Ozzy Osbourne is one of the few musicians who knew Lemmy Kilmister from his early days in Hawkwind through four decades of Motörhead. They toured together on Osbourne’s first U.S. solo trek, they wrote hits like “Mama, I’m Coming Home,” “See You on the Other Side” and the Grammy-winning “I Don’t Want to Change the World” together and they swapped war stories and war memorabilia together. When Osbourne learned of Kilmister’s passing on Monday, he was in shock. Here, he pays loving tribute to his longtime friend.
All I’ve done since I heard the news was reflect on the times we had together. He was a good guy, a very good friend of mine. I’m still in some shock.
I phoned him up two days ago, and I couldn’t make out one word he was saying. Yesterday, I got a text from his manager saying, “Lemmy’s on the way [out], and he wants to see some of his friends.” So my wife and I were just about leaving the door and the text came saying he’d gone. It shook me up bad. We were like, “Wow.” He must have been suffering for a while. You know, he’s 70. He lived the rock & roll lifestyle to the max, but still it’s sad when you lose a friend like that.
Me and Lemmy go back a long time. We used to have a standing joke with each other, “Which one of us is going to go first?” But I curbed my ways, staying up all night and all that shit, a long time ago. But Lemmy said to me one time, “What’s the point of living to 99 if you’re not enjoying it? It’s my life and I want to have fun with it.” And he lived to 70. And the way he lived, smoking cigarettes, drinking and all that, he knew he wouldn’t be doing it. You can’t live that lifestyle and live ’til 99. Very rarely, some people can. Most of us drop off along the way.
I met him when he was in Hawkwind. We used to rehearse in the same place in England. And then when he formed Motörhead, they were like the pirates of the rock business. I remember when I did my first solo tour of America, and they were opening up for us. We had a lot of fun together. They would be partying every day. On that tour, I remember saying to Lemmy at one point, “Do you ever sleep?” And he goes, “Well, not much.” I go, “When was the last time you slept?” He said, “Let me think. Ten, 12 days ago.” I said, “You’re joking!” If I stayed awake for two days, I would be absolutely screaming, crazy. But they used to go for it.
“I go, ‘When was the last time you slept?’ He said, ‘Let me think. Ten, 12 days ago.’”
He was the king of partying for a long while, but I’m sure he didn’t keep it up forever. You could not do it. Lemmy was a fucking monster for it.
When they toured with me, it was like Spinal Tap. They’d come off the stage, soaking with sweat, they’d get in the bus and just drive. They wouldn’t shower. We were doing colleges, anywhere we could play. And their rider was like a case of Jack Daniel’s, a case of vodka. Sharon says, “How much do you think we can afford to pay you?” Their rider was well more than we were paying them. They lived on vodka, orange juice, soda, and they’d walk around with bourbon all the time. I don’t know how the fuck they drank that stuff. I got loaded on Jack Daniel’s only one time, and I went, “You know what? It’s fucking not for me.”
Back in those days, I was hitting it pretty hard as well. But nothing like them. They put a new fucking meaning to partying. It was catastrophic. One of the guitar players went fucking insane. The stuff they used to use, that methamphetamine, whatever they fuck they used to use, it was fierce. They’d all be fucking wide-eyed and legless.
He stayed at our house for a while at one point. I remember when he arrived, this was back in the crazy days and I was hungover and wanted to crawl under a rock and die. He came to the door, and his face was fucking ashen. He looked like a ghost. He looked like he’d been under a slab for 500 years. And he looked at me and he said, “Fuck me. I hope I don’t look as bad as you.” I go, “Fuck, if Lemmy Kilmister’s saying that to me, I’m going back to bed.” I went back to bed and called the gig.
It wasn’t all partying, though. Lemmy and I did a lot of work together, too. I remember when he wrote some lyrics for me, I went over to his apartment. That place was unbelievable. There was more war memorabilia and things hanging off the wall than most museums. I’ve given him some swords and daggers over the years that I picked up. It was his hobby. We had an interest in that Second World War. But he was so intelligent about it. He knew so much about the history.
“Lemmy didn’t write good lyrics – he wrote fucking amazing lyrics.”
Anyway, I gave him a song that I wrote. He was great with lyrics, so I said to him, “Can you work on this?” I also gave him a book about the Second World War, about some general or something. He says, “Come back in two hours.” So I come back and he not only wrote me a bunch of lyrics, he had three sets of lyrics and he said to me, “That book was crap also.” I said, “What book?” “The one you gave me.” He had read a book in an hour. I said, “Are you kidding me?” He said, “Do you like these lyrics?” And I think it was for “Mama, I’m Coming Home.” And I said, “They’re all right.” And he goes, “What do you think about these?” He’d written me three sets of lyrics.
He wrote my song “See You on the Other Side” with me. I came up with the idea and he wrote the lyrics. He wrote, “Mama, I’m Coming Home,” “Hellraiser,” “Desire,” “I Don’t Want to Change the World.” I’d give him a song and think, “Where the fuck do you go from here?” And he’d write you like 15 other verses in such a short amount of time. I mean, if I was writing lyrics, most of the time, I go, “Well, she went to the door,” and that’s as far as I’d get. He just writes them as if he’s writing a message. And it’s like, “He wrote this in how long?” And they’re not good lyrics – they’re fucking amazing lyrics.
To look at Lemmy, you’d never think he was as educated as he was. People look at the music we do and the way we look, and they go, “Oh, this bunch is a bunch of yobbos. They don’t know what they’re doing. They’re bad people.” But it’s not true. Lemmy looks like an old biker, but he was so well read. He was very up on a lot of things. He was a very clever guy. On his bus on the first tour, he had a plaid suitcase and all he had in there was a pair of knickers and a pair of socks, and the rest was books. When he stayed with us, he’d stay in the library for three days, reading fucking books. And if I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, he’d still be reading. And I’d go, “Why don’t you sleep?”
He was a serious friend to us. He was very loyal. And if he had something to say to you, he wouldn’t mince about it. He wouldn’t yell at you. He’d just say, “That pissed me off.” That was very rare. I don’t think he said that to me, but he was just everybody’s friend.
He had a great sense of humor, as well. One of his songs was called “Killed by Death,” and that was an amazing title.
Lemmy discovered California and he moved out here a long while ago. He lived just around the corner from [Los Angeles bar] the Rainbow. He didn’t drive and he could walk from his apartment to the Rainbow, and that’s where he lived for the past 25, 30 years. The Rainbow, I believe, has a chair. It’s part of the bar, which it has a plaque on saying, “Lemmy’s chair.” He sat in the same seat every day. He was local.
I saw him a few months ago at the Roxy. A friend of mine, Billy Morrison, was playing and I made a guest appearance. Lemmy was at the bar, as usual. I don’t know if he was drinking or if he was just sitting in his place. He was very thin, very unwell, but he lived life the way he wanted and lived with the consequences. And I said to him, “Are you OK? Do you have kidney problems?” And he looked shocked. Nobody goes, “I’m going to die next year.” I don’t know why he kept going as long as he did.
To be honest with you, I think doing the gigs kept him going. He worked until the very end. It gave him something to get out of bed for. He was playing in Germany recently. He must have known he was very ill.
We did some gigs in South America with him in April, I remember my wife saying, “You should have seen Lemmy. He’s lost a lot of weight and he really doesn’t look too well.” I was constantly texting him, saying, “If you need anything, call me.” I was just looking at my phone, and there was a message from him that said, “Thanks for caring.”
“He was a character. There ain’t many characters in music today.”
I’ll miss him so much. We all will. There’s a big hole in the music industry as far as I’m concerned.
He was a character. There ain’t many characters in music today. I mean, you’ve got Miley Cyrus, OK, but there’s not many characters in the game anymore. But he was definitely a character. An original. He lived the lifestyle. Sex, drugs and rock & roll, that was Lemmy.
You know what? There goes a hero for me. He was my hero. He was fucking great, a good friend. I’m missing him already. I’ll never forget him. I don’t think a lot of people will forget Lemmy. He’ll be so missed in my camp. He was a good guy, a good man, a good friend of mine. He was just a fucking great dude, man. Not enough time for him.
God bless you, Lemmy. I’m so honored to have you a part of my life.