Dead Man’s Hand… Again
It’s been a regular rock and roll one two punch over the last two months. It was only a few days ago I sat in the Heatley on Hastings with some of the rock and roll faithful to take in the funeral of legendary Motorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmister who’d succumbed to a sudden diagnosis of cancer that came just weeks after he’d celebrated his 70th birthday.
He passed on December 28th sitting in front of his favourite gambling video game that the Rainbow Bar and Grill had recently donated to him. After all the years of him stating he’d like to die onstage doing what he loved it was kind of anti climactic that he went out the way he did. In the end he was still doing something he loved. Lemmy’s death didn’t come as much of a surprise though: during the summer and fall tour of 2015 there were signs it was coming to a close like when he started singing the wrong lyrics during Motorhead’s encores and his ill health forced Motorhead to cancel several shows.
That didn’t stop the maniac from touring almost up to the end of his insane speed snorting whisky drinking career. He was one of the totems that was looked up to by millions of rockers to demonstrate that you can live life by your owns rules and get away with it.
He will continue to rock and roll on be he in heaven, hell or just the inky blackness of a nearby void. A back table at the Heatley went out of their way to buy everyone “Lemmys” which is what his staple drink of Coca Cola and Jack Daniel’s whisky is now called. As the sun went down the tributes kept pouring in at the Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery from the likes of his son, tour managers, snake handlers and rockers like Slash of G’n’R fame, Scott Ian from Anthrax, Lars and Robert Trujillo from Metallica and with a finale delivered by Dave Grohl. They all had the same thing to say: the man was a modern day pirate who did what the fuck he wanted but that he was always a gentleman who treated everyone with respect. So imagine my shock when after spending the day convalescing from the previous afternoons festivities that the news came scrolling in just before midnight that another legendary Brit had ascended in the realm of stardust.
Like Lemmy, David Bowie had just celebrated a birthday (him and Elvis Presley both share January 8th) but his battle with cancer was even more secretive but there was no outwardly public display to lend any clues to the fans. His birthday also coincided with the release of his final farewell album “Blackstar” and only the day before the swan song video for “Lazarus” debuted on YouTube. And if there was any artist who would stage his own come back after death it would be Ziggy Stardust himself but alas it doesn’t look like he’ll be rising from the dead.
Bowie played his cards close to the chest but in the immortal words of “Ace of Spades” it was another case of “Read em’ and weep, the dead mans hand again”. Over the past 4 decades the month of December has slowly become a rock and roll graveyard. December 8th in particular is a musical Pearl Harbor which saw the shocking shooting death of John Lennon back in 1980 at the hands of assassin Mark David Chapman and then the eerily similar death of former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell at the hands of a another gunman when he was shot on stage in 2004.
The only good thing that happened on the 8th was the birthday of Doors frontman Jim Morrison.
Lemmy and Bowie’s deaths were only recently preceded by the death of Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland who passed away in the bunk of his tour bus due to a cocktail of drugs and drink. His death was no surprise either as recent video evidence surfaced in the summer showing the alt rock front man bungling lyrics and singing out of time and tune to songs he’d performed hundreds of times. Following his death his ex-wife made a plea to the public to not glorify the actions that brought about his ultimate demise and hammered home the point that in the end he was a drug addicted father who left behind two small children that he barely acknowledged he had.
And I’d like to close out with another death that was not in the rock and roll realm but it’s one that hits home to a lot of older Vancouverites and that was the day appropriate demise of local swing band leader Dal Richards who passed away New Year’s Eve at the age of 97. It would have been Dal’s 80th New Years celebration but he passed just 19 minutes short of New Year’s Day. The previous night saw his family sing “Auld Lang Syne” to him because they didn’t believe he’d make it to the 31st. All in all an appropriate send off for a Vancouver legend whose death from natural causes is a nice respite in a month of preternatural demise.
Anyway, here’s to 2016 and whatever it may entail.
By Cosmic Debris