Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister in his 70 years revolutionised the music industry and shaped generations. A life not so much troubled, but demarcated by addiction, even down to his iconic nickname which came from him asking friends to “lend me a quid for the slots”, his passing was considered somewhat impossible. Dave Grohl in Lemmy’s eponymous film told of how has-been rock stars would claim to have “survived” the 60s and the high levels of drugs, yet Lemmy in his twilight years was living a lifestyle more intense than they had ever had.
his career started off as a member of Jimi Hendrix’s road crew, teaching jimi how to increase the effects of acid
Initially carrying a guitar at 13 to attract female attention, he soon fell in love with music instead. Yet his career started off not at the front of stage but rather behind it, as a member of Jimi Hendrix’s road crew, even teaching Jimi how to increase the effects of acid. Lemmy’s first musical break came from a most unlikely source, the mainly free form psychedelic band Hawkwind who had several hits. Their main releases were ‘Silver Machine’ – one of the few songs they let Lemmy orchestrate (which he wrote about his bicycle) – and a prototype version of ‘Motörhead’.
After being kicked out of Hawkwind for an arrest related to drug possession and creative, as well as substance, differences, he decided to form his own band Motörhead (nee Bastard) with Lucas Fox and Larry Wallis. The initial record On Parole was denied release, purposefully as a way to sabotage Motörhead and the company that now owned them, a more than rocky start preceded what would turn into the one of the most iconic rock and roll bands of all time. Setting out to “concentrate on basic music—loud, fast, gritty, raucous, arrogant, paranoid, speed freak rock’n’roll… It will be so dirty that if we moved in next door to you, your lawn would die!” The high octane style of Motörhead and the traditional rock and roll backbeats meant that Motörhead had a unique sound that appealed both to the growing punk movement (his personal relationship and bass playing position in the Damned cemented this), and the traditional rock scene.
Motörhead revolutionised the musical scene, the 1980 hit ‘Ace of Spades’ is perhaps the most popular heavy rock song of all time. Furthermore, their success was not native to merely the UK and the USA the majority of their success came from on the Continent – Germany in particular. According to Lemmy, they were also the first, or at least the first rock and roll band, from the West to play in the USSR. After this success and the Number One hit live album No Sleep Til Hammersmith, their debut album was technically their third. Motörhead’s influence grew so much that their T Shirts became one of the first real big band brands, and I encourage readers when rewatching 90s TV shows to look out for “Motörhead England” shirts in the background shots.
although the members of Motörhead changed (but never Lemmy) the spirit and core message remained the same, to live life to the full no matter the consequences
Lemmy and his band of outcasts had made it to the big leagues; although the members of Motörhead changed (but never Lemmy) the spirit and core message remained the same, to live life to the full no matter the consequences. Certainly something Lemmy embodied fully, constantly on tour, constantly producing music, and constantly living his life to the fullest. A life of excess so extravagant his blood was deemed “toxic” by doctors and deemed unfit for transfusion. Lemmy’s life view however was more than simple hedonism, his anarchism and defiance can be seen as defining features of his life works. Outspokenly anti-fascist and highly critical of capitalism and all power structures, Lemmy often provided key insight on a multitude of topics. In regards to corrupt elites in the USSR and the banning of Rock from the USSR: “Don’t we look the same? Our uniform doesn’t change, only their uniforms change, because they feel a need to identify themselves according to their regime. We don’t have to do that, we are international. And we’re always gonna win. ‘Cause music came across the Berlin Wall and the uniforms couldn’t, because we take the reason for their uniforms away.”
It seems easy to write the loudest band in history off as a mere gimmick, one hit song and just mere volume, yet Motörhead’s library is incredibly diverse. Songs like ‘Overkill’ and ‘Ace of Spades’ bought them fame, fast and loud, yet haunting and sombre songs like ‘1916’ and ‘I Ain’t No Nice Guy’ prove they are more than a mere rock’n’roll band. Nor are they a thing of the past, still touring and recording fresh material ’til his death; some of Motörhead’s best work has been in the past few years. Their last album Bad Magic was met with universal acclaim, reaching number 1 in Austria, Finland, and on two separate UK charts.
Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister died last night from “an extremely aggressive cancer”, two days after learning of his disease. A statement from the band reads “please… play Motörhead loud, play Hawkwind loud, play Lemmy’s music LOUD. Have a drink or few. Share stories. Celebrate the LIFE this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself. HE WOULD WANT EXACTLY THAT. Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, 1945-2015. Born to lose, lived to win.”