downtown dirt by manhole: The Market House Cafe, and Lemmy RIP

12507246_777440429026773_3825007236543737035_nHuzzah! The Market Square Cafe is at long last open, and that’s a damn fine way to kick off the New Year. If we do say so ourselves. This is a dangerous time, that dread last-half-of-January-into-February kill zone where the NYE hangover still lingers; the Christmas tree sits limp and dying in the corner; the holiday bills have come due and the dead-of-winter doldrums have dug in fast. So it’s nice to have some good news to lift our flagging spirits until that first blush of spring arrives, bringing a rejuvenating thaw to our cold and barren hearts.

This warm and welcome little hovel just a couple doors down from Scruffy City Hall offers… well, hell, you’ve probably already heard the sales pitch. Locally-produced foodstuffs and beverages, gourmet sandwiches, blah, blah, blah… all of which is true. But what’s just as exciting is that the MHC has partnered with Visit Knoxville, and will serve as a sort of secondary visitor’s center — i.e. the Scruffy City Visitor Center — when the Visit Knoxville location on the corner of Gay Street and Summit Hill closes down weekdays after 5 p.m.

A visitor center that serves beer. Can any of you think of a better idea than that one? I’ll wait for your answers. But I won’t hold my breath.

—-

untitledLemmy is dead, and my heart weeps. I have been a devoted follower of Motorhead, and of Lemmy himself, since my teenage years. This is my humble tribute.

Lemmy Kilmister was truly the last of a dying breed. No pretty-boy rocker, this one; Lemmy was a hard-living rogue in leather and dirty denim, a rude boy savant with animal appetites and a vagabond heart.

His Rawk credentials were impeccable. His first gig of note was as a roadie for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. After a couple stints playing guitar with lesser London outfits, he caught on with Hawkwind, a band whose spacey, post-psychedelic wayfaring has influenced a thousand psych and stoner outfits since.

The story goes that Lemmy had never played the bass guitar when the rest of the band unceremoniously thrust him on stage, Rickenbacker four-string in hand, with instructions to “make some noises in E.”

The resultant fumblings eventually wrought arguably the most distinctive four-string voice in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, a barreling sort of bass-and-rhythm-guitar hybrid, delivered with a tone that was more akin to a DC-10 engine at the point of take-off than a standard bassist’s low-end thrum.

Lemmy was booted out of Hawkwind in 1975 — though the band’s best years were had with LK on the mic — after his arrest at the Canadian border for possession of speed. Or cocaine. Or maybe speed and cocaine. One never knows with these sorts of things.

In any case, if it were not for that little mishap, Lemmy might never have founded Motorhead, his greatest legacy, the long-running hard-rock and proto-metal outfit that has influenced legions of heavy metal and punk outfits in the decades since.

Lemmy once proclaimed Motorhead “the dirtiest band in the world… If you moved in next door (to us),” he said, “your lawn would die.”

Headlong and hell-bent, Motorhead’s music was the distillation of everything that made rock ‘n’ roll bad, and bad for you, its amphetamine roar pre-figuring thrash and speed metal and even hardcore punk. And the frenzied beating heart of the band’s unholy din was frontman Lemmy with his inimitable bass lines and that guttural, damaged howl.

In later years, Lemmy suffered health problems, the inevitable consequence of so many years of living wrong. Reports had it that he tried to cut back on his vices, but inadequately so. He explained his failure to moderate as a “dogged insistence in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.”

Lemmy died on Dec. 28, claimed by a particularly aggressive case of prostate cancer, complicated by congestive heart failure. If there is a Rock ‘n’ Roll Valhalla, rest assured that Lemmy is there right now, whiskey bottle in hand, snorting a line of speed off some lusty barmaid’s ample bosom. Salute.

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