Backstage Adventures

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The Adventures of Zoë

Motorhead c Bobby Castro/Artist Publications

Zoë, 'Philthy' Phil & Lemmy Kilmister
Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA, 8/11/83

© Bobby Castro/Artist Publications

Chapter 3 -

In which Zoë meets the godfathers of thrash—


It's 1983 and Zoë is heavily into the New Wave/punk scene. Metal is passé; nobody she knows would have anything to do with those curly-haired poseurs playing last year's... last year's? heck, last decade's music, if you could even call it that.

"So what am I doing, on my way to a Motörhead concert," Zoë asks herself as she dresses in her usual middle-class pretty frock, strappy heels and pricey jewelry. (No torn fishnet stockings and safety-pinned rag doll posing as a dead baby would do for Zoë.)  "I may like the music, but I have no desire to look or act like a drug addict or a psycho. I may hang out with Thom Las and Andy English—we all knew that wasn't his real name, that he was in reality a normal engineer during the day, though at night he transmogrified, kind of like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde—but I am me, and fuck 'em if they don't like how I dress. (Indeed, even The Damned had accepted Zoe's dress: "It's not the clothes, it's the attitude that counts," Rat Scabies had declared.)

Brian Robertson c Bobby Castro/Artist Publications

(l-r)Brian "Robbo" Robertson & Zoë
Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA, 8/11/83

© Bobby Castro/Artist Publications

"Ooh, aren't I a tough little bitch?  Sure I am. So why am I feeling so nervous...?  Shit, I don't know if they'll even talk to me," Zoë muses as she swings into the nearly deserted parking lot—it's sound check time at the Keystone Palo Alto, "the biggest club in the South Bay." Home to Stanford and a bunch of rich people, Palo Alto is a pretty boring place, but somehow, right here is situated the only real rock club—capable of holding up to a 1,000 people if the fire department stays away—in about a 20-mile radius.

"So, what am I doing here? Oh, yeah, I know, when Stretch and Teresa Trash and the rest of the gang at KUSF—all die-hard punkers—kept raving about Motörhead coming to town, I just had to to go out and get myself an interview, just to keep up, but I don't have a damned clue what I'm doing, what to expect, what Motörhead has to do with the music scene I belong to."

Nor would she, until years later when she first sees Metallica, and finally understands the new metal. But this afternoon and tonight, Zoë would get her first taste of a whole 'nother world.

Motorhead c Bobby Castro/Artist Publications

(l-r)Robbo, Lemmy & Philthy Phil
Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA, 8/11/83

© Bobby Castro/Artist Publications

First off is the sheer shock of looking at these guys.... "My God," Zoë gasps when she walks backstage with her photographer, Bobby Castro, a punker from The City she'd met at some show one night.

"Yikes, what have I got myself into? They look about as friendly and cooperative as a roomful of hungry, angry tigers!"

"Would ye like a drink?" Lemmy offers. 

"Oh, sure," Zoë thinks, "I could use one to steady my nerves a bit, try to collect my thoughts..."

As it turned out, Philthy Animal Taylor is pretty friendly and easy to talk to after all. Lemmy wanders in and out, interjecting a comment here and there—and doing that imitation of Charles Manson that's mentioned in the interview with Motörhead.

But Brian Robertson ("Robbo") sits there in the big chair with the cracked imitation-leather upholstery (quite a comedown from his days with Thin Lizzy), glaring at the world and refusing to say a word.

"This just won't do," Zoë thinks. "This is a challenge. I must get him to talk." He resists.  Lemmy keeps topping up the drinks, Zoë keeps drinking, so focused on trying to get a rise out of Robbo that she doesn't notice she's getting rather wasted... Mentions she's part Scottish...

"I hate it when people here say they're 'part Scottish,'" Robbo explodes. "They're fuckin' Americans! Not Scots!"

"Oops!" it's one of those times in an interviewer's life when she discovers she's just said something that really ticks off the subject being interviewed. This can be a fatal mistake.

But by this time Lemmy and Philthy have decided Zoë's OK, so she stays put. Has a few more drinks. So does Bobby Castro, the photographer.

Philthy Phil/Motorhead c Bobby Castro/Artist Publications

Zoë & Philthy Phil
Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA, 8/11/83

© Bobby Castro/Artist Publications

Zoë's talking now, but not really conscious of what she's saying, if you know what I mean. And suddenly Robbo stands up and comes over, sits down beside Zoë. They talk. The photographer, nursing a secret crush on Zoë, starts to seethe with jealousy.

He says something Zoë doesn't catch. Suddenly, Robbo is irate, "You're callin' a countryman of mine a slut. Get the knife!"

"Knife? What the hell," Zoë's head is swimming. "What's happening?"

The tour manager comes in, it's five minutes to show time and Robbo's not dressed for the stage yet. The tour manager is irate, tells Zoë she must get out of the dressing room now! "Come back after the show," Robbo calls as Zoë staggers to her feet, the full force of four hours of steady drinking finally hitting.

Staggering out into the audience, she says to herself, "I will not pass out, I will not throw up..." as she gazes up at the stage and wonders why Robbo is still dressed only in his shorts, and how on earth this band can make such a noise. It's like standing under a fleet of 727s taking off.

After the show, well, after the show the band gets yelled at by the tour manager, and Zoë gets yelled at by the photographer.... All in all, it turns out to be a pretty memorable night, in it's own way.

But not for the music. It would take a while for Zoë to learn to appreciate the band that eventually became known as the "godfathers of thrash."

Interview with Motörhead next
Another interview with Motörhead next


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