Back in 2005, Motörhead singer and bassist Lemmy Kilmister gave some hard-won advice on how to drink. Now, I don’t mean who to drink as much a possible. The rules for that game are pretty simple. I mean he gave advice on how to drink without losing control. For a musician who famously never drank a coke without mixing it with a measure of Jack Daniels, it was important to keep oneself from going over the edge. I’m not saying he always succeeded. But, then again, good advice very rarely comes from people who have a 100 per cent success rate.
Indeed, when Lemmy sat down for an interview in 2016, the interviewer began by pointing out the thin – barely perceivable – line between a heavy drinker and an alcoholic. “Just like there’s a fine line between just fishing and standing on the bank looking like an arsehole,” came his reply. “The line is whether the fuck you know what you’re doing when you drink ’cos if you don’t know what you’re doing, you just become a terrible boring drunk. Whereas, if you know when to stop, you become an amazing, anecdotal man of the world. Which is better than being the guy having a shit in the bathtub.” Have truer words ever been spoken?
By the sounds of things, Lemmy was speaking from experience. But, by the time Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian met the Motörhead bassist, he seemed a paragon of virtue and restraint. As Ian recalled, the first time a drop of alcohol passed his lips was with Lemmy and, this time, it would be he who embarrassed himself. The musician recalled the day he met Lemmy in London back in 1985 when he was only 21: “Well, the first whiskey I ever had was a Jack & Coke with Lemmy in 1985 at a bar in London where I bumped into him. He’s my hero, and I bumped into him in a bar – and I didn’t even drink at the time.”
“I was 21, I didn’t drink,” he continued “And I saw Lemmy and I offered to buy him a drink. And he said, ‘You’re in my town, I’ll buy you a drink. What are you having?’ And I didn’t even know how to answer that question, so I just said, ‘I’ll have whatever you’re having.’ And he was drinking Jack & Coke, so all of a sudden I’ve got a whiskey in front of me and I’m worried that I’m gonna throw up on his white boots and get fired from heavy metal. It was awesome and it was horrible. Six months later, we played our first-ever headlining gig in London, and he was there backstage. He’s saying hi to everybody, and he looks at me and he’s like, ‘How are you feeling?’ And I said, ‘You remember me?’”I suppose that’s one of the benefits of knowing when to stop: you can actually remember your drinking-buddies names the next morning.