Ian Fraser Kilmister, more famously known as Lemmy of Motörhead, passed away on 28th December 2015 just four days after his 70th birthday. Considering his well-publicised wild rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, that in itself was an achievement, but he also took Motörhead through 40 glorious years of high-volume, headbanging music, leading him to being presented in later years with a shelf full of accolades for his endeavors
Starting out as rhythm guitarist for 60’s recording band The Rocking Vickers, and then the psychedelic hippie band, Sam Gopal, Lemmy moved to London and signed up as a roadie for guitar genius, Jimi Hendrix.
This, in turn, led him to join space-rockers, Hawkwind, who needed a bassist. Despite having never played bass, Lemmy took the job and transferred his rhythm guitar technique creating his signature, full and punishing sound. His unique gravely voice was the vocal on Hawkwind’s No.3 chart hit, ‘Silver Machine’, which won him an army of fans, who followed him after his sacking from the band, into his new project, Motörhead.
Out on the road in the UK playing any and every venue that would book them, Motörhead picked up a huge fan following, but due to their somewhat unique crossover style of punk and hard rocking music, (which Lemmy always regarded as Rock ‘n Roll’), they were unable to find a record company willing to record them. Hawkwind’s record company, United Artists, gave the band a contract, and they recorded an album, but then refused to release it as they said their marketing staff couldn’t find a pigeon-hole for that kind of music, and didn’t want to take the gamble.
Despite knowing they had an audience, the band briefly became disillusioned, and asked punk/rockabilly Chiswick Records owner, Ted Carroll, to record them live at a Marquee Club gig they had coming up. Ted said he couldn’t afford it, but gave them 2 days at Escape Studios in Kent to record a single. But Motörhead were so well-rehearsed from playing on the live circuit, they recorded 11 backing tracks in the time, so Ted agreed they could finish the songs off and he’d release a single and an album. Saved!
In August 1977 Chiswick released the ‘Motörhead’ album, which with the powerful, thundering and earthy sound, reached No.43 in the UK charts. Two further albums ‘Overkill’ and ‘Bomber’ were recorded in quick succession during 1979 before the bands most recognisable ‘Ace of Spades’ album in 1980 which reached No.4 in the UK album charts. Lemmy’s vision to conquer the rock world on his terms had begun, and over the next 38 years he did so, earning admiration and respect from those in the music business whom had once jeered at his unique vision.
Motörhead’s chart-topping, No.1 live album, No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith,’ poked the critics in the eye, achieved a huge fan-following, and allowed the band to continue selling out major venues and stadiums around the world. With 22 studio and numerous live albums recorded throughout their career, Motörhead have certainly left one heck of a musical legacy.
Lemmy also made hundreds of guest appearances as vocalist / bassist / lyricist on album tracks by his peers, including Ozzy Osbourne and Slash. An extremely skilled lyricist, after writing lyrics to 4 of the songs on Ozzy’s No More Tears album, which went platinum in America, he said “I earned more from those four songs than I did from Motörhead in the last fifteen years!”
Along the way, Lemmy also made many movie appearances, his imposing presence saw him play several small and cameo roles in cult films such as Eat The Rich, Hardware, The Curse Of El Charro, and Airheads.
A sign of his genius and legendary status in the music business came when 2 fans asked to be permitted to go on tour with the band to make a rockumentary. Taking 3 years to complete, Lemmy The Movie is an excellent look at behind-the-scenes and onstage Lemmy. From thousands of miles on the road and film and digital footage, who else has been treated to such a rare insightful, and yet very honest look at their lives in a rock ‘n’ roll band? No one!
“I’d never met what I’d call a real rock ‘n’ roll hero before. Fuck Elvis and Keith Richards, Lemmy’s the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He told me he never considered Motörhead to be a metal band, he was quit adamant. Lemmy’s a living, breathing, drinking and snorting fucking legend; no one else comes close.” Dave Grohl
Fortunate enough to have known Lemmy and being the band’s Motörheadbangers fan club boss and biographer for 36 of those wonderful years, I know that his fans meant everything to him. “Where would any band or singer be without an audience and a fan base?” he asked, after a lifetime of posing for photos with them and autographing their prized albums. “And those stars who complain about losing their privacy can go back to clocking on at the factory or working in a sweet shop if they don’t like it. It’s what they wanted, isn’t it!”
His outspoken opinions and logic won him even more adulation, as we hope one day his talent for writing lyrics will also, listen to Orgasmatron, the Battle of the Somme inspired, 1916, or I Don’t Believe A Word, for starters, just 3 instances of his lyrical genius.
He will never be forgotten nor will his music ever remain un-played, Lemmy Kilmister, an Icon, a Legend and a wonderful human being, one day we will be seeing him again as part of his audience for the Great Big Gig In The Sky.
Eulogy by Alan Burridge
Alan Burridge’s latest book ‘Lemmy Kilmister – Collateral Damage – Life Beyond Motorhead is available from Amazon, EBay and Iron Fist publishing at www.ip.verlag.de