Motorhead’s Lemmy and Mick Jagger certainly come from two different sides of the rock ‘n’ roll spectrum. You would have never caught the late Kilmister peacocking around a stage in the same way as The Rolling Stones frontman — they are uncomfortably yin and yang, in a musical and personal sense.
Lemmy was born in 1945, and he grew up amid the beat bands of the 1960s, but The Stones were never his cup of tea. This disdain might seem strange considering Motorhead would go on to cover ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ in 2015. The cover shows that underneath the catacomb of insults he has thrown in their direction, there is some crumb of respect for their musical abilities — it was just everything apart from the tunes which Lemmy disliked.
There isn’t an older debate in rock and roll music than ‘Beatles or Stones?’. It splits opinion right down the centre even though there’s only one correct answer, according to Lemmy Kilmister anyway. The Motorhead frontman grew up in Stoke-On-Trent in the Midlands before moving to the Welsh coastal town of Anglesey. He saw similarities between his upbringing which gifted him with toughness just as the city of Liverpool gave The Beatles.
“The Beatles were hard men,” he wrote in his 2004 memoir White Line Fever. “[Manager] Brian Epstein cleaned them up for mass consumption, but they were anything but sissies. They were from Liverpool, which is like Hamburg or Norfolk, Virginia – a hard, sea-farin’ town, all these dockers and sailors around all the time who would beat the piss out of you if you so much as winked at them. Ringo’s from the Dingle, which is like the fucking Bronx.”
However, Lemmy didn’t have the same praise for The Stones, adding: “The Rolling Stones were the mummy’s boys – they were all college students from the outskirts of London,” he said. “They went to starve in London, but it was by choice, to give themselves some sort of aura of disrespectability.”
Adding: “I did like the Stones, but they were never anywhere near the Beatles – not for humour, not for originality, not for songs, not for presentation. All they had was Mick Jagger dancing about. Fair enough, the Stones made great records, but they were always shit on stage, whereas the Beatles were the gear.”
It’s hard not to take umbrage with Kilmister’s comment about The Stones being “shit on stage”. While there may be grains of truth in other parts of his takedown, such as a lack of originality, especially in their infantile years, overall, it feels like the late Motorhead leader has leaned into hyperbole to show off his disgruntlement with the band.
In 2014, Lemmy had another pop at The Stones when he recalled attending their show at London’s Hyde Park in 1968. The performance is a poignant one as it took place just a day after the death of founding member Brian Jones, and the crowd witnessed Jagger perform a poem straight from the heart.
However, Kilmister was having none of it and told Rolling Stone: “I went to go see the Rolling Stones in the park and they were awful, completely out of tune. Jagger wore a frock,” he said.
It’s hard to disagree with The Beatles reigning supreme over The Rolling Stones during the ’60s. However, the latter’s longevity and the fact they’ve remained active for so long makes them worthy of being in the conversation. In fairness to Lemmy, he does admit the Stones have made “great records”, and that’s one statement that nobody in their right mind can pick apart.