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The list of reasons why Ian Fraser ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister is long overdue for a starring role in our Class Act series are numerous (and we’re going to touch of many of them below), but for TM-O two of the most recent would be enough on their own, firstly recording a track entitled ‘Rock Out’ - which included the lyrics ‘rock out, rock out, rock out, with your cock out, impress your lady friends’ - not long after his 63rd birthday and secondly still being alive frankly (something he alludes to wryly nowadays by amending the ‘Ace Of Spades’ lyric ‘I don’t want to live forever’ with the line ‘but apparently I’m going to…’).

Born (1945) in Burslem, Stoke on Trent, although he did much of his growing up in North Wales, Lemmy is best known nowadays as the main man behind the mighty Motörhead. The list of heavy metal charts (rock magazines do love a ‘100 best ever…’ type chart) that feature Lemmy could fill a medium sized venue on their own, and the man has looked more or less constantly the same for the last thirty years (god alone knows how many pairs of black jeans he has worn out, and his mutton-chop sidies and famous warty demeanour are as immediately recognisable as the popes pointy hat). In fact since celebrating his 60th birthday the list of people queuing up to pay homage is almost embarrassing – just check out the list of talking heads in the new film Lemmy.

Cutting his musical teeth throughout the ‘60s with The Rainmakers, The Motown Sect and The Rockin' Vickers (releasing three singles) Sam Gopal (releasing the album Escalator) and finally Opal Butterfly it wouldn’t be until 1971, when he joined space rock nutters Hawkwind as a bass player and vocalist that Lemmy would finally emerge from his ‘60s pop pupae into the demonic heavy metal deaths head moth we all know and love today – having previously played rhythm guitar it seemed only natural to him to strum the bass, an instrument he had little experience on, developing the patented monumental racket he is famed for today. Within a year he found himself in the upper reaches of the UK charts supplying the vocals for the bands biggest hit single ‘Silver Machine’, in fact many consider this Hawkwind line-up to be the best, and there’s little doubt that his stint with Nik Turner, Robert Calvert, Dave Brock, Dik Mik, Del Dettmar, Simon King and of course, every teenage boys icon of lust, the buxom Stacia, had a huge influence on what was to follow as four years later he was booted out of the band having been arrested on drug possession charges whilst trying to cross into Canada from the US whilst on tour. Luckily he was released without charge after a brief stint in clink due to a mistake by the Canadian police concerning the substances found on him, and upon returning to the UK he decided to create a band that couldn’t sack him which he duly named Bastard.

Needless to say his prospective management team were less than thrilled and persuaded him that one of the last tracks he had written for Hawkwind ‘Motörhead’ would be more radio friendly and, after an initial false start with Larry Wallis (of the Pink Fairies) and Lucas Fox the classic early line-up of guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor began to tour like demons anywhere that would have them and, unlike most other rock bands of the era (1976), Motörhead also proved popular with many punk audiences. Leaving a trail of managers and labels in their wake the band finally settled at Bronze and then hit their stride in the late ‘70s with the album Overkill and subsequent albums Bomber, Ace Of Spades and chart topping live album No Sleep 'til Hammersmith (which was not actually recorded at Hammersmith at all fact fans). He has since helmed the recording of more than twenty five Motörhead albums (not including compilations), with various line-ups (despite his reputation as a party animal he is a hard taskmaster and woe betide anyone who fails to deliver when performing), and he is obviously happy with the current line-up of guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee as it has remained constant since 1995.

No stranger to controversy he has been accused of having fascist sympathies as he collects Nazi Memorabilia, but even the most cursory look at his lyrics reveals a positive hatred of any form of government and it’s hard to imagine a racist going out of his way to roadie for Jimi Hendrix (which he did briefly in 1967 for £10.00 per week). A penchant for old uniforms and weapons, whilst possibly a little juvenile - and let’s face it being juvenile is pretty much a prerequisite for a rock star – certainly does not make you a Nazi, and more or less anyone who has met him (including several old duffers at TM-O towers) have found him to be a genuinely friendly, approachable man not averse to having a pint out with the audience before a show, and someone who regularly helps ticket-less fans to get into Motörhead shows.
Andy Basire

Hawkwind '72: Del Dettmar, Dave Brock, Simon King, Lemmy and Nik Turner

Lemmy the movie is out on DVD on Jan 24th, and you can find trailers and more details at www.lemmymovie.co.uk, the bands new album The World Is Yours is also due out this month and deluxe editions of Orgasmatron, No Remorse, Rock 'N' Roll and Another Perfect Day are available right now.

Class Act Archive

A monthly retrospective look at the most Influential acts of the last fifty years.

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