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The Lemmy Effect: How he touched artists’ lives

Twister Sister, Captain Sensible , Keith Emerson’, William DuVall and Terrorvision tell their Motorhead tales

Motorhead icon Lemmy has been credited with saving Twisted Sister’s career, keeping Captain Sensible awake, improving Keith Emerson’s knife collection, helping William DuVall stay on the road and advising Terrorvision not to waste stamps.

The 70-year-old died on December 28, two days after being told he had an aggressive form of cancer.

Announcing his death, Motorhead asked supporters to share their stories and “celebrate the life this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself.”

‘Lemmy walked out and everybody froze’

Among the many artists to do so, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider has recalled his band’s first UK appearance at the Wrexham Festival in 1982. He says: “Nobody had seen the band over there. We wound up by some craziness special-guesting, with no album. We had to go on in the daylight, which we’d never done before. We’d heard that band who wore makeup had been bottled off the stage. We were really pretty terrified – there was talk of not wearing costumes backstage. I said, ‘I’ve been through hell with these costumes. I’m not going to take them off now.’

“So we were going to go out. Lemmy knew the smell of excrement – he knew we’d shit in our own pants. He came in and said, ‘I’ll go on and introduce you guys,’ which was the most gracious thing for a headliner to do.

“We walked out on stage. The bottles were back, with people getting ready to start throwing – then Lemmy walked out and everybody froze. Lemmy said: ‘These are some friends of mine from America. Give them a listen. Twisted Sister.’

“We played a ferocious set and the place went nuts. It was one of the most memorable reactions of my career. 

After they’d delivered their set, Lemmy asked Snider to return the favour and introduce Motorhead. “I went out on stage and the place went crazy,” he says. “He dedicated America to me. It was one of those nights I’ll never forget. It launched Twisted Sister in England and subsequently the world. If Lemmy had not stepped in, it would have been a very different story to tell.”

‘An old-fashioned gent’

The Damned’s Captain Sensible remembers staying in Lemmy’s London flat after nights in the Marquee Club, because he didn’t want to face a long journey to his own place. He says: “Staying with Lem was interesting to say the least. His idea of sleep was not to do anything of the sort. We’d be up all night watching Luftwaffe videos – I’d be dropping off and he'd throw an ashtray in my direction, shouting, ‘You’re missing the good bit!’ I’d always wake up with the great man announcing breakfast time. Yes, it would be 10.30am and the pubs were open.

“For a grizzled old rocker Lemmy did have a certain gnarled charm, and always traipsed into the Damned dressing room with a nice bird on his arm. Before homing in on the JD, of course.

“If you took away all the rock star front, he was never anything short of an old fashioned gent. I never really saw him get unpleasant with anyone – well, who didn’t deserve it anyway. I’m going to miss the old bastard.”

‘If you’re going to use a knife, use a real one’

Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake And Palmer has recalled a UK tour in the late 1960s when he was in The Nice, with Lemmy on the road as their tour manager. He says: “The Nice were then in their ‘destructive art period,’ a term used by Pete Townsend. Lemmy came up after a show. “If you’re going to use a knife, use a real one,” and gave me two Hitler Youth Knives.

“He was an avid collector of World War 2 paraphernalia – not that he was into the horrors of that war. No, far from it. His reckoning was that if you're going to send an army into war. dress them so they feel and look good.

“The English – according to my father, who was with The Royal Engineers – had very scratchy drab outfits. Consequently, morale was low. And the opposition looked well turned out.

“So that was it with Lemmy. He just wore black.”

‘No time to be proud’

Alice In Chains frontman William DuVall remembers an evening driving across West Hollywood while he was struggling to survive with his then-band Comes With The Fall. He says: “I pulled over into a driveway and looked up to see Lemmy walking toward my car. He leaned in and asked if I could give him a ride to his favourite strip club.

“On our drive, we talked about a wide range of topics – music, global history, World War II. Lemmy was extremely well read and erudite. When we pulled up outside the club, Lemmy pulled out a couple of $20 bills to hand me. I said, ‘No, man, it's cool, really.’

“Lemmy said, ‘Come on – I see you're driving on your spare tire. Take it. You need it. No time to be proud. I appreciate the lift. And the talk.’ So I took the money, let Lemmy out, and drove onward.

“The truth was I did need it. I had risked everything to move to Los Angeles with my band. I'd gotten a flat a couple of weeks earlier and I was still driving on the ‘donut’ spare tire because I couldn't afford a proper replacement. Trying to keep CWTF going and keep myself going meant that things were often very touch-and-go financially. I appreciated the simplicity and straightforwardness of Lemmy's reasoning.

“Lemmy was one of a kind. And it's just a fact of life that Motorhead ruled.”

‘Your mother doesn’t give a fuck’

Terrorvision frontman Tony Wright recalls his band’s first European tour in 1993, when they opened for Motorhead. He says: “About 9.30am. Sitting in catering, writing postcards home. In walks Lemmy, bottle of Jack in hand – naturally. We look up, a bit in awe, and he tells us in that sandpaper drawl: ‘You do realise your mother doesn’t give a fuck?’”

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