Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead was pure rock ‘n’ roll. You hear the expression often, ‘walk the talk’, but a lot of the times we don’t exactly know what that expression really means when applied to musicians. Allow us to make a point clear in this case; everything that Lemmy ever said or did was firmly rooted in the idea of ‘rock ‘n’ roll’.
Ever since he heard Little Richard for the first time, he knew exactly what it was he was going to be doing for the rest of his life. For people like Kilmister, there was no plan B – it was all or nothing – he was either going to make it or die trying. Lemmy didn’t do a deal with the devil – he was the dishing out deals on behalf of the devil.
Lemmy was the kind of guy who preferred the Please Please Me-A Hard Days Night era of The Beatles, as opposed to their Sgt. Pepper phase. He liked the guitars loud and the backbeat strong and steady. Motorhead became one of the significant frontrunners of a new wave of British heavy metal music. Some called Motorhead metal, others called them pure rock and roll.
“I was born in Stoke in 1943. My father was vicar and the way he behaved put me off religion for life. He ran off and left my mother and I didn’t see him for 25 years when he lived on the Isle Of Man,” Lemmy began recalling a story as according to Louder Than War, that culminated in an aggressive altercation that got him expelled from his school – a real rebel.
A bass player, Lemmy used heavy strings and would turn up the gain dial on his amp to maximum output, creating a rumbling distortion sound. He played bass like a rhythm guitar (he started out as one), he used a lot of downstrokes making his bass parts the signature sound of Motorhead. In the early days before Lemmy eventually started using a fuzz pedal to create more distortion, he would put a hole in his bass cabinet, creating absolute natural distortion.
His image was provocative: he had mutton-chops and wore WW2-era jewellery, and cowboy boots specifically designed for him to include embroidered stars and flowers. During hot weather, he would wear short-shorts. Scott Ian of Anthrax retold the story of when the two bands shared a festival bill together, and then when he was walking around backstage, he noticed Lemmy was bent over one hot summer day: “He was wearing daisy dukes, it was like a thong,” he said. “We would walk out the door and the first thing you would see when you walked out of our room was Lemmy bent over this machine. So, it’s basically Lemmy bending over with his ass in your face. That’s a weird scene.”
To say the least, Lemmy didn’t exactly care about what others thought of him – he had a quirky aesthetic but people took him very seriously because if he any reason to do so, he wouldn’t think twice about smacking you.
And that’s exactly what he did when he was in school. He continued his climactic story: “I was expelled from school when I was 14 for smacking the headmaster. I had been sent to his office for two strokes of the cane,” Lemmy began.
“I said fair enough but not on my hand with the bandages. So he hit my hand with the bandage on it and opened up the cut that was on it, the scar is still there now.”
Lemmy added, “He was a miserable, sadistic twat so I smacked him and got expelled. It was at Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones School in Amlwch, Anglesey. They didn’t like me at the school because I was English- they would beat me up in Welsh! I would fight but what was the point there was masses of them!”