Scott Albanesius met Lemmy in 1998, and quickly formed a bond that developed into a best friendship. With the great man’s passing last month Scott was keen to share some of his stories of their time together.
I wanted to go to Lemmy’s all the time. He was all I could think about. But I was careful not to, fearing that I might be imposing. I think I’d just have withered away on the doorstep if he ever turned me a way at the door, or if I found him with another girl. Thankfully, that never happened.
I was back at school now, in my third year at the Royal Ballet School. Sometimes, when I was at Lemmy’s, while he was drawing or writing, I’d do barre work, holding onto the side of the bunk bed where he sat. This is what I did; I was a dancer. I went through plies, tendu’s, rond de jambe en l’air, and finally an adage’, tracing up the side of my leg with my pointed foot and unfolding my leg in the air in front of me, my calf at the level of my eyes, then slowly bringing it to my side and to the back into an arabesque, and bending forward into a ponche’, with my foot pointed straight up to the ceiling. Adage’ was my forte’ in dancing, the ever so slow movements, gracefully and smoothly shifting from one pose to another. It requires a great deal of strength. I wanted to show him what I could do. He watched but never commented.
I was reading “Lord of the Rings” at Lemmy’s suggestion, and I was completely entranced with it, reading it ever so slowly because I never wanted to come to the end of it. I wanted to savor it. It was always with me and I’d be reading up until the last minute before class in the mornings. He was on to reading “I, Claudius”. We sat together reading sometimes.
One evening I went round and there were actually people there. That was the one and only time. He took my hand and led me through, and out the door at the back of the room. He didn’t introduce me to anyone there. We were in an unfinished, cold, and brightly lit hallway. He opened another door and invited me to enter. As the light from the hallway filtered in I saw it was the bathroom. He walked in behind me and closed the door. It was pitch black. We sunk down to the floor.
I had no sense of fear, being alone with him in the dark, though I was not sure what he had in mind. There I was, laying on the floor, with Lemmy on top of me, kissing me. It soon seemed clear to me that he was making no suggestion of going further onto more sexual pursuits, which allowed me to completely sink into the sensuousness of his kisses. We were completely in the moment and it was the most sensuous moment in time I’ve ever experienced before or since. We didn’t speak. Not at all. He just kissed me, voraciously now, passionately.
Many years later, when he expressed a jealousy about someone I was with, I said to him ” Don’t you know that you’re the only one? That every man in my life has been jealous of you? You know that quote in the movie ” Hearts of Atlantis”? “It will be the kiss by which all others in your life will be judged… and found wanting” Well, that’s how it is, and everyone knows it.” Lemmy thought it was a Shakespeare quote, but I don’t think it actually is. Anyway, I didn’t say that to him talking literally about his kiss, but more his place in my life. I realize now that it was, in fact, his kisses as well.
He may have felt that with my being so much younger it would have been taking advantage of my innocence, or he may have thought I was afraid. He always gently guided me, but not beyond where he thought I was willing to go. I’ve wondered if he wasn’t tripping that night and just got lost in kissing…
He wrote in “Grass”:
“I can break walls down if you will help me, if I can reach you, help you to see, All of the good things that I can give you if you will take them, take them from me. Please will you trust me? Maybe I’ll hurt you, but I can heal it, soon as it’s done. Give me your hand and allow me to lead you, out of the long grass and into the sun.”
I think that spoke to his thoughts about me, at only sixteen years old. He respected my innocence, but he knew he had something to offer.
When I left him that night my lips were actually swollen. At home I was shocked to see my bright red lips and flushed face in the mirror. I was in a daze, I was entranced. I was so in love with him.
Watching Lemmy’s memorial wasn’t easy. As my thoughts went back to the beginning, I struggled to reconcile the unassuming, youthful musician I met the summer of 1968 with the famous heavy metal icon he had become. Here he is, revered by so many, a staggering 300,000 people watching. The memory of who Lemmy was, and the times I spent with him in our youth have crystallized as one of the most meaningful experiences in my life. I had grieved over the loss of Lemmy as he was then, in spite of the happy memories. Now I was sorrowfully saying goodbye to the man he had become. “To only see you…”, Lemmy’s lyrics in “Yesterlove”, a song he wrote that summer about his own first love have echoed in my mind for 47 years.
When I first met him I wasn’t aware that he was actually writing songs. All that summer he was working on an album to be called “Escalator” with Sam Gopal. He never talked about it at all, but I’d show up at his door and he’d pull me into the room, guitar in hand. “I’m working on this new riff. What do you think?” We’d climb up onto his bed and I’d listen to him play. I’d quietly pick up his acoustic guitar with no strings and pretend to play it. God, I was so young and silly I suppose, but it was just the kind of thing a hippy flower girl would do and he seemed amused by it. He gave me that guitar.
Lemmy had taken me to Sam’s flat one August evening. I didn’t realize it then, but he group was named after him. I liked Sam a lot. He was handsome and had beautiful long, thick, black hair. I was in awe of the hippy atmosphere of his home. Colorful Indian prints were draped on the rose colored walls, incense burned, bells tinkled. His very beautiful young girlfriend, who’s name I can no longer recall, was lounging on a leather hassock on the Persian rug, smoking hashish from a hookah on the low round wooden table and the smells of exotic, Indian food wafted through the air. The lighting was soft and had a golden hue. I had come from a suburban home in Massachusetts and was studying ballet at the prestigious Royal Ballet School. I had never seen anything like this before. I liked this lifestyle…
Lemmy wanted to show me everything he did, his artwork, his music, his writing. When I had to get home, because I had a curfew, he’d always stop me at the kitchen door playing something for me, trying to keep me there. “Listen to this” he’d say. “How does this sound?” Or, “What musicians do you like besides the Beatles?” (because of course I would like the Beatles best, that was a given). “Donovan”, I said. I was pleased to see, many months later, that the only cover on “Escalator” was Donovan’s “Season of the Witch”, a song about the hobbits in “Lord of the Rings” That summer he wrote in a song:
“If you are going, go very swiftly. Don’t linger saying tender goodbyes. My lips are moving. I’m only speaking to try and make you stay with me here”
And that’s how it felt whenever I was leaving.
Lemmy called and asked me to go with him to see “Traffic” with Stevie Winwood in Hyde Park. This was my first rock concert, so it was exciting for me! (I still love that I can say I went to my first rock concert with Lemmy!)
We strode into the park towards the music. I have a vivid image in my mind, as if we were shooting a scene from a movie. We are passing the camera focused up from the grass, the camera lens seeing the stage and the ocean of hippies sitting on the grass through our legs as we walk past hand in hand. I was wearing a new dress bought in Earl’s Court at “Lady Cynthia’s Boutique”. It was an empire waist dress with wide flowing sleeves, made of a blue/purple Indian print, and I wore those sandals that laced up to the knees. Lemmy was wearing his Edwardian suit with pink flip flops as usual… I’m not sure I ever saw him wear anything else that summer, not even the new trousers! He wore a hat with a colorful scarf tied around the brim and a feather floating on one side. One time, in his flat, I was looking at the photos strewn across the floor, proofs from a photo shoot, and he said I could have one if I liked. I chose one of him wearing that hat and smiling a broad smile. Sadly, that photo was lost, but is etched in my mind.
Thankfully, it wasn’t a mercilessly hot and sunny August day- that would have made the day unbearable for me. We were in London, after all. It was pleasant and breezy, and the overcast English sky was perfect with just a hint of sun from time to time.
Brian Auger and the Trinity and Julie Driscoll, “Jools” opened the show. They were the latest group everyone was talking about in London. Jools was as cool as can be, and Brian Augers’ organ music was powerful and impressive.
But we had come to see Stevie Winwood and “Traffic”. “Dear Mr Fantasy” will forever bring me back to that afternoon. And my favorite Traffic song, “Forty Thousand Headmen”, I heard for the first time that day. I see myself sitting there on the grass, sun glinting in my eyes just enough to put a sparkle on the scene, my long straight hair brushing across my face in the slight breeze. I could hardly believe I was here. We were happy.
That particular moment in time, the late 60’s, was a time like no other before or since. If I could go back in time, 1968 would be the year I would choose to re-live again. There was something in the air, and we all knew it, though it was unspoken. The times were changing, we were a part of it, and the world would never be the same again.
Check out the Dee Snider video for a Lemmy and Me story.
Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul, there is no such thing as separation. ~Rumi
I’m writing this part of my story on the morning of January 9th waiting for the memorial later today. We won’t be seeing him again, but he’ll be with us, now and forever.
So, thinking about those early days with Lemmy Willis, as he was back then, and reading what I have previously written about meeting Lemmy, I feel a little uncomfortable sharing it. It reads like a diary of a teenage girl, I know, and it’s silly with all the kissing maybe, but that’s how it was. This is, after all, the story of the romance of the 16 year old girl that I once was. And it was romantic! I never thought of him as my “boyfriend”, and our relationship can’t be described as “dating”. It was not defined and we didn’t speak of it.
I had a pure unconditional love for him, which he clearly felt, and he had a way of making me feel loved and appreciated without saying anything. I was very careful to not have any unrealistic expectations of him because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle any kind of rejection from him.
I would go around to his flat, just showing up unexpectedly, and he was always happy to see me, and graciously inviting. He was always alone, and even though he had roommates, I never met any of them. The kitchen was usually messy, dirty even, with unwashed dishes on the counter and filling the sink. The one big room was always fairly dark, nondescript, and nothing decorative about it except a mirror in the corner that had been painted around the edges with poetic words I can no longer recall, with a filmy cobweb like cloth draping one corner of the glass. I have a vivid memory of him standing sideways to the mirror, assessing himself in his new bell bottomed trousers. “What do you think?” he asked. “I love them” I said, from the top of the bunk bed. “But do I look good in them?” he wanted to know. “You do!” I answered enthusiastically. The hip hugging trousers were tight around his thighs. He had great legs…
The floor of the room was always littered with papers, drawings, photographs, cigarette boxes and the like. The beds were unkempt, just jumbles of seemingly unwashed blankets and linens. This was a quintessential “hippy pad”. It smelled of cigarette smoke, as did Lemmy. The smell a cigarettes on people’s clothing still puts me into a dreamy state recalling poignant, wistful feeling memories of him.
I loved being there with him. We would sit together on the top bunk, not speaking much, just together. I loved how comfortable it was to just “be” with him. He was usually drawing intently in pen and ink, mostly fanciful creatures and scenes.
He seemed to enjoy my presence, not minding that I had little to say. He would try to draw me into conversation, but I was not talkative. Lemmy was reading “Lord of the Rings”, his favorite book at that moment, and his drawings reflected that. He spoke of it glowingly, suggesting that I read it.
I imagine he was speeding, or possibly tripping, but he never said as much. He was sometimes smoking hash, but I never joined him because he rolled it into his cigarettes. I wasn’t a smoker and didn’t want to be. I suppose we all have our drugs of choice and mine has always been chocolate!
(By the way, I love the milk commercial recently released in Norway in honor of Lemmy!)
I’ve brought myself back to the present here. This is a surreal day. I‘ll have to ready myself. I just can’t quite grasp what is happening today…
The next day Lemmy called asking me if I’d like to go out that afternoon. I can’t even tell you how happy and excited I was…
He came to get me like a proper date. He was very gentlemanly, but Mrs Johnston, the owner of the flat who took in students from the Royal Ballet School was skeptical none the less when she saw him, with his long hair, Edwardian suit, and small pink rectangular shaped granny sunglasses perched on the end of his nose, but not so much that she stopped me from going. She was a self-appointed “guardian” for me as well as the other girls I went to school with. She had prohibited me from going to an anti- Vietnam War rally in London earlier that summer, perhaps a good thing, since later that night on the telly I saw my friend, whom I would have been with, in the midst of a violent confrontation with the police.
Lemmy and I walked to the Warwick Road entrance to Earls Court station and took the tube out to Richmond Park. As we wandered around the park holding hands I have little memory of what we saw that day. I only remember him. He did all the talking. I nervously answered his many questions about myself and my life as a dancer at the Royal Ballet School, working hard to appear cool and aloof. Lemmy was very respectful of my shyness, and gentle with my innocence. He looked into my eyes and was genuinely interested in what I had to say. I was mesmerized by everything he said.
He guided us off the paths into a wooded area of the park, talking about the bracken rustling in the breeze, the leaves crunching beneath out feet. As we came into a clearing, a field of long wispy grass where Lemmy suggested we sit for a bit, the English sun shone down on us. We were soon stretched out on the ground at his suggestion, looking up at the sky. The yellow grasses swished around my head as I laid back, ankles crossed and hands under my head. We lay there silently for some time, watching the clouds. I may have seemed relaxed, but I was not. I wanted so much for him to like me and I wondered what he was thinking about me. Here I was, alone with a man I hardly knew, who was clearly someone special, and I felt breathless with anticipation. Now Lemmy was over me looking intently into my eyes. And like the day before, he was kissing, and kissing, and kissing me more. It was so gentle, so romantic, so dreamlike.
Later that summer, Lemmy wrote a song that described a day just like this:
“Once on a green day, I was in long grass,and you came rustling silently by.
I caught your long hand, fingers of satin, and in the long grass together we lie.
What are you thinking, kissing me softly? Where does you mind go when you are here? ‘It’s nothing, really’ your only answer, or does your minds’ eye shed lonely tears?”
And I had said exactly that, on that beautiful day, in response to Lemmy’s wondering about the distant look in my eyes. “It’s nothing really.”
I was already hopelessly in love. I fell in love with him the moment I laid eyes on him the day before on Earls Court Road.
Check out Brian May’s tribute to Lemmy for his Lemmy and Me story.
It was a warm summer’s day for London in August of 1968. I had spent the day alone at St Paul’s Cathedral, in awe of that resplendent church. As a young aspiring dancer at the Royal Ballet School, I had taken part in an elaborate Christmas pageant at St Paul’s on Christmas Eve. Now I sat, in contemplation, enchanted by the mystery of the Whispering Gallery in the lofty place under the dome of the church. Whispering from one side of the sphere, your words can be heard clearly on the other side, 30m away. This would be a romantic way to tell someone you love them, I thought. In a place like this, how could I not reflect on the grandeur and the mystery of life. I was sixteen years old and I was floating through my life, as if on the waves of the ocean. As I peered over the edge of the railing at the compass inlaid on the mosaic floor below, I parted from my reverie with a sigh and headed down the steps of the spiraling staircase and into the streets of London. I never imagined it but my life was about to change forever that very afternoon.
I went back to Earls Court, where I lived, being the only student in my flat spending the summer in London, while everyone else was visiting their family during the summer break. Wearing my new little flowery mini-dress, and sandals that laced up to my knees, I had just come out of Earls Court tube station onto the always bustling Earls Court Road when I saw Lemmy in the distance walking towards me. He reminded me of Donovan, my favorite singer/songwriter at the time. His hair was shoulder length, and flowing as he walked, the same walk we have all come to know and love. He had wispy facial hair, and almost a mustache. He was wearing a brown Edwardian suit with a velvet collar, and dark pink flipflops. I have a vivid impression of Lemmy’s face amidst the crowd even now, 48 years later. It was love at first sight. As he came nearer, I noticed that I was near the “magic mirror”, as I called it, a door covered with a garish fun house mirror for no apparent reason, which I liked to imagine had magical properties, and it was right there that we crossed paths. I smiled and nodded to him shyly, and he returned the nod as we passed each other. I walked on slowly feeling flustered and not sure what to do. I had let him walk right past and now he was gone. At the corner of Earls Court Road and Trebovir Road, the street I lived on, I slowed and turned, and came to a sudden resolve to turn back to look for him. How could I possibly let him disappear and maybe never see him again? Walking back the half block that I had covered, amazingly, there he was again coming towards me, now with cigarettes in hand and the “Melody Maker” newspaper tucked under his arm, and again we were together in front of the magic mirror. This time, though, we both stopped and gazed at each other momentarily. I don’t remember having a single thought. I just stood there, kind of mesmerized. Lemmy said nothing, but took my hand and walked away with me, and I willingly went with him. I walked with him and he turned onto Trebovir Road. We said nothing till we had nearly reached the end of the street and walking past my flat, I finally spoke and said “That’s where I live”, and he pointed ahead to Warwick Road and said “Oh I live right there across the road on Philbeach Gardens!” We continued walking silently. He just took me with him, without question, to the house he lived in. He opened the wrought iron gate and lead me down the stairs to a basement flat. We walked through a tiny kitchen and into a room with four bunk-beds. He invited me to climb up onto one of the top bunks, he climbing up after me and sitting close next to me. Our legs were stretched out in front of us, with our feet sticking out over the side of the bed, suspended in the air. We talked for a bit, exchanging names and telling each other a bit about ourselves, him showing me his artwork rather proudly. He soon leaned over and kissed me, a long sensual, soulful kiss. It felt so perfect and right. And we kissed, and kissed and kissed some more.
Eventually I had to leave, being expected home for dinner. He took my phone number and I went home as if in a dream. Many years later, when I reminded Lemmy of this story he said” Aw Cyn, that’s a good story! Even if it wasn’t me it’s a good story…”
And you know, I think that mirror was magic.