Lemmy used drugs. He made no secret of the fact and offered no apologies either. "The William Morris Agency made me take drugs!" he joked. "Motörhead did a tour in 1979 – the Bomber tour, which was 53 shows in 56 states – and I don’t care who the fuck you are, you’re not gonna do that without some help."
Not that he only used drugs for practical benefits. As a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, he gobbled LSD ("Orgasms on acid, by the way, are fucking excellent") and his book White Line Fever (opens in new tab) is full of stories that start with lines like: "Everybody was taking pills too. Uppers, like Blues, Black Beauties and Dexedrine" and "Dikmik and I had been up for about three days, whacking down Dexedrine. Then we got a bit paranoid and took some downers – Mandrax – but we thought it wasn't very interesting, so we took some acid, then we took some mescaline..."
You get the picture.
Motörhead were named after drugs: a "motorhead' was a slang term for a speed freak. Lemmy had been fired from Hawkwind (opens in new tab), in his view, for “doing the wrong drugs” – he was doing speed when the rest of the band were doing acid.
He once told an interviewer for The Guardian (opens in new tab) that LSD had made him a better person. “It made me more analytical," he said. "It made me more tolerant. And it made me realise that anything is possible. Anything."
So when we interviewed Lemmy in 2004, we asked for his thoughts on drug taking.
"Drugs are very subjective," he said. "They’re in the brain cell of the beholder. When I was growing up, drugs were all the go, everybody was doing them, so I did them, smoking dope and acid.
"But there was a great innocence attached to [drugs then]," he told us. "No one had died yet. Heroin hadn’t showed up and downers hadn’t come in. The deals were a lot better then too. Then came the birth of the rabid dealer – with the gun in his pocket. And that’s what changed it – the money you could make."
In White Line Fever he wrote about his experiences with heroin in the early 70s. "It was a round this time that I learned to hate heroin," he said. "It started to be a real problem around 1970."
He tells the story of a friend of his who scored heroin and then went in the toilet to shoot up. "A few minutes later, he came lurching out backwards. His face was black and his tongue was sticking out. Somebody had sold him rat poison – took his money, smiled at him and sold him certain death. I thought, 'Well, if that's the kind of people who are hanging around with heroin, you can fucking have it'.
"I also saw people doing horrible fixes with old, blunt needles that would really fucking mess their arms up. You'd see people with embolisms in their arms the size of a cricket ball. And they'd be selling their asses for a fucking shot. It always looked like misery to me. No fun at all."
His girlfriend Sue, the first girlfriend he ever lived with and the girl, he says, "I was most in love with in my life", died from heroin use. It gave him a life-long hatred of the drug.
So his hard won advice?
"I would not advise drugs to any person, ever, of any kind," he said. "If you think you have to try them, then go ahead. I can’t stop you. If you’re thinking about it, you’re going to do it anyway. But drugs are very powerful things – you can’t just try it and go back to the way you were before, because they’re going to change you. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Mostly for the worse. If you’re sticking needles in yourself, then that’s very bad news. Even with my famous rep, not once. Never ever.
"You should know who the fuck you are before you start doing drugs. I was 18, 20 before I started doing any dope. At least you had a vague idea of what you wanted to do with your life and who you were. That’s hard to fathom for some kids now because they think they’re adults when they’re 12.
"I used to say that getting married was the only mistake I didn’t make. But the other mistake I didn’t make was to stick needles in myself to get high."