|Lemmy from MotÃ¶rhead wrote his autobiography entitled White Line Fever
. Lemmy doesn’t Skype and doesn’t really “do” computers in general, so its unlikely there will be a Lemmy interview with Singing Bassist any time soon. However, I have read his tome and can now happily present a book review of his autobiography from the aspiring singing bassist’s perspective!
Lemmy first acquired a guitar from his mom during high-school and initially used it for decorative purposes at school (who didn’t start out with guitar that way?). He proceeded to play guitar in a band eventually called the DeeJays.
He includes some very interesting anecdotes about the nascient music scene in middle Britain in the 1960’s. For instance, according to Lemmy,
photo credit: Timm Williams
Reading those stories now really reminds me of how dependent rock musicians are on equipment nowadays, and how much the music shops have thrust products upon amateur musicians to the point that it seems indispensable for a bass-player to play through a 100 W stack, even if the concert is being held in a small pub! When really good music was and still is possible to be made through a tiny 30 W amplifier with mixer. I suppose that the drum sets were small and the drummers more subtle players back then. Nowadays, snobbish kids scoff at the thought of playing through an amplifier whose name isn’t Marshall, Ampeg or Orange. What they lack in talent they compensate for in Wattage!
Lemmy started singing for the Motown Sect, as a singing guitarist, and explains that he was and always will be a reluctant singer. In what seems to be quite common for singing bassists, Lemmy accidentally became a bassist as an opening in the band Hawkwind called for a bassist. He occasionally sang lead with Hawkwind, as their singer was of variable consistency. It was in Hawkwind that Lemmy emerged from his shell, stage-wise, and in that period, Lemmy began to write songs. And then Lemmy left, or was ejected from Hawkwind.
It was pretty easy getting the band (MotÃ¶rhead) together – too easy, in fact. Within a very short period of time, I’d recruited guitarist Larry Wallis and Lucas Fox as the drummer…
And this, dear readers, is a very good formulation of the very quintessence of a singing songwriting bassist. A songwriter with his own repertoire and vision for a band can implement his music in the most expedient fashion possible by playing the bass guitar and singing lead vocals. Also, concerning MotÃ¶rhead, Lemmy writes the following funny anecdote:
I didn’t want to sing, I wanted somebody else to do it. But the problem with that, of course, is you get stuck with a fucking singer!
Well said. What is a singer who doesn’t play any instrument, aside from a prima-donna wannabe intellectual???
I digress, but mainly because White Line Fever is so chock-full of digressions.
Lemmy expresses a clear preference to play in a trio, as two guitarists pose coordination problems. Playing in a trio opens the door to improvisational playing as a band, which is about as exciting as rock performance can get, if you ask me. Lemmy states plainly that having two guitarists means that there is never true consensus within the band. This internal conflict must injure the performance, no?
Anyway, White Line Fever is an entertaining enough read, although there is very little mention of singing and playing bass. However, the picture above says alot about his style. He plays bass-guitar like a guitar, with a pick, in almost strumming patterns, and his microphone is perched way up so as to prohibit him from looking at his bass-guitar while singing. This probably makes it easier to sing in general, once the bass-guitar positions are learned in muscle memory. Its very cool that a Rock Bassist continues to play bass and sing 30 years after starting.