photo & text by nacrowe
written at the turn of the millennium in a jovial, conversational style in first person, WHITE LINE FEVER: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (CITADEL PRESS, 2002) by legendary MOTÖRHEAD frontman LEMMY KILMISTER is an engaging look back at a most interesting career in music and the legend's almost ZELIG-like ability to be connected to various cultural movements and figures over the years.
i would like to get the drawbacks of this book out of the way before i go all fanboy, because obviously the draw of reading this is to learn more about one of my all-time favorite bands, who really cemented the attitude of PUNK ROCK in a more technical METAL landscape, even if he was a precursor that ultimately transcended both scenes. the tone of the book feels like you are in the presence of a great storyteller at the end of a bar drag on about his life and the reasons for past decisions to date. this is a double-edged construction for a book since all bases are covered chronologically but can come off a bit forced and repetitive at times, especially give the life of a successful musician with the requisite recording and live performance schedules. about halfway through this book i had a good idea of how the trajectory of his narrative was going to pan out and the book didn't disappoint, which was unfortunate as you want the reader to not be lulled into boredom by being predictable.
which is odd given the subject of this book. KILMISTER led an anything but normal life, even by ROCK AND ROLL standards. he was an ENGLISHMAN who grew up primarily in WALES to a single-mother and grew up in the 60s scene where he was able to see THE BEATLES pre-fame at the CAVERN CLUB, roadied for JIMI HENDRIX and found himself a part of the 70s PROG ROCK culture fronting HAWKWIND before ultimately venturing out with the PUNK/METAL juggernaut MOTÖRHEAD for the rest of his life.
while this book does provide some interesting asides and stories about his upbringing and friends, famous and not, throughout his life, the tone of this book feels like that of a ROLLING STONE in the BLUES sense, in that he doesn't seem to stick too long to any subject before moving on to something else. this includes losing friends (and even a lover from his youth) to heroin. heroin is a drug he acknowledges despising because it took so many of his peers but often instead of diving deeper he glibly goes on about getting on with his life. on one hand you get the sense that you are listening to the ultimate ROCK AND ROLL survivor, but it feels like a lost opportunity in that these disappointments are what inform his decisions and trajectory as a major cultural figure for over 30 years (at the point of publication). as a reader i wouldn't mind if more attention were paid to such instead of giving it the same care as his many screeds against cliche fair like record companies and concert promotes.
thats my gripe. i wish this book had been a bit more in depth on his life but really, this is his book to have written the way he wanted. i don't think this is the definitive MOTÖRHEAD book but i look forward to reading such when it is ultimately written.
somewhere along the way, legendary guitar player SCOTT IAN of THRASH METAL icons ANTHRAX learned he had a real gift for storytelling. his obvious mentor in this regard was HARDCORE frontman HENRY ROLLINS of BLACK FLAG/ROLLINS BAND fame who has maintained a longstanding second career as an in-demand spoken-word artist.
given his stature, IAN has seen things over his 30+ year career and his second memoir ACCESS ALL AREAS: STORIES FROM A HARD ROCK LIFE (DA CAPO PRESS 2017), which he penned himself, maintains his acerbic wit, cadence and voice. reading through this it is not hard to imagine him standing beside you performing each narrative as a spoken-word routine, which is definitely a compliment. there is a reason why most musicians don't write their own memoirs, and IAN proves himself a highly capable narrator. his style is very much utilitarian in that he doesn't get too wordy or overly clever with descriptions, which in a way describes his iconic no-sense rhythm guitar work and that of his musical idol, MALCOLM YOUNG of AC/DC.
obviously i don't want to give away any of the stories, but i will say that they deal with his outside pursuits regarding professional poker, moonlighting in tv shows like THE WALKING DEAD and GAME OF THRONES, relationships and of course touring. highlights include stories that include the pranks of legendary PANTERA guitarist DIMEBAG DARRELL (R.I.P.), hanging out with MADONNA and the wardrobe choices of the immortal LEMMY KILMISTER (R.I.P.) of the almighty MOTÖRHEAD.
IAN comes off as a hardworking musician more than aware of how fortunate he is to have his career and the respect of his peers and this book, along with the previous I AM THE MAN: THE STORY OF THAT GUY FROM ANTHRAX (DA CAPO PRESS 2014), seem to be a celebration of that community of musicians. a celebration of how they touched his life, so in that regard i hope he keeps writing.
also keep a look out for the dude in concert. just learned he's touring with MR. BUNGLE in 2020. MIKE PATTON and SCOTT IAN sharing a stage. man, life certainly does not suck.