The mind-boggling story of how former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson ended up in Motorhead

Portrait of the British metal band Motorhead at a McDonald's restaurant in Chicago, Illinois, August 5, 1983. Left to right, Ian 'Lemmy' Kilmister (1945 - 2015), Phil Taylor, and Brian Robertson
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

There aren’t many people better placed to write the 'What It’s Like To Be In A Band With A Crazy Frontman' handbook than former Thin Lizzy and Motörhead guitarist Brian Robertson. The Scottish six-stringer wasn’t always just an innocent bystander, either. He’d already had a taste for carnage as an integral member in Thin Lizzy during the Irish rockers’ most successful years, which you imagine put him in good stead when Lemmy came knocking in 1982. He told Classic Rock how it came about.

“Joining Motörhead was a weird one. Lemmy’s manager, Doug Smith, phoned me up, and then he sent this girl in stockings and suspenders round to my place in Fulham with a bottle of whisky. Needless to say the deal was struck. She gave me all the Motörhead albums, but I didn’t listen to them because it’s not my sort of music.”

Hold on, let’s break this one down:

“Lemmy’s manager, Doug Smith, phoned me up.”
OK, this is relatively straightforward, we’ve all been on the receiving end of a phonecall, we’re with you Brian.

“Then he sent this girl in stockings and suspenders round to my place in Fulham with a bottle of whisky.”
Okaaay. What I’m imagining has happened here is that Doug wasn’t feeling confident that his phonecall had done the trick and wanted to send flowers but the local flower shop was closed for the day and he had to weigh up between getting Brian his favourite Just Eat delivery or sending round a girl in stockings and suspenders with a bottle of whisky. Obviously Just Eat didn’t exist back then, so he was forced to go with the latter. 

“Needless to say the deal was struck.”
I don’t think we should spend too long mulling this one over, maybe it’s just better to move on.

“She gave me all the Motörhead albums…”
OK, now it’s starting to make some sense – they wanted to stage a special delivery to their new member and make him feel at home and one of the crew, except…

“I didn’t listen to them because it’s not my sort of music.”
Oh, right. Except Brian did join Motörhead. He was in Motörhead for over a year, begging the question, did Brian ever listen to the Motörhead albums or did he blag it for 12 months? Either way, it’s a cosmic approach to joining a band and all respect to Brian.

This psychedelic introduction to his time in Motörhead only continued when it came to joining up with the band. “I was supposed to fly out to New York the next morning to meet the band, but for some reason I ended up in Toronto,” Brian says – and we’re going to stop asking him how these strange things keep happening to him, even when we really just want to shout out “how, Brian? How did you end up in Toronto when you were supposed to go to New York?”, we’re just going to go with the flow. “I called Rush’s lighting technician, Howard, and thankfully he booked me into a hotel. The next day I flew to New York in a thunderstorm. I was picked up at the airport and we drove straight to Motörhead’s rehearsal room. We were there for 10 hours straight, with a lot of this [mimes sniffing something], and that was me in the band. Then we boarded the tour bus and drove straight back to fucking Canada. I remember The Lemster thought that was really funny. 

"He and I got on fine most of the time, but we had our moments, shall we say. Being in Motörhead was crazy 24 hours a day.”

And there we have it, the mind-boggling story of how Brian Robertson came to be in Motörhead.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.