Melody Maker – 18 January 1975
…friend of Tito, Rockin’ Vicar, roadie for Jimi Hendrix, and now Space Warrior extraordinary. He talks to Allan Jones.
First, a brief anecdote to preface our encounter with the Hawk-Lord’s very own Angel of Death.
On one of the opening gigs of Hawkwind’s current tour Lemmy and Douglas, the band’s harassed manager, were engaged in one of their frequent confrontations. A real eyeball to eyeball showdown this, and most certainly a spectacle to be avoided by those with nervous dispositions.
Neither protagonist would back down, and Lemmy, having exhausted his lines of logical argument, finally resorted to one final, threatening outburst. “When I fix somebody,” he said, and here you have to imagine him turning on his best Charlie Manson psychotic stare, “they… uh… THEY STAY FIXED.”
Lemmy, by way of explanation, admits to liking the idea of appearing “kind of vaguely menacing.” Although, he confesses that he usually succeeds in looking more vague than menacing.
Ou r hero began his musical career with the legendary combo The Rockin’ Vicars – and this I hasten to add is quite true. They were enormously popular north of Birmingham but never achieved any national success, because they made “really rough records.”
Still, that band does hold the honour of being the first band to play behind the Iron Curtain, in Yugoslavia where they were guests of honour at a dinner held by President Tito.
Just think, if they’d made it over some years earlier, Lemmy could have been starring in some Eisenstein movie epic as a Hero Of The People… Lemmy Nevski, or Lemmy The Terrible.
“Tito,” he affirms, “was alright. A good lad. ‘Call me Josif,’ he said when I asked him to pass me the peas at that dinner.”
Lemmy left the Vicars in ’67, and rejoined again for three months during the summer for a last tour.
After that our hero became roadie for Jimi Hendrix. “Just a humper, y’know. But it was worth it because I got to see him every night.”
It was with a band called Opal Butterfly that Lemmy first met Simon King, one of Hawkwind’s power drummers. “That was a nasty little band as well. They’d been going for years before I joined them, and they were so tired of playing for peanuts that they folded after a year. And I didn’t see Simon for a while after.
“Then I joined this bunch of roving hoodlums, and I saw Simon hanging out of a taxi one day and our drummer at the time was off somewhere having a nervous breakdown, so I asked Simon to come and play with us for a night. And we’re still trying to get rid of him. But he’s still around.”
The Hawk-Lord’s rhythm section, Lemmy, Simon and Alan Powell is, quite probably, one of the most powerful units known to modern man. Lemmy agrees, with a certain qualification: “I do get amazingly powerful at times. Other times I’m amazingly inadequate.”
The whole structure of Hawkwind’s performance, from the playing to the organisation or the lightshow and general presentation has never, he claims, been neatly worked out. “It’s a total chaotic mess. But it works, and if we did it any other way there’s a danger that we’d turn into something like Yes or E.L.P.”
It’s obvious that Lemmy regards Hawkwind as more than just another hand. ” It is more than just four guys on a stage with hair down to their backsides playing guitars. I actually saw Hawkwind a few times before I hustled me way into the band. I went to the Roundhouse, and the whole audience was having this collective epileptic fit. There was one strobe on the band and another on the audience. Giving them a taste of their own medicine, and I thought there’s a new approach. The whole crowd was just shaking and twitching. That was nice, I thought, and I remember thinking ‘I’ll have to join that band.’
“They fitted exactly into my philosophy. They were weird, and that suited me because I was always the one that people wouldn’t let their kids play with. I really dug it, the ideas they were into. They were playing a lot of free gigs then. More than we can do now, in fact, even though we’re the only band left who will play free.”
In the same way as he was attracted to Hawkwind because of – for want of a better word – their life style, so Lemmy also found himself drawn to the Hell’s Angels. The Angels, perhaps less now than a few years ago, used to flock to Hawkwind gigs and festivals where the band was playing. And Lemmy, with his leathers and swastikas looks not unlike the kind of guy who’d give you a chain whipping in a dark alley if you so much as looked at his bike.
“I’m just an old rocker with his hair grown long,” he says disarmingly, “and since all me old clothes fell apart I’ve had to buy all this hippy gear. But I was into the lifestyle of Hawkwind anyway, but I got disenchanted with the whole summer of Love in ’67, which was the greatest wash-out of the century. Because everybody had a chance to do something and they all copped out.
“But the Angels, they’re old rockers. They can’t be bothered with all that flouncing around and being seen in the best clubs, and being seen. And neither can I, so, we seem to have similar philosophies…”
Hawkwind at their most deranged and cataclysmic is how Lemmy likes them.
“Sound,” he says, relishing the prospect of the plan he is about to outline, “if used at the proper frequency can render all your people, turn them, like, into ZOMBIES. You’ll get, if you’re a conquering power and attack with sound, cheap slave labour. There’ll be no cities to rebuild. And you could do the whole thing in ten minutes or so.” He smiles, very faintly, “It’s HORRIFYING, isn’t it? And y’know,” he adds in conspiratorial tones, ” They’ve got hundreds, literally hundreds of speakers all over Neasden. We’re trying to warn you, that’s what we’re trying to do. Warn you. But it might be too late. You’ll just hear this high note one day and it’ll be all over. You’ll either be dead or raving mad…”
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting