Lemmy Kilmister was the rockstar’s rockstar. With his mutton-chop whiskers, penchant for leatherware and hard-drinking lifestyle, he was the archetypal classic rock hellraiser.
Born Ian Kilmister on Christmas Eve, 1945, in Stoke on Trent, England, Lemmy’s early years – like so many cult figures – remain the subject of speculation. All we know is that he was the son of a vicar and that he fell in love with music at an early age. Growing up on a musical diet of ’60s British R&B and rock, the young Kilmister spent his adolescence playing in a series of blues-rock outfits, including The Rainmakers, The Rockin’ Vicars and Opal Butterfly.
After getting a job as a member of Jimi Hendrix’s road crew on one of his early UK tours, Lemmy was asked to play bass for the progressive psych band Hawkwind in 1971. But after being caught trying to smuggle drugs over the Canadian border in 1975, he was sent packing.
He regarded his dismissal as an excuse to form a band with a more primordial, minimalist sound. Dubbed Motörhead, the band cast themselves as heavy rockers of the long hair tradition. However, their speedy blend of churning guitars was more in line with the blossoming punk scene, allowing them to take on a near-universal appeal. As the band grew more and more successful, releasing hits like ‘Ace Of Spades’, ‘Overkill’ and ‘No Life Til Hammersmith’, Motörhead and Lemmy became synonymous, with the latter perfectly capturing the no-fucks-given attitude the group’s music seemed to exude from every pore.
As well as being an embodiment of all things sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, Lemmy was an adept anecdotalist. Having squeezed life of every ounce of juice, he experienced everything a rockstar could hope to experience before kicking the bucket, and he had the stories to prove it. Here, we’ve scoured Rock’s Backpages to bring you the five best quotes from his wild and unhinged life.
Lemmy’s five greatest quotes:
Lemmy on ageing:
“In your twenties, you think you are immortal. In your thirties, you hope you are immortal. In your forties, you just pray it doesn’t hurt too much, and by the time you reach my age, you become convinced that, well, it could be just around the corner. Do I think about death a lot? It’s difficult not to when you’re 65, son.”
Lemmy on adolescence:
“I was 13 and living in Benllech and I knew this guy called Tom who had a prosthetic arm. One night we sneaked into this Girl Guides camp and, you know, started getting down to business. So there I am bathing in the soft afterglow in some girl’s tent when, all of a sudden, I hear ‘Whack! Ow! Whack! Ow!’. I thought, ‘what the bloody hell is that’? and looked out to see Tom running naked down the road with this Guide mistress belting him over the head with his own false arm.”
Lemmy on Hawkwind:
“Being fired from Hawkwind for drugs is a bit like being pushed off the Empire State Building for liking heights, you know?”
Lemmy on hotels:
“I like hotels. They give you clean sheets. They bring you your meals, and then they take that dirty shit away and wash it. Wonderful! I don’t let them in the room to clean it up. I make my own bed. I don’t want them to fuck with my stuff. They take things away that you want to keep. I mean, I’ve got a pizza in that second drawer down there that I bought the first night I was here, you know, because they only sell you the big ones, so I eat a pizza for three days, and it’s great. It’s an acquired taste, you know?
Lemmy on rock ‘n’ roll:
“If you can give the kids a good time then that’s all it’s for. Forget art and all that – that’s bullshit. If you can send that shiver down a kid’s back then that’s what it’s all about. All else is bullshit. That’s what rock’n’roll was for in the first place and as far as I’m concerned that’s what it’s still about. I’m trying to give them that feeling I felt the first time I heard ‘All Shook Up or Good Golly Miss Molly. I just want to send that shiver up their back because it’s the best thing I ever felt. It’s better than screwing.”