Some rock and roll legends are charged with far more fiction than fact. Usually, there’s an exaggeration here or an inflation there. But when the person telling the story is Hawkwind player and Motörhead’s iconic leader, the late, great Lemmy Kilmister, you can be 99% certain that it’s 100% fact.
The stories of Lemmy’s rock and roll heritage, not to mention performances, are vast and varied. The singer has quite literally done it all, including using his pre-Hawkwind days to act as a roadie and drug mule for Jimi Hendrix.
It’s true, the greatest guitarist to have ever lived once used to count on Lemmy Kilmister, one of the forefathers of heavy metal, to not only act as his touring roadie for his live shows but to also pick up the drugs for the aftershow parties.
The connection between the two was a culmination of fortuitous circumstances and extortionate London rent: “I was sleeping on [Jimi Hendrix’s roadie] Neville Chester’s floor — he was sharing a flat with Noel Redding,” revealed Lemmy to Rolling Stone, adding: “So whenever they needed an extra pair of hands I was right there. I didn’t get the job for any talent or anything.”
One benefit though was seeing the master at work: “But I did see Jimi play a lot. Twice a night for about three months. I’d seen him play backstage too. He had this old Epiphone guitar — it was a 12-string, strung as a six string — and he used to stand up on a chair backstage and play it. Why he stood up on the chair, I don’t know.”
Seeing Hendrix do his thing must’ve provided quite a lot of inspiration for the young rocker: “When he performed, he was magic. You would watch him and space and time would stop.” But it wouldn’t last forever and Lemmy remembered feeling a little pity for the corner Hendrix had painted himself into.
Lemmy continued: “He was supposed to be a showman but I think he eventually got sick of it, and when people moaned at him, he’d go into this kind of imitation Jimi Hendrix routing, you know? It wasn’t convincing. That was a shame.” That was something Lemmy clearly didn’t learn from the guitarist, with Motörhead you always got 100% authenticity.
Lemmy did, however, reveal what he learned from Hendrix in another interview, “Jimi taught me how to find drugs in the most unlikely places because that was part of my job for him,” the bassist told Revolver.
“That’s how I learned to function on five hits of acid. But I also learned about theatrics and performing. Jimi was so effortlessly cool and he would move like an elegant spider,” he added. “He was always interested in the crowd. He made very bad jokes because he was so out of his mind. People couldn’t figure out what he was talking about by the time he was finished. But he was certainly the best guitar player you’ll ever see, probably ever.”
Lemmy clearly put his newfound talent to good use during his time as the preeminent rock frontman of the last few decades. Always offering a what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach to life and music, despite not being on the same level as Hendrix musically he matches him in every aspect for one of the most iconic men in rock.