It wasn’t just his standing as a rock’n’roll overlord that made Lemmy so endearing to so many people. Motörhead’s leader proved you could be 100% rock star while being 0% wanker. He had no time for look-at-me insecurity, being too busy thinking about rock’n’roll, women, fruit machines or World War II. But especially rock’n’roll. And because Lemmy remained a fan, unlike many who crossed the line between ‘musician’ and ‘rock star’, he understood being a fan.
“In 20 years,” testifies PR Nik Moore, “I never saw him refuse an autograph or photograph. His whole attitude was, ‘These people pay into my lifestyle!’”
“He never hid,” marvels Gutterdämmerung director Björn Tagemose. “In LA, he’d be in the Rainbow and in Berlin he’d be in the White Trash bar. After people got over that, they forgot he was playing the pinball machine: he was just part of the group, hanging out that night.”
Harry Feeney, who sang with Lemmy’s first recording band The Rockin’ Vickers in the 1960s, recalls the 20-year-old as looking, “reserved and quiet at first, behaving himself. As he established his position in the band, he stuck his chest out a bit and pushed us to play heavier and louder. He’d launch his body around onstage with his Fender Jaguar! It was wonderful how Lemmy didn’t look or act any different, whether he had no money in his pocket or pots of it.”
In 2000, Lemmy formed rockabilly supergroup The Head Cat with Danny B Harvey and the Stray Cats’ Slim Jim Phantom – a band which Danny describes as “Lemmy’s alter ego, whereas Motörhead was his legacy, his career and the band he spend most of his life nurturing.”
“I think Lem genuinely loved playing rockabilly classics with two guys that knew how to do it,” says Jim. “He got to tick a musical box by doing these songs that really shaped his love of rock’n’roll. When we got to know each other in the early 80s, he lived in a Battersea basement with boxes of cassettes. After a night in the clubs, he would play me a BBC radio session he’d recorded off the wireless in the 60s! He had his own filing system and knew right where to find it.”
“Lemmy loved music of all genres and eras,” Danny notes. “The only requirement was that it was good, and if it wasn’t he’d tell you! He was The Universal Musician. On the road he’d listen to ABBA, Jerry Lee Lewis and Black Sabbath, all before going onstage and playing rockabilly!”
Lemmy’s natural musical sociability spawned collaborations with everyone from Girlschool to Ozzy. He covered Metallica, Rolling Stones and Sex Pistols tracks, and wrote songs for others, including rising US heavy metallers Huntress. Singer Jill Janus recalls the day he invited her to an LA recording studio; after they listened to a 20-minute Hawkwind live recording (“His eyes were closed, fingers tapping along on his knee”) and ate fish and chips on a sofa (“mushy peas and all”), Lemmy finally “shuffled through a yellow notebook filled with lyrics and doodles. Two pages were unearthed. ‘If the title is too fucky, I’ll change it,’ he said. And there it was, the new Huntress song, I Want To Fuck You To Death. I said, ‘This is the most romantic thing a boy has ever done for me!’”
Ultimately, though, the stories all come to the same conclusion: that Lemmy was as genuine a dude as they come.
“He was the same guy onstage as he was off it,” says manager Todd Singerman, who looked after Motörhead from the early 90s right up until Lemmy’s passing. “That’s what I learned in my 25 years with him. He was 100% that way every day. What he does onstage is what he does offstage. This is the entertainment business, so a lot of people have a stage persona, but Lemmy lived this every day. His life was his life, his backstage rider was the stuff he would eat and drink at home. He was the most genuine person.”
Lemmy, then: a lifelong music fan, the universal musician and forever one of us. The measure of the man was ultimately provided by Hollywood itself. Because if two decades of living in LA didn’t turn him into a poser, nothing would.
Living With Lemmy
**Hells Angel Tramp met Lemmy in 1974, and the pair ended up sharing squats. Here are his fondest memories…
WHEELS OF STEEL
“One time, I stripped down my bike to clean it. I left the engine and the frame in the bath. Because there was no more room, I put the gear box in the toilet bowl. Lemmy came home and needed a piss, but when he saw the gear box, he pissed on the floor. There was no way he would ever piss on part of someone’s bike!”
NUDGE NUDGE, WINK WINK
“I remember one time walking into Lemmy’s room. He was playing Monty Python and getting a blow job! I’m not sure how that combination worked, but he seemed to be having a good time with it! From then on, I never walked in when he was playing Monty Python!”
COPPING THE BLAME
“We moved into one squat, and the lounge didn’t have any floorboards or wiring. Lemmy was on tour at the time, so we took up the floorboards and wiring from his room and used them in the lounge. When Lemmy returned from the tour, he got busted at the airport. The police took him home to search his room, so he showed them where it was. One policeman walked in, tried the lightswitch, which didn’t work, and then fell through the ceiling! They beat Lemmy up, and all for something he didn’t even know about.”
LIFE OF THE PARTY
“One time when we were squatting, all of us were busted by the police. We were all held in one cell, men and women, while they decided what to do with us. But they didn’t search us, and we had drugs on us. So, we had a party right there in the jail, just to get rid of the evidence. Lemmy loved that party!”