Hollywood Vampires paid tribute to Lemmy Kilmister at the 58th Grammy Awards, but the rock supergroup’s song “As Bad As I Am” had special meaning for Johnny Depp, who penned the tune. While Depp and rock legends Alice Cooper, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, and Guns ‘N’ Roses alum Duff McKagan took over the Grammys stage for the tribute to the late Motorhead frontman, Depp told USA Today that “As Bad As I Am” was actually written for his late stepfather, Robert Palmer, who died in 2000.
“So the words of the song was this toast by my stepfather, who made his exit about 15 years ago, He was this really cool guy. He was a bit of a rounder. He spent about half his life in prison, in Statesville, Illinois. And he had this toast. ‘Here’s to you, as good as you are. Here’s to me, as bad as I am. You’re still as good as you are, as bad as I am.’”
While they performed several shows at the Roxy last year, Hollywood Vampires made their first-ever TV appearance at the 2016 Grammy Awards. After an introduction by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, the celebrity supergroup performed Depp’s “As Bad As I Am” as a photo of Lemmy was projected on a big screen behind them. In addition to “As Bad As I Am,” the group rocked out to the Motorhead classic “Ace of Spades.” Depp and Perry played opposing guitar solos during the performance.
Hollywood Vampires released their debut album last fall. In addition to several original songs, the disc features covers of classic rock hits like Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” The Who’s “My Generation,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.” Guest performers on the album include Grohl, Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, and more.
The band’s name goes back to Cooper’s 1970s era celebrity drinking club called The Hollywood Vampires. The club’s “members” included Cooper, Keith Moon, Ringo Star, Harry Nilsson, and Mickey Dolenz, and the goal was to out drink one another. In an interview with Billboard last year, Cooper talked about his Hollywood Vampires club.
“The Hollywood Vampires was a drinking club at the Rainbow [Bar & Grill] in Los Angeles, and it was the guys we are honoring: Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Keith Moon, plus me, Mickey Dolenz from The Monkees and Bernie Taupin. We were vampires because we never saw daylight — we drank all night. Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, the guys we learned from, were guys we drank with. I had never done a covers album, and I said, ‘Why don’t we pay tribute to our dead, drunk friends?’ They would have gotten the joke — trust me.”
Cooper also revealed that he hit rock bottom years ago after a scary night of binge drinking, when he began throwing up blood. While the rocker joked that “throwing up blood onstage is cool,” he added that “throwing up blood in front of your Holiday Inn maid is not cool.”
The Hollywood Vampires frontman revealed that he had to make a choice if he wanted to stay alive, so he chose the music.
“When I quit drinking Budweiser, their stock plummeted. Our band proved you could live on nothing but beer for three years — then it catches up with you. Joe and I got to the crossroads and realized: You can either die, or you can make 20 more records.”
Turns out, forming a band that pays tribute to The Hollywood Vampires is a good way to stay alive — and to prove that rock isn’t dead.
Check out the video to see Hollywood Vampires on the red carpet before the Grammys:
[Photo By Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS]