Prince Exclusive Book Extract No. 3

This is from my new tribute book to Prince, Purple Reign.

If the 1980s had belonged to Prince, the 1990s threatened to get away from him almost from the start. Having ended the decade with two albums of shiny pop simplicity in Lovesexy (1988) and the soundtrack to Batman (1989), both of which gave him his first No. 1 albums in the UK, it seemed as though Prince had now positioned himself firmly in the mainstream. It wasn’t just about pulling The Black Album from the schedules because of its ‘negativity’, even the social comment of Sign o’ the Times was now only hinted at in passing on otherwise cartoonish tracks like ‘Dance On’, which mentioned Uzis the way others might mention lollipops. No more songs about the big disease with a little name or gangs’ of ‘disciples’ out of their minds on crack and shooting guns. Lovesexy came with an all-white cover with a naked Prince depicted like a sylph shyly concealing his breasts with his hands. The only thing missing was a halo. That and any real hit singles. ‘Alphabet Street’ was a neat Top 10 hit but nothing else released from the album stuck.

The accompanying tour was a hit, though. No longer bending over backwards trying to fill stadiums, Prince shrewdly gained more column inches for the multiple nights of sell-out arena shows he laid on in London (seven nights at Wembley), Paris (four nights at the Bercy), four nights in Milan, two nights each in Los Angeles and New York. The stage show was so elaborate though, the stage in two moveable tiers, the props complicated and expensive – including a fountain, a basketball hoop, white trellis fences and a full-size replica of the singer’s Ford Thunderbird – that the tour only finally went into the black financially when it reached the final seven-show leg of the tour in Japan.

Prince affected not to care. Why should he? His next project was even more lightweight, the soundtrack to the Tim Burton reboot of the Batman movie franchise, starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger. The movie was the hot ticket of the summer in the US, where its opening-weekend gross of $46.3 million beat that of the previous record holder, Ghostbusters. But purists argued about the plotline, many couldn’t understand the Prince soundtrack, and even Burton later admitted, ‘The whole movie is mainly boring to me. It’s OK, but it was more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie.’

Prince fans lapped up the album, though, thrilled by the video for the lead-off single, ‘Batdance’, which featured several Bat Girls in skintight costumes and bat ears and Prince himself as a strange good–evil hybrid of the white-faced, green-haired Joker and the heroic, black-faced Batman figure, pointy black cape flapping as he dances around, the whole set bathed in – you guessed it – a fluorescent purple light, and was directed, interestingly, by Albert Magnoli, the first time the two had worked together since the Purple Rain movie.

The single went to No. 1 in America and No. 2 in the UK, and the following summer, his commercial fortunes transformed seemingly overnight, Prince embarked on his biggest, most successful tour yet, three months of mainly stadium shows in Britain and Europe, where he had struggled just the year before. Dubbed the Nude tour, it took in sold-out football stadiums across Europe before landing in London for twelve nights at Wembley Arena. Gone were the surreal costumes and over the top paraphernalia of the Lovesexy tour, replaced by a leaner, meaner greatest-hits show built as a crowd-pleaser of epic proportions.

With his commercial star back in the ascendancy, Prince decided the time was right to try his hand again at being a movie star. Under the Cherry Moon may have bombed, but with his name attached to Batman it was a good time to parlay a new film deal. To sweeten the deal still further he came up with the ultimate movie producer bait – a proper sequel to Purple Rain, no less, along with the return of Morris Day and The Time, plus cameos from Mavis Staples and George Clinton – and, of course, a beautiful new starlet named Ingrid Chavez to play The Kid’s love interest, Aura.

Written and directed by Prince, if he’d been hoping that lightning would strike twice, he was sorely mistaken. Instead, the film, titled Graffiti Bridge, and shot over the early weeks of 1990, was based on a reed-thin plot essentially just a vehicle to get Prince and his onscreen rivals The Time fighting for musical superiority in a club and moral superiority in Prince’s and Morris Day’s inevitable squabble over a girl – spoiler alert: the good guy, i.e. Prince, gets the girl and defeats the baddy, Morris, with a song.

Released in November 1990 it was a face-shaming flop that made less than half the meagre money Under the Cherry Tree had. Prince would never make a film again. The seventeen-track CD soundtrack to Graffiti Bridge, released four months ahead of the film, also struggled to make an impact, its only hit single, ‘Thieves in the Temples’, which reached the Top 10 in Britain and America, dragging the album to the upper reaches of the world’s charts in its wake.

As had happened before, Prince took this setback the only way he knew how – by making damn sure whatever he did next was a success. 1990 was also the year when Sinéad O’Connor took her even-better-than-the-real-thing version of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ to the world in a way not even Prince had imagined possible. O’Connor had reconfigured the lyrics away from a simple breakup song towards a deeper meditation on loss, the singer dedicating the song to her mother, who passed away the same year. It went to No. 1 in America and Britain, and fifteen other countries around the word. It was also nominated for three Grammy awards. Prince, who rarely commented on the success other artists had with his songs, was ecstatic. ‘I love it, it’s great!’ he said happily. ‘I look for cosmic meaning in everything. I think we just took that song as far as we could, then someone else was supposed to come along and pick it up.’

Fascinated by the Grammy award-winning video that O’Connor filmed to go with it – a remarkable one-shot of O’Connor’s face, as she emotes her way through the song, anger, devastation, shock and simple heartbreak all registering like forked lightning across the surface of her moon-shaped face, the sort of deep-contact, bare-bones experience Prince had never achieved on film or video – he invited the famously uncompromising Irish singer to Paisley Park. Prince had always worked so well with female artists, went the thinking, perhaps he had another song he wanted Sinéad to sing, or some other form of collaboration?

But things started to go wrong almost immediately, O’Connor later claimed. ‘I did meet him a couple of times. We didn’t get on at all. In fact we had a punch-up.’ She explained: ‘He summoned me to his house after “Nothing Compares 2 U”. I made it without him. I’d never met him. He summoned me to his house – and it’s foolish to do this to an Irish woman – he said he didn’t like me saying bad words in interviews. So I told him to fuck off.’ After which, she said, Prince became ‘quite violent. I had to escape out of his house at five in the morning. He packed a bigger punch than mine.’

It became a story O’Connor told more than once in media interviews over the years, though Prince always denied anything like she described took place. Speaking to the Irish music paper Hot Press, she said she and Prince had actually had a fist fight. “He’s a very frightening person. His windows are covered in tin foil because he doesn’t like light.” Finally, though, in a TV interview with chat show host Graham Norton, O’Connor insisted the story was ‘much exaggerated by the press’ and referred to Prince instead as ‘a sweet guy’.

Prince Book: Exclusive Extract No. 2

From Chapter Six of my new Prince biography, Purple Reign, out now.

Up until 1984, the history of rock stars starring in movies had been chequered, to put it mildly. Elvis Presley made 32 movies of which at least 30 were considered duds. The Beatles made five movies during their lifespan as a group, all highly entertaining to Beatles fans but of limited interest to serious moviegoers. Bob Dylan had taken a minor role in Pat Garret & Billy The Kid, and been scorned for it. Everyone else – from The Monkees to Kiss, to Marc Bolan and Pink Floyd – had been largely eviscerated for their efforts. There were some great ‘rock movies’ – The Girl Can’t Help It, Easy Rider, Jubilee – and some immersive documentaries – Woodstock, The Concert For Bangladesh, The Last Waltz. The only movies made though featuring a major rock star in the lead role that received serious and sustained critical attention had been Performance, starring Mick Jagger, and The Man Who Fell To Earth, starring David Bowie.

What on earth did 25-year-old Prince think he could bring to the table with his movie that would place him in the latter, more exulted category? The answer was simple: Prince would bring himself! What could possibly be more interesting than that?

He was in for a rude awakening though when he first met the movie’s 23-year-old director, Albert Magnoli. When Prince asked Magnoli what he thought of the script, which Prince had written himself, Magnoli told him simply: “I think it sucks.” Still new to the business – he had only graduated from the Film School at the University of Southern California two years earlier – Magnoli had immediately identified the chief weakness of Prince’s initial script: although it was essentially an autobiographical story about his life as ‘The Kid’, it was too internalised. It failed to address “the musical culture of Minneapolis — Prince and the Revolution, The Time, that whole scene.” There was a movie to be made here but saddled with that script it would “not work in a million years.”

Requesting a video compilation of Prince’s performances, to try and see a way around the problem, Magnoli was even more downcast. “The video was depressing. He was so unpolished. I thought about calling it off. On the way to the airport I asked the limo driver, a young black guy, if he knew Prince and what he thought of him. ‘Isn’t he a fag?’ he said. So now I’ve got that on my back too.”

Eventually, in the early hours in the morning, Prince drove Magnoli out to spot “in the middle of nowhere, where I thought he might kill me.” Instead, he looked at Magnoli and asked him why he was so sure about the changes he wanted to make to the movie.

Magnoli recalled: “I said, ‘Let me ask you, if I have the father punch you in the face in the first five minutes of the movie, is that okay?’ He asked why, and I said, ‘Everyone on the planet wants to punch a rock star in the face.’ He laughed, saying, ‘Yep, I understand that’, and I said, ‘Let’s go make a movie.’”

The next step was to help Prince choose which of over 100 songs he had written for the movie would work best. Together, they eventually picked 12, partly based on the music – Prince – partly based on how the lyrics could help form parts of the dialogue or help different scenes segue into the narrative. It was this process that brought ‘When Doves Cry’ to the forefront – a track not everyone had been convinced by as it came without a bass line. In Magnoli’s hands, though, it would form part of one of the most impressive montages in the film.

The only track not from the original 100 songs Prince submitted for consideration was the one that would provide both the starburst climax to the movie – and which Prince wrung every drop of emotion from his guitar – and gives the film its enigmatic title, ‘Purple Rain’. Magnoli had first heard Prince play it during a benefit show for his friend Loyce Holton who ran the Minnesota Dance Theatre, held at First Avenue, the downtown Minneapolis nightclub where so many scenes in the movie would later be filmed.

By then Magnoli had become Prince’s shadow, following him around trying to get a better idea of the real scene Prince now inhabited, at least in his hometown – the very thing that would give the finished film its air of authenticity, of reality. Decades before the advent of what we now know as ‘reality TV’, Purple Rain would invite its audience in to see every different side of the real-life Prince as Magnoli could capture on film. The fact that Prince’s ‘fictionalised’ celluloid version of his story also happened to be so glamourous – and downright sexy – as he rode around town on his purple motorcycle, actually reflected only a portion of the real-life adventures the principal star was now having, both in front of and a million miles away from the cameras. The fact was Prince was always on. The movie just emphasised how much so.

The end result, released in July 1984, was an instant, worldwide success, shooing Ghostbusters from No. 1 at the American box-office and sending Prince’s star into the stratosphere. Certainly it was the most fun, go-see movie in America that summer: ideal for dating couples to get their groove on to; perfect for single males and females to whirl and twirl to as they fantasised about escaping into their own parallel purple universes.

Purple Reign

My new book, Prince: Purple Reign is published tomorrow, but available right now via Amazon. Here is an exclusive extract from Chapter One.

Purple is the most special of all the major colours, the one that appears the least frequently in nature. A synthesis of red and blue – male and female, fire and water, yin and yang – purple is always the colour that attracts the most attention.

In China, purple represents the harmony of the universe, spiritual awareness, a red purple symbolising fame and great fortune. In Japan, purple symbolises privilege and wealth – aristocracy. In Europe and America, for centuries the colour purple has been associated with vanity, extravagance, and individualism, with magic and mystery. In parapsychology, people with purple auras are said to have a love of ritual and ceremony.

Now since 1984, purple has become the colour symbolising the greatest musician of his generation, Prince, an artist for whom all of the above meanings would apply… 100 million records sold; seven Grammy awards; an Oscar; a multitude of BRITS, MTV and American Music Awards. A musical innovator on a par with David Bowie; a guitarist to rival Jimi Hendrix; a better dancer than James Brown; and a singer with more than one voice and many more ways than one of expressing it. Prince achieved more in his four-decade career than other artists achieve in a lifetime.

And then there were the women… A renowned lover of women who married and divorced twice, Prince was also linked with some of the most beautiful, glamourous and in many cases famous women on the planet, including Madonna, Kim Basinger, Carmen Electra, Nona Gaye (Marvin Gaye’s daughter), Twin Peaks’ star Sherilyn Fenn, Playboy centerfold Devin DeVasquez, and almost all of the women he worked with professionally… Sheena Easton, Bangles singer Susanna Hoffs, former backing singer Vanity, Apollonia who played Prince’s love interest in the movie Purple Rain, Sheila E, another protégé. Even his two wives, Mayte Garcia, a former dancer, and Manuela Testolini, who worked for his charitable foundation, Love4OneAnother, were involved in Prince’s work first.

His greatest love, though, as he was never shy of reminding us, was for God. Born into a family of Seventh Day Adventists, testifying was something he grew up doing, first in church, then later and for the rest of his life through his music. When, in later life, Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness, it surprised everyone except those who’d known him since he was a boy. Prince could be playful, full of fun, but he took his God and his music – one and the same to him – very seriously.

All wrapped up in the most stunning and provocative fashions ever seen on any music star, Lady Ga Ga eat your heart out. Prince’s look was as vari-focussed as his music, raunchy yet androgynous; struttingly male yet teasingly feminine: silk, ruffles, pinks, lavish purples and red, topped off with beads, crucifixes, bippity-boppity hats, huge frilly cuffs and bared nipples – thongs!

Music, love, spirituality, sex, fame, God, clothes… This was the Prince his millions of fans around the world had come to know and love over the years. Yet at the time he died suddenly, tragically on April 21, 2016, it seemed like the best of Prince’s life and career was already over. His last worldwide hit single, ‘The Most Beautiful Girl In The World’, had been in 1994, his last multi-million selling album, a Very Best Of compilation from 2001.

Friends say he had money worries, personal issues, his last stage appearances – the ‘Piano & A Microphone tour’, in which he performed alone in mid-size theatres – a far cry from the days when he filled London’s 20,000-capacity O2 arena for 21 nights, with a full-scale show that featured over a dozen different musicians, singers and dancers – weirdly truncated performances attended by the ghosts of his and his audience’s shared, mixed-up, funked-out, purple pasts.

Then came the next day, as news of his passing rolled across the media landscapes of the world like a great tsunami of tears. First disbelief then shock, then grief, then wonder – then celebration and commemoration. In an era where social media gobbles up all the biggest stories and turns them into feather-light tweets, and a year when we have already seen so many celebrity deaths we have lost count (David Bowie, Terry Wogan, Victoria Wood, Harper Lee, Johan Cryuff, Alan Rickman, on and on…) news of Prince’s death eclipsed them all. Not since the deaths of Elvis Presley and John Lennon has one star’s passing had such a huge global impact.

This wasn’t just the weeping and wailing of indiscriminate fandom, as with Michael Jackson, this was about a major cultural event. This wasn’t just about somebody’s music. Not just somebody’s death. This was about all of our lives, whatever the colour. Lives lit purple. The one thing – after music, sex and God – Purple never tired of.

Did he ever really know, though, how deeply loved he was by his fans, by his followers, by the people that just adored the very idea of him? Prince, for all his shocking bravado, was also a deeply insecure person. As one former friend commented in the days after his death, “’It’s like he was afraid of the fame but then when it was gone he’d miss it and crave it.”

One minute up the next minute down. It was this basic humanity this perceived frailty that lay at the heart of his popularity. Prince didn’t parade his victories like modern rappers; he hid behind masks, retreated from the press. The beautiful women in Prince’s stage show and videos were not treated like hos, but as goddesses. Could anyone but Prince have written something as genuinely soulful and touching as ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’?

At a time when Michael Jackson was busy proclaiming himself to be the King of Pop, Prince smiled that secret smile and said: “I don’t want to be king of anything. My name is Prince and I’m a normal person.” Then he abandoned his own name and insisted he simply become known by a symbol – the ‘love symbol’ as it became known. Inspired by a lengthy contract dispute with his record label, even after Prince was freed from his contarct with Warner Bros he incorporated the symbol into his iconography: microphones in the same shape, even his purple guitar.

Prince’s so-called ‘love symbol’ was in reality a pop representation of The Ankh, or the Crux Ansata – two interlaced triangles making a circle surmounting the Tau Cross (the type of cross which follows the shape of the letter ‘T’). The Ankh is an Egyptian symbol of great antiquity and it portrays the resurrection of the spirit out of its encasement of matter, otherwise expressed as the triumph of life over death, of spirit over matter, of good over evil. The message of love Prince was sending then, long before his death, was that of eternity, or heaven, of a life beyond death.

And you can hear that message in every significant musical work he created. As Prince sang on one of his best-known hits, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, life was the ‘electric word’ and it meant forever. ‘But I’m here to tell you there’s something else,’ he sang in the same song, ‘The afterworld…’

Unlike Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Michael Jackson — the other giants of 80s music – Prince was the only one that never relied on producers and regular co-writers to help conceive his art. As soon as he became famous he didn’t flee his home and make a run for New York or LA. He stayed where he was and built his palace of dreams – Paisley Park – where he could still breathe the same air he’d grown up on.

There were no rules for Prince, no maps for him to follow drawn by other people. Just the steps up that ladder, he so famously preached about, that he chose for himself. He was, as the American writer Bob Lefsetz pointed out in the days following Prince’s death, ‘about the power of music. Especially when made by someone who seemed beholden to the sound as opposed to the adulation, to the music as opposed to the money, to the song as opposed to the stardom.’

And that’s what this book is about. The life, yes, the death, of course, but mainly that ‘something else’ Prince sang about and believed in – which he helped us to believe in, perhaps even more now he’s gone.

Applause

Mick- I thoroughly enjoyed Getcha Rocks off. After the first mention in the book of Thin Lizzy- I said to my wife…….here will be a test of Mick’s bona fides.

If he mentions Don’t Believe A Word and the unique guitar solo……he is the real deal.

My wife said ‘whatever’. Then sure enough you delivered a couple of pages later. My wife couldn’t believe it. I had chills for about an hour.

Great job!!!!

Cheers

Frank Raue

 

Mick
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your book on Lemmy.
Your book was a great read & very objective & I’d agree with lots of your observations – I don’t think the Three Amigos were ever bettered.
I was a big fan from his Hawkwind days & had a few meets with him over the years, which were always interesting & entertaining.
Last time was before the soundcheck at Portsmouth Guildhall in 2012 when I spent about an hour with him & gave him a Nazi dagger & some PG Wodehouse books – it goes without saying over Jack & coke!
Great memories & what a musical legacy.
I wondered if you are doing any book signings?
If not, would you be able to send me your signature “To Steve” on a sticker / comp slip / anything so that I could stick it into the book like a bookplate.
Steve Payne

Hi Mick, just a few words to the latest addition to my Mick Wall collection the Lemmy book.

As ever you never disappoint with your insights into the lives of these amazing figures from Rock and Roll and the Lemmy book is no different.

I haven’t quite finished it but only have a few pages to the end and wanted to thank you for once again writing a book that grips the reader and pulls them into this world that we usually only read about in magazines etc. From start to finish the book gave amazing insights to the person Ian Frazer Kilminister aka Lemmy.

Once again thank you for yet another amazing book about one of our music heroes a pleasure to read from start to almost finish.

Regards

Dave Robinson

Hi Mick,

I just wanted to say how interesting it was listening to you talk about Lemmy last night at Blackwell’s in Oxford, and how it would have been great to hear more of your thoughts had it not been for the guy in the front row who was a little worse for wear!  Hey ho, that’s life I guess and you more than anybody I’m sure, knows what a diverse bunch rock fans are?!  I dare say Lemmy himself would have laughed that guy off!

Anyway, thanks for letting my mate Darek take a pic of me with you and thanks very much for the comment you wrote in my copy of your book, my good lady will love that!

Motorhead were the first band I saw live when I was 15 or 16 in the early 80’s at Newcastle City Hall and just remember being absolutely blown away by Lemmy’s stage presence and the sheer power of the band.  It was such a shame to first lose Phil, but then Lemmy, so sad, I always thought he would live for ever!!

I think so often, rock stars and guys like Lemmy are stereotyped by those who are not interested in this genre of music, as being soulless and “thick”, for want of a better word, but Lemmy was such an intelligent guy and had an opinion on everything so I hope that your book sells well and reaches a wider audience and helps to dispel some of these stereotypes, and I myself look forward to reading it.

It sounds like you had a pretty wild time with him and the various Motorhead line ups, you must consider yourself to be lucky to have known him?  Anyway, I guess that you are a busy man so shall sign off now, but just wanted to say thanks again and hope you don’t mind me emailing you.

Take Care,

Best wishes,

Mike

 

Mick,

Just finished reading ‘Lemmy’ and wanted to congratulate you on the book, it’s an excellent piece of writing.

I had the good fortune to meet him a couple of times, once when I was out with the Georgia Satellites on their second British tour and again in Bournemouth where I live.

Well done and keep up the good work.

Kind regards

Mike Davies

 

I am almost through with your Jim Morrison Biography. I have read a couple of them over the years, but none so revealing as your work which is masterfully written.

It would appear everyone who ever knew him, has written a piece about him except Mary Francis Werbelow. Simply too many books to read.
In any case, I had long suspected Jim was a homosexual, or at least bi-sexual and at that time as we know, it would have been suicide to “come out” as it were. There were too many clues in his songs that alluded to the fact.
I also suspected his mother was abusive, and his father basically non existent. Such was life back then in a military family that moved dozens of times over the years. Military mom’s as I knew them were very stoic, conservative, and demanded excellence of their children. They wanted nothing that remotely embarrassed the family and if one had a child like Morrison who was possibly homosexual, Bi-Polar or other wise “defective” it did not bode well with the family dynamic.
It would almost seem a artist like Jim would be so different from his family, one would wonder how they would even be related genetically?
Having had two fathers that were stricken with alcoholism, one my natural father I never met, and the second my adoptive father, I can relate to the horrors of the disease and certainly some of the scenes described in the book are of no surprise.
I have always related to Jim for many reasons. Although I am 20 years younger than Jim, thus not coming of age until the late 1970’s as I am 53, I knew we had some sort of kinship in the sense we are both artists; myself a drummer, poet, and writer, and I never knew my natural family, and I don’t thin Jim really ever knew his, nor did they have an interest in him. My natural parents kept one child and gave up three. I have always felt abandoned and lonely. Jim’s poetry and songs enabled me to somehow cope with it all. I am nothing like my adoptive family. We have nothing in common.
What did surprise me in the book is how callous and selfish the other Doors were. I was shocked at how judgmental they were, and how self serving they were. I am not surprised at Paul’s cocaine addiction, yet the Doors put up with that but in my opinion they did not lift a finger to make an effort to help Jim.
I am also not too surprised at how materialistic Jac Holzman became in only seeing the Doors as product instead of art. I am surprised how he held back songs. There were enough at the time to create  a 7th studio album, yet they were held off the press for decades.
Jim is an example of a far too often tragedy on how American society treats it’s artists.(I just read Michael Starr’s book on Ringo Starr, and the similarities between Ringo and Jim were pretty amazing.) We use them and throw them away when the next best thing comes along. I would suspect that every person Jim came in contact with bears some responsibility for his demise. The abusive women in his life, the unnamed men in his life, his UCLA buddies, and certainly his father and siblings.
You do not let such incredible genius destroy himself while you watch. You coddle, comfort,  and otherwise use compassion with someone with such a gift. Yet, in American society, we have let so many over the years destroy themselves while we sit and watch because it’s entertaining, and most of the time, it gives us a sense of superiority,  and a delusion that we are better than they are because our flaws are so readily hidden, and theirs are so readily available for public display.
In any case, thanks for the great book. It gives an insight  with more depth about the man an his alcoholism, of which the Doors seems to have no interest in helping their bandmate.
John Mathieson
Nashville, Tennessee
Dear Mick,

I recently finished reading your biography on Lemmy. It was a powerful, well written book and I honestly feel I know the man far better now than I ever thought I would.

I started listening to Motörhead in the ’90s, stealing my father’s old LPs and listening over and over again. I always loved No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, without realising it was such a big hit in this country. The way you wrote the book made it seem as though Lemmy’s life off the stage was pure mayhem, constantly full of drugs and booze, and that his life, his happiest life, was the one that we saw, up there performing. But it also became clear that in his twilight years he enjoyed the life he settled into in LA, living quietly and peacefully, secure in his status as a legend. I hope those things are true- it sounds like, for all the hell raising, he brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people that knew him (yourself included), in addition to all of us who didn’t.

I just wanted to thank you for writing such an in-depth, brilliantly constructed piece which made me feel a lot closer to the man I idolised without ever knowing anything about.

Kind regards,
James Luxford- ‘not old enough to fucking remember it.’

No Sleep Til Blackwell’s

Tomorrow evening – Thursday 9 June – I will be appearing in the withering flesh at Blackwell’s bookstore in Oxford – the finest emporium of its kind in the world, no less – giving what may euphemistically be described (I suppose, if we must) as a ‘talk’ on Lemmy.

Will I be reading from my book? Not sure. Do you want me to? Wouldn’t you rather just have me avail you with some of the stories that were too torrid to put in there? I knew Lemmy a long good-bad time. He was my favourite rock star to hang with for most of the near-40 years I knew him, he was also the guy I would sometimes avoid if I didn’t feel quite up to my fighting weight. This more and more in latter years when, let’s face it, neither of us was exactly what we used to be, even if we had become in many ways better, if worse off physically, versions of ourselves.

But the stories… For this of you that have already read the book, you’ll have an inkling as to what I’m talking about. Laughs? You may shit, dear reader. Tears? I’m afraid so, yes. But mainly laughs. And a lot of shit. As anyone who has talked to me recently will attest.

I very much hope you can make it. Or else, right?

Donald Fuck

Here is an article from the New Yorker, published this month. I think it says it all about the incoming President Trump.

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, / As, to be hated, needs but to be seen,” the poet Alexander Pope wrote, in lines that were once, as they said back in the day, imprinted on the mind of every schoolboy. Pope continued, “Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, / we first endure, then pity, then embrace.” The three-part process by which the gross becomes the taken for granted has been on matchlessly grim view this past week in the ascent of Donald Trump. First merely endured by those in the Republican Party, with pained grimaces and faint bleats of reluctance, bare toleration passed quickly over into blind, partisan allegiance—he’s going to be the nominee, after all, and so is our boy. Then a weird kind of pity arose, directed not so much at him (he supplies his own self-pity) as at his supporters, on the premise that their existence somehow makes him a champion for the dispossessed, although the evidence indicates that his followers are mostly stirred by familiar racial and cultural resentments, of which Trump has been a single-minded spokesperson.

Now for the embrace. One by one, people who had not merely resisted him before but called him by his proper name—who, until a month ago, were determined to oppose a man they rightly described as a con artist and a pathological liar—are suddenly getting on board. Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity, fawning over him or at least thrilling to his rising poll numbers and telling one another, “We can control him.”

No, you can’t. One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is. He announces his enmity to America by word and action every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of noncombatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies, made only worse by the frivolity and transience of the tone of those threats. He makes his enmity to American values clear when he suggests that the Presidency holds absolute power, through which he will be able to end opposition—whether by questioning the ownership of newspapers or talking about changing libel laws or threatening to take away F.C.C. licenses. To say “Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that” is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.

And Trump announces his enmity in the choice of his companions. The Murdoch media conglomerate has been ordered to acquiesce; it’s no surprise that it has. But Trump’s other fellow-travellers include Roger Stone, the Republican political operative and dirty-tricks maven, while his venues have included the broadcasts of Alex Jones, a ranting conspiracy theorist who believes in a Globalist plot wherein “an alien force not of this world is attacking humanity”—not to mention Jones’s marketing of the theory that Michelle Obama is a transvestite who murdered Joan Rivers. These are not harmless oddballs Trump is flirting with. This is not the lunatic fringe. These are the lunatics.

Ted Cruz called Trump a pathological liar, the kind who does not know the difference between lies and truth. Whatever the clinical diagnosis, we do appear to be getting, in place of the once famous Big Lie of the nineteen-thirties, a sordid blizzard of lies. The Big Lie was fit for a time of processionals and nighttime rallies, and films that featured them. The blizzard of lies is made for Twitter and the quick hit of an impulse culture. Trump’s lies arrive with such rapidity that before one can be refuted a new one comes to take its place. It wasn’t his voice on that tape of pitiful self-promotion. O.K., it was—but he never mocked the handicapped reporter, he was merely imitating an obsequious one. The media eventually moves on, shrugging helplessly, to the next lie. Then the next lie, and the next. If the lies are bizarre enough and frequent enough, they provoke little more than a nervous giggle and a cry of “Well, guess he’s changed the rules!”

He’s not Hitler, as his wife recently said? Well, of course he isn’t. But then Hitler wasn’t Hitler—until he was. At each step of the way, the shock was tempered by acceptance. It depended on conservatives pretending he wasn’t so bad, compared with the Communists, while at the same time the militant left decided that their real enemies were the moderate leftists, who were really indistinguishable from the Nazis. The radical progressives decided that there was no difference between the democratic left and the totalitarian right and that an explosion of institutions was exactly the most thrilling thing imaginable.

The American Republic stands threatened by the first overtly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history—an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power. The right thing to do, for everyone who believes in liberal democracy, is to gather around and work to defeat him on Election Day. Instead, we seem to be either engaged in parochial feuding or caught by habits of tribal hatred so ingrained that they have become impossible to escape even at moments of maximum danger. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t mind bringing down the Democratic Party to prevent it from surrendering to corporate forces—and yet he may be increasing the possibility of rule-by-billionaire.

There is a difference between major and minor issues, and between primary and secondary values. Many of us think that it would be terrible if the radical-revisionist reading of the Second Amendment created by the Heller decision eight years ago was kept in place in a constitutional court; many on the other side think it would be terrible if that other radical decision, Roe v. Wade, continued to be found to be compatible with the constitutional order. What we all should agree on is that the one thing worse would be to have no constitutional order left to argue about.

If Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right—not by Peróns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks. The nation may survive, but the wound to hope and order will never fully heal. Ask Argentinians or Chileans or Venezuelans or Russians or Italians—or Germans. The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak. If he can rout the Republican Party in a week by having effectively secured the nomination, ask yourself what Trump could do with the American government if he had a mandate. Before those famous schoolroom lines, Pope made another observation, which was that even as you recognize that the world is a mixed-up place, you still can’t fool yourself about the difference between the acceptable and the unacceptable: “Fools! who from hence into the notion fall / That vice or virtue there is none at all,” he wrote. “Is there no black or white? / Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain; / ’Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.” The pain of not seeing that black is black soon enough will be ours, and the time to recognize this is now.

New Lemmy Extract

I said the last extract would be the last but I changed my mind, after too many emails telling me too keep going. So anyway, this is from my book Lemmy: The Definitive Biography, out now. This is from Chapter Seven: Nobody’s Perfect

Robbo, as he came to be known, was a 26-year-old firebrand who’d grown up in Glasgow, where belying his tough guy image he’d spent eight years studying cello and classical piano before switching in his teens to guitar and drums, gigging around town with local Dream Police, who later evolved into the Average White Band. Robbo was 18 when he caught the train to London to audition as a one of two new guitarists in Irish rock band Thin Lizzy. Over the next four years Robbo’s brilliantly swaggering lead guitar helped transform Thin Lizzy from a one-hit-wonder novelty act (their only hit previously had been an electric of an old Irish folk tune, ‘Whiskey In The Jar’) into one of the coolest, most successful rock bands of the seventies with a string of hits like ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ and ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’.

Alongside singer and bassist Phil Lynott, Robbo was the star of the show in Lizzy. He was also, as Lynott once out it to me, “a right fucking pain in the arse, with his fighting and his big fucking mouth.” The former had cost Robbo his job in Lizzy – an nearly his career as a musician – when a brawl involving Frankie Miller at the Speakeasy in 1976 resulted in Robbo blocking a broken glass to Miller’s face, severing a tendon in his left hand. But Robbo taught himself to play again and was back in the band six months later. It was the latter that finally got him kicked out for good a year after that.

Forming a new band, Wild Horses, with former Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain on lead vocals I had come to know Robbo when the PR firm I then worked for were hired to promote them. Robbo was a brilliant player, far smarter than your average bear when it came to performing and recording, but as Thin Lizzy could attest, he could also be his own worse enemy. He was charismatic, but almost always either drunk or coked out when you saw him. Usually both. He also dabbled in smack. But then he also dabbled in quadruple tequilas, Mandrax, strong black hash and staying up for days at a time. Everybody loved Robbo, until you hated him. Or more likely simply grew bored with his constant growling, his endlessly confrontational conversation. Nobody knew more about music, or indeed anything, than Robbo. In that respect, he reminded me a lot of Lemmy. Except Lemmy was genuinely funnier. When he was in the mood, anyway.

When after two albums that barely scratched the UK charts Wild Horses turned into a power struggle between him and Bain, Robbo walked out. Having sunk all his earnings from Thin Lizzy into the band he was broke and, by his own admission, “pretty desperate for a gig,” when he got the call from Doug inviting him to join up with Motörhead.

Speaking now from the small apartment he lives in alone, above a pub in Essex, Robbo, who still calls Phil Taylor “one of my best friends ever,” says he first met Lemmy when he was in Lizzy. “We all used to go to the same clubs, drinking together and taking drugs together, whatever. Him and Philthy were close to me way before I joined. They were big fans of Lizzy.”

Yet when he was first approached to join Motörhead, he says, “I told them to fuck off.” Because, “I was totally ill. I’d just split up from my wife. I was seven-and-a-half stone. I had double pneumonia and pleurisy. I was a fucking mess. I thought, naw. Physically, I can’t do this. I was a skinny little shit. But I was desperate for a gig. I wanted to go back on the road.”

So he flew out to New York. Where Lemmy was shocked to discover that the long brown hair Robbo had worn in Thin Lizzy was now a short, curly orange mop. Says Doug, “The first day in New York I said, ‘Look, here’s a hundred bucks. Can you please go and buy some like black jeans and black T-shirts, and a black leather jacket. Cos a hundred bucks would do that in those days. ‘Ah, fuck that!’ Robbo says. ‘I’m not doing what I’m told! I don’t wear those clothes.’ I said, ‘This is Motörhead, man. You’ve just got to be part of the image.’ But he wouldn’t do it.”

It was a harbinger for things to come. The first time he got up and played with them though, any doubts Lemmy and Phil had vanished. “He was fucking great for those first few shows,” recalled Lemmy. “It was only later, once he go comfortable about his place in the band, the trouble started.”

At their first gig was in Calgary, says Robbo, “I jumped on that stage. I thought, I’ve had 16 hours of rehearsals. I’ve had speed stuck up my nose. I haven’t a fucking clue what the hell’s going on. What am I gonna do? Just jump on the stage and play E. They didn’t tell me about the fucking lighting rig coming down! And the flash bombs! So I got my bollocks burned off. Then the Bomber came down and I’m going, ‘Oh shit!’ I had to keep moving back until I was at my stacks, and I’m thinking, fuck me!” When someone in the crowd began heckling, shouting for Eddie, Robbo jumped off the stage and went for him. “I took off my guitar, gave it to the roadie, then jumped over the monitors and just nutted him. Then the roadies grabbed me by the arms and brought me back up. Lemmy was still singing and playing so there was no interruption…”

Suddenly there was a whole new dynamic to the band. As a player, technically Robbo was on another level to Eddie. Phil Taylor, in particular, became extremely excited over what he saw as a new, much better phase for the band. For all their success and notoriety over the past few years, Motörhead had never been taken very seriously as musicians. For all their dark, biker glamour, they were still seen as the runt of the litter compared to bands like… well, Thin Lizzy. Even Lemmy became sold on the idea. Robbo was a handful all right, but his energy was bringing new life to old material and suddenly things were becoming fun again. Returning to London to start making their first album together, at the start of 1983, hopes were high that something very new and very exciting was about to happen for Motörhead.

Final Extract: Lemmy

This is from my new book, Lemmy: The Definitive Biography. Chapter Ten: I Have Never Drunk Milk

On Christmas Eve, 2014, the old, now-ailing warrior turned 69. His plans were the same as they had been for the last few years: to head off to Las Vegas for a few days, play the slot machines and check out the chicks. Some things, though, were now different. Having swapped Jack Daniel’s and coke for vodka and orange, he was now dutifully doing his best to stick to wine. Of course it would have been much better for Lemmy to drink nothing at all, but as he’d joked in the past with me, “I don’t mind living longer. I just don’t want it to seem longer.” Somehow the thought of going through a day and night without at least something to help him on his way he considered intolerable and, more, grossly unfair. Nevertheless, he’d been spending less and less time in the Rainbow recently, sometimes only twice a week.

The rest of the world might still preferred to think of Lemmy as somehow immortal, but the man himself knew he wasn’t. Fast approaching his eighth decade, and beset by aches, pains and more serious ailments, he knew he had to make some serious lifestyle changes, however grudgingly. “Getting old is the worst thing that can happen to anybody,” he told Metal Hammer. “I don’t recommend it. It’s no fun waking up in hospital.”

The very last time I spoke to Lemmy, during a fleeting promotional visit to London, the mood was reflective, sombre. He was flying back to LA the next morning. “I’ve got to water my plants, man. Cos they never get watered enough. I might have a dead vine, who knows?” I asked if, as he got older, his relationship to God had changed at all. He looked at me, was I taking the piss? No. I meant in a spiritual sense, not a religious one. He puffed out his cheeks. “They say God moves in mysterious ways. Well, it’s too fucking mysterious for me, buddy. How about solving a few of them fucking mysteries for once. Oh, we have to take what God says… WHY?” he shouted. “I don’t like him! I think he’s a sadistic fucking maniac! How’s that? Or he’s out of the office whenever we call, you know? God, you know, big deal. Spelled backwards is dog.”

He had always been a loner. At this time of his life though did he ever think he might prefer to have someone share his bed on a more permanent basis? I expected another look. But this time he was more thoughtful.

“Well, it didn’t work out that way for me, you know. Cos I always felt…” Pause. “A set, a concert, lasts for an hour and a half. Sex is what, half an hour at most. The concert won. And also, I’ve never been able to find a girl that would stop me chasing all the others. If I do, I would be only too happy to stop chasing girls. But I never found it, yeah? And I’m not gonna get married and lie. And then run around. Cos I’m an honest man. If I get married to somebody I will never chase another woman. But I haven’t found it yet.

“These guys get married then run around on the day of their wedding, for Christ’s sake, don’t they, some of them. Fuck that, what’s that? It’s just poor. Or to be politically correct and have a wife of a certain age so she can stand next to you and welcome the fucking guests. Balls, I’d rather hire a hooker. ‘Hello, baby, dress up good and come on over. We gotta welcome some guests!’”

I asked him which of the many Motörhead albums he would play to anyone who had never heard his music and being Lemmy he immediately named his newest few. No mention of Overkill or Bomber. He was still professing the superiority of the final Campbell-Dee line-up over the classic Clarke-Taylor line-up, even though Motörhead still ended their shows with ‘Ace Of Spades’ each night. Still elicited the greatest reaction from their faithful audiences for all the ‘classics’.

At the end of the day, he said, he liked “brutal” music. And the current band was simply faster, more full on. He said.

“I’m not a brutal man but I like brutal music. It’s good for you, it helps to take you out of that safe cocoon you’ve got for yourself, you know. What do you want safe rock’n’roll for, man? What the fuck is it for? Rock’n’roll was supposed to be rebellion with no apparent goal. It’s just rebellion for the sake of it, because it pisses your parents off. If your mother says she likes it there’s something wrong with it, it’s not rock’n’roll. It’s true, though, isn’t it? Who the fuck wants your mother to come and listen to it with you? ‘Oh, I like them harmonies!’ Let me play you this one, mum. ‘Oh, that’s a terrible noise!’ You know?

“The trouble with now is everybody’s hip. Everybody’s hip. The delivery boy, the fucking green grocer, everybody’s hip now. Cos they’ve all been through some sort of rock’n’roll lifestyle. But it’s easily penetrable, isn’t it? Say, ‘How about this?’ They go, ‘Oh! It’s too loud!’ Traitor! Counter revolutionary! String him up! The guillotine! The Inquisition, the Voice of Christ. We’ll kill your immortal soul. Why? In order to make you live in heaven we’ve got to burn you at the stake now. ‘Oh, that sounds good, yeah. It’s a fair cop…’”

Lemmy Book Extract No. 6

This is from my new book, Lemmy: The Definitive Biography. This from Chapter One: Do I Look Ill To You?

Lemmy lit a cigarette, blew smoke in my face and put it like this: “I was born at eight o’clock in the morning – an only child. My father left when I was three months old. You can see why! He was a vicar in the church of England, a padre in the RAF during the war.” His mum was “a librarian for a while. She was a TB nurse for a while.” Working with pregnant women with TB who had deformed children. “There was one born with a beak instead of a face. Fucking awful! She was so freaked out she couldn’t do it no more.”

I begged him to stop. “You’re going too fast,” I complained.

“Either that or you’re going too slow,” he sniffed.

It was a miserable dark afternoon in November, the rain lashing down outside, and we were sitting in his room at his London hotel. It was the late-nineties, cusp of a new century, and I’d recently stopped working as his PR and returned to music journalism. I’d been told, on the quiet, that Lemmy was gravely ill. That he’d been in hospital and now it was only a matter of time. It was decided I should interview him over several hours, get his life story down before it was too late. I had interviewed many times before over the years, and I would interview him many times more in the years to come. There had also been those innumerable occasions when we had simply talked, at gigs, at parties, in hotel rooms and bars around the world.

Yet never quite like this. When we finished it would be long into the evening. I would be ready to crash. Lemmy would be ready to go out. I was supposed to transcribe the hours and hours of tapes, put it all together, but I never did. Weeks went by and he didn’t die and my life took other turns, and so the tapes stayed in a file in my office, following me around wherever that happened to be for the next several years. Until I finally got around to writing this book. And then he did die and it stunned me, even though everyone knew he was desperately ill. I had just finished transcribing the tapes when I got the news. We had been due to speak a few days before Christmas. But he was ill and it was his birthday and I thought it would be better to leave it until the New Year. And…

When I’d knocked on his door that day it had been with a serious face. He took one look at it and growled, “Oh, fuck off! Let me guess. You’ve heard I’m about to kick the bucket, right? Well, it’s not fucking true.”

Was it true he’d been ill, though? “Yes, that part’s true.” And in hospital? “Briefly, yes, in Germany. But it was a scare, that’s all.”

I must have looked doubtful. “Look,” he said, gesturing to the whiskey bottle on the table, “fix yourself a drink and sit down. Do I look ill to you?”

Well. That was hardly a fair question. He’d looked like shit for most of the years I’d known him. Except for when he went to live in Los Angeles, in the early 1990s, when he’d suddenly acquired an unlikely suntan. And taken to wearing speedos. He’d even become clean-shaven for a (short) while, and talked only half-jokingly of “doing something about” his thinning hair. Living in LA, he said, “means we now have the technology.”

The desultory whiskers soon returned, however, albeit dyed black, and he’d taken to wearing a hat. This was something of a relief. Lemmy was not the kind of rock star one would ever wish to see ‘reimagined’ by a Hollywood stylist.

As he reaffirmed for me that day, “I’m not dressing up, no. What you see is what you get, man. I’ve only got one pair of pants and I’ve had them for twenty-five years, and nobody knows that. They think I get new pairs but I just paint the holes in my legs black.”

This last may or may not have been true. Or more likely had been true once upon a time, in the early days of Motörhead, before the money and the fame and the people in the band’s office he would routinely send out to buy him his white boots, his whiskey and his cigarettes. Before he developed his tendency, in the words of his former manager Doug Smith, “to be quite camp at times.” Doug was thinking of the time he’d turned up at Lemmy’s Edgware Road apartment to find him kitted out in full American confederate uniform.

“I said, ‘What the hell are you dressed up like that for?’ He just looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, it’s great, isn’t it?’ And that’s how he went out that night.”

But before one gets carried away with the idea of Lemmy sharing a Quentin Crisp-like theatricality, it’s worth mentioning that he’d “acquired” the uniform from an “accidentally broken” glass display case in Texas during another typically piratical Motörhead tour. “I thought, great, that’s another gig we’ll never be able to go back to,” sighed Doug.

But back to that day in London as the two of us sat there, huddled over a coffee table on which stood Lemmy’s Jack Daniels and Coke and his Marlboro Red cigarettes. I sat there looking closely for signs that it was over. That the story I’d been told was truer than he had wanted anyone to know. But while it was true he was now greyer around the muzzle, his belly beginning to ease over his ornate belt buckle, his eyes still held that twinkle, his mouth as sharp and funny as ever. His brain whirring away like a rat on a wheel.

“Do you want some of this?” he asked, unzipping one of the pockets in the arm of his black leather jacket.

“No, thank you!” I hurriedly replied. The short days and endless nights of wanting to have “a taste” of Lemmy’s industrial-strength amphetamines had long gone for me. I was in my forties and simply couldn’t hack it anymore. He was in his fifties and had no intention of stopping. Ever.

Didn’t he ever worry what that stuff was doing to him after all this time?

“Do I look worried?” he said, using the razor edge of a switchblade to dig out enough to fill the nostrils of a baby elephant.

He sat back and lit another cigarette, had a sip of his drink, and settled his sleepless gaze on me. “You sure you don’t want one?”

I don’t remember the first time we met; he seemed simply to have always been there, buried deep in my subconscious: the bad man on the motorbike, come to steal your chick and fuck you up. The crazy bastard in the bald jeans and dirty hair and mirrored sunglasses that looked like two black eyes.

Mr Skull & Crossbones. Dr Swastika. The place at the crossroads where rock first met roll.

Lemmy Book Extract 5

This from my new book, Lemmy: The Definitive Biography. This from Chapter Four: The Captains

In stark contrast to the previous summer when he had found himself on Top Of The Pops with Hawkwind, singing ‘Silver Machine’ (actually a bowdlerised live clip filmed by the BBC two weeks before at a gig in Dunstable, and mainly featuring Stacia), the summer of 1973 brought Lemmy the first really tragic event of his adult life, when Susan Bennett, who he had begun seeing again in London, died of a drugs overdose.

“My old lady died of heroin,” he told me, just like that, nearly a quarter of a century later. “There’s a passion killer for you.”

He was concerned not to unnecessarily derail the bonhomie of another interview, as if obliged to mention it, as I was researching his life, but in no hurry to elaborate in case it made me unduly uncomfortable. Lemmy, the gentleman, who, despite his pugnacious exterior, was always deeply sensitive to the feelings of others.

“Yeah, yeah,” he continued hurriedly. “Susie. Black Susie. First black girl I ever went out with. She died in ’73. Drowned in her own bathtub. Stupid way to die, eh?”

He paused, looked at me, puffed out more smoke. He gave me the rest of the story in dribs and drabs. How he and Susie had gradually reconnected after he arrived in London, where she was still working at the Speakeasy. How neither of them had been ‘faithful’ but how they really were in love. And how it had all finally gone wrong for Susie when she’d returned from some sort of “hostess gig” in the Lebanon. How she’d been out there for several months, and come back completely strung-out on smack. How she’d try to clean up but always slid back into the abyss. Until.

“So I’m over it now, you know,” he said, eager to move on. “It was a long time ago. But all my fucking friends went. Heroin cut a terrible swathe through my generation. All kinds of fucking people died. I got to the stage where you just don’t fucking care.”

Clearly, though, he still did. He may not have enjoyed talking about Susie much anymore, but he would rail for hours against the “sheer stupidity” of heroin. Unlike speed or LSD, he said, with heroin, “You don’t have to worry about anything. You can just cower in the corner with your heroin and your syringe. Just shut off from everything. An entirely negative experience. Throw up until you get used to it. Then nod out all the time, your face in your food. I never saw that as much of an alternative to anything.”

In reality, Lemmy did what he could to “blot out” the death of Susie in the best way he knew how. With speed, with whiskey, with dope, by having sex with other women. Though he began to lay off the acid for now. Acid, he said, “was the truth serum,” and Lemmy needed to lay off that, too, for a while.

The only woman close to him that he never tried to bed was Stacia. “No, they were never lovers,” says Doug, “They were close friends. Really, really close friends. Stacia would be there for Lemmy when the others didn’t want to know.”

Something Stacia acknowledges, though she insists her friendship with Lemmy was always a two-way street. “We could never have been together, no. We were too much alike. My birthday was two days after his. No, but as friends we were great.”

She tells of one particular time when she was broke and Lemmy offered her money. “He acted like it was my money. Like, ‘Oh, here’s that money I owe you.’ I’d say, ‘You don’t owe me money!’ But he would insist. ‘No, you’ve forgotten. I owe you this so just take it.’

He was lovely like that, very sensitive and very intelligent. People talk now about him partying or whatever, but my memory of him on the bus was that he was always reading, books on the war and stuff like that.”

Getting Out Of The Ring

People write in, they say you don’t write blogs like you used to. You don’t get into the personal stuff, the fucked up shit, the brain pain. The stuff you used to write like no one was paying attention. You know, the real thing.

And I say, hey, I’m still here. The world is still sitting on my chest, shoving its dick in my mouth, same as anybody. But if you’re lucky, you don’t die, you get older and you learn something. It’s all about change. Change your mind, change your diet, change your pants. Change your way of thinking. Maybe it can’t be done but it’s good to try. In fact, it’s vital you try. For the good of your own soul. Or what’s left of it. So you lost your shit and went crazy. So what? Did you come back? Did you even try?

Well, I’m trying now. Just watch me.

So the two things that have occupied my thoughts a great deal so far this year are all to do with change. All to do with the serpent that swallows its own tail. Circle of life. Flat line of death. Returned, reborn, released.

Or re-relased. Lemmy going was a game-changer for me. Oh, we knew he was on the way. Well on the way. Why did they keep him out there? Because he wanted to die with his boots on. One thing about Lemmy, he loved those white boots and he wasn’t taking them off for anybody. Unless it was because he had his cowboy boots ready to change into.

Then when Bowie went I cried. Only a little blub. Grown man blub. Quiet, like, when no one could see. And I knew I was blubbing for me as much as for him. Maybe more. Lemmy should have been dead 20 years ago. But that bastard wasn’t having it. He liked to look death in the eye and growl at it. Dare death to take another step forward, even as it swooped down to devour him. Bowie was already immortal. He had also just released his best album since Low and Heroes. You just didn’t see it coming.

Anyway… it makes you think, right? Or think even more. You can’t know life until you know death. I’m a father and a husband. Sometimes even a good one. But you have to think hard every single hour.

Guns N’ Roses reforming has also had an effect on me. This time wholly unexpected. I find myself cheering them on. Yet every time I show some sign of support here or on my official FB page and etc, some smart cunt pipes up about me either being ‘back on the payroll’, or how I’m simply angling to get in Axl’s good books. And it wearies me. Yet what gets me more is I know what they’re talking about. They are not right but I get it.

Of course some people feel like that. Most of them weren’t even alive when I knew Guns N’ Roses. But they’ve heard the song, they’ve read the book, what other conclusion could they draw? Well, I can’t speak for the song. I never lied, or ripped off the kids or any of that, but come on man what a song. The best putdown song since Dylan’s ‘Positively Fourth Street’ or Lennon’s ‘How Do You Sleep?’.

As for the book, the biog I wrote on Axl, over 10 years ago now, that I can do something about. It’s not that the facts are all wrong or any of that. But the spirit is mean, disgruntled, unworthy. I’m sorry I wrote it. Sorry I wasn’t man enough to see the bigger picture. Sorry I squeezed all of the peace, love and understanding out of the book. I’d just had a heart attack, was angry at the world, thought I was about to check out and rather than reach for the light, I blew out the candles then sat there in the dark mouldering.

I’m not like that anymore.

So here’s what I’m going to do. The original Axl book is long out of print. The story didn’t even get as far as Chinese Democracy being released – a far greater album than anything any of the others have released since 1993, and I like some of their shit. So you can still Google and find it somewhere going for a penny plus postage. But the updated ebook version which came out later and has been available to buy through my own website pages, that is now gone.

I was talking to an old friend about this at lunch the other day. He is also now a father. Asked me how I’d feel if someone wrote unflinchingly about the years when I lost my shit? Oh, I could have said, well, I beat them to it with Paranoid and Getcha Rocks Off, but that just isn’t true. The really horrible stuff I’m still too fucked up to tackle because I’m still struggling to know how to say it out loud, even to myself. The truth is it hurts when someone drives nails into your hands. And it never stops hurting.

I don’t want to be the guy with the hammer anymore. Life really is too short, as Lemmy and David proved.

So goodbye W.A.R. It sure wasn’t fun writing you, I doubt it was much fun reading you, and you know what, it’s time to get you out of the fucking ring once and for all.

Meanwhile, back in the world of sunlight and song, I can’t wait to see what Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses do next. They are the last of the giants and I am a fan.

Lemmy Book Extract 4

This is an exclusive from my new book, Lemmy: The Definitive Biography. This is form Chapter Seven: Nobody’s Perfect

Lemmy was now a regular face in music paper gossip columns, as recognisable as any other major rock star. When he turned up unexpectedly on Top Of The Pops alongside his new friends the Nolan Sisters, as joint guests stars of a one-off single from the Young & Moody band, titled ‘Don’t Do That’, everyone was expected to laugh along at Lemmy in his white waiter’s jacket and moody mirrored sunglasses. Was Lemmy the dangerous one really turning into Lemmy the all-round entertainer?

Meanwhile, the British tabloid press was having a field day. The Sun ran pictures of Lemmy cuddling 16-year-old Coleen Nolan with a suitably lascivious story beneath. Gossip spread that Lemmy was dong his best to corrupt the youngest, prettiest Nolan. Something she was happy to confirm years later when she told the Huffington Post: “When I was younger Lemmy from Motörhead had a bit of thing for my breasts. I turned him down, mainly because I knew I wouldn’t be able to take him home to my mother! He was lovely though.”

Speaking in the wake of his death on her TV show, Loose Women, Coleen, now 50, recalled how “Lemmy was the nicest, most intelligent, philosophical person you could ever meet.” Before adding: “I remember how much he loved women and big boobs. He was certainly fascinated with mine. He used to say: ‘Great tits!’ but he was never being lecherous, he was just saying: ‘Be proud of yourself. It wasn’t creepy, Lemmy actually made me feel good about being a woman.”

As for Lemmy, he insisted there had been nothing untoward, although, he admitted, “it wasn’t for the want of trying. They are awesome chicks. People forget those girls were onstage with Frank Sinatra at the age of 12. They’ve seen most things twice. We were on Top of the Pops at the same time as them and our manager was trying to chat up Linda: the one with the bouffant hair and the nice boobs. He dropped his lighter and bent down to pick it up. Linda said to him, ‘While you’re down there, why don’t you give me a…’ It blew him away. We didn’t expect that from a Nolan sister. None of us did. We were supposed to be the smelliest, loudest motherfuckers in the building but we more than met our match. We were in awe. You couldn’t mess with the Nolan sisters.”

Phil Taylor affected not to give a shit about such shenanigans, deriding such efforts to friends while secretly wondering why he hadn’t been invited to along to the party. Eddie Clarke, though, quietly seethed. When Lemmy then announced plans for Motörhead to collude with Plasmatics singer Wendy O Williams in a roughed-up version of the old Tammy Wynette chestnut, ‘Stand By Your Man’, Eddie lost it big time.

The way Lemmy saw it the EP with Girlschool had given the band its biggest selling hit. Maybe this would work out that way too. For a start, Wendy was a good deal tougher than those girls. Leaving home at 16, she’d worked as a stripper, done live sex shows and starred in a porn movie, Candy Goes To Hollywood.  With The Plasmatics – a hardcore American punk band with a stage act that included blowing up speaker cabinets, sledgehammering television sets, even blowing up cars – Wendy performed onstage almost completely naked, long metal spikes covering her nipples, the rest of her squeezed into tiny bikini briefs.

She also had a Mohican, was a fitness freak and came from New York where trading insults with passers-by had been turned into an art. Lemmy thought she was the baddest, coolest chick on the scene and that a joint record with her would be a gas, gas, gas, and another potential big hit for the band – maybe even open up the doors for them in America. As Doug says, “Lemmy knew bloody well that if he did certain things he was going to make it bigger. And it was fun, good for a laugh, and Lemmy was up for it.”

The way Eddie saw it though was as a joke, and a very bad one at that. “I thought it was absolute shit!” he spits. “The idea had come up in a meeting at Bronze. Lemmy had been pictured in one of the music papers that week [Sounds] with Wendy at the Marquee. Everybody went, ‘Wow, yes!’ Except me.”

But Eddie’s objections were treated as a downer. Typical Eddie. Always moaning. He’d stop in a minute. Only he didn’t.

Lemmy Book Extract 3

New extract from my book, Lemmy: The Definitive Biography. Chapter Five: The Three Amigos.

Having stayed up for several days together just before Christmas 1975, Lemmy talked Phil, who had a car, into giving him a lift back to Rockfield, where sessions were due to continue [on the first Motörhead album]. When Phil told Lemmy he also played the drums Lemmy told him to bring them with him. Reluctantly, not seeing the need, he did so, and the two took off up the M4 for Wales. “I remember the windshield was smashed,” Lemmy later recalled, “but I had this bird in a fur coat sit on my lap so I was OK, I was warm.”

When they arrived at the studio, they stayed up together for another night, “skating on the ice,” as Lemmy put it. Early the next morning, Taylor ran outside into the garden, completely naked, and began bouncing around bashing at things, making a terrible row. When he noticed the curtains twitching in several nearby houses, he looked up at them and screamed, “It’s all right! I’m on drugs!” Later that day, Lemmy suggested Phil take a turn at the drums. Just to hear what he could do. Larry Wallis was there and the three of them rattled along together through a couple of numbers. At the end of which, Larry turned to Lemmy and gave his verdict. “What a horrible little cunt. He’s perfect.”

In fact, Phil Taylor was a far more accomplished drummer than either man had given him credit for. When it was suggested he try and re-record Lucas Fox’s drums, not rerecord the tracks, but actually just ‘drop in’ his own performances where Fox’s performances had now been wiped from the finished tapes – something even highly-paid session players might balk at – Phil did so effortlessly.  He was in. To underline the fact, Lemmy bestowed upon him the nickname he would be known by for the rest of his life: ‘Philthy Animal’.

The only track Taylor didn’t replace Fox on was ‘Lost Johnny’, prevented by an arrest in London for drunk and disorderly behaviour that meant he wasn’t able to get back to Rockfield in time. But by then the sessions in Wales were taking their toll. [Manager] Doug Smith recalls taking Tony Tyler of the NME to Rockfield to visit the band. “The first thing we saw was [producer] Dave Edmunds, his head flat on the mixing desk. He’d been sick. Phil is at the back doing lines of speed. And nothing’s happening. They’d been down there for weeks. It was chaos. They’d recorded a few tracks. But they were having more fun than working, just trying to see how far they could wipe out poor old Dave. Lemmy was bouncing around as usual being Lemmy. ‘I can handle it no problem at all. Those fuckers can’t.’”

Listening back to the album in London at the start of 1976, Andrew Lauder and other executives at UA were unsure of what they were supposed to be hearing. On Parole, as Lemmy had now titled the album after one of its better tracks, a barrelhouse Larry Wallis original, was hard to figure in the context of the times.

Listening to it now, it’s easy to see it as a proto-punk tour-de-force of ill-intentioned lyrics and back-to-basic rock’n’roll. Yet punk was another year away and the album’s speedy, ramshackle mien was at odds with the presiding fashion for overblown, epically-proportioned rock as evinced by 1975’s biggest stars like Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Queen. The nearest musical equivalent to what Motörhead had recorded was perhaps Dr Feelgood – and UA already had them on their roster.

By comparison, it’s easy to see why On Parole sounded like an awful hodgepodge to UA. Only three Lemmy numbers – all of them from his Hawkwind days: ‘Motorhead’, ‘The Watcher’ and ‘Lost Johnny’, albeit delivered with twice the speed and aggression of the originals. Four Larry Wallis songs, including two on which he sang lead – the cheerless ‘Vibrator’ and the Stonsey ‘Fools’. And one by Phil Taylor with help from one of the band’s Hell’s Angel friends Tramp, and probably the best track on the album, ‘Iron Horse/Born To Lose’.

A decision was taken to put the album “on hold.” Indefinitely. Someone would have to pay, Lemmy decided. When he then phoned Doug asking for another cut from the original UA advance, to keep the band going, “I told him there wasn’t any. The money had all gone. He said, ‘Oh, well, fuck it, Doug, I’ll find another manager.’ And he put the phone down on me. I thought, thank god. Never again!”

Lemmy: The Definitive Biography

The second extract from my new Lemmy book, out today.

Chapter Two

The Watcher

 Born to lose. Live to win. It was Motörhead’s catchphrase and, in the minds of his fans at least, Lemmy’s personal credo. Yet like all such braggadocio its roots lay in far less certain emotional terrain.

A war baby, born in Burslem, Stoke on Trent, on Christmas Eve, 1945, Ian Fraser Kilmister came into the world with a perforated eardrum and whooping cough. So weak was he that the midwife on duty advised his parents to request an emergency christening for fear he wouldn’t survive more than a few days. But survive he did, already defying the low expectations of those around him. Nevertheless, he didn’t meet his real father until he was already Lemmy, a twenty-five-year-old speed freak living in an Earl’s Court squat. “He was a horrible little fucker, bald with glasses,” he told me. “They separated when I was three months old, then later divorced.”

Did he ever discover why his parents had split up so soon after his birth? “Who knows why people split up? Dirty knickers on the bathroom shower rail once too often, these things get huge, don’t they?” He grinned as he said it but it’s clear Lemmy’s origins remained a mystery to him throughout his life. Moving with his mother to his maternal grandmother’s place in Newcastle-under-Lyme and then soon after to Madeley in Staffordshire, he spent his formative years alone, the only child of a single-mother in a post-war world where household goods were kept to essentials and entertainment was of the make-your-own variety.

As an only child, said Lemmy, “You grow up learning to be alone, which a lot of kids that grow up in large families never learn. They’re never alone so they never reflect much. You can’t think can you if someone’s trying to hit you with a cushion. There’s always something going on. Whereas if you’re an only child, especially with a working parent, I used to be on me own all day.” He became “the watcher,” he said, “taking it all in.” But that was good, he said, because “it teaches you how to be alone and not have it bother you. A lot of people can’t be alone. It freaks them out. And I can be alone from now on and it wouldn’t bother me at all. Because I know who I am and I’m my own best friend. It’s a great gift.”

Indeed, it was this aloneness – this ability to maintain his own time and space whatever social or professional situation he found himself in – that would come to define Lemmy for those that knew him. For someone who spent practically every night, when not touring, either out at a gig, or in a club or pub or party of some sort, for someone renowned for always being courteous to all-comers, no matter how obnoxious, Lemmy had a permanent aura about him of separateness, of never really being part of the crowd, of maintaining his own peculiar focus, whether on a slot machine, a book, or giving attention to whatever pretty face had just appeared on his radar.

He was a great talker who knew how to tune out of any conversation that didn’t interest him. It wasn’t just fools that were not to be suffered. It was anything that didn’t quite work for him. And if that left him alone quite, the last man standing, that was fine by him. He preferred it that way, actually.

“He’s always been very comfortable in his own skin,” says Stacia now, “because he’s has always known exactly who he is. Most people don’t know that. But Lemmy did.”

Lemmy Book Extract

My book, Lemmy: The Definitive Biography, comes out in the UK tomorrow, though you can get it now on Amazon and in certain branches of Waterstones. Here is an exclusive extract from Chapter Six: Don’t Forget The Joker.

In May 1980, Bronze Records released a live four-track EP, The Golden Years, comprising cheaply recorded live versions of ‘Leaving Here’, ‘Stone Dead Forever’, Dead Men Tell No Tales’ and ‘Too Late, Too Late’. It immediately leapt into the charts at Number 8 and the band were back again on Top Of The Pops, miming along convincingly to ‘Leaving Here’. Radio 1 refused to play any of the EP’s tracks, though. Complaining Lemmy’s vocal was mixed too low. So Bronze hurriedly remixed ‘Leaving Here’, bringing up the vocal track, and reissued it to the station as a special seven-inch single. They still refused to play it.

Recording at producer Vic Maile’s Jackson’s Studios in Rickmansworth, a few miles outside London, this next album would, for many long-term fans at least, be the last of the true Motörhead masterpieces. The sound was better than on Bomber or Overkill – Maile had worked in the past with such giants as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Who and knew exactly how to get a great live band to replicate their best work in a studio – and the 12-tracks, again, were built around three truly colossal Motörhead moments: the title track, ‘Ace Of Spades’, ‘(We Are) The Road Crew’, and ‘The Chase Is Better Than The Catch’.

The former, of course, would go on to become the band’s signature song, like ‘Satisfaction’ for the Stones or ‘All Right Now’ for Free, by the time of Lemmy’s death 35 years later, ‘Ace Of Spades’ was still the one song everybody knew him by. The one song no Motörhead show would ever be complete without. With its rumbling thunder bass, lightning fast drums and speedy, corner-hugging guitar riff, overlaid by a thrilling lyric in which gambling metaphors become code for how to live your life to the full, Lemmy outdid himself this time – although, as he was always quick to point out, he was never much of a poker player in real life, always preferring the swinging arm of the fruit machines (one of which he now had installed in the dressing room on tour each night). Thus we hear about ‘snake eyes’ – double one on a gambling dice – and the ‘dead man’s hand, aces and eights’, “Wild Bill Hickcock’s hand when he got shot,” he explained.

And of course, it’s immortal pay-off line, about being born to lose, and how gambling’s for fools, ‘But that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever!’ One of the greatest kiss-offs in rock history, followed by the final twist of the absurdist knife, ‘And don’t forget the joker!’ Cue: that fearfully cackling, gloriously insane solo. How true was it, though, I asked him. Wouldn’t it come back to haunt him? The way Pete Townshend’s famous line in ‘My Generation’ – ‘Hope I die before I get old’ – eventually did? “Of course!” he laughed. “See, I cover a lot more ground than Townshend. ‘I don’t want to live forever is a long time. You could be 294 and not reach ‘forever’. But I think you’d be sick of it by then. I think anybody would be sick of it by then. Even me. And I like to stay up late, you know? Actually, I’d like to die the year before forever. To avoid the rush…”

The other major cornerstones of the album, also embraced tenets of Lemmy’s personal philosophy. The most affecting, ‘(We Are) The Road Crew’. Having once been a roadie himself, Lemmy always felt an affinity for the hard-working roadies and crew that gave their all on tour for Motörhead. Lemmy recalls in his memoir how when one of roadies, Ian ‘Eagle’ Dobbie heard the song, “he had a tear in his eye.” More rowdy and to the point was ‘The Chase Is Better Than the Catch’, which drew bile from several female rock writers, but Eddie couldn’t see what the fuss was about. “It’s about the true life experience of what it’s like being in a band like this,” he says now. Cos when you haven’t got a pot to piss in and slogging around the country and having a fucking laugh, you haven’t got time for thinking. If you got a drink and a joint and toot you figure your fucking life’s sweet, man, and a bird’s fucking sucking you off, what more do I ever want?”

When ‘Ace Of Spades’ was released as the lead-off single from the album in October, despite little or no airplay again, it rocketed into the charts at Number 15, triggering yet another Top Of The Pops appearance and yet more front covers on Sounds and Melody Maker. What really hit home for Lemmy, though, was when the Ace Of Spades album went straight into the charts at Number 4!

“That was it, really, “ Lemmy would tell me years later. “We thought we’d made it, and actually we had. And that’s when we started to fuck up. Not all at once, but that was probably the start.”

[More tomorrow…]

Friday Night at The Troub

No, I wasn’t there. And neither were you, let’s not kid ourselves. But in spirit it, most definitely. We were all there.

Funny how all these years later things are much as they left it in 1993. Axl, Slash, Duff, in that order, with a couple of good guys filling in where Izzy and Steven once were. Dizzy was still there too. Along with a new face in Melissa Reese, the girl-genius Bryan Mantia probably introduced Axl to.

The reaction, though, the electric buzz, the impossible vibe, that insensible yet tangible net of intrigue surrounding their every move before, during and after the show, that was all there like the last 23 years never happened. I love that. You don’t know how much it’s been missing from rock until suddenly there it is again.

I know some who were there. And they tell me it’s all true, it’s all for real. That Steven actually was going to be there too but he hurt his back during rehearsals. They also told me some other things which I feel a douche for keeping to myself, but I’ve never been into spoilers. Why ruin the fun? This is the year when the fun is finally back to taunt us.

And didn’t Axl look great? No hat, until the end, no shades, just that guy we remember from the golden daze, a little heavier but so what? It’s a lifetime later, dude, and I wish I still looked that good. Slash and Duff of course are like Batman and Superman, they have never get old. Not on the outside. Just enough on the onside to help make this finally happen.

Friday night at the Troub, man. This was no April Fool’s joke. This was something unexpected. Up there, out there, so many people in LA from the old days no longer invited to the party, too. You’ve got to feel for them. Their past right there on their doorstep and no one from the band even acknowledging them anymore. Don’t blame Axl. That game is over. Whatever happens from now on, this is all about Slash and Duff too. And good for them, I say. What are Guns N’ Fuckin’ Roses if not the band that always did it their way, fuck you very much?

Which is why we loved them so. Why a whole generation grew up while they were away and love them even more. And why we’re all here again, the young and the old, the innocent and the guilty, those invited to the party and those in the rearview. Because there’s never been anyone quite like them. Not Zeppelin, not the Stones, maybe only Lemmy and even he turned up for his shows on time. Never went away to live alone in the shadows. Never really felt the pain the way Axl and Slash and Duff did. Do. Still.

Only now they’re back. Oh, yeah.

Only one word for it.

Fuck.

The Rock’n’roll Detective 3

CHAPTER THREE

After she had gone I sat there thinking it over. I felt a slight twinge in my trousers. I ignored it. I had work to do. People to see. A cheque to get to the bank.

I got up, pulled on my leather jacket and stumbled out the door and down the stairs. Then stumbled back again and turned off the laptop. Threw the dirty cappa cup with the fag end in it into the wastepaper bin and drew the blinds. It wasn’t dark yet, not out there anyway, but I knew I wouldn’t be back today.

Then down the stairs and out into whatever came next. I had Googled Yoko’s address on my phone. She lived in Kensington. Too far to walk, too expensive for a cab. I would take the tube, then go on to the Natural History Museum afterwards. They had a good canteen. Getting that nice fat cheque in the bank could wait till tomorrow. She was good for it. Good for a lot of things. Not that I would ever find out. Sad. But life was sad, wasn’t it? Sad and hard and barely worth it, most of the time. Not today, though. I would pay this Yoko a visit and get it out of her, what happened. Or at least let her know I was onto her. Her and all her kind, and had been for a very long time. Ancient enemies squaring up for another fight to the finish.

I checked my watch. Would it be better to get a coffee now or later?

Later. I hustled my act down the road towards Piccadilly tube, ignoring the tourists and the homeless. Holding my breath as I passed the smokers standing outside the restaurants and bars. Nine years since I’d been forced to quit and I still missed it.

It was coming up to rush-hour and the train was already heaving. I squeezed in with the rest of the eternally damned and hung on tight till the train finally pulled into South Kenny station.

Years ago I used to have friends around here somewhere. Posh kids – well, posh to me – who flat-shared this amazing basement pad, where all the girls were cool and thin and the boys were all so much smarter and more switched on than me. They spoke in a language I barely understood. Laughed at jokes I had to take away with me to think about. Lent each other books I would never read.

Now here I was all these years and decades and lifetimes later still none the wiser, just older. More gut. Less hair.

I found it pretty easy. One of those class joints with the iron railings and big steps up to the door. I climbed them steady, waited at the top while I caught my breath, and rang the bell. Nothing happened. I rang it again.

The door opened and there she stood. Yoko. Looking not in the least oriental. More like a Marilyn, blonde, hot, red lipstick, full bloom. No white dress blowing up around her waist though. This Marilyn was in a dressing gown. A man’s dressing gown.

“Excuse me,” I said, “I’m looking for Yoko? Is that you?”

“Yes,” she said, looking me over. “What can I do for you?”

“My name is Nick Weston and I’m a private detective. I’ve been retained by Miss Bonnie Scott to try and find her brother John.”

She didn’t flinch. “Yes, and what’s that got to do with me?”

“I heard you and he were girlfriend and boyfriend.”

“Ex-girlfriend and boyfriend. We broke up ages ago. I haven’t seen him since. Goodbye.”

She went to close the door but I put my foot in it, forcing it ajar.

“Whoa! Whoa!” I cried. The door damn near broke my foot.

“Get your fucking foot out of my door or I’ll call the police!”

“When was the last time you saw him, John?”

She left the door open and ran inside. I followed her, slowly.

“Yoko? Yoko? It’s OK, there’s nothing to be afraid of, I’m just looking for John, cos his sister’s worried. Just a little talk?”

No sound. I pushed open a door. It was dark in there and smoky. Incense. Joints. Silk scarves probably. I coughed.

“Yoko? Come on, give peace a chance…”

Then I saw him. It. A giant. A  giant’s shadow. Moving towards me like a stinking wind.

I tried to react, to get out of the way. Not quickly enough.

Thwack!

I went down. Down and down and down. All the way, almost. And out. Cartoon stars dancing round my ugly dog face. Oh no, Yoko…

The Rock’n’roll Detective 2

Chapter Two

Bang on three o’clock the buzzer went. I staggered over to answer it.

“Yes?”

“Mr Weston?”

“Who’s calling?”

“It’s me!”

“Me?”

“Bonnie Scott”

“Come on up. Third floor.”

“Is there a lift?”

“No. Sorry. It’s not a long way to the top though.”

I buzzed her in then staggered back to my desk. The laptop was playing Fairport. Who Knows Where The Time Goes? Sandy certainly didn’t. That guitar of Richard’s, though, could still turn up your gas. I hit pause and opened a window. It got stuffy in there when I was sat on my own for too long. Listening and thinking.

I could hear her steps coming up the old wooden stairs. I sat there trying not to notice, to feel busy.

She knocked on the glass door and I waved her in.

Jesus Christ! I had expected a looker from the phone call. You can just tell sometimes. But I hadn’t imagined something like this. Beautiful. A stunner. Tall. And big. Everywhere. Arse, tits, long red hair. All out to get you. To nail you for the snivelling little shit you knew you were.

I love to look at a woman like that. But I like to be prepared. To go into training, set up base camp for six months at the foot of the mountain and get down to some serious bodywork with a good trainer. Put in the time, get my muscle tone up and shed some pounds. Maybe get a weave. And a tan. It’s amazing what they can do these days. Make a dead man look like a comer. I almost never managed it though and would find myself trapped, ambushed by their beauty. Cornered like a rat. An old, fat, smelly rat, with reading glasses and no hair.

“Mr Weston?” she said, looking uncomfortable. Knowing what I was thinking. They always know what you’re thinking.

“Please,” I said, pointing to the chair, “Nick.”

“Nick,” she said, turning the chair into a throne, “I’m Bonnie Scott.”

“Yes,” I said, my throat dry, my eyes trying not to look at it all. “Take a seat.”

She fiddled with her handbag, shiny black leather. Pulled out a silver cigarette case. Wow. How often do you see that anymore?

“May I?” she said.

I nodded my head. She thumbed a silver lighter, set fire to the end and blew out lots of smoke. Then sat upright again, looking back at me.

The world shifted, the air moved. I wiped a tear from my dead dog’s eye. It was at times like this you could really use a cigarette yourself. Give you something to do, light one up, while the mind tried to reload itself. Try and ignore the north face of whatever it was it was being forced to face north towards.

“Are you all right, Mr Weston? You look… unwell.”

“I’m fine,” I leered. “Care for a coffee? A large cappuccino perhaps? There’s a Costa downstairs…”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

“Something stronger, perhaps?”

“No, thanks, it’s a bit early for me.”

I reached for my own cup of cappa. It was almost gone. I finished it off. Felt some of it dribbling down my chin and cursed myself. She looked on, not saying anything. Just thinking it.

“Well,” I said, “Tell me everything. Start at the beginning. Leave out nothing. Remember, any little detail, no matter how insignificant seeming, could be important. Vital, even, to breaking this case.”

“Well, it’s my brother. He’s gone missing.”

“Uh huh. Name?”

“John. John Scott.”

“Yes. Age?”

“He’s 19.”

“Hmmm. And you?”

“I’m 23, though I’m not sure what that has to do with it.”

“Everything is everything. It’s all good. You get me?”

“Not really. Are you sure you’re all right?”

“Never better. Seriously, it’s all good.”

She looked at me. I was losing her.

“You tell me everything I need to know and I decide what’s a keeper. That’s how it works, Okay?”

She kept looking at me. “Okay.”

“Boyfriends? Girlfriends?”

“Who? My brother?”

“Him. You. Both.”

“My brother has a girlfriend. Or should I say, had a girlfriend. I’m single, though I don’t see what…”

“Trust me. This is important stuff.”

“Then why aren’t you writing it down?”

“The old noggeroon.” I pointed to my head. “It all goes in there and eventually the answers just pop out. Best computer in the world.”

“That’s true, I suppose.” She smiled. Weak sunlight peeping through the curtains.

“Are you sure you won’t have a drink?”

She shook her big beautiful head and her big beautiful hair followed. Amazing, like watching the sunset on a Hawaiian island as the waiter brought you Mai Tais. Like losing yourself in a waterfall of ringlets. I think I read that somewhere. It described it just right, though. A waterfall of ringlets. Made you want to push your big ugly dogface right into them. Just for the smell. Like bluebells, I betted. On a rainy day in May.

“Mr Weston?” she said.

“Nick,” I said, “Yes?”

“You’re staring. Are you all right?”

“What? No, I’m fine.” Forced my face to come back. “How long?” I asked.

“How long what?”

“How long has your brother been missing.”

“Over a month now.”

“A month? That’s not long for a young guy. Maybe he just took off. Went to Ibiza, or down to Brighton for the day, decided he liked it and stayed.”

“Not my brother. And not without telling Yoko.”

“Who’s Yoko?”

“His girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend.”

“Wait. I’m confused. Your brother John has – had – a girlfriend named Yoko?”

“Yes.”

“That’s kind of funny, don’t you think? John and Yoko?”

“No, why?”

“Nothing… I suppose. Why is she his ex?”

“They broke up.”

“No shit.”

“I mean they broke up just before he went missing. That’s why I’m so worried. I think he might have… done something to himself.”

She began to sniffle. I looked around for some tissue, a rag, anything. Couldn’t see one, so got up and went down the hall to the communal toilet. Tore some off from the bog roll and came back into the office with it in my hand. Folded it and handed it to her, kind and gentle, all the time sneaking glances at that bod. I couldn’t help myself. Never mind John and Yoko, what was her story? Where was her boyfriend? Why had they broken up?

She took the folded bog roll and dabbed her eyes. “Thank you.”

I sat back down, staring at her again. More comfortably this time, though. Tears and tissues invoke intimacy. Like you’ve already been through so much, which you have. Don’t we all go through the same old shit, in the end?

It was all very confusing. Not just this, but everything. That’s why I needed the big cappas and the red wine in the evenings, to help me through. We all needed something. Even a total babe like that. Maybe especially one like that. How did they manage to get through the days, the nights? The whole world staring at them every time they turned their heads? Every time they inhaled, exhaled?

I decided to make things easy for her.

“Look,” I said, “I can see you’re struggling here. Let me make this easy for you. I can find your brother, I’m sure of it. I know exactly where to start too. Just give me this Yoko’s address and mobile number. And email, if you have it. Here,” I pushed a writing pad and pen towards her. She took it and began writing.

“The only other thing I need is a small advance. Say, a week’s worth?”

She didn’t even look up. “How much do I owe you?”

“£150-a-day. Seven days in advance, so that’s…”

“£1,050.”

 “Plus expenses,” I said, “which I will bill you for later.” Pause. “It’s not cheap, I admit that. But I think you’ll find it worth it.”

She pulled out her cheque book. “If you can find my brother, Mr Weston…”

“Nick, please…”

“… it will be worth every penny.”

I took the cheque and put it in the drawer. Then got her out of there fast before either of us changed what was left of our minds.

The Rock’n’roll Detective

Chapter One

I was sitting sweating in my 3rd floor shithole in Soho, wondering if anyone ever got out alive. The VAT were after me. The tax. The mortgage. It was so far beyond I wasn’t even worried anymore. No more sleepless nights for me. I had simply given up. Or was trying to.

On the laptop, I had found the One from the Heart soundtrack on YouTube and it had sent me right back to the summer of ’83. A hot one. The movie had just come out and we had gone to the cinema to see it four or five times. The arty one in Curzon Street. Or the Curzon in Soho, maybe? Something.

You could smoke inside in those days and we would sit there with a carrier bag of beers under the seat. She would have her little quarter bottles of vodka in her bag too. And her speed. I never found out about that until later. I was in love and my head was full of cheese. All I knew was we were together. Just like the couple in One from the Heart. They were breaking up and we had just gotten together but somehow it all related. Mostly, I think it was the music. Tom and Crystal. Was there ever a better combo? Now, suddenly, 30 years later, here I was again, digging it. On my own this time, though. No more her and no more cigarettes either. No more nothing. Just this.

The phone rang. I nearly jumped out of my skin. You still got calls on your mobile occasionally but the main phone? Only the call-centre cunts called you on that. “Hello, sir, and how are you today?” Click…

I looked at the face, expecting Withheld or Unknown. This caller actually had a number. One I didn’t recognise, though. I thought about letting the machine get it then had a change of heart. Picked up.

“Hello?”

“Mr Weston?” A female voice. Young, sexy.

“Who’s calling?”

“Are you Mr Weston?” Sharp, no messing.

“Who’s calling?”

She sighed. “Look, I’m not from the tax or the VAT, Okay?”

“Okay,” I said. “Then…”

“I have a job for you, if you’re interested. Bob Kirby gave me your number. Said you were the best at… this type of thing.”

“Bob Kirby?” I always got a little tingle whenever I heard that name. Bob was a real deal detective. No divorce cases and penny ante shit. Yet somehow he had taken a shine to me. Passed me the scraps off the table sometimes. I didn’t know why, I just took them gratefully and didn’t look down.

“I see. How can I help?”

“Well, it’s my brother…”

“He’s missing?”

“How did you know?”

“Most of what I do is missing persons, unfaithful husbands, nuisance neighbours, run-over cats.”

“This is different.”

Of course it was. We are all different when it comes to needing help. Nobody needs it more than you do. In the background, Tom was singing “I beg your pardon, dear…”

“Well, you better come to my office.”

“When can you see me?”

“I’ll have to check my diary. This week already looks bad.”

I pretended to scuffle around.

“Oh. Well, if you’re too busy perhaps I should go somewhere else.”

“Wait,” I said, trying not to sound desperate. “I might be able to fit you in today sometime, if you can make it.”

“Today would be great.”

“I’ll have to move things around.”

“I could come now?”

“I should warn you, if I take the case I’ll need an advance.”

“That won’t be a problem, Mr Weston.”

“Oh?”

“I’m willing to pay whatever it takes.”

“Oh? How about this afternoon then… say, around 3pm?”

“That’s great, thank you. I’ll see you then.”

“Wait,” I said. “What’s the name?”

“Scott,” she said, “Bonnie Scott.”

“Bonnie Scott? Like AC/DC?”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

I gave her the address and she put down the phone. We both did.

A case. Money in advance not a problem. Whatever it takes. Things were looking up. I reached over and had a sip from the cold cup of Costa. Cold cappa. Fine by me. I sat there swilling it around my mouth as Tom and Crystal treated the room to a little Instrumental Passage. Felt the nostalgia hit me like a train.

This Will Change Your Life

2000. Ish. There’s this guy. (There’s always a guy.) Documentary maker. TV guy. Films. Who knows what. Invites me on to be interviewed for a Channel Four thing he’s making. Stadium bands? Something like that. I’ve done at least two of those. Maybe four or five, over the years. Along with the dozens of others about stadium bands but in other contexts. Here and in America. Anyway, he comes to the Classic Rock office when it was down in Bath and I was still the daddy. I do my thing. He very much likes it. I know cos that’s what he said. “I very much liked that.”

Months pass. We’re back in London. He calls again. Another thing, also Channel Four. (Or could be Five.) I do it. He loves it. This time though he brings a copy of my book Paranoid with him. Starts talking about it: amazing, love it, amazing, couldn’t put it down, amazing, have you ever thought about…?

Third meet. This time at night, some bar in the West End where everybody knows his name. More talking. Could Paranoid be a movie, a documentary, a TV show? I say, sure, why not? But he’d have to put it together. I know nothing of all that stuff. He says, of course! Totally not a problem. Starts talking about coming up to my place “in the country” and the two of us working side by side together on the script. At the time, I live in a two-up-two-down in Didcot. With wife and baby. Not what he is thinking of but I say nothing.

As we part that night, new best friends, he hugs me and says the immortal words: “This is gonna change your life!” I leave and immediately phone my young wife. “Our lives are about to change!”

I NEVER HEAR FROM HIM AGAIN. NEVER. EVER.

A couple of years later, Sharon Osbourne phones late one night to ask me to do her “a really big favour” and ghost the autobiography of her father, Don Arden. She tells me how much she loves me, asks about the family, suggests a get together, and the next day the whole thing starts coming together.

A deal is made via my agent Robert. I will ghost Don’s memoirs. Sharon and Ozzy will do everything they can to support it. Everyone wins. I begin visiting Don’s flat in Park Lane regularly. Don has Alzheimer’s and it is important I get what I can from him before his memory goes completely. Don was the self-professed Godfather of Rock. Many big figures in the biz terrified of him. But I am the Godfather of Rock Storytelling and I love every minute I spend with him.

He makes me laugh. Walking around in my second-hand-shop jacket and telling me: “Dear oh fucking dear! You’ll have to pay a visit to my tailor if you’re going to be seen in public with me! Can’t have you walking around in fucking rags!”

He makes big plans. When the book comes out we are going to do tours together, An Evening with the Don. Channel Four Films start to film us working together for a big doc to go with the book. Miramax are interested in making a film of the book. Don tells me, “This is gonna change your life!”

The book gets done but doesn’t come out for two years because Sharon won’t sign off on it. The Osbournes has turned her into a big star and history is hurriedly rewritten. What book? Then when it does finally come out not only does she disown it she gets her personal Darth Vadar to ring Robert and tell him I am taking advantage of a sick old man and using the Osbournes’ name to sell the book. Robert faxes him over the contracts signed by all involved.

AND I NEVER HEAR FROM ANY OF THEM AGAIN. EXCEPT FOR THE NEXT TIME OZZY IS INVITED TO THE CLASSIC ROCK AWARDS AND SHARON TELLS THEM I AM BANNED FROM GOING.

Years go by and history keeps repeating itself. Not one, not two, but three different film producers come along over the next 10 years telling me they love my Led Zep book so much they want to make a movie based on it. I tell them no chance, Jimmy doesn’t like it and will never let them have any music. They all to a man laugh and tell me nooooo problem, that this movie was going to change my life. I say, OK, well, let me know how you get on. And guess what?

I NEVER HEARD FROM ANY OF THEM AGAIN. NEVER. EVER.

Then recently this, as far as I can tell completely legitimate, TV and film guy comes along via FB and tells me how my best stories would make a great TV series. I intimate that I’ve heard this somewhat before, and that I am actually ridiculously busy. But, hey, if he’s serious and really up for it, he can start putting things into motion and check back with me. This, miraculously, he does. He is patient, understanding, and lo and behold a couple of weeks ago he sent me the whole caboodle. Series title and outline. Episode breakdowns. Even a sample script for the opening episode. I am impressed. He now has my attention.

We arrange to Skype. I print out his stuff and make notes. Send him my email. And…

He’s vanished. Our whole message thread on FB seems to have been deleted. He hasn’t emailed me and we didn’t have our Skype call. And what strikes me, apart from the disappointment and weariness, is the inevitability of it. The message being.

YOUR LIFE IS NOT ABOUT TO CHANGE. NEVER. EVER.