>A Remarkably Serious Discourse on "Killed by Death"


Metal has the ability to inspire life-long allegiances in it’s fans.  Rob Zombie was quoted in the amazing 2005 documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey as saying, “You know, I’ve never met the guy who’s like, ‘Yeah, you know, I was really into Slayer… that one summer.”  

“Man, this scarification on my forearm really makes me think of that summer I did this.  To be young!”

Which is completely true.

I love Slayer (clearly not as much as that guy) but my all time favorite metal band is Motorhead.  I learned an awful lot about life from Lemmy’s lyrics and machine gun melodies – as I’m sure we all have.  Certainly, there are bands out there made up of serious musicians and there are bands who, somehow, manage to play faster/louder – there’s never been a band quite like Motorhead.

To illustrate this point – “why Motorhead is so goddamn awesome” – I’ll be dissecting the lyrics and video for 1984’s “Killed By Death”.

DISCLAIMER: yes, the lack of an umlaut is pissing me off too, there’s nothing I can do about it.

The video starts off like your normal rock and roll video from the 80s.  Some chick just wants to get out and find some down and dirty rock n roll, but her douchebag parents don’t want to let her go because she “looks like a juvenile delinquent!”  Frankly, I find this to already be unrealistic because the woman appears to be at least twenty seven and her parents have  most definitely come unstuck in time from the 1950s.

Whitesnake Barbie rolls her eyes in exasperation.  Then, suddenly, this deep, terrifying noise starts up.  At first, it’s far away – this unconventional family is safe.

But before long, that hateful sound is upon them.

This guy really should have been in every metal video from the 1980s.

There’s a tremendous crash and –

– and fucking Lemmy crashes through their living room wall on a Harley.  I imagine that Lemmy was at a bar in Bristol, inhaling a bottle of Jack while simultaneously lighting a cigarette (you know he could) when suddenly the fur on the back of his neck stood on end and he just knew he was needed elsewhere.

Before the family’s shock has fully registered, he skids to a halt in front of the living room sofa.  And promptly steals their daughter.

At this point, let’s pause for some Motorhead trivia.  Did you know that Lemmy’s real name is Ian?  It’s true!  Did you also know that “Kilmister” is his birth name?  His fucking birth name.  

The girl doesn’t seem nearly as terrified as she rightfully should be but, you know, whatever.  Time for a speedy exit.  But Lemmy doesn’t just “back up”.  “Backing up” is for queers.  He just crashes through the other wall – and now the greatest adventure of this girl’s life is about to begin.  A dangerous life of fast cars, danger, fire and knives – but Lemmy’s a romantic.  And you know he’s going to treat her right.

If you squeeze my lizard/ I’ll put my snake on you

First words of the song right there.  Maybe Polly Q. Midwesternstein should have stayed home after her shift at the Dairy Queen.  Should’ve just said hello to her parents then slinked on up to her room to read or something.  But no, she wanted to rock and now she’s in the hands of the Kilmister.

Meanwhile, a group of concerned parents have met up to burn the LPs of that heathen DevilBand (note to self: DevilBand, great name for a band, work on logo).  These people just don’t “get it”.  Metal is not for you squares, man.

Motorhead’s just here to rock, baby.  Motorhead is here to play some rock and roll, drink some Jack, pillage your daughters, and just generally enjoy themselves.  I’m sorry, but I thought this was America.

Here, we find Lemmy on the run, pursued by some totally bitch-ass cops who want to cripple his buzz.  At first, it’s only one car.

But Lemmy can’t be fucked to care.  He doesn’t even look back.  He’s just singin’, and the girl is going insane  on his back.

I’m a lone wolf liger/ But I ain’t no pretty boy

That’s right.  1984.  Lemmy invented the word “liger”.   Suck it, Napoleon Dynamite.  Lemmy also invented the words “volcano”, “muffin”, as well as the phrase “the Black Death”.

Wait, no, I read that wrong – Lemmy just invented the plague and brought it to Europe in the 14th century.

Perhaps that’s why when a second cop car pulls up, the law sees fit to crawl out the driver’s side window and just fucking unload a few shotgun shells at Lemmy’s back/the hostage they are trying to recover.

Remarkably, these shots – all six of them – don’t manage to find Lemmy’s flesh once.

The Kilmister escapes.  And that’s when what he’s been up to all along.  He’s been building an army of concubines.

There are like, seven fucking broads there!  Okay, I’ll give you that the figure with the sunglasses is, in fact, Motorhead’s second guitarist Wurzel.  But still.

Lemmy gets a few steps in, while singing about how he’s only going to be stopped when he’s “Killed By Death” when he’s actually stopped by like, forty five policeman and multiple gunshot wounds.

Figure A

Figure B

Figure C

That’s Lemmy’s boots sticking out of the paddy wagon.  They just picked him up and threw him in there and then drove off.

This is the very next shot.  I promise.

Holy shit.  This video does not fuck around.  If this were like, any other metal video, you just know that the boys in the band would deflect the bullets with their guitars and the power of Rock.  That is the way that metal videos go.

If every other metal music video is the ending of a Doctor Who season, where everything generally works out after the Doctor finds some sort of space deus ex machina or something equally fantastic — then “Killed By Death” is like the ending of a Torchwood season.  Nothing is okay, nothing goes right, your favorite character dies and fuck you there’s nothing you can do about it.

There’s a totally bitchin’ guitar solo.  Which plays out in a little square off in the corner while Lemmy is being strapped in.

And then fucking executed.

Literally, thirteen seconds before this, Lemmy was just rockin’ in the desert, having a grand old time.  He was just singing about pussy and how rad a thing that it is.  Now he’s being executed.

I’ve seen a lot of music videos where the bands are persecuted for their ways – I can even vaguely recall times when a band has been martyred for the cause (rockin’).  But that’s not what’s at work here.  The shot of the record burning hints that Motorhead is on the run because people just don’t understand the Metal.  But that’s way after we see Lemmy steal a girl – despite the fact that I feel she looks like she’s got a lot of student loans and bad credit, she is living at home.  And then Lemmy basically kidnaps her and that is most definitely a crime so – oh wait, Lemmy’s head is on fire.


There’s a heartfelt funeral scene.  Attended by both the abducted blonde chick.  And her parents.

Who look kinda sad…?

Lemmy interjects from beyond the grave, looking like Peter Lorre doing an impression of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, simply saying the chorus over and over, “Killed by Death…Killed by Death…”

Sleep well, children!
And it is here that the video closes.  Lemmy is dead and buried.  That’s it.  We learn little to nothing about much of anything and are left with a vague sense of – wait, what?
Oh Captain, my captain.

>Six Bands in the Life of the Author (part one)


I’m not going to set up a false pretense for this post.  Last month, Jasper posted something on the Triumph I found especially fascinating, 6 Books in the Life of the Author.  Firstly, I was compelled because I’ve known Jasper for years and was intrigued to see my friend track the most important books in his life.  Secondly, holy shit how can you only pick six??

And that is the inherent genius of the task.  I think it’s a fantastic exercise – a worth way to spend one’s time.  Here, I’d like to do the same thing for the first non-sports related post on this site.  But far more important to my development has been music.  Presented here are the six most important bands in my life (ages 15-22).  I stress the word “important”.  Listing your six favorite bands may be a challenge but I think this is more rewarding, personally.  I stress the ages 15-22 because prior to the age of 15, I didn’t listen to a damn thing that wasn’t the Beatles.
Without further ado: Six Bands in the Life of the Author… part one.
…It’s okay to steal if you readily admit you are thieving, right?

Motley Crue 

Here’s a band I found at exactly the right time in my life.  I was burnt out on punk (and also disillusioned, something that is likely not at all uncommon amongst music fans with quote-unquote “punk” sensibilities) and needed something to replace it.  Going into the summer of my seventeenth year, my personality was pretty rocky to begin with.  I heard a friend say once that junior year was a time where their notion of self was vaguely defined.  The sketch of a person was there, but the outline was all blurry.  I think this is a terrific sentiment but one that doesn’t apply to me.  My outline wasn’t blurry, it was painfully vibrating.
Now, as trite as this may sound coming from a man born in 1988… enter Motley Crue.
Wait, shit.  I have to be clear here.  When I say “Motley Crue” I mean Motley Crue.  I don’t mean the cleaned up reissue from a few years back.  I don’t mean the 40-something Motley that went on tour with Aerosmith.  Even though I like that version fine and I thought 1998’s “Bitter Pill” was a fine song.  
But that incarnation doesn’t actually mean that much to me.  Or anything at all, really.  When I was sixteen years old, I fell in love with the dope addled, drunk, misogynistic, mean, fucking violent Motley Crue.   
This one.
Motley was the perfect band for me at one imperfect time of my life.  That summer, those records were truly my soundtrack, not just the noise that was playing in the background.  I literally crashed my car to Music to Crash Your Car To – it’s why I have a painful aversion to overpasses to this day (and why I suck down drammine before heading into any semi-mountainous region of the United States).  I go through really obsessive phases with my music – months passing listening to only one band.  Presently, I am exclusively listening to the Rolling Stones.  Over the winter, I only listened to the Mountain Goats.  When I was seventeen, I didn’t listen to anything that wasn’t written by Nikki Sixx.
As an aside, I was living with my father at this time.  He had hated my punk phase but when I started blasting Shout at the Devil out of my bedroom, it gave us a common ground we’d been missing throughout my adolescence.  Not that Motley Crue saved my relationship with my dad – said relationship has always been terrific.  It’s just funny that several arguments about the merits of the Sex Pistols ended in doors slamming, but we could both very easily agree that “Kickstart my Heart” was the greatest song ever written.  And it may well be, I lack the data at this time to support or refute that claim.
Most Important Memory: were I to be sticking with Jasper’s formula, Motley Crue’s The Dirt would make my list as one the six most important books in my life.  I easily read that book six times over that summer.  I do believe Sebastian Bach of Skid Row said it best with, “You know… the Bible is a pretty good book… but it is not better than The Dirt.”
It’s really not.
The Libertines 
Noel Gallagher is a great one for quotes.  I truly do appreciate his songwriting, his musical ability and his vocal stylings.  But that man’s greatest contribution are his interviews.  He could be painfully funny – as during the Get Behind Me Satan era of the White Stripes, he said Jack White looked like “Zorro on Donuts” (you know he was right).  But he could also be remarkably insightful.  Of the Libertines, Noel once said something to the affect that they were the rare type of band that comes along every twenty years or so and just changes the way people dress, talk, act.  Of course, the man behind the good parts of Oasis was referring to the cultural shift that occurred in Britain in the early years of the 21st century – something I was very clearly not a part of.  But the Libertines did have a similar effect on me.
The Libertines not only changed the way I dressed, talked, and acted, they changed my standards for rock and roll.  I’ll beg that you pardon the cliche here, but I truly had never heard anything like it before.  
In a post-Libertines consciousness, I needed clever songwriting.  Pete Doherty, the monumental fuck up he can be sometimes (at the time of this writing, he was just sentenced to six months in prison for cocaine possession) is possibly the high water mark for intelligence in this era’s rock and roll.  Educated at Oxford, Doherty could write about doing lines in a bathroom just as easily as he could name-drop Oscar Wilde in his lyrics or discuss Dostoevsky with a stunned Rolling Stone journalist.
Carl Barat, on the other hand, was very likely the heart and soul of that band’s musical direction.  Carl plays like a speed freak.  He’s fast as all fucking hell but he never seems to loose it.  His chord progression is logical without being rigid.  His solos are maniacal yet always in key.  It’s essentially punk rock, but by a guy who knows his instrument.
With the Libertines’ disintegration – and it is absolute folly to call it anything else – the principal identities of the band went on to form two new bands.  But the most common observation of Doherty’s Babyshambles and Barat’s Dirty Pretty Things is also the most accurate one.  Each band sounds precisely like the Libertines sans the other member.  As such, there is always something lacking in those records.  Personally, I’ve grown to be more of a DPT fan, but after a few listens, I ache for something with more substance.  But listen to Babyshambles, and six tracks in you are dying for someone to do fucking something clever with a guitar because honestly, I can’t fucking hear C-G-C-A more than say, four times on a given album.
Most Important Memory:  Easy.  Listening to the eponymous second LP with Jasper over and over on the first night we hung out together. 

Echo and the Bunnymen
Were this list to be chronological, Echo&Co would likely top the list.  This band mattered to me more than probably any other.  The first song I heard was (I’m positive) “The Killing Moon” but the effect would not be immediate.  At one point, I was utterly convinced there was never going to be any other band I’d ever need.  Most of their songs could be classified as “post-punk love songs”.  In fact, I think that might be the only way to describe “Lips Like Sugar”.  But it’s a disservice to the group to leave it at that.
Heaven Up Here is moody.  Or, actually, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the album is bitchy.  
Now, on one of the 80’s post-punk spectrum, I’d like for you to envision the Cure.  On the other, we’ll put Jesus and Mary Chain.  You’ve got the swooning, sorrowful music of Robert Smith, on the other, the drug fueled Reid brothers.  Somewhere in the middle, I’d put Echo – often recalling the embraces of old loves but holy shit, they could really make some heavy tunes.
Heaven Up Here, the band’s second record, a pure example of this can be found.  The guitars are heavier, Ian McCulloch is, I think, septuple-tracked and doomed drummer Pete de Freitas (who would not live to see twenty eight) provides an absolutely haunting back beat.  
I think it’s a perfect record, I really do.
Most Important Memory:  Seeing the music video for “The Puppet” for the first time.  I vividly recall it being three in the morning on one of those VH1 Classic block.  I was in a state of shock for a while there.  Just like… “what did I just see??”