ROOOOOOOOTS BLOODY ROOOOOOTS

Max and Iggor Cavalera / Skindred, Sydney Big Top Sep 22 2017.

Sepultura’s album Roots holds a special place in my heart, as what helped expand the visions of what metal could be, sending me down a different path. True, it didn’t eclipse my burgeoning love for all things Iron Maiden, but that passion was both A: in it’s infancy and B: still something of a guilty pleasure for me, a feeling that took me a good few years to openly embrace. Given the nature and ferocity of their split, or rather frontman Max Cavalera’s split from the rest of the band, I’d long figured I’d have had no chance of seeing the songs performed live. True, Max had reunited with Sepultara drummer (and brother) Iggor in 2006 and formed Cavalera Conspiracy, among Max’s numerous other projects, but when it was annouced the two brothers would be touring the Roots album in full, well, I was there. The fact ragga metallers Skindred would be supporting them was less the icing on the cake for me, and more the cake itself. Sure, it did seem a little akward to be keener on the support than the headline, but I figure support bands deserve love all, right?

I trundle my way down to the venue, check in my bag and already curse both the venue’s no steel cap shoe policy and my being raised Lawful Good. *sighs* I make my way to the front early, wanting to be right up there for Skindred, and after an epic wait, the strains of the Imperial March ring out and the band hit stage. Singer Benji Webbe, sunglass clad and impossibly cool, climbs up on the monitors, Under Attack kicks off and my head begins to thrash. They put on an impeccably cheerful set, freely admitting that they’re here to get people warmed up for Max and co, but in no way slacking off because of it. Kill the Power has the audience roaring, Machine (From the then forthcoming new album) howls like a banshee and we end Warning with the now traditional Newport Helicopter. The cheeky gits even leave the stage to a burst of Nobody Does it Better

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Benji Webbe – LORD OF ALL HE SURVEYS.

After putting my shirt back on, I vacate the mosh pit in search of food and drink. And safety – I have what could be charitably called a piss poor tolerance for pain, and I can see the size of the people behind me. Making my way to safety (AKA the upstairs seating), I settle in for the main event. Anticipation builds, the mosh pit grows even more frenzied and the they hit stage. what can I say about Max, other than he looks just like someone who’d give you a quest in a post apolyptic RPG. He grabs the mic, bellows “ARE YOU READY? ROOTS, BLOODY ROOOOOTS” and we’re off. Goddamn, I’d almost forgotten how hard that song hits, and I can barely draw breath. Attitude has the crowd roaring, and Cut Throat is extraordinary, to say nothing of the look of awe on my face at hearing Ratamahatta played live. Things slow down a little mid set , but picks up with a storming Endangered Species and album closer Dictatorshit. I’m lathered in sweat and ragged and 16 year old me can’t believe what he’s just seen. The encore of a medley of early Sepultura goes down a treat, as does covers of Venom’s Black Metal and Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, ending with a reprise of Roots, Bloody Roots.


See, I have proof!

Alas, none of my photos of the headliners turned out OK, and I don’t remember who the rest of the band were, though their moves came straight from the ‘Big Book of Metal Stage Moves’, complete with wide stance and head bob. But I can’t bring myself to mock much, given the faces I’ve pulled while playing Guitar Hero over the years.

As we shamble out into the night, battered, only slightly bleeding (Small cur on the finger, nothing to worry about) and very happy, I once again think just how much I love live music. There’s nothing like it.

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MAIDENS! *clapclapclap*

A long overdue review of the Iron Maidens/Gypsy gig, Sydney Manning Bar 31/05/18.

It’s a cold and breezy night in Sydney, not a night to be kilted, as I am. *ahem* After an interesting amount of bus and foot travel, I arrive as Gypsy are ripping through Kiss’s I Stole Your Love, and continue in that vein, playing a set chock full of NWOBHM inspired rock, culminating in a blast through Judas Priest’s Steeler to close. They certainly put their all into things, and while the mid set bubble gun and balloons don’t set the audience alight as perhaps hoped, they deserve an audience that’s keen to see them, and not just the headliners. With a loud cry of “We’re Gypsy and we’ll see you at the merch desk!” they depart, and the wait for the headliners begins.

20180531_212228Sooty and Maiden go way back.

Thus begins the change over, during which I notice the Maiden’s drum kit features Sooty (As is customary) and an already rather inebriated man next to me tries to claim that since it’s his birthday I should buy him a drink. No mate, not happening. Nor do I care for the busty lady in photoshopped ‘I love thrash metal’ shirt wallpaper on your phone you keep trying to show me, nor indeed the large amount of wolf whistling from the crowd during the Maiden’s set. Really people? Moving on…

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SCREAM FOR HER SYDNEY!

After what seems like an eternity (Actually about 40 mins), the strains of UFO’s Doctor Doctor (As covered by Blaze Bayley era Maiden) rings out and the Maidens take the stage. Churchill’s speech begins, and we’re off with a bang as Aces High takes off! Yeah, I went there. We get a set chock full of classic era (The youngest song is from 1992) hits with a couple more obscure numbers thrown in (I don’t think anyone expected The Duelists) and whilst I was hoping for Wrathchild, seeing Alexander the Great done live was quite the treat – Steve Harris rhyming ‘334BC’ with ‘Aegean Sea’ still makes me smile. I almost turned in my fan card at discovering what I’d thought was Children of the Damned turned out to be Murders in the Rue Morgue, but in my defense both songs intros do sound a little bit alike. A giant cyborg Eddie takes the stage during Wasted Years and we end with a huge sing-along to Fear of the Dark, with, what else but Iron Maiden as the encore.

Do you call them a covers band? Well, yeah, they aren’t playing original material. But what shines through is their genuine love for the music and an incredible amount of skill at it – Maiden themselves haven’t played Alexander live. It was a hell of a night, and I hope they return soon.

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Photo from the Iron Maidens Twitter. I’m somewhere down the bottom left.

SET LIST:
Churchill’s Speech / Aces High
2 Minutes to Midnight
22 Acacia Avenue
The Trooper
The Duelists
Number of the Beast
Alexander the Great
Murders in the Rue Morgue
Wasted Years
Children of the Damned
Fear of the Dark
ENCORE:
Iron Maiden

Two more ticks on the list

I love live music. True, there’s a joy to a recording, but for me nothing can beat being there. Being amidst the sweat, split beer (and occasionally blood) is an experience like no other. There’s a joy to it I can’t quite explain- it’s one of those “If you aren’t there you won’t get it” sort of things. Or maybe it’s that I take music as serioously as a heart attack. Anyhow, I got to tick off two entries on the musical bucket list I have last night.

1: Getting to see the Celibate Rifles perform Ocean Shore live. Utterly hypnotic.
2: Holding my wife as the Sunnyboys played Alone With You. There were quite a few tears, mostly mine. I’d spent years thinking I’d never get to see them live, as when they originally split I wasn’t yet in school. Last night they were less a band, more a group of people who genuninely love these songs and were ecstatic to play them infront of an audience. And for those who left after the first encore, you missed The Seeker. The house lights aren’t up, you don’t leave.

Left with a t-shirt and the Rifles latest live album – it seemed rude not to, given one of their guitarists was working at the merch desk.  🙂 Hell of a night.

Decent into the Maelstrom

The shadow of Radio Birdman looms large over my music collection. Whilst my first great love was, and still is to an extent, heavy metal, the high powered Detroit influenced rock and roll they play had a massive influence on me. It was about 2 minutes into the first song I heard of theirs when I knew I was hooked and it’s a passion that still burns brightly, almost *cough* years on. So when I heard a documentary on the band was incoming, I was a little nervous. Would it be like End of the Century, that showed the Ramones as artistically gifted but miserable gits, or more like Gimme Danger, which was a very well made but somewhat toothless love letter to the Stooges?

Rest easy – they’ve done themselves proud. As director Jonathan Sequeira commented at the Q&A tonight (attended by band members Pip Hoyle and Deniz Tek), they cut out anyone talking about the music, and just let it play. Wise move that. I could rhapsodise about the quality of the performances for hours, and will do if you’re unlucky enough to ask me about it in the flesh, but you don’t need that – just listen to the music. The opening drums of Descent into the Maelstrom still thunder away, What Gives rips away like a chainsaw and the opening of Do the Pop can blast roofs off, as I can testify to the last time I saw the band, at the Gaelic in Sydney. They walked on stage, singer Rob Younger mumbled a hello or two, then screamed “12341234!” and everything exploded. And that was the opening number.

It’s a well made tale, with a god mix of new and vintage footage and pictures, with any gaps illustrated by bassist Warwick Gilbert. What get’s the most respect from me is that everyone is allowed to tell their story – it’s real warts and all stuff. Nothing’s off the table as regards inter band feuds and bitterness, a welcome contrast to some band docos I’ve seen in the past. Guitarist Chris Masuak reading his termination email and drummer Ron Keeley recalling his sacking hit hard and rightly so. But at the same time, it’s balanced by frequent hilarity, such as the story of a certain person on the Big Day Out 96 who needed a doctor, or the story of the live brain surgery gig, prompting Younger to quip to the effect of ‘If you can clear a room of fans you must be doing something right.’

What really shines through is the sense of just how much they loved their music, and the fierce determination to do their own thing, in the face of a music industry that despised them (Tek was once accused of facist sympathies by Red Symons, something that’s only gotten funnier given a recent radio interview of Symons.), and in doing so helped create a scene that exists to this day, influencing dozens, if not hundreds of bands worldwide. They’re Radio Birdman, and long may they rock. If you can see it in cinemas, then do so, it sounds amazing. If you can’t, then no matter where you are play it loud. Such amazing music deserves nothing less. Book em Danno, 5 out of 5.

(I do have one small regret, and that’s not working up the guts to ask what the hell Man with Golden Helmet is about – it’s been more years than I care to think about and I still can’t make head nor tail of the lyrics. Great piano work though.)

A recent thought.

I’m faily certain there are acceptable songs to sing to oneself when walking down a badly lit suburban street about 10 o’clock on a Saturday night.

I’m almost certain Penetration by the Stooges isn’t one of those. Luckily I managed to stop myself before the group of people coming the other way down the street were within earshot. At least, if they heard me, they didn’t say anything.

Gimme Danger (2016)

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It’s one of the greatest opening lines in the history of rock and roll, delivered by a frontman perpetually on the edge of destruction and a band one step away from the abyss. The Stooges were there at the burth of punk and influence no small amount in the following decades. There’s been a lot written about thems over the years (From the Velvets to the Voidoids and Please Kill Me are both amazing reads, both for fans of the band and the American punk scene), but now longtime Stooge fan Jim Jarmusch has finished the doco he’s been working on for the least 8 or so years. Does it cut the mustard? Yep, but not without a few reservations.

First off, lightning strikes on the train network meant I missed the opening 25 mins. Not happy, but what can you do? What I saw I really enjoyed, but I left wanting more – details are glossed over or sometimes frustratingly short. I get it, you only have so much time, and with Iggy Pop now one of only two surviving band members, well, you take what can get. Fortunately, there’s a good amount of footage with the Asheton brothers (Ron and Scott) and saxophonist Steve McKay, but the bulk of the film is narrated by Pop and James Williamson, who’s post band career as an exec at Sony bringing much laughter from the audience.

It’s an oddly bloodless film – for all of the stories of debauchery, chemical indulgence and general bad behaviour concerning the band there’s precious little of it in the film. Sure, I’m happy that that’s not the sole content of the film*, but it struck me as somewhat sanitised, like an episode of Behind the Music. It’s almost too much a fan of it’s subject to be objective – treating them as the single greatest thing before and since sliced bread. I mean, I adore the Stooges, but they aren’t the Ramones.** There’s no mention of Pop’s solo career and a tiny mention of the Asheton’s various post Stooges bands, until the groups ‘reunification’ (As Pop calls it) in the early 2000’s for one of Pop’s solo albums, followed by a more formal reunion, ending with the death of the Asheton brothers, Ron in 2009 and Scott in 2014. Tragedy and triumph in equal measure.

On a side note, while the Golden Age cinema is lovely (From the little time I spent there), it really didn’t feel… me. It was dark, with pretty people having conversations over expensive looking cocktails. (The place I’ve felt most uncomfortable was still the Ivy Bar in Sydney, which I spent about an hour in after a work function and immediately wanted to burn to the ground and salt the Earth so nothing would grow there again. But I digress…) There was also the audience – there was the occasional chuckle at a joke or sad noise at an annoucement of a band member’s death, but little else. I’m reminded of seeing Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey at a film festival in Sydney, with the hilarious contrast of the audience being half tweed jacket wearing David Stratton wannabes and the other half looking like… well, me.

13580523_907695662675802_8702796923274474296_oSelf portrait by the author.

What really got me was they barely seemed to move duing the film, outside of looking for the toilet. I don’t understand people who can listen to music and not be moved by it. Take the opening riff to ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ or the chaotic shrieking of ‘Funhouse’ – how are you not up and rocking out? Reminds me of seeing Metallica a few years ago where there was a guy sitting a few seats away who barely moved through the show, not even when The Four Horsemen kicked in. Not for Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning, not even Seek and Destroy. There was a point there I wasn’t sure he was breathing… Look, I’m probably taking it too seriously, an accusation that’s been leveled at me before and to which I say guilty as charged m’lud. But this is some of the finest music comitted to tape and to sit down and not move while it’s playing is something that SHOULD NOT BE DONE.

If you’re  a Stooges fan, it’s well worth checking out. If you aren’t, buy the albums first and then check this out. Of course, you should have the albums already, but I’ve been known to judge people on how many Ramones albums they own, so I’m not exactly unbiased.

3.5 Street Walking Cheetahs out of 5.

*If I want that I’ll re-read Motley Crue’s The Dirt.
** A fact acknowledged by no less an authority on the matter than Lemmy himself.

How much is too much?

I really want to like Critical Role. It get’s a lot of press, has done wonders for the table top gaming community and Matt Mercer is a fantastic GM who makes my shambling semi organised efforts feel thoroughly inadequate. What I’ve seen of the show I’ve really enjoyed (Viktor the Black Powder Merchant especially) , but the sheer amount of it to catch up on puts me off. 60 plus 3 hour long episodes? That’s a hell of a lot there. I’m starting to understand how people can go “I’m not going to watch Doctor Who, there’s too much to watch to be caught up.” (It’s how I feel about Supernatural and that’s only 11 seasons in) Sure, I feel those people are foolish and wrong and you should watch ALL THE WHO but they’re entitled to their opinion and not to be mocked for it. Much.

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Anyhow, the post 2005 version of the show has been set up with so you don’t have to watch the old stuff, or indeed much of the new show to understand it (Continuity done well, unlike the early 80’s Ian Levine era, but that’s a far, far nerdier rant than this one is going to be), but you’d be depriving yourself of the Sylvester McCoy era and to me that’s akin to calling yourself a heavy metal fan and not owning the first 4 Black Sabbath albums. Well, if you ignore his first year – we don’t talk about Time and the Rani. But Remembrance of the Daleks and The Happiness Patrol should be on any list of classic series Who to watch. I might write one of those if there’s interest?

What I am enjoying is Force Grey: Giant Hunters – they’re only 6 episodes in (At the time of writing) and those are in 25-40 minute chunks, far more digestable. To add to that, the intro is  utterly adorable and fast working it’s way up my list of favorite TV intros (The Top 5 being Doctor Who, Monkey, Cowboy Bebop, Danger Mouse and Babylon 5). Oh, and Matt Mercer still makes me feel like a terrible GM.

Switching topics to the ‘It’s about fucking time’ desk comes the first new Metallica song in about 8 years. It’s far from a classic, but it’s short, fast and furious (A welcome return to the days of Kill Em All) and for those reasons alone is a welcome breath of fresh air in a sea of overly long sludgy epics. Here’s hoping the rest of the album’s like this.

Ah, nuts.

So, I may have said recently that I was trying not to get involved in another game. Well, I’ve broken that and got involved in another LARP. Cut a long story short,  I’m now part of a group (Well, a duo at the moment) writing another game. The plan is a mix of tavern and day games, to balance between the political and fighty players, but little more has been written. On the bright side, I’ll be busy and I’m a lot better mentally when that happens. If you’re intersted in helping, drop me a comment.

In unrelated news, there’s some wonderful things that make me misty eyed. It took me a long time to get adjusted to the idea of wanting children, mostly due to not having spent much time around them. As my Niece and Godson grew older, that spark began to grow, and flared at the point that I could start introducing them to stuff I loved. Showing Niece The Princess Bride was incredibly nerve wracking, as if she didn’t like it, well, we may not speak ever again. (Spoiler: she spent the rest of the night yelling “I am not left handed!” at me) Even Star Wars was less nerve wracking – we finished showing her Jedi the morning of taking her to The Force Awakens and upon seeing Han she turned to me and asked “Why’s he so old?” Godson has also developed a ferocious Doctor Who obsession in the last year or so and despite him calling The Web of Fear boring and only wanting to watch regeneration episodes (He’s 7, so I havn’t disowned him yet) it’s incredibly heartwarming to see how much he loves the show. This was also somewhat inspired off by the recent Ghostbusters, which made me want daughters to show them an example of strong, awesome female characters.

To get to the point I was trying to make, seeing video of Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons at Wacken Open Air 2016 did that as well. It’s no boast on the band name, as three of Campbell’s kids are band members. Watching them roar through Killed By Death and seeing the look on Campbell’s face… We miss Him and will continue to, but Campbell worked with him for over 30 years – what’s he’s been feeling the past few months I can’t begin to comprehend. Getting back on stage is one thing, but playing those songs again must stir up something pretty primal. We grieve for those we have lost, but celebrate what they gave us.

Brings a tear to the eye doesn’t it?

It’s a belief of mine that everyone has that one great love in their life and whatever that may be is up to the individual. I love a lot of things with possibly far more intensity than I should, but rock and roll trumps them all. There’s something about it that effects me in a way I can’t explain, but it’s triggers, something, that irresistible urge to jump around, throw shapes and flail my hear around like a loon. The adrenachrome hit. One moment of perfect beauty. The Savage Beat. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a wonderful thing. From the Bellrays jazzrock fusion, Skindred’s genre hopping madness, the savage intensity of Testament, Radio Birdman’s well, everything, my beloved Iron Maiden and the sole reason I want to visit New York, the Ramones, I love it. It makes me rage with fury and weep with sadness. It also gives me the beserk energy I need to clean the kitchen. You can keep your booze, your drugs, your beliefs. I have guitars, bass and drums and I’m fine with that. After all, it sure ain’t noise pollution.

Iron Maiden? Excellent!

Iron Maiden – – Qudos Bank Arena, 06/05/16

An Iron Maiden concert is a special thing, like a gathering of the clans. Young, old, male, female, it matters not – all are here to worship at the altar of Maiden. There’s a wonderful atmosphere in the air, a lot of love in the venue that those unfamiliar with a heavy metal crowd might not expect.

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The train journey there had a fascinating conversation with a very drunk Chilean man (Also on his way to the show), with such revelations that his first STD was from an Aussie girl (Chlamydia to be exact), that he’s on the lookout for a German girl (Or someone from that general part of the world – he doesn’t discriminate) and how when Chile conquers Australia and appoints him overlord he’ll rollback the lockout laws and make polygamy legal. So, all hail our very drunk Chilean would-be overlord?

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I don’t catch much of support band The Raven Age (Having been stuck in the slowest moving drinks queue EVER), but what I do has me wanting more. Let this be a lesson – SUPPORT YOUR OPENING BANDS PEOPLE. Or at least be more cheerful than the miserable sod next to me, who barely cracked a smile through the show. That ranks up there when I saw Metallica and the person on my right sat down and barely moved during The Four Horsemen.* The more I think on that I’m not sure he wasn’t dead…

The change-over begins, with regular chants of “Maiden!”*clapclapclap* echoing through the room. It’s the strains of UFO’s Doctor Doctor that get’s people really moving as that’s the signal the show’s about to start. After an intro video which had a giant Eddie (The bands mascot) hurling their plane (Ed Force One) into the sky, the show begins…

Steve Harris’ right hand is the most metal thing ever. More metal than a T-800, Robocop and a legion of Cybermen put together. Let’s face it, his little finger is more metal than Mjolnir. Dave Murray, always dependable, grinning away as his fingers fly over the fretboard. Adrian Smith, the epitome of understated cool – how he carry’s off that ensemble I’ll never know, but it’s his look and he rocks it mightily. Janick Gers doesn’t seem to have aged since 1991 (He certainly hasn’t updated his stage clothes), hurling himself about the stage at all speed, flinging his guitar around and regularly soloing with one foot up on the speakers at a near 90 degree angle. Nicko McBrain is his regular octopus like self behind the drums, complete with customary Sooty doll sitting above his bass drum. How he works his way around the kit I’ll never understand, to say nothing of the giant gong behind him. And then there’s Bruce. Hearing Bruce Dickinson in full flight is a special thing to behold. While yes, age (And a recent throat cancer scare) mean his voice isn’t quite the almighty air-raid siren it once was, it’s hardly missed a beat. We get jokes about the youth of parts of the audience, the story of how it was an Australian who shot down the Red Baron and an emotional speech thanking us and reminding us that no matter the colour, gender or religion, all are welcome at a Maiden show.

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Opener If Eternity Should Fail has lyrics that have been begging me to write a game based around them** since I first heard it, Speed of Light is catchier than a cold and while you could probably shave 3-5 minutes of instrumental from The Red and the Black that would mean denying the audience more chances to go “Woah-oh!” and Steve Harris time to do his trademark one foot on the monitors machine gunning the audience pose. Deny them that? I’d rather die. Seeing the backdrop for The Trooper is alone enough to have me grinning from ear to ear and air guitaring as if my life depended on it. Having that followed by Powerslave? *head explodes* The Book of Souls (The title track from the storming new album) gives us an appearance from a giant Mayan themed Eddie who cavorts around the stage before Dickinson gleefully rips his heart out. The set ends with the traditional blast through Iron Maiden, with a giant inflatable Eddie head looming over the band.  There’s cheering, pyro and picks and sticks being thrown into the crowd, before the agonizingly long wait for the encore.

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Darkness. Red lights. A backdrop that looks like flame. Is that a giant inflatable horned demon I see before me? It is! Which can only mean one thing… Woe to you, O Earth and Sea…”  Yep, it’s The Number of the Beast, the song that hooked me on the band *COUGH* years ago. I squeal with joy more than a little. An emotional Dickinson introduces Blood Brothers, speaking about how regardless of difference, we’re all welcome here and we end with Wasted Years, sounding as glorious as ever. More cheers and a sudden realization that it’s going to take a long time to get back to where we’re staying. Stupid reality.

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As roughly 13,000 people exit the venue to the strains of ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’, there’s one thing I know with no doubt in my mind: Iron Maiden never fail to put on a fantastic show and we’re bloody lucky to have them. Hallowed be Thy Name indeed.

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SET LIST:

If Eternity Should Fail

Speed of Light

Children of the Damned

Tears of a Clown

The Red and the Black

The Trooper

Powerslave

Death or Glory

The Book of Souls

Hallowed by Thy Name

Fear of the Dark

Iron Maiden

ENCORE:

Number of the Beast

Blood Brothers

Wasted Years

*Sure, it’s not Creeping Death, but how can you not get up and rock out to it?

** In particular the chorus:
Reef in a sail at the edge of the world, if eternity should fail.

Waiting in line for the ending of time, if eternity should fail
I’m thinking something in the Doctor Who universe, possibly based around the Time War. But it’s not like I’m not already booked up running games til 2019, or so my wife (correctly) claims…

God is dead.

Lemmy Kilmister – 1945 – 2015

There are very few people in this world that could get me to purchase alcohol, even if only for the purpose if pouring it out in salute. Lemmy was one of those people.

This should be a time to celebrate his life, not mourn his passing. To talk about the good times, share fond memories and swap stories of his deeds and I hope to do that in the days to come. The one I still chuckle at was the one about his plan to change his blood, based on a story about Keith Richards doing the same, in order to help detox or some such. The doctor apparently took a sample, did some tests and listened to Lem detail his lifestyle, then shook his head, saying “Fresh blood will probably kill you!”

We all knew the day would come, as much as we liked to joke about his immortality (The common line being ‘The only things left after the bomb will be cockroaches, Lemmy and Keith Richards’). But that doesn’t ease the sting of the news. Goodbye Lemmy, and thank you. Your music shall be played long and loud.