24 December isn’t just Christmas Eve to rock fans. It’s also the birthday of the much-missed Ian Kilmister, otherwise known as the late and great former Motörhead frontman Lemmy.
He didn’t think it at the time, but being fired by Hawkwind, after being detained at Canadian customs on possession charges, may well have been the best thing that ever happened to the rock frontman and guitarist. Lemmy confessed to Sounds in 1977 that his departure from Hawkwind was extremely difficult for him. “When that band kicked me out, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I just broke down and cried. For two days I didn’t know or care what was happening. But you have to put yourself together again.”
His new band were named after the final song written by Lemmy before that unfortunate incident. There had been some discussion of the new band being called Bastard, but that was ditched, perhaps wisely, in favour of Motörhead.
The band debuted with a self-titled album in 1977 on Chiswick Records before switching to the Bronze label for Overkill two years later. That was one of three chart albums in 1979 before the new decade brought the album, and the song, that would elevate them to the top division of British rock, Ace Of Spades. A year later, they were top of the UK album chart with No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, and even after various changes of personnel, they continued to add to a mighty catalogue.
With a settled trio line-up in recent years of Lemmy, Phil ‘Wizzo’ Campbell on rhythm and lead guitar and Mikkey Dee on drums, Motörhead released their 22nd and, sadly, final studio album of the frontman’s lifetime, Bad Magic, in August 2015.
As we know all too well, Lemmy died just four days after his 70th birthday, on 28 December 2015. But his ethos on life and music was summed up in some comments he made to the NME in the early days of Motörhead’s rise through the ranks. “If you can give the kids a good time then that’s all it’s for. Forget art and all that – that’s bull****. If you can send that shiver down a kid’s back then that’s what it’s all about.
“That’s what rock ‘n’ roll was for in the first place, and as far as I’m concerned that’s what it’s still about. I’m trying to give them that feeling I felt the first time I heard ‘All Shook Up’ or ‘Good Golly Miss Molly.’ I just want to send that shiver up their back because it’s the best thing I ever felt.”
Follow the Very Best Of Motörhead playlist.