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.

From Russia With Love

I get asked all the time about new bands, new artists, who will be the next Guns or Tallica or Whoever. And I don’t know. And I don’t really care. And then one day something falls on me like hard rain and I feel the need to… share. Like this email – and links to music – I just got sent the other day. Like a prig GNR maybe. Or… something. Anyway, that’s for you to decide. I think they have something, though. So…

Good day, dear Mick!

We are very happy to reach you through the infinite web and we dare to bother you with a request. We are an experimental musical band from “hostile” Russia called “208 Talks of angels”.

We strongly believe that all people on the globe are not enemies in any sense, but all brothers and sisters in spite of all political intrigues, lies and pervasive disinformation.

We sing our songs about difficulties we all face; we sing our songs about better things, trying to unite our fissured and tormented world, trying to open our eyes, minds and hearts and tell others to do the same. Yes, we trying to do it by means of music, because music is the only thing we have.

And we have great news – more and more musicians, writers, radio stations, DJs, artists and just people from all over the world join our initiative which helps many people meet and enjoy the life by means of our music – podcasts, radio-programs, tweets, notes, mentions, messages, texts, newspapers, journals and so on!

Among people who already with us: Stephen Fry (world-known actor – his 12 million twitter tweet), Matt Letley (drummer of Status Quo – collaboration on song), Dave Abbruzzese from Pearl Jam (played drums), John Rabbit Bundrick (collaboration on song – hammond and piano) Tony Cook (ex. Michael Jackson, Prince – collaboration on song), Douglass Rushkoff (writer – permission to use any of his texts), Timothy DiDuro ( ex. Skid Row – drums on song), Alice Cooper (radio programs), Bruno Kramm (Das Ich – Article in German Newspaper), Alan Cross (musical writer – Article), Dave Eggar (cellist – collaboration on song), Marty Grebb (Eric Clapton band – Electric organ on song), Phil Dynan (American Artist – CD cover), note in The Guardian and many-many more!

It will be a great honor for our musical group to offer you to listen to our works and tell us if you would like to be the part of it all and help us by giving any possible exposure – spreading the word of kindness, unity and integrity for ALL.
All our music is absolutely free and you can easily listen or download it on our SoundCloud page https://soundcloud.com/208talksofangels

More information about our band and collaborations you can find on our wiki page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/208_Talks_of_Angels

Please, if you like what we do and you are able to help us somehow – no matter how – or you maybe know someone who could be interested or able to do that, please, don’t pass this letter by. All means are perfect and suitable!

Either way, we are happy, that you read our words, the words of hope and gratitude.

Please, take our warmest regards and greatest respect; let the sun always shine over your head, “208 Talks of angels”, Russia.

PS. Please spend 3 minutes to check out our latest retro hard-rock song made in collaboration with maestros form worldwide-known bands “Pearl Jam” and “The Who”!!!

https://soundcloud.com/208talksofangels/angle-of-view-ft-dave-abbruzzese-and-john-rab-bundrick

Many-many thanks in advance!

 

Notes To Self

Dear Sir Wall,

You probably tire of getting notes from readers telling you how great you are, but……….
Not to be the first one in on anything, I just this morning finished the last page of your Zep tome “When Giants……”.  I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book!  There are some other good ones out there on Page & Co. these many years down the line, but this rocketed to the summit of my list.  Every aspect of this one is top shelf Mick, so my sincere thanks for giving us interested parties this gift.  Loved it!!!
Won’t wank off on the details or detain you further.  Just had to scribble you a quick appreciation for work well done…………. it was a pleasure.
Regards, Mike Mitchell – usa
Hi Mick-Have just finished your Zepp book [Gods…] I read musicians biographies as a matter of course-anything from Miles to Metallica-and have also read ‘Hammer…’ some years back,but your habit of reflecting on the various characters in the 2nd person [I think…] In Italics anyhoo is totally brilliant Mate !! RJW ps Also FB’d U 
Sir:

Don’t expect a response just had to write this.

Just finished your AC/DC book. Excellent as usual. I must commend you, however, on Giants Zeppelin book: a remarkable achievement.

I’m a 57 year rock n roll animal who was a rock journo from age 14 on (a D rate Cameron Crowe) and know you as the genuine item in the spirit of Lester and Creem.

Again, liked Young book as you really nailed how Bon mattered. Most. I wept the day he died as I read page A3 of LA Times. Powerage Rules. Gone Shootin my fave track ever.

As sad as I am about Malcolm’s dementia clearly he was not a good guy. Karma? I mean, firing Ian and Mensch? Other note: I actually find Stiff Upper Lip the closest thing to Powerage. Love record aside from last two duff tracks. It swings=Rudd.

The Zep book, the device you employed: brilliant.  Absolutely one of best rock n roll books ever.

As a huge Stranglers fan (for me right there with Beatles) hope you someday write about that stroppybunch. Of course may not be your cup of tea.

Anyway hope you read this and thanks for your terrific work.

Sincerely
PaulMcGuire
Canyon Country CA

Mick

Great work on the doors story I had read many versions of the doors myths and thoroughly enjoyed your recent version and the reconstruction of Jim’s last hours.

After reading the led zeppelin book (again post doors) I walked away from both feeling that both bands careers appear to have been aided greatly by forces unknown to many, myself, included.  Can you recommend any literature which can shed light ?

Be sound

John

Hi Mick, another Christmas, another Mick Wall book.

 

This has been happening now since the Led Zeppelin Book When Giants Walked The Earth and year after year you never fail to impress.

 

This year the latest in your impressive list of books Foo Fighters Learning To Fly continued that, giving insights into Nirvana and the Foo Fighters

themselves but especially Dave Grohl and from start to finish was hard to put down, interesting and funny. Written by one of, if not the best rock writer

of my generation yourself it’s another welcome addition to my growing collection of Mick Wall books

 

I only wish that the Germans as I live in Germany would get up to speed, I have to wait until spring 2016 for Getcha Rocks Off 😉

 

Thanks for writing these fantastic books and I can’t wait for Xmas next year to see what Santa finds from you.

 

Regards

 

Dave Robinson

 

Hi Mick,

First off you are a brilliant author and I love the books you have previously published!

Not sure if I have come to the right place, but Christmas Day this year I was delighted when my mother in law gifted me the Foo Fighters: Learning To Fly book, as I am a humungous Foo Fighters fan and have been since the first time my dad took me to a concert.

They are the one band currently getting my dad through cancer treatment for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma!

I am part the way through the book but unfortunately have found a small issue with my book. There is a blank space on the page that I unfortunately can not read (picture attached). I have checked a couple of other books at the store and they seem to be the same but the attendant told me there is nothing they can do about it.

I am just wondering if there is anyway you can help me with this as I can not make out what the words are.

Kind Regards

Taylor Krikke

Another Goodbye To Another Good Friend

You see the kids throwing their devil horns online and you appreciate the gesture, knowing how much it meant to him to have the young always on his side. But that’s not how I feel when I think of Lemmy now he’s finally gone to meet the great speed dealer in the sky.

I think of the gentle cat who always lurked not that far beneath the surface. Lemmy may have ended his days as the hard man of rock, the Coolfather, but once I got to know him I never saw him like that at all. In fact, the only times I ever really knew him to act the Great I Am was when he was in a foul mood about something. His big thing was lack of recognition, lack of respect, being treated as some two-dimensional character that didn’t know the joke was on him. But Lemmy knew. Knew what had been taken from him. Knew what he’d so cheaply given away. Knew far more than was good for him.

No wife called Sharon to sort Lemmy out. No Yoda in the mountains to read him his crystals. No one brave enough to try and talk to him one to one, man to man, and tell him, hey, we love you, but you’ve really go to stop with the speed and the whiskey and shit. So that in the last years I knew him I never fancied  going out with him like I had once upon a long ago. I’d grown up, moved on. The very thought of speed and fags enough to give me a tightness in the chest that would force me back on my arse before I’d even got my left boot on.

That does not mean he was not wise. He was wise and there was love in is heart. But he was a born loner and that’s the way he liked it baby. He said he didn’t want to live forever. Well, he didn’t. And really what a grey boring world it would be if Lemmy had not walked it for us for so very long. Like Jeffery Bernard or Charles Bukowski or – more to Lemmy’s taste – Dylan Thomas. Born to die. Lived to win. No doubt. Yet it makes me feel queasy seeing everyone sucking up saying what an outlaw he was. Your Dave (mummy’s boy) Grohl and your Gene (fingers down throat) Simmons. Or your Alice ‘Going thru the Motions) Cooper and your Johnny (playacting) Depp. None of these boys have the faintest fucking idea who or what Lemmy was. They thought he was an ‘icon’, never knowing how much Lemmy would have choked on such sanctimonious bullshit.

Not that Lemmy was above letting the little LA rock starfuckers suck his spotty dick. It offered some justification for a life spent hanging on for something better. Lemmy was a writer not a fighter. A lover not a robber. A mutual girlfriend once told me what a sensitive, romantic lover he was. Of course, the very next night he’d likely be off being super sensitive and romantic with someone else. But Lemmy never faked it. Never pretended to be true blue when sometimes all he could see was red. And he never gave in. Boy, how he never gave in.

I wouldn’t have swapped places with Lemmy for all the speed in California, but I’m sure glad someone like him was still out there doing whatever the fuck he wanted while he could like he knew he would.

Sometime in the early 1990s he took to faxing me his poetry. He’d not long moved to LA and I’d not long moved back to London. And I’d get up in the morning and there would be this long trail of greasy fax paper littering my hallway where he’d been faxing me again. He wrote in this wholly speed freak-like gothic script. Heavy stuff about blood and murder and lost kingdoms of pain. I would sit there on the bed reading this stuff, still not quite awake, and wonder what I was supposed to do with it? So I started faxing him back some poems of my own. I was on the dole at the time and writing poems was the only kind of writing I was doing. He immediately stopped sending me anything. He wasn’t into my shit. He only wanted me to show interest in his shit. Typical rock star, you might day. Well, yeah, except no other rock star was ever like Lemmy.

While I’ve Been Away…

Most will have guessed, no doubt, why I haven’t been keeping up any kind of blogging these past few weeks. Well, I’ve finished it. My Lemmy book, that is.

Originally, when I first proposed the idea to my book publishers back in 2014, it was going to be a Motörhead biography. Then when Lemmy died over Christmas it seemed churlish and just somehow wrong not to rethink the idea and make the book a Lemmy biography. Of course, a Lemmy biography and a Motörhead biography are essentially one and the same. And so it has proved. Approaching it, though, as Lemmy biography, per se, has enabled me to write what I now believe to be the definitive account of both. Motörhead was always essentially a dream Lemmy had that he shared with other people. And the most important of those people are fully represented here.

I’m going to talk more about the actual details in the days and weeks to come, as well as begin running exclusive extracts when the book is published in April. Meanwhile, this is a quick note just to wave from the window of what has become something very close to a prison cell these past few weeks. I want to get the book out quicker than originally planned. To contribute to the conversation, as it were, while it’s still fresh and alive in people’s minds. For example, anybody I interviewed before Lemmy’s death was reinterviewed in the wake of his passing. A great many others I only got to after his death. So that the book is viewed very much from how the world is now the old rascal has left it.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this will be some sort of hagiography though. I don’t pay much store by that old cliché of not speaking ill of the dead. Lemmy and I had many a dirty chuckle over the near-40 years I knew him about various old bastards that had led the way to the great gig in the sky. And you just know any biography that pulled its punches would not be one Lemmy would have read or recommended. And he was a great reader.

That said, listening back to some of the recordings of our conversations over the years was a particularly moving, funny and poignant experience. One long interview, in particular, done in 1997, when as his former PR I’d been told on the quiet he was ill and may not have much longer to live, was deeply moving. Of course, as we now know, he had another nearly 20 years to go, and I never did do anything with that interview. Listening back to it after so long, hearing me laughing at him telling some outrageous story, then finding myself laughing along to it anew, made for a very odd experience. Mainly, it made me realise how huge his contribution was to rock music and rock history, and how very, very much we are all going to miss him.

Hopefully this book will reactivate some of the same feelings in the readers. I’m sure you’ll all be quick to let me know.

Jonesing

I would kneel by the bed, keyboard-cassette player at hand, wait for ‘Suffragette City’ to start and take a deep breath, lyric sheet at the ready. “Hey man,” I’d sing, “Oh leave me alone you know…”

I knew I wasn’t as good as Bowie, obviously. But I felt I wasn’t far behind. I was nearly 15 and could also do a passable Rod Stewart. ‘Mandolin Wind’, Peel’s favourite and mine. Rod was the better singer, I’d decided, but Bowie was the better artist. Bowie was better than anybody, Elton, Queen, the Stones, Lou Reed. Roxy were the next closest but Bowie was still streets ahead of them too. My best Bowie friend Frankie Keen seemed to always know a little bit more about Bowie than me but that was OK, I knew plenty too. (It was Frankie who rang me from a phone box in Hanwell late one night to tell me he’d just heard on the radio that David had retired. 1973. Noooooooooooo!)

By the time Young Americans came out I was even more hooked. You didn’t read the same amount of stuff about him anymore in the NME. Bowie had emigrated to America and in those days that meant you hardly heard from him at all. Instead it was Bowie-lites like Steve fucking Harley, or Ian fucking Hunter. Ferry was good obviously but he basically did one thing and did it really, really well. Bowie could anything. Anything.

So Young Americans came out and me and Russell Porter, my new best Bowie friend, had seen the clip on Top Of The Pops, the snatched video from the Dick Cavett show, and we immediately began planning how we would dress the same. Ties, jackets, braces (very important and almost impossible to get the ones with straps and buttons, not clips), white shoes, dyed hennaed hair, and of course cigarettes. It was because of Bowie that I had always wanted to smoke. Him and James Dean.

When I finally saw Bowie live for the first time at the Empire Pool in 1976 – I went two nights out of the six – I was 17 and into not-sleeping in a big way and when he came on, that lone white spotlight hitting him as he crept out crooning, “The return of the thin white Duke…” I was so excited I threw up. All over the poor people in the seats in front of me. They were so excited and so was everyone else, standing on our feet cheering, no one seemed to notice. Until they sat down and the smell rose. It was awful. But the show as a-mazing. The second time was better though. I didn’t chuck up and I had even better seats.

Oh god, so many memories… Reviewing Low as my test piece for Sounds when I was 18 – and it being rejected and me along with it. I’d been up for days and wrote it in biro and wrote so many pages with so many scribbled corrections it looked more like a Jackson Pollock painting than a review. It did eventually lead though to… the life I have lead.

It even led to me meeting and interviewing David for Sky TV in 1987. He walked in and said: “Mick Wall, I’ve always wanted to meet you!” He told me he and his teenage son never missed an episode of the weekly rock show I did, the Monsters Of Rock show. I never came down from that one and I never will. I was so nervous before I went into the hotel room to meet him I pissed 12 times in about 45 minutes. At least. The producer thought I must be up to something naughty but no, I was issuing rivers and years and life-dreams of piss and miss and wondering and trying and dying.

Oh, I should mention going to New York for the first time on a total blag with Pete Makowski and seeing Bowie in Elephant Man at the Booth Theater. Great seats. But I don’t have the energy.

There were also down times. Seeing him from a mile away on the Glass Spider tour (boring) and that jukebox tour he did in about 1990 (?)… I sat in VIP behind Neil Tenant from the Pet Shop Boys who nearly had a wank he was so excited but I left early. So bored by then with gigs gigs gigs. So bored with everyfuckingthing ever.

And all the other times, the years and years and years, ah, god, help us…

And then, in the past couple of weeks, intrigued by the ‘Blackstar’ single and video. Then ‘Lazarus’, so that I bought them on iTunes. Without meaning to sound I-told-you-so cos I know many others will have divined it too, but it seemed obvious to me that these were his most biographical and direct lyrics since Hunky Dory. I downloaded the album the day it came out and played it on shuffle in the car and it became even more obvious. I knew he’d had the heart attack some years back and would never play live again, knew like everyone else he’d never do interviews again, and it seemed… obvious. Not that he was dying. But that he had already ascended to another plain. Was saying goodbye and hello at the same time. And producing his best work since the Berlin days and Scary Monsters aftershock.

Then on Monday morning I was  coming out of my bedroom as my 15-year-old daughter was about to come in. “David Bowie’s dead,” she said. I stared at her. What? “David Bowie’s dead. 69.” I stared at her. The news sinking in. “What’s the matter? Was he one of your favourites?”

Then my wife, from the bed. “Oh, darling. Come here. I’m so sorry…”

I wasn’t aware she was aware of any feelings I might have about David Bowie. She overhears so much shit from me about various rock stars from before her time, she stopped listening properly a long time ago. But this one she knew. “Are you all right?” she said.

“No,” I said. “Not really.”

Too Much

I have no idea where to begin, and no real urge to even try, but I feel obliged. So for what it’s worth.

Lemmy… everything you’ve heard about him – and read about him this past week or so – is almost certainly true. It’s not that he didn’t have a dark side. Of course he did. That’s why he understood himself so well. But they all do. We all do. It’s what you do with it that counts and what Lemmy did counted more than most. I knew him off and on for over 35 years. First clapped worried eyes on him even further back, to his free gigs days with Hawkwind. But I will get into all that properly in the book I am now compelled to hurry up and finish. Just two things: I will never forget how Lemmy was the only person who came forward and tried to comfort me with words of kindness and feeling when my mother died. I was 28 and he was about 108 by then, or so he seemed to me. Not just a father figure; a godfather figure. Full of love. And hate. And a fire that refused to go out, no matter how much whiskey and speed and smoke he doused it with. And: how fucking funny he was. Always. Even when he didn’t feel like being funny. Sometimes especially then. We are all going to miss him very, very much.

Guns N’ Roses… well, it’s been the worst kept secret for months now. And somewhat anti-climactic now the story is official. It would have been great to see Axl make the announcement on Jimmy Kimmel as planned. Even greater if he and Slash and Duff and the others then did a song or two. Don’t hold it against Axl, though. If he is, as he suggested years ago, an Aspergers Syndrome sufferer, his anxiety levels must have been through the roof this week. I feel able to comment, as my 12 year old daughter was diagnosed with the same thing a year ago, and when you find out about this stuff it changes everything about the way you look at people on that spectrum. The no-shows, sudden about-turns, the flashes of anger apparently for no good reason. Trust me, they are all symptoms not of an ego out of control but of someone with deep struggles that are almost impossible to overcome without careful management and in some cases medication.

But I digress. I notice the online flashes about whether this reunion is just a cash-cow or the ‘real deal’. Well, hey, it’s both, isn’t it? Same as when the Stones roll out the wagon for another world tour. Same as the Foo Fighters or, yes, Motörhead. Same as all of us just trying to make it. The fact is, who doesn’t want to see Axl and Slash – and Duff – hit the stage together one last time? I know I do, and I don’t go to gigs anymore. So if the question is: does the GN’R thing mean something more than money? The answer is: fuck yes. Lemmy would have agreed too.

Hidden In Plain Sight: Lulu

When Metallica’s World Magnetic world tour finally came to an end, in Australia, in November 2010 – more than two years after the release of Death Magnetic – officially, word was the band was now entering what was likely to be a prolonged period of sabbatical. Behind the scenes, however, plans were already afoot for something… new.

The answer to what Lars and Metallica were up to came just a few months later when it emerged that they had been working on an album with Lou Reed, titled: Lulu. The arguments about this deliciously self-regarding project began the moment news of it escaped like bad gas from the manholes of New York City. The arguments only grew more heated once everyone finally heard it. Boohoo, went Lou’s army of post-punk disciples. Foul, cried the metal community.

Great rock art is always transgressive, of course. How many Lou Reed and Metallica fans would see this as simple rule-breaking though, and how many just plain wrong, was going to hover over the actual music like a cloud of flies. Yet when all was said and done and you closed your eyes and actually sat down and listened to what Reed and Metallica had made together, what we were actually left with was the best work either side had made in decades. A masterpiece that compelled you to leave your preconceptions at its threshold as it ushered you into its darkly shimmering shadow.

Reed, whose last solo album, The Raven, in 2003, had been an outing of similarly collaborative ambitions based around the stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe (with contributors that included Steve Buscemi, David Bowie, Willem Defoe, Laurie Anderson, and Antony Hegarty), had planned to come back in 2011 with a set of songs inspired by two early 20th century plays by the German expressionist Frank Wedekind: Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box. Both originally published in 1904 and set in Germany, Paris and London in the 1890s, the stories revolve around Lulu, a woman-for-all-seasons and magnet for the suffocating desires, backhand love and unfettered abuse of all the men, good and bad, who fall upon her. Until, finally, left with ‘no real feelings in my soul’, as Reed sings it, she meets Jack the Ripper, whose ‘love’ proves greatest and most fatal of all. Along the way we get river-deep meditations on what WB Yeats described as “the only subjects seriously interesting to an adult” – sex and death. And this is nothing if not adult-oriented music.

Reed had already built a career based on the hope that, as he said, ‘the intelligence that once inhabited novels and films would ingest rock.’ But while his best work, with and without the Velvet Underground, had always benefited from that creative impulse, he had skated so close to self-parody so many times, his energy had often become dissipated, spread as thin and hollow as the mocking sneer that appeared to hover over his work. This is where Metallica came in. A genuinely clubbable, for-real rock band – as opposed to the expensively hired hands Reed had spent the past 40 years working with – so straight in their musical ambitions it’s as if they have a pole up their collective spine, there’s never been much kidding going on in Metallica’s best music. What they brought to Reed’s latest muse then, was pure blissfully un-ironic fire; a fist of fury to replace the limp wrist. It made for an absolutely shattering combination.

Recorded at Metallica’s studio in San Francisco, the pre-release hype centred on how little afterthought or reworking went on in the studio. Yet what one encountered on first hearing Lulu were incredibly manicured soundscapes, layer upon layer of beautiful noise that leave you dizzy and unsettled, enchanted and repulsed, wizened. It’s not about individual tracks, though there are immediately several stand-outs like the chilling opener ‘Brandenberg Gate’ (‘I would cut my legs and tits off,’ intones Lou, cutting straight to the chase) or ‘Pumping Blood’, whose demented violins reminds one of his seventies masterpiece ‘Street Hassle’ before building over several pendulum-like minutes to a full-on Metallica-sized aural assault.

It’s about the overall piece. A conceptual work that has to be absorbed as a whole to even begin to traverse its sonic foothills, at 90 minutes-plus this is not exactly an iPod-friendly trip. Unless, maybe, you happen to be horizontal by the time you get to final track ‘Junior Dad’, the final 12 of its skin-peeling 19 minutes taken over by seductive waves of drone that recall John Cale’s viola, Nico’s harmonium, and Cliff Burton’s beautiful bass-washes and neo-orchestral effects on instrumentals like ‘Orion’.

Not then the retrograde thrash classic Metallica’s more bovine followers might have been hungering for. Nor the kind of fidgety, post-modern punk-poetry the broadsheet critics can easily assimilate. But, as Kirk Hammett put it: “Something else. A new animal.” Something like a large black dog, perhaps, that whimpers and snarls and bites and shits in places you really wish it hadn’t. Then does it again to spite you.

Most mainstream critics got it and praised the album. Traditionalist metal critics were outraged though. Clearly this is not an album made for the ‘average’ rock fan. Or as Reed snarls in ‘The View’: ‘I want to have you doubting / Every meaning you’ve amassed’. The cumulative weight of the album will certainly do that for you. Some found the trance-like mood of much of the music morbidly disorientating, even repulsive. And it was no good saying this was intentional. The nausea of tracks like ‘Little Dog’ (‘A puny body and a tiny dick / Little dog can make you sick’) is so tangible many questioned why they were even listening to it.

For others though – not just Reed diehards used to his self-loathing, his bitter noir-mots, his almost juvenile desire to say the unsayable – the underlying beauty of what these artists from, on paper, such disparate ends of the rock spectrum were trying to convey was simply breathtaking.

When the album was released at the end of October 2011, though, it caused ructions. I reviewed it for Classic Rock and gave it 10/10, calling it an unqualified masterpiece. Then got an email from the reviews editor Ian Fortnum telling me the then editor Scott Rowley had instructed him to get me to rewrite my review, forbidding me to give the album more than 7/10. it also proved to be the biggest commercial flop of Metallica’s career, their first album not to reach the Top 30 in either Britain or America. This despite both Metallica and Reed talking a good fight in the press. ‘Why is this surprising?’ shrugged Reed. ‘An odd collaboration would be Metallica and Cher. Us – that’s an obvious collaboration.’

Nevertheless, Lulu became a joke. In the rock press, on the Metallica fan sites, on FB and Twitter.

‘I had these giant question marks,’ James Hetfield conceded. But then Cliff Burton, James’s hero, had always raved over the Velvet Underground, so even he knew there must be something to this weird old cat Lou Reed. ‘What’s it going to be like? What’s going to happen?” James continued. “So it was great when [Lou] sent us the lyrics for the Lulu body of work. It was something we could sink our teeth into. I could take off my singer and lyricist hat and concentrate on the music part… I sat there with an acoustic and let this blank canvas take us where it needed to go. It was a great gift, to be asked to stamp ‘TALLICA’ on it. And that’s what we did.’

According to Reed, Lulu was ‘The best thing I ever did. And I did it with the best group I could possibly find on the planet. By definition, everybody involved was honest. This has come into the world pure. We pushed as far as we possibly could within the realms of reality.’ Yes, you did Lou. And yes it was. One of them, for sure.

As if anticipating the backlash, though, Metallica, shrewd as ever, had already announced they were back in the studio writing the next ‘real’ Metallica album even as Lulu sputtered and fell from the charts. According to Rob Trujillo they were working again with Rick Rubin, pushing for an album release for late 2012. Four years later Lou’s dead, people are starting to re-evaluate Lulu (how very fucking thoughtful of them) and we’re still waiting for that real Metallica album.

Scott Weiland Interview 2011

To mark the tragic passing of that great misunderstood soul, Scott Weiland, here is the only slightly edited transcript of an interview I did with him over the phone from his home in LA in 2011. A heavily edited version appeared in Classic Rock at the time. This though is how the conversation actually went. It had taken weeks of no-shows to bring him to the phone. I was just about to give up when finally he called me, late one night. He had just published his autobiography, Not Dead & Not For Sale – a chillingly frank self-portrait in which he revealed he was raped as 12-year-old, that Velvet Revolver was ‘a manufactured product’, and numerous other in-and-out-drugs escapades.

Was it conscious decision to tell it in the book or were there any second thoughts about how deep you would go and what you would reveal?

“Not really. I felt like there’s so much media congestion… so much misinformation [including a guy impersonating him on Facebook] and I don’t do that many interviews anymore, that I felt like I’m just gonna like tell it as it is and just put it out there. The only thing I was conscious of was, you know, I didn’t want it to be in that style of [of his ex-wife’s book]. I didn’t want it to get into a pissing context. So I decided take the high road and basically that was really the thing that I spoke with a lot about with David Ritz, was the majority of my life with my ex-wife was wonderful. But there was some rough times. But I wanted to respect her and my kids are not having a… like, he said, she said, kind of thing.”

Was it also about setting the record straight about who you are, and why you’re the kind of person you are? Is there a common misconception that people who don’t know you have about you?

“Yeah, probably because of all the media attention that I used to get in the 90s with drugs, it’s like that is really a thing of the past. This December 5th will be nine years since I’ve done dope. And so I think that people, you know, they sort of hang onto that. It’s like the way people still think of anybody that’s been fortunate enough to have a long career and be successful, like Keith Richards, people still seem to think that he’s this guy that’s still junkie and all that kind of stuff. In interviews, he still to this day gets asked about stuff like that. You know, I don’t want any questions about that stuff so in the book I said, this is how it all happened, this is like how it all began and why it began and this is how I got over it.”

I grew up in the 70s and we didn’t think of it then as ‘drugs’ we thought of it as ‘enlightenment’. We saw it as a journey, as explorers. I ended up a junkie but it was never my intention to be that. It was always my intention to be a very creative, far out person.

“Yeah, well, I think for a lot of artists it starts out that way. When you’re younger you sort of romanticise the notion that that’s part of the equation to being creative and opening up your mind, your perception and that. But in the end it doesn’t end up being that way. It just becomes the greatest nagging thing to be hooked on something like that.”

That’s when you find yourself crossing the line between this is my business and no one else’s and it becoming actually a big problem for everyone else because of the hurt and pain and trouble you cause those near you. It now becomes their business too.

“Right, right, right. I mean, I think that’s exactly right. I look back at all the sleepless nights that my brother and I caused my parents and it definitely ends up taking its toll. It ends up becoming a real overall family disease, you know.”

Your younger brother died of course.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Which we thought was an overdose but it was cardiomyopathy [heart muscle disease], which was an effect due to just years of substance abuse, you know. The hardening and swelling of the heart. But he died in his sleep and, you know, and at such a young age. There’s a part of me that still grieves for him every day. Because really he and I we were so close, losing a person that’s your bother and your best friend and, you know, we were creative partners as well… it was just beyond anything I’ve ever … the feelings… the pain it caused me and my whole family and his family, it just, you know, you kind of never quite get over it.”

Has the price been too great – unfairly so even?

“Well, yeah. But you can choose to have a pity party about it or you can just sort of take it like… with fame and the notoriety and everything that goes with it, and success, there’s always like a negative side to it too. People think they know you, who’ve never met you, and have strong opinions about people that have influenced pop culture. But, you know, I’m 43 now and I’m pretty much a private person and I really… I’m looking at what I do for a living as, there’s the artistic part of it and then there’s the work part of it. And I just, I mean, I couldn’t have kept working, especially at the level that I do, if I was still using drugs like that. Because in the beginning it gives you like another sort of way of looking at things, but after a while it really it starts taking away because your time is so consumed with needing to be well… to get well. It’s not about getting high anymore, it’s just maintenance…

“No matter what it is, whether it’s a loss of privacy or whatever, everybody in life goes through life and they make mistakes but they’re not reported about in the mainstream papers or magazines or online. But then again I wouldn’t have this wonderful job that I have,m this wonderful career that I have, to be able to express myself on an artistic level. I’m always finding new ways to express myself, and I’ve been very fortunate in that everything, from music being the foundation of it all has allowed me to branch out to write the book and to design a clothing line and to paint and… The person that’s gonna be repping [representing] me for my art work… so those are positive things and you’ve got to look at the positive things as opposed to the negative things.”

People don’t understand the courage and strength it takes to do what you do. Bad things happen to everybody but not everybody can turn it into a song, a book, a painting. Were you always a strong person or has overcoming the bad things helped you become a strong person?

“I’ve always been a very driven person and I kind of look at it like, every time you falter and fall you have to pick yourself back up again, and every time you do it just gives you a further sort of a belief that it just you don’t have to quit and never quit. Just take an experience that is a bad experience and turn it into something positive. Take a good experience and turn it into something ever better, you know? That’s sort of overall my philosophy.”

Were you able to feel that strong with the whole prison experience?

“Well, it wasn’t prison, it was jail. [But] yeah, definitely. I was in this part where everyone was a drug addict so we had groups every day and did a lot of work. It wasn’t pleasant at all being in jail. I don’t think the jailing of people that are just users is necessarily the right way to go. But that that time there was a programme within the system that allowed me to deal with the issues. So there was definitely a positive thing to be taken from it.”

Were there any of the other inmates that were able to offer you any advice about how to survive it?

“I met a couple of friends that I’m still friends with that I see every once in a while. And they’re doing good as well, so we kind of like became real close friends and we shared ideas and bounced ideas off each other, and support. Also at the time that was in 1999 and then Mary and I were taking time to get married later on in the year. So we got engaged and then that Spring we got married and we had our son Noah. So she definitely helped me get through it as well. We wrote each other multiple times a day and we spoke on the phone at night and I saw her on the weekends. So that was huge definitely, all sorts of inspiration.”

What are you most proud of?

“I am definitely most proud of my children [Lucy and Noah]. They are what keep me up when I feel low and, you know, seeing the light in their days and that kind of unconditional love is more than anything. Even more important than my music, they keep me going definitely.”

Is there such a thing as a secret to success?

“I don’t believe so. People often think that people that get successful and have successful careers that it’s luck, because there are so many talented people who don’t ever get to have kind of success or even a record deal. But I always look at and have this mantra that is you really create your own luck. But it’s part of serendipity too. If you work hard, you have talent and you put yourself in situations enough of the right times, then you’ll meet people along the way that eventually notice you and that’s how we looked at getting a record deal. That’s how we looked at, once we got a record deal, making the first record and trying to ensure the best we could that it would be successful. You know, of course, like I said, serendipity, timing, and God, and hard work, they all sort of have to merge together at this serendipitous moment where things end up working. And I’ve always felt that was the case and so, um, yeah, it’s not just luck. It’s a lot of hard work and sort of having a vision of where you want to be and what it’s gonna take to get there.”

Do you accept there is a higher power?

“Oh, yeah, I believe in God, definitely.”

Is this recent or was that always the case?

“Oh, always. When I was a kid I went to church every Sunday. My brothers and I would be watching cartoons and my dad would be, ‘All right, Mark, Scoot, Michael. Get dressed.’ I’d kind of be like argh. [But] I look back on it fondly and when I go to church, and I don’t go regularly, but it brings like a sense of get back in touch with what you believe in. And what I believe in. And I think that I was very lucky with the church that I went, a Catholic church, it was very sort of progressive and wasn’t all that dogma based. And my mother and father also were brought up with believing in God and Jesus, but I think that’s a personal thing too. In my personal opinion, isn’t something that you try to push on others, that spiritual connection that you have.”

With STP you were shot out of a cannon into fame and fortune,. And if once wasn’t enough, a decade later, you did it all again right out of the box with Velvet Revolver. When that happens does it in some way shorten the life of the band in some way? It’s almost like your journey is over?

 [We talk about the grunge era STP first became famous in…]

 “That was a magical time for music, music and art and social change. It was a different climate and there really hasn’t been such a massive movement in rock’n’roll since then. And I think a lot of that has to do with the downloading of records. It doesn’t afford young rock bands which have to grow and to maintain, it’s kind of like, well, put out a single, it doesn’t work? All right, like, throw it against the wall see if it sticks, if it does, all right, move forward. If not, put the kibosh on it. And that’s kind of a shame, cos it was really a special thing to be a part of that whole movement in music. There’s been the 60s movement, the glam movement, the punk rock movement and there was the 80s sort of second British Invasion, and then what they called grunge, though we never really considered ourselves a grunge band, and we exceedingly moved further away from that as, er, every album. But it was a real sort of time of enlightenment and a lot of hope.”

Did it feel in anyway like that in Velvet Revolver? [In book he calls VR ‘essentially a manufactured product… we came out of necessity, not artistic purpose.”]

“That was a magical thing too. That was right when I was getting off dope [heroin] and those guys were all sober and they were clean, and I had like a very special kinship because we’d all experienced the same things. So it felt like this is kind of us against the world and we’re gonna play like just pure rock’n’roll. And I think we did a really good job of it. It was a great band to see live and I think we made two exciting albums.”

You seemed to go into a sort of overdrive onstage with VR that we hadn’t seen before in STP.

“Yeah, I mean it was a much more fast-paced, like just like from start to finish, you know? It was like just, it was like just controlled craziness. And that’s like the feeling that we had and the feeling we got off our audience, our fans. And it was very, very intense, yeah. Very exciting. But it’s hard to keep a band that’s like that together for a long time, because everybody, except for Dave our rhythm guitar player, who was really kind of knew to that, had experienced rock’n’roll on a huge level, a really massive level. Those guys coming from Guns N’ Roses who were arguably the biggest band in the world for a few years there. And made such an impact. I mean, I was a huge fan of Appetite For Destruction, one of the best records for the last like 30 years.”

These days where is it at between you guys? If you were having dinner tonight and they were in the neighbourhood would you invite them over?

“Oh, yeah. We patched things up and we get along. I see them every now and again, we text each other every now and again. And, you know, I mean, you can never say never. But, you know, it’s like, uh, um, who knows, maybe we’ll do some shows sometime. ..”

You can do anything you like these days…

“Um, yeah. On a musical level, it’s like that’s the thing you get, the freedom you get with having a success. When I put out my solo records I don’t expect they’re gonna have the same mass appeal because my musical tastes personally are different. But that’s [the same] in every band. I mean, everyone has their certain… vibe, musically. In the stuff you listen to and the stuff that has influenced you. And I think that’s what made Velvet Revolver such an attractive band, in that I brought my influences to the table and they had theirs. And Dave also played a critical part because he added this element of this sonic… you couldn’t really predict what he was gonna do. It was a lot of sound and a lot of effects mixed with basic blues-based rock’n’roll and types of melodies and harmonies that I would write. And the words really sort of fit with the music so it was good symmetry, you know?”

Do you have a political view?

“Well, I mean, I’ve never been involved in a political band, like say rage Against The Machine. But I do have political views, like I’m a big President Obama supporter. And I think that if it was any other time in history he would have been able to do some amazing, magical things. But if FDR or if Lincoln or if JFK were in the same situation with all these challenges and having to be sort of the leader of the free world with all the social stuff that’s going on and economic stuff, it would be difficult for anyone to be able to really have all the dreams that I’m sure he wanted to fulfil and maybe still will. I think he’s doing as good a job as anybody.”

How do you stay so thin?

“Oh, I was a lot much more thin when I was in Velvet Revolver. I’m not nearly as thin as that [now]. But being skinny like I was when I was in Velvet Revolver… I’m still thin but I’m not like that. That sort of became like my… I wasn’t doing drugs and I wasn’t drinking and so my obsession was kind of like I wanted to be as wiry onstage because of the way I move, like Iggy Pop. And so I definitely was on the, uh, somewhat slender side. [Now] I’m not fat or anything I’m just sort of normal. But then again I’m 43. That was 10 years ago. [But] I think I did kind of grow old gracefully. You know, I look at like David Bowie and Bryan Ferry as sort of an example. For the most part I wear suits onstage now. Whereas before it was much more of a theatrical [look]. You know, but I made a vow to myself that once I hit 40 I would not put on another pair of leather pants. I don’t think men over 40 should be wearing leather pants. That’s my own personal thing…”

What should we write on your tombstone when that day comes? Here lies Scott Weiland…

“… he loved his family. He loved his children, he loved his friends. And never ceased to pick himself up off the ground.”

Hidden In Plain Sight: Done With Mirrors

Released 30 years ago this month, and still the best thing they have done since, Done With Mirrors was the Big Comeback album for Aerosmith, Tyler’s first with Perry and Whitford back where they belong. It was such a giant flop though that John Kalodner at Geffen, who they’d just signed to, persuaded them to never attempt anything like it again. That is, write a diamond-hard rock album of the very darkest water, kicking out the jams like no other band of the time (mid-80s, pre-Guns N’ Roses era) came close to.

Which is a shame, cos this album is such a stone-cold classic. As good as anything Aerosmith in the 70s did, better than most, actually. Right up there with Toys and Rocks. The failure of Mirrors to replicate those mega-70s sales was the reason the band would in future bring in outside writers like Diane Warren, Desmond Child, Jim Valance, and Holly Knight. Proven hit-makers all. As Kiss, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, Meat Loaf, and, more recently, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson – to name, literally, just a few – will attest.

But could any of them and their formulaic rulebooks write something as ouch-hot steaming as ‘My Fist, Your Face’? Or as just plain, cock-digging nasty as ‘Shela’? Or as swaggeringly high as ‘Gypsy Boots’? Or as spine-tinglingly blues-groovy as ‘She’s On Fire’? Or just plain balls-out rocking as ‘The Hop’? That was a rhetorical question, of course. Because we all know the answer. At the same time, neither Tyler or Perry could have come up with ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ (Warren) or ‘Living La Vida Loca’ (Child). You get the kiddy-porn picture.

Which is why we dug them so deep in their cocaine-heavy, smack-ridden, chick-licking 70s hey-hey-heyday. And why Done With Mirrors seemed to signal a major return to form for the bad boys from Boston. Five years after Zeppelin finally admitted they were over, halfway through a decade ruined by safe-as-milk Reagnonic rock in the guise of MTV-led drivel like Ratt and Quiet Riot, a year after Diamond Dave split from Van Halen and it looked like the good stuff was gone for good, along came Done With Mirrors. I mean, baaaaaaaaby!!! Can you fucking diiiiiiiiiiig ittttttttt!!!

I could, and did. Again and again (and again) during those lost nights in the 1980s when I didn’t have a TV, just the music and the good-bad times to get me and mine through. Best album of 1985, this was. Best album of 1986, too. I mean, Bon Jovi? Whitesnake? Fuck off. And don’t come round again.

Produced by Ted Templeman who knew how to get the party started, removing the red light bulb from studio sessions so the band didn’t even know they were recording. Just telling them to stretch out and go for it, that they’d get back and tidy it up for recording later, they weren’t looking to make any hit singles here. They were after catching lightening in a bottle. And they found it, corked it, then sent it out like a message to the masses: Kiss This.

The vinyl copy I had was only eight tracks long. (An extra, dispensable attempt at Kalodner-inspried commerciality, ‘Darkness’, was later added to the CD – these were the days when record companies would make acts do that to encourage fledgling CD sales; bastards). It was the worst, most contrived track on the album. Man, if you weren’t already sold by ‘The Reason A Dog’ or ‘Let The Music Do The Talking’ you were beyond help anyway. There’s the door, ok?

But it flopped, barely getting into the charts. Some blamed the backwards sleeve-writing (you had to hold a mirror  to it to read it, yes, they were very stoned when they thought of it). Others blamed the lack of obvious hits. And so John Kaldoner stepped in to ‘save’ them by bringing in the same hired help all the other would-be rock monsters were using back then. And in chart terms it worked. Permanent Vacation, which followed two years later, had ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady’ and ‘Angel’ (both Child) and ‘Rag Doll’ (Knight), and consequently sold over 5 million copies in the US, and eventually went gold in the UK. Job done. If you like that sort of homogenised, one-size-fits-all thing.

But Done With Mirrors remains the bad daddy of everything Aerosmith did after they stopped taking drugs long enough to give it another go in 1985. On a personal level, I’m glad they cleaned up – in every sense – afterwards. But on a musical one, pass the bottle muthafugger and ask that big-ass gal to join us…