Saturday 1 October 2016

The day Lemmy held up our office and I told him that he should play Ireland

Published 31/12/2015 | 02:30

Ian Fraser
Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister of Motorhead performing on the Pyramid stage during the 2015 Glastonbury Festival. Photo: Reuters

Mayhem erupted, and my teenage eyes boggled. Lemmy and his Motorhead bandmates had just burst into the office where I worked and were jumping about, whooping and demanding money.

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This wasn't a stick-up: they were in their management agency, intent on collecting some of their earnings. "We aren't leaving till you pay us," they yelled, chortling and dancing about. All the minions (like me) downed tools and watched them, thrilled by the interruption.

There were only four of the Motorheads but it felt as if there were more. The suite of offices in London's Chalk Farm seemed to be overtaken by a horde of hairy, anarchic, leather- and denim-wearing men.

"We're back off tour and we're ready to have a good time!" they cried, bouncing about in the communal work area, like a foursome of heavy-metal Tiggers, pushing buttons on photocopiers and pulling telephone receivers out of people's hands in mid-conversation.

Alerted by the noise levels, I was peeking out of the side cubicle where I worked as gofer to the company's accountant, wondering who these intruders could be.

To my amazement, nobody objected or called security.

Everyone laughed along with the Motorheads and sat back in their seats to watch the floorshow.

All at once, Lemmy - who has just died of cancer at the age of 70 - made a beeline for me. The most exciting thing to happen all week was when the accountant sent me out to the shop for a chocolate bar, suggesting I buy one for myself.

Now a man with a huge metal belt slung low on his hips and hair streaming down his back was looming in the doorway.

He swept past me, bubbling with mischief, and leaped straight up onto the accountant's desk, sending papers flying. With his boots on my chair, he grinned at the accountant.

"Hand over the cash. We aren't going anywhere till we get it."

The accountant rolled his eyes.

"Come on, Lemmy, I keep telling you we need to deal in cheques."

Lemmy laughed. "You know we want cash. You know we're going to get it. Come on, you're wasting time, it's Friday, the weekend's here."

The accountant muttered that he'd need to speak to the boss and headed down the corridor, leaving Lemmy and me together in the cubicle.

So there I was. Alone. In an enclosed space. With a rock 'n' roll legend. Except I wasn't entirely clear who he was. Mind you, the same went for him.

"Who are you?" he asked. "I haven't seen you here before."

He was still perched on the accountant's desk and using my chair as a footrest.

I introduced myself. Obviously he felt no need to reciprocate and I didn't like to enquire if he was the drummer, lead singer or what exactly he did.

At the sound of my voice, he leaned forward.

"Where are you from?"

"Ireland," I said.

He adjusted his cowboy hat, frowning. "We haven't played there before. We should get over. What do you think?"

Motorhead was just a name to me. I could see these guys were fun - gales of laughter were coming from the secretarial pool as the other Motorheads flirted and clowned around - but heavy metal's attractions had passed me by.

To my 18-year-old eyes, these men looked middle-aged. Besides, if I wanted to see fellows with mutton chop sideburns and funny hats, all I had to do was go to the farmers' mart back home.

On the other hand, if they wanted to play Ireland, who was I to dissuade them?

"I think you should go. You could play Dublin and Belfast," I suggested.

"They let off bombs in Belfast," he said.

I nodded.

At that, back came the accountant with fistfuls of bank notes separated into stacks.

"You have to sign for this, Lemmy," he said. "And next time, give me more notice."

Lemmy made eye contact with me and pulled a face. But he stuffed the cash into various pockets, signed on the dotted line, and jumped off the desk.

"That'll just about keep us going for the weekend," he said. "We'll probably have to drop back for more on Monday."

The accountant began to splutter.

Lemmy strolled through the door and as he passed me, he winked, making it clear how much he enjoyed teasing.

Outside, he brandished one of the money bundles at his bandmates.

"Let's go," he called. "Party time!"

At once, they left off their antics and followed him, sucking all the oxygen out of the office. Everyone returned desultorily to work.

The boss of the agency arrived in the accountant's cubicle.

"Did you get Lemmy to sign for that money?" he checked.

"Yes, but you have to stop him coming in here looking for cash. We need to keep track of outgoings."

The top man shrugged.

"Sure, in an ideal world. But Lemmy's a force of nature. Besides, he pays everyone's salary."

A few weeks later, I left that summer job to become a student.

I never laid eyes on Lemmy again - my last sight of him was when I looked out of the office window, and saw the top of that cowboy hat as he and the other Motorheads piled into a limousine.

Predictably, it was double-parked outside their management company's office.

He didn't play Ireland until some decades later. But when he did, there were concerts in Dublin and Belfast, just as I hoped. I don't know if he continued to refuse cheques.

But I hope so - hard cash has always seemed more rock 'n'roll.

Irish Independent

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