfway house for sex offenders?”
“Anything – in fact- but this!”
* * *
As it happens, our next-door neighbour, at Chamberlayne Road, turned out to be man with bigger problems than Lemmy.
This guy worked for God – a humourless and demanding individual, whose biography can be found in the bedside table drawer of any hotel room – courtesy of the good people at Gideon (whoever, they might be).
Yes, our neighbour was a vicar… But, in spite of this, he was a lovely, exceptionally understanding bloke, whose faith, I’m sure, must have been severely tested by us on a daily basis.
Nevertheless, I can’t recall him complaining once – although, he might have been banging on the wall every night, for all we know. How could we be expected to hear anything above all the noise we were making?
Actually, it’s a problem worth thinking about – How do you alert the people next door to the fact that you’d like them to tone it down a notch or two? Especially, when one of those people stands in front of the loudest band in the world and shouts “TURN IT UP”, for a living.
I mean, it’s no good tapping on the wall – or banging on it – or storming round and jack-hammering on the front door, for that matter – because you have to accept, that, there may be a slight possibility that his hearing might not be quite as “pin-droppy” as it once was.
Yep – It’s a pickle, all right.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes…
So, one day, we found the poor man standing in his garden – looking very perplexed about something and… guess what…
(mandatory tension building pause – in the style of every television show, these days, where the making of some kind of decision is required)
…his lawn had died!
I mean, how great is that?
I mean, of course it’s not great. It’s a terrible tragedy – and, I feel simply dreadful for everyone concerned…
But, that said – not only had what, Lem, said would happen – actually happen… It happened, for good measure, in a garden that, technically, belonged to his arch rival – God!
I don’t think I ever saw Lemmy looking more proud.
(In the interest of responsible journalism, I am bound to point out that lawns do not, in fact, die – they, of course, go “dormant” – but, had Lemmy said that, then his famous quote would have jumped straight out of the pages of Kerrang… and, straight into the ones at Gardening World… which, in turn, would probably have resulted in his being asked to present the award for Best Petunia at the 1987 Giggleswick Flower Fayre… which, in turn, may have impacted, ever-so slightly, upon his “wild man rock ‘n’ roll dressed in black don’t give a fuck drug-sex machine” image… So, perhaps, it’s better that I don’t mention it, after all.)
THE CHAMBERLAYNE ROAD ERA
Part 1 – The Great Beetroot Incident
“You think that life’s all dollars, won with greed and lust and spite
But I wasn’t born to follow…like to get my sleep at night.”
(JUST ‘COS YOU GOT THE POWER)
It’s not that Lemmy didn’t like mornings – it would be quite wrong for me to give you that impression – because, he fucking hated them!
The words early start, spelled out nothing but impending misery for him. And, being the generous, caring, guy he was – he insisted upon sharing that misery with everyone lucky enough to be around him.
But, to be fair, none of this was his fault.
Because, you see, if Lem had had his way – he’d never have gone to bed in the first place (not for sleeping purposes, anyway) – it was just something he didn’t care for, one bit. In fact, there was only one bed-related activity he disliked more than getting in to it… getting out of it, again!
* * *
But, back to those early starts…
Arguably, the most disastrous, was the one that ruined his birth. Induced from the womb he seemed to have no wish to leave – the thrill of his 8 am arrival was soon tempered by the realization that someone hadn’t done their sums right and he’d been dragged into the world 5 weeks premature – making survival a bit touch and go.
Then, there was that unpleasant Hotpoint episode.
Here he was, a 15 year-old boy – recently informed by his school that his services as a boy would no longer be required. So what do his family do?
They drag him out of bed, at some ungodly hour – point him towards the nearest factory – and sign him up for an assembly line, where he could wile away his shift twisting the thingummybob then tapping it through the whatchamacallit, several thousand times a day. I mean – had his parents actually met him? Why would they send him to do something that put him about as far away from his dream as it was possible to be.
Sure… without him, the spinny thing wouldn’t spin – so the washy bit wouldn’t wash – but, who wants to get up at the same time as an anteater, for the privilege of making that happen?
Fortunately for Lem, it wasn’t long before fate came to his rescue – in the shape of a keen-eyed management talent spotter – who spotted immediately there was a problem with Lemmy’s talent.
It’s not that he couldn’t do it – of course he could. He could have been the best darn thingummybob twister north of the Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog if he’d wanted to – it’s just he didn’t. But, just because they were right – how dare anyone question his commitment to the washer dryer industry.
So, with his head held high… and his hair held firm – courtesy of the hairnet he’d been forced to wear when he refused to get a haircut – he walked out of the household appliance business, forever.
Luckily, it hadn’t all been in vain. He had learnt two very important life-lessons, which he would carry with him, always. Firstly, that any job which involved rules, regulations, a dress code or time keeping – was not the job for him. And, secondly – whatever job he did finally end up doing – no way would he be getting up at the crack of fucking dawn to do it.
* * *
It was the following year – after seeing The Beatles at the Cavern Club for the first time – that everything fell into place in Lem’s mind – and Hotpoint’s loss became entertainment’s gain.
But it wasn’t just John Lennon’s tight trousers that persuaded him to take the musical plunge – there was another important factor in the decision – his discovery that, in general, aspiring young rock ‘n’ rollers had no use for anything that occurred before lunch.
And, as if that wasn’t enough – coincidentally, he had recently noticed that his appetite had mysteriously disappeared – meaning lunch was now obsolete – meaning he could not find a single earthly reason for beginning his day any time before mid-afternoon at the earliest.
And, so – from then on… it didn’t.
* * *
It was an arrangement that, unquestionably, worked in everybody’s best interests, because – and this might surprise you – first-thing Lemmy, was not exactly the non-stop giggle machine you might have imagined him to be.
In fact, his initial reaction to being woken up was probably not too far off that of Attila the Hun. A tyrannical leader, who greeted each day by bringing misery and damnation upon the heads of everyone who stood in his way… Attila could also be a bit of a grump, by all accounts.
Which made it all the more important that, once awoken, he remained in the horizontal position for as long as possible – because if he walked out of his room with a bad mood still attached – then it was just a case of cross your fingers and pray that he didn’t spot you.
It always took me back to my childhood in Kenya – where you’re taught that if you happen across an elephant in the wild – it’s vital to position yourself downwind of it and then remain still and quiet. The alternative will land you in a world of pain.
Sadly, my expertise on the Masai Mara didn’t translate to the stairs and hallways of NW10. And, as a result, I often found myself, either, on – or not far from – the sharp end of some bullshit or other.
The strange thing about that, was – it rarely involved any of the sex and drugs and ‘well-that’s-never-going-to-get-through-there-Oh-my-mistake’ hoopla, that one normally associates with a Lemmy anecdote.
Take one major incident, for example, that was sparked off by – a root vegetable!
THE CHAMBERLAYNE ROAD ERA
The Great Beetroot Incident – Part 2
“You’re playing tricks babe, and that’s a fact
You’re magic circle, ain’t where it’s at
One moment you were there… and then you disappeared
This ain’t the first time… I’ve caught your act.”
(NOTHING UP MY SLEEVE)
As a rule, the kitchen wasn’t the first place you’d expect to come across Lemmy – and yet, here he was – staring into the fridge.Being our first communication of the day – I decided to keep it simple…
He went another way…
“What the fuck is that?”
A quiz! I love quizzes. And, even though I was on the other side of the room and therefore unable to see what he was pointing at – my excitement was undampened.
“What the fuck is what?” I enquired – hoping to trick him into giving me a clue.
“That!” – it had failed.
“Stop fucking about. What is it?”
His inability to give helpful clues was spoiling the game a bit – so this seemed like the perfect time to introduce a modicum of sense…
“I don’t fucking know, you tell me – You’re looking at it. Is it cheese, maybe?”
I felt these words were just what was needed to steady the ship – and restore calm.
“Cheese? Cheese? Does it look like fucking cheese?”
OK, I was wrong about the calm thing.
“Look, Lem, I can’t see anything from over here – guessing is all I have.” To highlight the point, I jumped straight in with another one…
“Is it a swan? I bet it’s a swan.”
I knew it wasn’t – Kensal Rise was notoriously light in the swan department but I had made a joke. You wait – now he’d make one – we’d laugh – everything would be great – that would be the end of it. I can read Lemmy like a…
“Just fucking come here and fucking look… NOW!”
* * *
At this point – it may help to explain something.
A couple of days previously, I had been doing my weekly supermarket shop – Jack Daniel’s, bread and toilet paper – when I spotted something I had not had in years… pre-cooked, sweet beetroot.
I was struck by an instant craving and bought a couple of packs – which I rushed home to eat. But, the moment I cut open the vacuum packaging – I was hit with a flashback that reminded me why I’d been beetroot-free for so long.
I’d completely forgotten how – the minute this delicious little vegetable makes contact with the air – you, your clothes, your walls, your curtains, your goldfish – in fact, every-fucking-thing, every-fucking-where – is, immediately, covered from top to toe in this purple shit… which – to this day – no one has ever found a way to remove.
So, I just threw it all in the fridge and forgot about it.
* * *
How do I describe Lemmy and vegetables?
I had a Grandma who – if she met someone and found out their dream was to strap themselves to another human being, step out of a perfectly good plane, and freefall the couple of miles back to earth – would shrug and say, “In which case we have nothing left to say to each other – Goodbye.”
Lem didn’t go quite that far – but not far off. He hated vegetables with an passion. Hated their taste – their look – their feel – I mean, they all had different shapes and colours – what were they trying to hide, for heaven’s sake? There was only one exception – the one responsible for fries and crisps – but anything not potato-based… forget it. So, anyone trying to convince him of their benefits and to add some to his diet – was met with short but educated, thrift. It usually began with, “Hitler was a vegetarian” – followed by a more zoological argument, containing the construction of various digestive systems through nature.
Bottom line, even if his life depended on it – the man wasn’t about to put broccoli in his mouth.
* * *
I walked over to the fridge…
“Oh! That’s beetroot.”
“Beetroot. It’s a…”
“I don’t give a fuck. Nobody eats that shit.”
Sure, I could have argued – said it tasted good – said I liked it – I could even have brought up its exceptional nutritional benefits, to the blood, liver and bowels – if Wikipedia had been invented back then so I could have looked it up – but I hadn’t. I chose, instead, to go with…
“The Amish do.”
I knew, immediately, I’d made a mistake. Had I learnt nothing? This was neither the time, nor place, for humour.
Not to mention that – much like mornings, lunch, queuing, running and breast reductions – Lemmy, also, didn’t see the point in the Amish… So, this just made it worse.
“Fuck off, Simon! Just get rid of it. Now!”
If I hadn’t already realised this was no ordinary bad mood – I knew now.
* * *
Something that isn’t known about Lem was that the thought of throwing away perfectly good food, really bothered him. It was a mentality inherited from his Mother and the post-war rationing era in which he grew up. Food had been scarce, so they used everything and threw away nothing.
Once in Sainsbury’s (yeah, we shopped together… shared a basket too. Wanna make something of it?!!), seeing a trolley, piled sky high – the thought of how much would end up in the bin, genuinely upset him.
In fact, when he was about to go on tour, he would check his fridge and, if there was anything edible, would make sure someone took it.
* * *
So, I started to explain how I wasn’t going to throw out my beetroot…
“Right!” he interrupted – grabbed the packs, marched up the corridor, threw open the front door, hurled them into the busy road, slammed it shut and stormed back into the sitting room. At last, it was over.
I walked back to the kitchen, sure of only one thing – this was definitely not over.
How did I know? Because, there had been no last word – and unless he delivered one, Lemmy, was like an extra in Scanners – he felt like his head was about to explode. He needed that last word and he needed it now.
Suddenly the house began to shake. You could hear his footsteps marching my way. He had it.
He stopped in the doorway…
“And, if you’re Amish now, don’t wear the hat – it’ll make you look more fucking ridiculous than you already do!”
He turned – tried to hide his smile – and walked away.
* * *
So, the Great Beetroot Incident was over – and, so, more importantly, was his bad mood.
And the only casualties had been the beetroot, a newly purple road surface, a few cars with purple splattered sides and my confidence regarding the wearing of Amish hats.
Oh, and my relationship with beetroot. We haven’t seen each other since.
THE DAY IT ALL BEGAN: The Prequel
by Simon Sessler
“All there is is one short life as far as we can find… And if you don’t know how to live you’re going to lose your mind” (ONE SHORT LIFE – MotÖrizer)
At the beginning of June 2015, Lemmy arrived in London. As usual, he got himself settled at the hotel and then rang me but he sounded absolutely exhausted. So, instead of going straight over to see him, we agreed to leave it until the next day.
Around midnight, the phone rang. “Come over, if you want, I’m up now.” He sounded no more awake than he had before, so I refused. For the first time in our lives, we had to embrace the concept of ‘being realistic’. It had always seemed ludicrous in the past, but with these new developments, it was time to give it a whirl. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Go back to sleep.”
I arrived at the Royal Garden the following afternoon and went up to find his door open. A voice from the bathroom announced rather dramatically, “Si, you’d better prepare yourself.” This was something we’d done a few times, now. For Lem, it was bad enough not feeling himself, now he felt he no longer looked himself, also, and the last thing he needed was to have that confirmed by the expression on everyone’s face, particularly that of his friend.
At the same time, Lemmy was not a man who looked for sympathy and he hated the thought that people might feel sorry for him. Fortunately, in my case, this would never be an issue. I barely had enough time to feel sorry for myself, without squeezing out some pity for him.
“Don’t worry,” I said, reassuringly, my trigger finger itching to fire off the John Merrick (Elephant Man) impersonation I’d loaded earlier. “I’m ready.”
As he emerged, prepared for the shock that I was prepared not to show, perhaps the only reaction we hadn’t planned for was the one we ended up having to go with. Thanks to a cocktail of nervous tension, sheer relief and the joy of seeing him, I just burst out laughing!
“You look great.” I gushed, hugging him.
“I’m telling you man, this is the best you’ve looked in ages.” And it truly was.
I can’t tell how happy this made him. Lemmy was not exempt from vanity and he’d become a little self-conscious, so, when he heard something like this, it could lift his whole demeanour, both mentally and physically. In fact, anyone who saw the band play from 2012 onwards, whether knowingly or unknowingly, experienced that. Often, the man who set off for the stage, barely had the strength to polish his own watch (stick with me here…) but whatever pain or worries he may have felt on the journey, the moment he felt the intensity of the crowd and heard them chanting his name, everything was forgotten and he added about ten inches to his chest and grew a foot in height. Suddenly he was Lemmy again and, now, he really could “clean your clock”!
So, duly enlivened, we got down to what we did best – we poured ourselves a couple of drinks and began to talk and laugh (which was the most important thing in his life and something he needed to do, now, more than ever) as we listened to the rough mix of “Bad Magic”, while flicking through pornography in our favourite format: the magazine. (That’s right kids – in pre-You Jizz world, we took our porn static, silent and interspersed with informative articles on the environmental impact of soybean cultivation and what women really think of the foreskin!) One trait we shared, was that rarest of male attributes: the ability to multi-task. We could talk, read, listen to music, watch TV or play games, all at the same time and in any order!
Needing a quick bathroom break, totally unrelated to spending time in the company of Miss June, Lexi from Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska, I left Lemmy flicking through the Royal Garden’s notoriously appalling choice of TV channels, desperately searching for something to watch. Imagine, if you will, the person you most hate getting hold of the remote control (everybody has one). Well, on their best day, I guarantee you that Lemmy was 30 times worse.
Initially, no matter how hard we tried, all we found was Columbo…twice…two separate episodes, on two different channels, at the same time…now… in the second decade of the second millennium. It seemed to hit him pretty hard. “This country’s fucked!” he announced.
Determined not to be beaten by the programmers, with whom he’d been at war his whole life, he kept going, which was kind of a thing with him. I remember the days when there were only four channels and he could flick through those for about half an hour, which wasn’t irritating in the slightest! Finally, he settled on “The History of Tupperware”, or something along those lines but after a couple of riveting minutes, I felt we needed a change of pace.
“Do you remember the day we met?” I asked.
“Wow! Where the fuck did that come from? Feeling a tad nostalgic are we?” he replied.
Perhaps I was, but a few days earlier, I had passed the pub where it all went down and the whole thing came flooding back to me, leaving me on the street, bent double in uncontrollable laughter.
A smile crept over Lem’s face. He was about to say something but started laughing, which set me off again. Suddenly, there we were, two grown-up (technically) men, in hysterics and barely able to speak actual words. We’d come a long way since I walked through that open door, which was great, but it’s equally great when you discover that something can seem just as funny today as it was almost 35 years earlier.
I guess I should probably explain what those things are…
THE DAY IT ALL BEGAN: Part 1 ( 2 really)
(I apologise that, in telling this part of the story, it’s impossible not to focus more on myself than on Lemmy. I’ve tried addressing this but a) I’m not a good enough writer and b) the nature of the story makes it hard. So please try to understand, whiz through it and forgive me!)
“Don’t matter up or down sideways in or out… If it makes you feel good, do it and then get out” (CRADLE TO GRAVE)
It all began one afternoon in 1982. I was on my way somewhere to do something (I’d love to be more specific but I think I did pretty well just remembering that!), when I happened to spot Lemmy going into the Midland Bank on the Kings Road.
It’s strange, because, as I write, it feels like what you are about to read happened over a fairly leisurely period of time but, thinking about it, it can’t have.
Lem only went in there to cash a cheque and, back then, before today’s fully-automated-time-saving-everything-is-so-much-quicker-these-days-oh-sorry-the-system’s-slow-let-me-reboot-it-which-should-take-a-minute-but-we-all-know-it’ll-be-at-least-fucking-ten world, we were playing under the archaic 1982 rules. This involved human beings, bumbling around with all their human-being frailties, trying to work everything with little more than their opposably-thumb-operated hands. As a result, everything got done in a fraction of the time, so, it probably took him no more than two or three minutes.
So, that’s how long I had to decide, firstly, that I was no longer going to go to wherever it was I was going. And, then, I had to formulate my plan for “bumping into” Lemmy and, the rest would sort itself out…probably.
Actually, let’s quickly go back a bit.
* * * *
I should probably explain that, over the years, I’d met Lemmy a couple of times. On neither occasion, however, had things gone exactly, what you might call, well.
Although, I hadn’t approached these meetings with any kind of pre-conceived notions – there were no high falutin delusions of instant soul-mate-ery and just watch, by the weekend, we’ll be finishing each other’s sentences. In fact, had we forged one of those, cursory nod and “ssup” type things, I’d have been thrilled.
But, as it happened, even that would have been way out of reach. On both occasions, I still have no idea why, I seemed to lose my ability to speak. Rather than showering him with wit and charm, I just stood there, staring at nothing, a kind of half-smile frozen on my face, just like the ones serial killers have before they get to work. I couldn’t even seem to walk away. It was as if I was slowly sinking in a pool of social quicksand.
Why Lemmy didn’t tell me to fuck off, I have no idea. Perhaps he sensed I was in trouble, who knows? And remember, this happened twice!!
Perhaps that’s why it continued to bother me so much and I swore that, if the chance to be in his company ever arose again, I would show him just what I was made of.
* * * *
And, now, that chance was here. All I had to do was hold it together, bump into him and then hold it together again: but how?
I’ve never been one for elaborate schemes. The British have been hatching weak, half-arsed plans, guaranteed to end in failure or the certain deaths of almost everybody involved, for centuries. My plan, like me, had to be simple. I decided that my best bet would be to, quite literally, “bump into” him. Easy. What could possibly go wrong?
Truth be told, I don’t really remember the bump itself. I was probably too ‘in the zone’, but I’m sure it was an absolute triumph…half clumsy, half stumbling away…to think that this was anything other than an accident would be madness. My next memory, is using the ‘extra surprised’ voice, I have perfected over the years, upon ‘discovering’ that this other person was no less than Lemmy from Motörhead (a brilliant touch, I thought).
Everything was going great. He might as well have just handed over the spare key right there and we could’ve begun working on the bathroom rota!
Then, for no reason at all, my mouth opened and in my out-loud speaking voice, words I had not ordered just came tumbling out. I cannot be sure of exactly what I said, because it’s possible I might also have been having a mini-stroke at the same time, but I remember saying quite a lot in quite a short space of time and finishing up with the offer of buying him a drink, in exchange for some advice.
When my mouth finally closed, I probably wondered how long it would be before the words “restraining order” came into play, which would more than likely have played havoc with the bathroom rota! Instead, he just casually offered me yet another lifeline, when he replied, “Sure! Let’s go get a drink over the road.”
Luck, it seemed, was definitely on my side.
THE DAY IT ALL BEGAN: Part Two (3 really)
“Use what you find in yourself to succeed, stand or fall wearing your heart on your sleeve”
((Wearing Your) HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE)
So, my plan had worked. Sure, there were mistakes and, yes, we could dwell on the negative but, really, what would that achieve? In the end, thanks to the luck that had chosen to step up and act in my favour, I had the outcome I wished for. The only downside to my success being that I, now, only had as long as it takes to cover a hundred-odd yards, to ensure I had my shit pulled tightly together.
Buying every last possible second of thinking time, I remained rooted to my spot on the pavement but, as I turned to say something to him, Lemmy, I couldn’t help but notice, was already on the move, scything his way through the oncoming traffic and virtually at the other side of the road, already. I didn’t know it, then, but when that man set off for somewhere, he did so in a hurry.
Clearly, my departure could be put off no longer, so, with my trusty luck to guide me, I spun round and stepped confidently off the pavement…
…straight into an oncoming car!
I can still see (and feel) it, as if it were yesterday. There I was, splayed across the bonnet of a still-speeding car, my face pressed against the windscreen, staring directly into the angry-looking eyes staring back at me from the other side.
Now, over the years, it feels as if the Gods of comedic wishful thinking must have done a little tinkering with my memory, because, this must sound ridiculous… but, it’s here in my brain, that, as we sailed past and I peeled my face off the glass, I swear, I saw Lemmy giving me a little wave!
If he didn’t, I can assure you it’s what he would have meant to do, so, for him, that’s exactly what happened.
* * * *
Finally grinding to a halt, my dismount took the shape of a dart, flying through the air and landing in a heap on the eastbound carriageway of the Kings Road, from where, I watched Lem disappear into the Man In The Moon pub.
In his defence, we were not yet well enough acquainted to warrant any diversion from his alcoholic quest, just on the off chance that a stranger might require some sort of vital organ replacement surgery!
Anyway, bruised, rather than broken…dazed, but seemingly not confused, I managed to pick myself up, only to see the driver, for whom, things were clearly far from over, leaping out of his undamaged vehicle and, charging towards me, screaming something about personally finishing the job his car had started.
Believing that violence is never the answer, I, simply, engaged in that most British of attributes: I apologised for having been run over! Sadly, this did nothing. Not fighting appeared not to be an option for him, which he confirmed when he began poking me in the chest.
The pub emptied out and quite a crowd gathered to watch the kafuffle. And there was Lem, hand outstretched, walking towards me with a very large Scotch and American. I went to meet him, gracefully stepping over the body that had only just appeared in the road, grabbed my drink and off we went, to get things back on track.
Nothing more was said about the incident. Lemmy also hated violence, but for many years, if we were in a “tricky” situation, he would often say to the aggressor, ‘if you’re serious, poke him in the chest…you may have second thoughts!’
* * * *
Back in the pub, we plotted up at the fruit machine (not for the last time!) and, as he pumped in money (that he would never see again) at super-human speed, we began talking. Perhaps, it was the day’s events so far but there was no small talk. Well, who knew how much longer I had left? In addition, my nerves, which were a constant threat in every new social scenario, must have dropped out in the melee, because, for the first time in Lem’s company, I was just me.
Then, my luck came out to play, again. The first of several Beatles songs blared out from the jukebox. The only one I remember was “Paperback Writer” because we harmonised well on it and I remember being surprised that he could hit the McCartney high part. As it turned out, we were both obsessed with The Beatles. In fact, we were probably never more than two drinks away from talking about them. One of the happiest days we ever spent was watching the entire Beatles Anthology box set without a break, before, going through it again to re-watch some favourite moments!
And it wasn’t just a love of The Beatles, we shared. There was also our sense of humour. Even on that first day, I remember him reciting a couple of lines from the Python Architect’s sketch (think rotating knives) and that began an afternoon of one of us saying a line from Pete and Dud or Derek and Clive, the Goons, Python, Hancock, you name it and, both of us reciting the whole sketch. I can’t speak for him but I had already forgotten that we weren’t old friends.
It was at that moment, that fate took it upon itself to well and truly seal the deal: by introducing a busker.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…
…A busker on the Kings Road; got to be long haired, scruffy, semi-washed, wielding an acoustic guitar with CND sticker. Kicking off safe, with a couple of verses of “Streets of London”, then, up a notch with something a little more Simon and Garfunkel-ey, before launching into the crowd-pleasing finale, building to a crescendo of out-of-tune harmonies as everybody sings every word, followed by cheering, the raining down of coins, several offers of a drink and the mandatory 40-something drunk chick, (the one that earlier kissed the guy who’s so plowed he’d pissed himself and in about 15 minutes they’ll be in a screaming row, trying to glass each other) who wants to know if he can play American Pie?
If that’s what you had in mind…Well, you’d be quite wrong, I’m afraid.
* * * *
What first alerted us to the possibility of our impending danger, was a tortured, asthmatic, wheeze, closely followed by what sounded like a bag of small animals engaged in some form of horrific suicide pact.
Scouring the room for clues, we discovered the hellish racket seemed to come from the doorway, where a be-kilted man, fully accessorized in the style of a Scot going to war or a wedding, was grappling with, what I can only describe as, a set of bagpipes. Even worse, the way he held them seemed to be in the ‘loaded-with-intent-to-play’ position.
It’s common knowledge that the bagpipes are the instrument of choice for seeing in the end of the world and, certainly, our subject seemed to have mastered the ‘blowing up the bag’ bit and the ‘elbow-ey pushing out the air’ bit (or as I like to call it – the one minute warning). This all pointed to one thing. He was winding up for an imminent attack.
However, as I now know, whatever hell you think you’re in, as the bagpipes make ready at phase one, nothing prepares you for what’s on the way in phase two. Also, no matter how good the blower is at filling the fucker up, the tune-playing bit is a whole other ball game. And, it was that, even with my negligible bagpipe experience, that I sensed our “piper” had failed to master. It didn’t much matter, though – he had began blowing and pushing and sucking and was now passed the point of no return. Plus, he was already blocking the only fucking exit!
Lem, meanwhile, was still focussed on the spinning plums and cherries but I do remember him saying, ‘you ain’t gonna believe this.’ And just seconds later, his prophecy was fulfilled and we were treated to a deafening onslaught that bordered on the life threatening.
Now, Lemmy and I both knew loud. He, after all, had only recently upset a nice gentleman, who was trying to watch a little afternoon telly, when, several miles away, Motorhead began their soundcheck, rendering his programme unwatchable. This, however, was something else.
As he went through his repertoire, which seemed to be made up of those samey-sounding tunes the Scots play while they walk proudly into battle, I genuinely started to think my eyes were going to blow up.
It’s one thing blasting this shit out, on your way to a clan dust-up, in the highland glens of Argyll, but to do it at lunchtime, in a South West London pub, well, that’s tantamount to terrorism in my book.
Most people just did whatever they could to find comfort as they waited for the blessed relief of death. There was no escape and covering your ears was pointless. Everyone’s face was twisted and gnarled.
Lemmy and I went a different way. What began as simple laughter, soon turned into an uncontrollable howling, tears running down both our faces and, for me, anyway, I had to desperately try not to piss myself. I’ve never felt like that, before or since.
I can’t tell you how long any of this lasted. It felt like hours but it probably wasn’t much more than a minute or two. And, it would have gone on longer, too, were it not for the quick thinking publican, who launched himself over the bar and started to grapple with the bag-blower, forcing him to the ground and sitting on him, while he waited for the police, whom he had already called.
Bad as it was, we’d all been through quite enough and nobody wanted the law involved.
While we tried to reason with the landlord, the piper was trying to break free, a struggle that was accompanied by the now familiar soundtrack of deep moans and high squeals.
Eventually, he agreed to let the Scotsman go. The guy dusted himself down, thanked everyone and mentioned a large Scotch might be nice. As no one rushed to buy him one!
As he started organising himself, nobody noticed that he was winding up for the second half! Raising the pipe to his lips, you’ve never seen so many people spring into action, lunging at him from all corners, desperate to cover any part of the contraption that looked like it might be used in a noise making capacity, at the same time bustling him gently out the door and on his way.
Back inside, it felt like the aftermath of a battle. Everybody was trying to take stock of which, if any, of their senses, were still in tact. Lemmy and I just stared at each other, sore, as much from the laughter as the sonic Armageddon. There were no words, he simply held out his little finger and motioned me to wrap mine around it. And that was that, we were now, officially, friends.
And all it took was a well timed bump, getting run down by a car, a fight, The Beatles, Monty Python, a busking bagpiper and a 3 week headache and Bob’s your uncle…the start of 34 wonderful years of friendship with the guy out of the Kit Kat advert!
Simon Sessler, is a very old friend of Lemmy’s.
He was born on a Tuesday, some years ago and spent much of his early life as a child. By the time he was 14 years old, he was almost completely potty trained and began showing a keen interest in moving to a better family than the one he was in. Eventually, the actress Ursula Andress adopted him, but he was returned two days later, due to his face.
These days, Simon lives a quiet, simple life, blaming Lemmy for the fact he looks 103 and feels even older. He splits his time between standing outside Gilbert O’Sullivan’s house and engaging in his tireless charitable works, raising money for the over-privileged and people who can’t masturbate left handed. He also enjoys indulging his passion for disliking jazz and is working on a book that will uncover the real reason behind Stoke Newington.