Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead. From being Jimi Hendrix’s roadie (and scoring LSD for the man) to being recognised as the originator of speed metal, few people come even remotely close to embodying what rock n’ roll is about. And no one can rock quite so hard, or as loudly, as the band he founded, Motorhead.
The newest addition to the Motorhead discography, Aftermath, was released very recently. I got my physical copy as part of Classic Rock magazine while I was in the UK. It was a one-off special called Classic Rock presents Motorhead — Aftershock, which I might add was a fantastic read. So credit where credit is due: many of the facts and quotes were taken from this edition. So...
Here are 10 things you may not know about Lemmy
Photo: Mark Marek Photography
1. LEMME BORROW A FIVER
Lemmy’s real name is Ian Fraser Kilmister. His nickname apparently came from his younger wheeling and dealing days when he would ask people “lemme borrow a fiver”.
2. LEMMY ON RELIGION
Lemmy’s dislike for organised religion is well known, with some of his most classic tracks like (Don’t Need) Religion and Orgasmatron notoriously critical of the subject. It may have had something to do with his father, a former air force chaplain who left the family when he was a baby.
3. HE HATES THE DENTIST
When Lemmy was four years old he had 10 of his teeth removed without anaesthetic.
“I remember that like it was yesterday,” he told Classic Rock magazine. “I had blood all down me, my mother pulling me through the crowds on a Saturday in Stoke.” Consequently he avoided dentists until he was 50 years old. Despite this, he managed (or so he claims) to bed more than 1000 women in his life despite a mouth full of rotting teeth and several prominent warts.
4. LEMMY AND OZZY OSBOURNE ARE CLOSE MATES
Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy are close friends. Lemmy even wrote or co-wrote a couple of Ozzy’s best known tracks including Hellraiser and I Don’t Want To Change The World. “When I came to America I was broke, I had nothing in the bank,” he told Classic Rock magazine. “Sharon Osbourne said, “Do you want to write four songs?” and they handed me this lump sum that was more money than I’d ever seen in my life. More money than I’d ever earned with Hawkwind and Motorhead.”
Photo: John Gullo
5. LEMMY ON JOINING HAWKWIND
It’s well known that Lemmy played bass in the seminal psychedelic rock outfit Hawkwind before he started Motorhead. What is perhaps less well known is the fact that (or at least he claims it to be so) he’d never picked up a bass guitar when he ‘auditioned’ for the band. A six-string guitar player until then, he happened to be at a gig where the Hawkwind bassist didn’t turn up. Hawkwind’s keyboard player, Dik Mik, was asked if anyone in the room played bass, pointed to Lemmy, who got up on stage, played a few bars, and got the gig.
Yes, that's how they did things back then.
Yes, that's how they did things back then.
6. LEMMY ON LEAVING HAWKWIND
Lemmy is famous for his stint in Hawkwind — but the manner in which he was fired is equally infamous. According to Lemmy, the rift developed after he was asked to re-record the vocals on a certain track because Hawkwind’s bi-polar-suffering vocalist Robert Calvert was unavailable due to the fact that he’d been admitted to hospital. The track, Silver Machine, became a major hit but the fact that it was Lemmy’s voice on the recording stirred up intense animosity among the other members of the band. Lemmy was eventually fired after being busted in Canada for drug possession (a charge that was later dropped). He has always claimed that it was “just an excuse to get rid of me” and reckons he was only bailed out because another bass player couldn’t be found to fill in on time. “So I did the show and at 4.30 in the morning I was fired,” says Lemmy.
He had the last laugh though. In addition to starting Motorhead, he adds that he really enjoyed “coming home and fucking all their old ladies. Not the ugly ones of course. But at least four. I took great pleasure in it. Eat that, you bastards.”
7. HE WAS 35 BEFORE MOTORHEAD GOT ANYWHERE
Lemmy was 30 years old when he first conjured up Motorhead. He’d been unceremoniously dumped from Hawkwind, and he soon found that getting a record company to release a full album of what was considered fast, dirty and loud noise was harder than he’d envisaged. Much, much harder.
For many people, getting sacked from your successful band, getting your new outfit voted the “best worst band in the world” by the music press, and then suffering years of knock-backs from record labels would be a fairly strong incentive to find a career that involves something other than rock music. Especially when your first album, On Parole, was recorded and remained unreleased by a greedy record label. Indeed, Motorhead’s self-titled debut album was initially meant to be a live recording of their final ever gig.
It wasn’t until Lemmy was in his mid thirties that Motorhead finally got some recognition and much-needed airplay with the 1979 release of the classic Motorhead album, Overkill.
8. EVERYONE LOVES MOTORHEAD
Countless bands have been influenced by Motorhead. Rock, punk, metal and other acts all cite them as paving the way over more than 30 years of heavy guitar music. And Motorhead know it. For example, the dark theme of the artwork on the fifteenth Motorhead album, We Are Motorhead, was essentially a nod to the many black and death metal bands that were big at the time who publicly cited Motorhead as an influence.
In 1995 Metallica famously played a gig as a Motorhead tribute band at the Whisky A Go Go. The occasion was Lemmy’s birthday and Metallica took to the stage complete with big black fake wigs, sideburn moustache combos and sunglasses. Metallica’s Jason Newstead had an especially close encounter with Lemmy during a rendition of (We Are) The Roadcrew, a song Newstead had been playing since he first started a band: “So I thought, I’ve been doing it long enough. I got it memorised. Then Lemmy comes over right before the first verse, and he’s right in my face. He’s rubbing his warts on my fucking face! And while he’s rubbing that shit on my skin, he says, “Alright, don’t forget the words mate. Don’t fuck it up.” So of course, I’m distracted and I miss the first line. I didn’t have a chance — but he knew that.”
9. LEMMY IS NOT GOD
In the film Airheads, three rockers take hostages at a radio station in an effort to get some airplay for their would-be hit song. With the building surrounded by police, the band is at one time approached by Chris Moore, who claims to be an executive from a record label. Suspecting he may be an undercover cop, the band and Moore have the following exchange:
Chazz: Who’d win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God?
Chris Moore: Lemmy.
(Rex imitates a game show buzzer)
Chris Moore: ... God?
Rex: Wrong, dickhead, trick question. Lemmy *is* God.
And yet Lemmy is mortal. He has a defibrillator implanted in his chest. It’s called an ICD — an implantable cardioverter-defibrilator. Unlike many regular pacemakers it’s permanent, and it’s designed to jolt you back to life if your heart stops unexpectedly.
So even Lemmy has his limits — who, it’s worth noting, at 67 years of age is still rocking out, and throughout his life has consumed enough drugs and alcohol to kill every elephant in Africa.
10. LEMMY LOVES HORSES
Lemmy loves horses. Even though he reckons he probably couldn’t ride one, he’s hinted that he’d probably spend a life around them if he ever retired from Motorhead.
So in other words, it’s unlikely he’ll ever get into horses.
As mentioned previously, credit needs to be given to the Classic Rock magazine special issue of Classic Rock presents Motorhead — Aftershock. It’s a damn good read from which I extracted many of the quotes above and it came with the Motorhead Aftershock album on the cover in a nice cardboard case. Get yourself a copy if you can.