10 brilliant, bizarre and utterly WTF Lemmy collaborations

Lemmy with collaborators Dave Grohl, Samantha Fox and Slash
(Image credit: Annamaria DiSanto/WireImage/Alan OlCharlie Ley/Mirrorpix/Getty/Robert Knight Archive/Redferns)

Like all great bands, Motörhead cultivated an image of being loners, outsiders and rebels with the motto ‘Us Against The Rest Of The World’ stamped through them. So a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that Lemmy was the kind of guy who didn’t go in for collaborations and side projects. But you only have to glimpse his full discography to see that he will appear on someone else’s record at the drop of a skull and crossbones decorated hat... and when you see who he’s worked with, it’s safe to say that most of the time he’s just interested in mischievously upsetting people’s expectations...


Hawkwind – Silver Machine (1972)

Not technically a collaboration, given that Lemmy was Hawkwind’s bassist between 1972 and 1975, but we’re including it anyway. He may have technically been sacked for “taking the wrong kind of drugs” (or being caught trying to smuggle cocaine into Canada, as the authorities might have it) but really his card was probably marked from the day that Silver Machine became a hit single. Recorded live at Camden’s Roundhouse in 1972, Lemmy had smoked so many joints, taken so many Mandrax, Dexedrine and Black Beauties, snorted so many lines of cocaine and dropped so many tabs of acid that he had to be carried on stage and told where the audience was. But despite this it was Robert Calvert, the singer, who had a bad night performing. Lemmy ended up overdubbing the vocals on the track which was released as a single and went on to become a totally unexpected smash hit.

Probot – Shake Your Blood (2004)

Dave Grohl once made this bold but believable statement to us: “I grew up a fucking pot head, Motörhead, punk kid. It is when I meet people like Lemmy from Motörhead that I really go ‘Yes!’ And when he agreed to do Probot with me I was amazed. He’s a fucking champion. I realised that I’d never met a real rock and roller until I met him. And I don’t think I’ll meet anyone like him ever again. He was walking round drinking JD and coke and smoking Marlboro red. And it was fucking noon. It was great.” The album was constructed with Dave doing most of the instrumentation with his favourite metal singers in mind. Lemmy wrote the lyrics to his track, Shake Your Blood in ten minutes, saying: “It’s rock & roll, you know. It’s not one of those complicated things.”

Wendy O. Williams – Stand By Your Man (1982)

The mohawk-sporting lead singer of The Plasmatics and “Queen of Shock Rock” Wendy O. Williams was famous for appearing on stage nearly naked and chainsawing her guitar in half, so she seemed like the ideal person to record with Motörhead. But while her habit of driving cars into piles of explosives and wrestling with alligators caused Lemmy to announce: “This chick’s fucking excellent!” the rest of the band ended up not so enamoured with her. During the session (which included No Class, The Plasmatics’ Masterplan and the Dolly Parton ‘classic’ Stand By Your Man) Wendy proved that she was better at jumping out of moving vehicles than she was at singing in tune; something that annoyed the hell out of Eddie Clarke. In fact this irritation was so profound that he ended up walking out on the band there and then, thus terminating the “classic line-up” of the band but ultimately guaranteeing them longevity. .    

The Head Cat – Not Fade Away (2008)

Lemmy was never slow to point out that Motörhead are not heavy metal or punk but in fact torch bearers of the true flame of rock ‘n’ roll. While this has been obvious at several points in his career, it was never been as clear as when he formed The Head Cat. This three-piece was formed by His Nibs on guitar, harmonica and vocals, Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats on drums and Danny B Harvey of The Rockats on stand-up bass, keyboards and lead guitar. A covers band, they tackled such rockabilly classics as Eddie Cochran’s Something Else, Johnny Cash’s Big River, Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away and Matchbox by Carl Perkins. It’s no surprise he went down this avenue, given that he once recalled watching a TV show when he was young: “There was Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent and Cliff Richard. And they were surrounded by screaming women. And I thought: that’s the job for me.”  

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Mike Batt – Eve Of Destruction (1998)

Poor Mike Batt will always be remembered for trivial reasons rather than his skills as a songwriter or arranger. For example ask anyone what they know about him and they will probably tell you that he created The Wombles or that he was sued by the estate of John Cage for “covering” the track 4’33”, which is composed entirely of silence. And to be fair, he hasn’t really helped himself by releasing albums like Philharmania. Featuring The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, fronted by a series of unlikely rock and pop singers, all arranged, produced and recorded by Batt; by the time you get to Kim Wilde singing/destroying Because The Night with anodyne strings, you start wondering what exactly it was that you did wrong in a previous life. However, there is something almost thrilling about hearing Lemmy’s bracing growl over lush orchestration and it makes for a thoughtful reworking of Eve Of Destruction, Barry McGuire’s heartfelt anti-war anthem.

Ramones – R.A.M.O.N.E.S. (1997)

There are obvious parallels to be drawn between New York punk’s original outlaws the Ramones and Motörhead. They both produced an amphetamine fast, agitated brand of outsider rock and roll that was taken to heart immediately by the emerging punk movement. So perhaps it was unsurprising that these two institutions should join forces at some point, in some shape or form. In 1985, Lemmy, along with Guy Bidmead, produced Go Home Ann from their Bonzo Goes To Bitburg EP.  Then in 1991 he penned R.A.M.O.N.E.S. for them, to which Joey Ramone said: “It was the ultimate honour - like John Lennon writing a song for you.” And they all collaborated on a version which got released on The Ramones’ farewell live album We’re Outta Here, released in 1997.

Slash – I Ain’t No Nice Guy (1992), Dr Alibi (2010)

If Lemmy has a US counterpart, then it’s arguably Slash. With a brass liver, titanium pancreas and a diamond hard psyche, he seems to have side-stepped all the physical and mental troubles that have befallen various other members of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver. Both of them share a passion for the sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle but have managed to sidestep the self-harm and nihilism that often goes with it. In 1992 Slash appeared on I Ain’t No Nice Guy a track from the muted March Or Die album that also featured Ozzy Osbourne on vocals. So perhaps it was inevitable that Lemmy would eventually loan his vocals to Slash’s eponymous solo album. Lem sings on the punkish rocker Dr Alibi and is in good company surrounded  by Ian Astbury, Duff McKagan, Dave Grohl, Chris Cornell and, well, every other heavy rock musician ever. 

The Damned – Ballroom Blitz (1979)

Being the UK’s first punk band to release a single, The Damned were always going to be more to do with the rock and roll nature of punk and less to do with mohicans and political insurrection. And as such they were a perfect match for Motörhead. In fact when The Damned split temporarily at the end of 1978, Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies used the hiatus to form Les Punks with Lemmy on bass. They were together for one gig at Camden’s Electric Ballroom. After reforming, The Damned and Lemmy tore through a light speed cover of The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz on the B-side of their final single of 1979, I Just Can’t Be Happy Today. On what is obviously a fairly scrappy, under-rehearsed, done in a few takes, studio version, Lemmy lays down a relatively sophisticated bass breakdown, that if it were even slightly more complex would have to be referred to as “incongruously jazzy”.

Samantha Fox – Beauty And The Beast (unreleased)

Motörhead had to take a break from recording between the summer of ‘84 and the summer of ‘86 after the relationship with their record label Bronze ground to a halt, which gave Lemmy the chance to collaborate with whoever he pleased. He met his favourite glamour model Sam Fox during 1985 when they were both judges at a spaghetti-eating contest. The pair became unlikely friends and he suggested they record a song together; a cover of Love Hurts, which was originally written for the Everly Brothers but made famous by Nazareth in 1975. The idea was that they would be a heavy metal version of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. They also wrote an original song together called Beauty And The Beast, which was apparently inspired by an ABBA listening session. Nothing from this musical pairing has ever been released but the pair remained friends with Fox even requesting Lem give her away at her wedding in Siberia.

The Young & Moody Band with The Nolans and Cozy Powell – Don’t Do That (1981)

Lemmy is so pathologically drawn to unlikely collaborations that it wouldn’t surprise anyone in this office if he appeared on the next Mumford And Sons single with Peter Andre. Bob Young (Status Quo’s unofficial fifth member) and Whitesnake’s Micky Moody were fairly unremarkable on their own given that they’re primarily remembered because of a Levis jeans commercial and this odd excursion. Drummer Cozy Powell might have been a good fit but there’s something unspeakably odd about seeing the carbuncular Motörhead mainman smirking behind all four Nolans. He claimed that they were a lot less straight than their “soppy little popster virgin” image and cites Motörhead manager Doug stooping down to pick something off the floor and being shocked when Linda said, “While you’re down there...”