First concerts are formative in two important ways. Firstly, they open up our eyes to the undiluted pleasures of live music, and, secondly, they teach us about the kind of behaviour we can expect from the artist’s fanbase. We tend to forget that different genres are accompanied by a distinct set of rules. As many of us will have learned from bitter experience, if not understood, these gig-going customs can lead to a great deal of confusion and – in the case of mosh-inducing groups like Lemmy Kilmister’s band, Motörhead – serious injury.
By embracing or rejecting the behaviour of the fanbase, we unconsciously shape our music tastes, cementing what we believe to be musically valuable. For young musicians, these early experiences often inform the kind of music they themselves will go on to create. It comes as something of a surprise, then, to learn that the first concert the hard-drinking lover of brawls Lemmy Kilmister went to was a relatively tame affair – tame in comparison to a Motörhead concert, at least. It’s kind of hard to imagine, but Lemmy’s first gig was less leather and punch-ups and more velvet and soulful ballads.
While Lemmy’s first concert was perhaps a little more restrained than you’d expect, it still made quite the impression. Speaking to Music Radar back in 2012, he explained how the rock ‘n’ roller Bill Fury opened his eyes to the potent sexual allure of music: “When I saw him, I realised that you could get any girl to take her clothes off if you were a rock ‘n’ roll singer,” he began, “That was good enough for me. [laughs] He had a group called The Tornadoes backing him. They were session players. I thought they were pretty run of the mill, actually.”
For Lemmy, it was Fury’s presence and style that made the greatest impact: “Billy had the whole star thing down, had a silver suit and the whole bit. He was from Liverpool, same as The Beatles. Ballads were his main thing, but he did rock ‘n’ roll on his B-sides – that’s what I liked, the rock stuff. After that, I saw a few others. Gene Vincent was a good one. I liked him more than Billy Fury, and I got to meet him, too, so that was good.”
Born in Liverpool in 1940, Billy Fury was exposed at an early age to the American blues records bought back by his home town’s merchant sailors. As a young adult, he became a successful actor and musician, matching The Beatles record of 24 hits in the 1960s. Although, unlike The Beatles, he never managed to reach the top of the charts.
Fury died at the age of 42 after suffering a heart attack on the way back from a recording session in the small hours of January 28th, 1983. Following his death, he faded into obscurity; his recordings, by and large, forgotten. But, listening to tracks like ‘Wondrous Place’, and ‘Do You Really Love Me Too’ it’s clear he had something very special. Clearly, Lemmy thought so too.