Ace of Space

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Lemmy Kilmister Motörhead

Lemmy was born on Christmas Eve in the Burslem area of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. When Lemmy was three months old, his father, an ex-Royal Air Force chaplain, separated from his mother. His mother and grandmother moved to Newcastle-under-Lyme, then to Madeley. When Lemmy was 10, his mother married former footballer George Willis, who already had two older children from a previous marriage, Patricia and Tony, with whom Lemmy did not get along.

The family moved to a farm in Benllech on Anglesey, with Lemmy later commenting on his time there, that „funnily enough, being the only English kid among 700 Welsh ones didn’t make for the happiest time, but it was interesting from an anthropological point of view.“  He attended Sir Thomas Jones‘ School in Amlwch, where he was nicknamed Lemmy; it was later claimed that the name originated from the phrase „lemmy [lend me] a quid till Friday“ because of his habit of borrowing money from people to play slot machines. He soon started to show an interest in rock and roll music, girls and horses.

By the time he left school his family had moved to Conwy, still in northern Wales. There he worked at menial jobs including one in the local Hotpoint electric appliance factory, while also playing guitar for local bands, such as the Sundowners, and spending time at a horse-riding school.[3] Lemmy saw the Beatles perform at the Cavern Club when he was 16, and then learned to play along on guitar to their first album Please Please Me. He also admired the sarcastic attitude of the group, particularly that of John Lennon.

At the age of 17 he met a holidaying girl called Cathy. He followed her to Stockport, where she eventually had his son Sean, who was put up for adoption. In the 2010 documentary film Lemmy, Lemmy mentions having a son whose mother has only recently „found him“ and „hadn’t got the heart to tell him who his father was“, indicating the boy – perhaps Sean – was given up for adoption.

1960–1970: Early years

In Stockport, Lemmy joined local bands the Rainmakers and then the Motown Sect who played northern clubs for three years. In 1965 he joined the Rockin‘ Vickers who signed a deal with CBS, released three singles and toured Europe, reportedly being the first British band to visit the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Rockin‘ Vickers moved to Manchester, where they lived together in a flat. There Lemmy got involved with a girl named Tracy who bore him a son, Paul. Lemmy did not have any involvement with him until the boy was six.

Leaving the Rockin‘ Vickers, Lemmy moved to London in 1967. He shared a flat with Noel Redding, bassist of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and with Neville Chesters, their manager. He got a job as a roadie for the band. In 1968 he joined the psychedelic rock band Sam Gopal and recorded with them for the album Escalator and the single „Horse“.

After meeting Simon King in a Chelsea shopping centre in 1969, he joined the band Opal Butterfly; but the group soon folded, having failed to raise enough interest with their singles.

In August 1971 Lemmy joined the space rock band Hawkwind, who were based in Ladbroke Grove, London, as a bassist and vocalist. He had no previous experience as a bass guitarist, and was cajoled into joining immediately before a benefit gig in Notting Hill by bandmate Dik Mik in order to have two members who enjoyed amphetamines. He quickly developed a distinctive style that was strongly shaped by his early experience as a rhythm guitarist, often using double stops and chords rather than the single note lines preferred by most bassists. His bass work was a fundamental part of the Hawkwind sound during his tenure, perhaps best documented on Space Ritual. He also provided the lead vocals on several songs, including the band’s biggest UK chart single, „Silver Machine“, which reached No. 3 in 1972.

In 1975 Lemmy was arrested at the Canada/US border in Windsor, Ontario, on drug possession charges; he spent five days in jail but was released without charge. Nonetheless he was fired from Hawkwind.

After Hawkwind, Lemmy formed a new band called „Bastard“ with guitarist Larry Wallis (former member of the Pink Fairies, Steve Took’s Shagrat and UFO) and drummer Lucas Fox. Lemmy and Took were friends, and Took was the stepfather to Lemmy’s son Paul. When his manager informed him that a band by the name of „Bastard“ would never get a slot on Top of the Pops, Lemmy changed the band’s name to „Motörhead“ – the title of the last song he had written for Hawkwind.

Soon after, both Wallis and Fox were replaced with guitarist „Fast“ Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil „Philthy Animal“ Taylor and with this line-up the band began to achieve success. Lemmy’s guttural vocals were unique in rock at that time, and were copied during the time when punk rock became popular. The band’s sound appealed to Lemmy’s original fans and, eventually, to fans of punk. Lemmy asserted that he generally felt more kinship with punks than with metalheads; he even played with the Damned for a handful of gigs when they had no regular bassist.  The band’s success peaked in 1980 and 1981 with several UK chart hits, including the single „Ace of Spades“, which remained a crowd favourite throughout the band’s career, and the UK No. 1 live album No Sleep ‚til Hammersmith. Motörhead became one of the most influential bands in heavy metal. Their – and Lemmy’s – last live performance was in Berlin on 11 December 2015.



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