Thursday 20 October 2016

Hellraisers make us all feel a little bit better about ourselves

Rowan Pelling

Published 03/01/2016 | 02:30

Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead. Photo: Fin Costello
Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead. Photo: Fin Costello

There are drunks; there are bad, boring drunks; and then there are hellraisers, like the late Lemmy from Motorhead. Say what you like about that third tier of liver and life-abusers: they are never, ever boring.

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The excesses of true reprobates are so mind-boggling that the casual onlooker comes to find their antics strangely cathartic: almost as if these individuals are boozing, seducing, brawling, cursing and trashing hotel rooms so that none of the rest of us have to.

Take John 'Bonzo' Bonham, Led Zeppelin's drummer, who rode a Harley Davidson along hotel corridors, before dying aged 32 after downing 40 shots of vodka. Such tales may not make you proud to be part of these islands, but do surely mean Britain and Ireland would be assured gold if debauchery was an Olympic sport. In fact, I often feel a tad offended at the suggestion other places can offer up talents as artfully degenerate as Oliver Reed, George Best, Richard Harris, Keith Moon - or Molly Parkin in her drinking days. We women tend to grow out of wanton hedonism; possibly because there are no pretty young men willing to act as nursemaids for vomit-covered rock chicks.

I'm hardly alone in my grudging respect. Just look at the surge of mournful pride that's greeted the death of Lemmy, whose first suggestion for the band's name was "Bastard".

He has long been treasured as an icon of dissipation for his prodigious booze habit and loathing of authority. Lemmy took copious quantities of drugs, called his autobiography 'White Line Fever' and said of his conquests, "I've had my share... and yours too!" He told the DJ Andy Kershaw: "If Motorhead moved in next to you, your lawn would die."

It's the lack of repentance that divides the born hellraiser from your average rascal. Lemmy once said "I'm responsible for my actions... I did it, whatever I did." In similar spirit, Oliver Reed declared: "My only regret is that I didn't drink every pub dry and sleep with every woman on the planet." The pair's dedication to the cause seems strangely honourable in an age where detox diets, running and mindfulness are topics to sap your soul at dinner parties.

Indeed, some promising starters in the hellraising fold have been lost to exercise, veganism, earnestness, or simply the pitfalls of a happy marriage: witness Russell Brand and Robbie Williams. But then both have spent considerable periods of time in California, where yoga and herbal tea are practically enforceable by law.

Our climate is the hellraiser's friend: it seems indecent not to down a bottle of whiskey when towns are under water, or summer is rained off.

Our geography helps too: a pub is always close at hand for the dedicated hedonist. All of which means native hellraisers depart this life before the title can be stripped from them - you would never have caught Richard Burton paddling dolefully in floral Bermudas, like the formerly debauched Jack Nicholson.

Our miscreants depart disgracefully, sulphurously, before a new wife, doctor, or personal trainer can threaten reformation. And we salute them, as in days long gone by we saluted The Lord of Misrule: a low-life appointed to oversee December's Saturnalia. These reprobates do us the kindness of making our own overindulgence appear modest. © Telegraph

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