It always hurts when one of my heroes dies, because I never want to believe that legends are mortal. But when news spread that Lemmy passed away in late December, that sadness was mixed with inspiration; inspiration that I can live my life how I want to live it and go out never regretting anything. Lemmy lived and died by his own rules and that’s why he is a legend.
I can’t remember when I first started loving Motorhead, but I’m pretty sure it had to do with “Born to Raise Hell” from the Airheads Soundtrack. I’m 100% positive I knew “Ace of Spades” and “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” well before 1994, but “Born to Raise Hell” will forever be the song I most associate with Lemmy and his trio of musically uncategorizable misfits. There is just something about a gruff, burly Brit spewing out visceral lyrics about not caring about anything except rock and roll (with the backing of Ice T) that sends chills up my spine. “Going for broke, rock ’til you choke/ It don’t matter if you drink or smoke.” It just doesn’t get more badass than that.
I vividly remember the first time I saw them live in Old Bridge, NJ on May 19, 1999. Chris Buehler and I went down to the Birch Hill Night Club on Epitaph Record’s dime to photograph the Dropkick Murphy’s, who had just started gaining momentum beyond the punk scene. Motorhead was headlining and Hatebreed was the opening act, so this was an unusual bill from the get-go.
Hatebreed was super hot at the time, due to a recent shift in the metal scene towards a more hardcore flavor. For some reason or another, the band got on stage late and played about four songs to a manic crowd of meatheads that pummeled each other viciously. A half hour later, the Dropkick Murphy’s hit the stage in front of a completely different crowd of punks and skins and decimated the venue under a sea of boots and braces.
Then something strange happened.
The moment the Murphy’s left the stage, the place cleared out. I’m not sure what the deal was, but I’m guessing it had to do with the unusual mix of bands and fans. The winners in all of this was us. Lemmy and company proceeded to play a set of hits to about a hundred hardcore Motorhead fans as if we were in a sold-out European stadium. The sound was deafening in the small Jersey club, but no one seemed to care. All that mattered was that Lemmy was entirely ours for an hour and a half and Motorhead were the kings of the world.
The only usable photograph that I landed at the show is the image in the middle below. The truth is, Lemmy really has one pose and I can shoot him for hours and still only get that one pose, so I don’t feel too bad about the lack of quality shots. The rest of the photos are from a more recent Motorhead set at the Stone Pony Landing from September 21, 2008.