At the moment ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson parted company with Motörhead, various people suggested a by David Bowie discovered guitarist Bill Liesegang (who was in a band with Bruce Dickenson after that as well) go and try for the job. Bill at that moment was in a heavy metalband called Xero, who were early adopters of the NWOBHM genre. Next to that Bill was in Speedy Arrow (A terrible name, he admits) as was a young drummer, called Mark King. King became famous as a bassplayer and frontman of Level 42. Bill tried the punk/rock-scene, and succeded. He has worked on albums and projects, as well toured with artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack Bruce (Cream), Trevor Horn, Robert Fripp and John Wetton (of King Crimson), Transvision Vamp, Steward Copeland (The Police), Herman Brood, Midge Ure and many many more.
“I sent Lemmy a tape and he called me up and said he loved it!”, said Bill, “Especially all the fast double kick groove ones. He said Philthy (Phil Taylor) and him could imagine doing those songs in their band, so he invited me to have a blow.” Lemmy told Bill he was number 1 on their shortlist on the phone, so Bill was gobsmacked. “I turned up and was offered some large glasses of Jack with minimal Coke! He told me immediately that I didn’t get the job due to my bullet belt was upside down!” Lemmy’s explaination was simple: If a bullet went off it would go through the heart if they are pointing upwards, and no soldier would do such a thing!” Somebody had nicked Bill’s classic daily leather jacket, so he borrowed a slightly too small one, including the bullet belt, that caused the rejection. “I had really long hair at the time and he also remarked that Fast Eddie, Motörhead’s 1st guitarist, was losing his hair too, but was much taller than me, and could get away with it!” So Bill struggled to drive home inebriated by the couple of drinks Lemmy was downing by the bucketload. “I only drink beer”, Bill laughed.
“I was disappointed but determined to join a bigger name touring band”, Bill continues, “and the week after that I got the job with Nina Hagen – who was a big international concert act in the 80’s and happened to be in London after her previous guitarist had collapsed on stage after a chemically induced misfunction!” Funnily enough, after auditions there seemed to be a problem with the too hippy haircut so Bill opted to shave it all off, bar a ponytail at the back leaving him with a Mongol Warrior haircut, 10 years before it became fashionable again. Nina agreed.
After Bill got home from his first gig with Nina at Vienna football stadium, he saw Lemmy in the Moritz and tapped him on the shoulder. Lemmy looked at him as though to say ‘Who are you? What do you want?’ Bill said “It’s me, Bill with my new haircut! Lemmy said to me: ‘You should have come to the audition looking like that and you would have probably got the gig!’ Well c’est la vie… I thank him for saving my life, I’m not Motörhead material.” Bill ended up staying with Nina for decades… Incidentally Lemmy did send him a reference letter signed by him saying Bill was a great player and would recommend him to any band! “I should have got it framed!”
A couple of years later Bill Liesegang did an album at the Eastcote studios with Nina Hagen and Zeus B Held producing and wrote some heavier songs for the album and Bill suggested to maybe get Lemmy to duet with her. “So off I went down the Moritz and tapped him on the shoulder again… He said he’d love to do it and said it was his favour to me for not getting the Motörhead job! We discussed a session fee, and he said ‘2 bottles of Jack Daniels for the job!'” When he turned up he was a bit miffed about Bill’s song ‘Where’s the Party‘, which had gone a bit electro-metal due to Zeus’s input on the drum programming side. “It was like early Prodigy”, Bill explaines, “but Lemmy said ‘He’s a weird one that producer.’ and said he’d like to play bass on the track as well as sing! We weren’t prepared for this and ended up plugging him into a Mesa Boogie guitar combo.” These have 3 stages of distortion and Bill helped adjust the amp settings as Lemmy hacked at the Rickenbacker. Only after the last control was flat out at 11 on every knob, Lemmy did put his thumb up and said the sound was right! He had the headphones on and said ‘What’s that ‘orrible noise panned to the left?’ The engineer replied ‘It’s the bass guitar’ Lemmy replied ‘that’s ok then!’ We ran out of Jack and the local Sainsbury’s had closed so he asked if he could have my skull adorned German officers cap instead. Never saw him again but he was great in the studio and played the bass in a take!”
David Bowie, died only a short period after Lemmy died. It was a lifetime ago since Bill and Bowie played together. Liesegang was 16 at the time he was discovered by David in the 60’s and was hanging around with him when he composed Space Oddity. He even turned down David, regarding a new band David was in the process of forming. He turned it down because he was just starting at college in Bristol, which was 90 miles away.
“I played on the same bill as David in Hamburg at the time of the Glass Spider tour, but never got to speak to him. I was a bit upset because he was a few yards away doing a sound check, his tour manager Uli Peretz (who was also our previous manager) said he didn’t want to speak to us. I think he didn’t like Nina Hagen at all from what I heard.” They last met in 1987 in Hamburg, but didn’t have the chance to chat. “Goodbye David! It was good to know you, even if it was a lifetime ago….”
Now, many years later, Bill Liesegang writes and records music for TV, the theme for WWF Hulk Hogan’s entrance many more, performing with several artis and his bands The Stealers and Spirit of ’69, as well composing for Universal. Old friends pass away, as Bill played with Jack Bruce, only a couple of weeks before Jack died. Andy Fraser hired Bill for his upcoming tour, but died as well… After many rough years, losing old friends like Jack, Andy, David Bowie and Lemmy Kilmister in a short period, Bill has settled down in London… but his life is still all about Rock ‘n Roll…
Photo’s by courtesy of Bill Liesegang