Blog 002 - My (awkward) Motorhead Moment.
A long, long time ago, 1983 to be precise, I was lucky enough to become a proper, full time drummer for a woman called Carlene Carter. She happened to be American, the step daughter of country legend, Johnny Cash, and married to the excellent Nick Lowe (highlights include writing Cruel To Be Kind, Peace, Love & Understanding and producing some of The Pretenders and Elvis Costello classic hits). This was a very big deal for me, I’d get to give up delivering wines and spirits for a living.
The band, which included the brilliant James Eller on bass (Teardrop Explodes, The The, Nick Lowe, Kirsty Maccoll, Johnny Marr) and equally good Ben Barson (Kate Bush, Nick Lowe and older brother to Mike Barson of Madness), was formed to tour with Carlene to promote her album C’est C Bon around Europe.
I, Mark Saunders (unknown bands and lorry driver), was the newbie in the band and although being intimidated by this gig, loved the idea that I was to go from getting up at 6:30am to drive lorries, to getting up to start rehearsing with Carlene at 3pm! Naively, I was baffled by the late-in-the-day start. My body was used to getting up early and after a leisurely lie in of around 8:30 - 9:00am, I was up with 5 hours to kill until I started work. This was pretty revolutionary. I started running in the mornings would end up running a marathon! I’d get to the rehearsal room after having run 13 miles around the leafy lanes of Hampshire feeling pumped up and ready to go. My seasoned tour-warrior band mates and Carlene had got up in just enough time to drag themselves across London to rehearse - or that’s what it looked like to me anyway. On arrival, It took quite a lot of effort for them to get energised to play - usually at least a gram.
The rehearsal studio, Nomis, near Hammersmith, was probably the most famous and luxurious rehearsal room complex of all time - certainly in the early 80s. It was owned by Simon Napier-Bell (manager of Wham!, The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, T Rex, Ultravox, Sinead O’Conner) and he tells his great story about starting it in this post - https://www.facebook.com/simonnapierbell/posts/rip-nomis-studiosin-1977-i-had-a-good-idea-for-months-id-been-looking-for-somewh/233564557209211/
Anyone who was anyone in the business got to rehearse at Nomis at some point or other - The Rolling Stones, Spandau Ballet, Wham!, Depeche Mode, Tina Turner, Elvis Costello - and, fortunately for me, Carlene Carter got in too!
There were several rehearsal rooms in Nomis and I really wish that I could remember who else was in during the period that I was there, but I remember it was impressive. Wham! and Motorhead were definitely there. I would grab every opportunity to go to the star studded Nomis cafe to see who might be standing in line for a coffee.
The rehearsal spaces were through doors on either side of a long corridor. Although the rooms were pretty well sound proofed, you’d hear a little of what was going on inside each one as you walked down the corridor. That was unless Motorhead was in session! When the band was playing, you only heard Motorhead, no matter who’s door you were outside. God forbid someone opened Motorhead’s door as you walked passed! The noise would almost throw you across the corridor and pin you to the opposite wall!
One afternoon I was waiting with James in our space for the rest of the band to show up when the door opened and, in totally classic rock n’ roll fashion, guitarist Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzy and Motorhead 1982-83) stumbled into our room clutching a bottle of Jack Daniels (clearly no longer full) . I think he probably arrived at our room quite randomly, but he announced in his slurred heavy Scottish accent that he needed to borrow a bass player and drummer as Lemmy and Phil (Philthy Animal) hadn’t shown up yet.
James Eller and I looked at each other nervously and said that we were expecting Carlene to show up any minute to which Brian said something like ‘Ay, come on ya poofs, it’ll only take a few minutes - a just got this riff in me heed that a need to try oot’. So we followed Brian back to Motorhead’s room.
Upon entering the space we were greeted by the sound of extremely loud buzzing coming from the bass and guitar amps that were ready to inflict pain on anyone daft enough plug anything into them. I mean, Nomis’s rooms weren’t tiny, but they definitely didn’t need anyone to have two floor-to-ceiling Marshall stacks per person to fill the room!
Brian stood in front of his stack and pushed his foot on a few guitar pedals which alone added an enormous number of extra decibels into the room. I was nervous about my future hearing at this point and he hadn’t played a note yet. I’d sat down at Animal’s kit and felt like a small child. Everything about his kit seemed over sized and built to take a beating from a giant. I remember the hi-hat cymbals felt about as thick as old metal dustbin lids. I could barely reach the toms.
James was ready in front of Lemmy’s rig wondering if he should dare to change the settings from ‘kill’ to ‘deafen’. Brian shouted over the noise, ‘I’ll nod when I want yee ti come in’ and then unleashed the full fury of a Motorhead rig in a relatively small space upon us! It was an unholy noise and I could not make out what the heck the rhythm or melody was that he was playing - it was just an assault. I felt like it was my first day at the front line as enemy shells burst around me - I was in shock. I looked over to James who looked in a similar state and then glanced back to Brian in time to see him give us the nod. Back to James who shrugged his shoulders - we were going over the top! We started playing. God knows what we were playing, it was all a deafening blur.
But then, within a few seconds, the cacophony on my right disappeared, I looked over and saw James, looking very unsettled, unplugging his bass and hurriedly heading for the door. As my eyes followed his path I then saw the almighty Philthy Animal standing in the doorway like an invading Viking in a leather vest with biceps exposed. He was staring unblinkingly in my direction. His stance and look was what I imagine Daddy Bear from the Goldilocks story would have displayed when he discovered someone had been sleeping in his bed. I was expecting a ‘Who’s been playing my drum kit!!’
I quickly climbed down from his drum stool and headed to the door too…..but Animal wasn’t moving, he just glared at me and stayed put as I had to awkwardly squeeze past one of his biceps to get out of the room, uttering a shaky ‘um…sorry….er…Brian asked us to….er…’
Back in the safety and relative peace of Carlene’s rehearsal room, we tried to come to terms with what had just happened to both of us - and the ringing in our ears.