In the second part of Carol Clerk’s coverage of Lemmy departing Hawkwind, taken from her epic biography The Saga of Hawkwind, we discover how Lemmy took his revenge. Prudes please look away now.
Lemmy returned to England as Paul Rudolph arrived to take up his unexpected post in Hawkwind. They finished up one or two gigs in America and not much more than a week later, set off on a European tour.
But Dave Brock wanted Lemmy back.
Says Lemmy: “He agreed with my sacking at the time, and then he realised what a horrible fucking mistake they’d made. He didn’t think he was to blame. It was already in his head he hadn’t been even part of it. Paul had arrived and it didn’t work, and Dave asked me to rejoin. He was the only one who did. He was most embarrassed. In those days, he got on very well with Nicky [Nik], although he doesn’t now, but it’s always been Dave Brock’s band. So I said, ‘Okay.’”
On this occasion, however, the captain was unable to garner any support for having Lemmy back, and the invitation was withdrawn without apology. “Dave’s not good at that shit,” acknowledges Lemmy. “He’s not good at ‘sorry’. The others wouldn’t let him go through with it – ‘We think you should stand by the decision.’ The two drummers were really vocal about it. They wanted a ‘real’ bass player, one who stands still at the back and lets them play their gongs. Dave never really lost his grip of the band, but there are periods when he coasts along.”
Dave confirms: “I didn’t withdraw the offer. The others did. They decided ‘no’. The trouble was, Lemmy and me used to play together and then I had to start working with a bass player I’d never played with. There he was playing bass and I felt, ‘God...’ I knew Paul could play better lead guitar than I could, and my confidence went a bit down the drain. He started playing lead guitar and I’d switch to bass on some of the numbers.
“Del had gone, and things were changing anyway. I used to get on very well with Paul. He was a nice enough character and I used to share a room with him on tour but, yeah, I missed Lemmy. We’d been playing together for four years. It was a wrong decision to get rid of him. We should have written things more together, we should have done lots of things differently, but that’s the way it is. We’re all involved in egos, don’t forget. Some people felt more important than others.”
Lemmy ventures: “I always say I would never have left Hawkwind if I hadn’t been fired – or I might have. If ‘The Drum Empire’ had carried on, I would have left, but it obviously was not going to carry on because they fired Alan Powell later.
“It was great – they fired me and their career immediately went down the toilet, although it wasn’t ’cos they fired me – it was ’cos they didn’t get the right replacement. I was the driver. I wasn’t indestructible, but you can’t replace me with somebody who puts their leg up on the drum riser and plays a jazz solo.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Dave Brock agrees with Lemmy’s assessment. “It did go down the drainhole after Lemmy had gone,” he affirms. “That was the start of the decline of that era, the start of the empire changing. Three years later, that was the end of it all.”
But only for a little while.
Doug Smith was coming to terms with the fact that Lemmy had gone for good. He was still appalled. “It was such a silly thing,” he says. “That was the successful band, the live gig. The personae onstage were just awesome. If you look at the period from the Space Ritual to Lemmy leaving – that was their peak. That’s when they sold more albums and tickets than they’d had hot dinners. That really was the magic band and everybody since has just really lived off that era of success.
“Lemmy’s front-of-the-stage persona was one of the strongest that the band had apart from Nik Turner who basically went over the top, which was great. And Stacia – every little boy’s fantasy, of course. I don’t think any of them ever realised what size of a draw she was in Hawkwind. She was enormous.
“As far as the show went, Nik, Lemmy and Stacia were really the key people, and Calvert when he was there. The trouble about Robert was that he never got recognised for what he really was in that band. Going back to In Search Of Space, there’s a lot of influence from Calvert – and Barney.”
In terms of personal politics, Douglas cites a different combination of characters: “Dave and Nik and Lemmy and Simon King were the most powerful people within the band, and Dave and Nik were the two main contenders for power.”
Smith believes that Hawkwind should have hung on to Lemmy no matter what their problems with him, admitting to having his own difficulties with the reckless bass player. “I had Lemmy up to here [points to neck] all the time,” says Smith. “He was constantly ahead of himself financially. Near the end, just before he left the band, we were having a real desperate time. Financially, we didn’t have tuppence. I was just trying to keep Hawkwind afloat.
“They cost a lot of money. We had so many people being paid to go out and do a show – three people to do lighting, an out-front sound engineer, a monitor engineer, virtually a roadie for every member of the band. We were carrying, on any given night, maybe 13 to 15 people. We bought visuals for Hawkwind, and lighting equipment.
“One day I was going to borrow money from this less-than-salubrious East End character. I remember telling Lemmy, ‘I don’t have any money. I’m going to have to go and see Alan today.’ He said, ‘Big Al? Oh, well, maybe you can borrow £50 for me as well.’ And there was me trying to raise five or 10 grand...
“He used to spend hours on slot machines at gigs and clubs, and he used to try and tap people for a couple of quid. I remember seeing him once counting out poor old Magic Michael’s pennies. Everybody used to go, ‘I’ve got no more money’. His bank would not give him a reference. We couldn’t get a bank manager to give him a loan. They’d say, ‘Look at his bank account. You put it in, it goes out.’ He spent money that was unbelievable on a weekly basis. You put £1,000 in his pocket and he’ll spend it.
“Lemmy didn’t have money. He just spent it. And he was living in hotels. He got very comfortable in this hotel in the Edgware Road. He’d ring up and want to borrow £30. He’d say, ‘Put it in a cab.’ Then he’d ring back – ‘Has the cab left yet? Can someone pop down to the off licence and get me a bottle of Jack?’ The bottle of Jack would go in the cab, and the £30 had suddenly become £50 because he’d have to pay for the cab and the off licence.
“Dave Brock knew what money was. Nik Turner was peace and love most of the time. Simon King and Alan Powell were okay. Lemmy has never understood what budgeting is. But at the same time, if you look at record sales and changes in personnel, you can see how quickly it started to go downhill after he left.”
Nik Turner agrees to differ.
He states: “Lemmy probably felt that he was the main cause of the band’s success, but I wouldn’t really say that was true. He probably says that the success trailed off after he left because he felt he was quite contributory and instrumental to that success. It escapes me how. The only thing he did was sing on ‘Silver Machine’.
“He probably was a good frontman, but I don’t remember whether he was a good frontman any more than Robert Calvert was, or I was, although I’ve never seen myself as a frontman. I saw Robert and Barney Bubbles as really being the people that created the band’s success.
“Lemmy says it was Dave’s band. I thought it was everybody’s band. Obviously, Lemmy had his own slant on it. I saw it as a community project with everybody involved and we were all hippies together. Lemmy discounts that as a lot of rubbish, lacking in any relevance or value. He saw it as a vehicle for him and Dikmik to take speed and be on big ego trips, although Dikmik wasn’t like that.
“I don’t know that we were criticised for getting rid of him. Obviously, people wanted to know where Lemmy was. I can’t remember anybody saying, ‘Oh, the band isn’t the same without Lemmy,’ although they probably did.”
Devastated though he was to have been chucked out of Hawkwind, Lemmy has not been too proud to return to the band every now and again for guest appearances. “You can’t bear grudges all your fucking life,” he says. “Life’s too short. I’m not going to spend my life thinking about how I hate somebody. I got a lot of funny shit to do, and none of it involves that.”
Which is not to say that he didn’t exact his revenge at the time.
He confided, in Classic Rock: “By the time they got back to England, I’d fucked all their old ladies except for Dave Brock’s wife, because she lived in Devon, too far away, and besides, I didn’t fancy her. There was two of them I was already fucking anyway.”
Lemmy is slightly more evasive today.
He admits: “I didn’t fuck all of them. Some of ’em were butt ugly. I was already doing [one wife]. I just made sure I visited her before they came back. She was a beautiful girl. I’d like to see her again.
“I was back and all their geezers were away. I went around and saw these women just as a ‘courtesy thing’. It was all done in the best possible taste. Some people will believe anything...
“I’m not going to say which ones I did, because it would lead to terrible sideways glances next time I see them. I like to keep them on their toes – ‘I wonder if it was mine?’”
Just a while later, Lemmy managed to find a way into Hawkwind’s storage space to sneak out his equipment with an accomplice.
He was quoted in Classic Rock: “We had just gotten my stuff into the van when Alan Powell caught us. He was shouting, ‘Yeah, ya cunt, you thought you’d steal your stuff back!’ We drove off laughing…”