Arrested in Canada: Lemmy’s Wild Ride from Hawkwind to Motörhead

Rock n' roll excess met Canadian border control, and Lemmy Kilmister paid the price. Fired from Hawkwind, his arrest might have ended a career – instead, it fueled the birth of Motörhead.

A vintage black and white photo of the band Hawkweed. The group is casually seated outdoors, displaying a laid-back 70s vibe with their fashion. They all have long hair, and some sport beards, while their clothing features turtlenecks, vests, and fringed jackets. One member playfully extends his legs onto another's lap, showcasing the camaraderie and free-spirited nature typical of the era's rock bands.
Hawkwind with Lemmy
Key Takeaways
  • Lemmy Kilmister’s time with space rock band Hawkwind (1971-1975) was marked by success and increasing friction due to his hard-partying lifestyle.
  • A drug arrest in Canada led to canceled tour dates and mounting tensions, ultimately causing Hawkwind to fire Lemmy.
  • This dismissal, though turbulent, became the catalyst for Kilmister to form his own iconic band, Motörhead, a defining force in heavy metal.

Hard Living and Hard Choices

Lemmy Kilmister: the name evokes images of whisky-soaked vocals, relentless basslines, and a rock n’ roll lifestyle pushed relentlessly to the extreme. For all his legendary status in the realm of heavy metal, few fans realize that Lemmy’s rise began within the swirling psychedelic haze of the band Hawkwind. From 1971 to 1975, he brought his unique blend of grit and attitude to the influential space rock outfit.

Kilmister’s presence in Hawkwind was undeniable. He co-wrote songs, played his driving bass, and even belted out the vocals on their chart-topping hit “Silver Machine.” Yet, beneath the whirlwind of success, trouble brewed. Lemmy’s hard-partying lifestyle, an inseparable part of his persona, became increasingly problematic.

Lemmy’s arrest for drug possession on the Canadian border forced Hawkwind to cancel a significant portion of their tour.

The incident that sealed his fate with Hawkwind was a grimly predictable consequence of life on the edge. While crossing the Canadian border, Lemmy was arrested for drug possession. The subsequent legal troubles forced Hawkwind to cancel a significant portion of their tour. For a band reliant on consistent performances and maintaining momentum, Lemmy’s actions brought about an unavoidable crossroads.

A Twist of Fate

The Canadian tour abruptly turned into a nightmare scenario for Hawkwind. Their hard-driving bassist, the iconic Lemmy Kilmister, found himself entangled with border authorities and facing drug offenses. Initially, the suspicion was that Lemmy had attempted to smuggle cocaine into Canada. The stakes were incredibly high, with the potential for serious jail time hanging over the band’s future.

However, a curious detail emerged that shifted the legal landscape. Upon testing the seized substance, it was revealed to be amphetamine, rather than cocaine. This seemingly small distinction carried massive implications due to the nuances of Canadian law.

Canada’s drug laws are governed by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which meticulously categorizes different substances.

Canada’s drug laws are governed by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, a piece of legislation that meticulously categorizes different substances. Cocaine, as a Schedule I drug, is deemed to have significant potential for abuse, making its possession a serious offense. Amphetamine, though still controlled, is placed in Schedule III, reflecting a lower perceived risk and carrying comparatively lighter consequences.

Lemmy’s brush with the law became less about the act itself, and more a matter of classification. His recklessness remained a fundamental issue, but the consequences were unexpectedly less severe than they might have been. The incident, however, set into motion a chain of events that would reshape the trajectory of rock and metal history and lead to the birth of one of its most influential bands.

The Fallout

Though Lemmy escaped the worst-case scenario in his brush with Canadian law, his stint in jail was far from inconsequential. While confined for those five tense days, the fate of his band hung in the balance. Release without criminal charges didn’t signify a return to normal; instead, it was the catalyst for a major upheaval in his musical career.

This incident was the tipping point for Hawkwind. Although Lemmy contributed significantly to the band, including writing and performing vocals on some of their notable tracks, his arrest and lifestyle led to mounting tensions within the group. The canceled North American tour dates added insult to injury, highlighting the practical ramifications of his impulsiveness.

Hawkwind and its management were concerned that Lemmy’s arrest and his known substance addiction might hinder their ability to return to the US for future tours.

The specter of Lemmy’s arrest lingered over the band’s future. Hawkwind and its management were concerned that his arrest and his known substance addiction might hinder their ability to return to the US for future tours. They feared potential legal and travel restrictions, making Lemmy an increasing liability.

In addition, issues related to his behavior and substance addiction strained his relationship with other band members. While Hawkwind’s ethos embraced a certain amount of psychedelic experimentation, Lemmy’s hard-partying had become increasingly disruptive. It was clear that something had to give.

The Canadian incident wasn’t an isolated misstep, but rather the culmination of a growing rift. Coupled with his eventful lifestyle, the band decided to part ways with Lemmy, replacing him with Paul Rudolph from Pink Fairies. It was a bitter end to a successful chapter in the bassist’s meteoric rise, but as history would prove, also a pivotal turning point.

A New Direction

Lemmy’s unceremonious exit from Hawkwind was a messy affair. The band cited his wild behavior and battle with addiction as reasons for their decision, which were undeniably contributing factors. However, Lemmy himself believed his dismissal was also influenced by internal disagreements, including his contributions to the band’s music that might have been seen as controversial.

He believed that his firing was not solely due to his arrest or drug use but was also linked to a song he wrote during his time with Hawkwind. Though the iconic anthem “Motörhead” would later become synonymous with his own band, it was conceived within the realm of Hawkwind.

In an interview with Rolling Stone in August 2015, Lemmy mentioned that the song “Motörhead” was about speed – a potentially sore subject within the band.

In an interview with Rolling Stone in August 2015, Lemmy mentioned that the song “Motörhead” was, in its essence, about speed – a potentially sore subject within the band. This frankness and lyrical darkness, staples of his later work, stirred further tensions with his then-bandmates, adding fuel to the growing fire.

Rise of an Icon

Lemmy Kilmister was not one to stay down for long. His firing from Hawkwind, while a turbulent end to a significant era, proved to be an important moment rather than a crushing defeat. It was the catalyst for the birth of a musical force that would forever change the landscape of heavy metal.

Following his departure from Hawkwind, Lemmy refused to fade into obscurity. He channeled his anger and his undeniable talent into forming a new band, initially named “Bastard. True to his rebellious nature, the name was blunt and to the point. However, practical advice regarding the marketability of the name steered him towards a different, yet equally powerful, moniker.

The song “Motörhead,” his final contribution to Hawkwind, became the namesake for his new musical endeavor.

The song “Motörhead,” his final contribution to Hawkwind, became the namesake for his new musical endeavor. It was with this name change that a legend was truly born. Motörhead was more than just a band; it was a declaration, a way of life.

This marked the beginning of a new chapter in Lemmy’s music career, leading to the creation of one of the most iconic bands in heavy metal history. Motörhead would become synonymous with raw energy, relentless volume, and an unapologetic rock n’ roll attitude – all embodied in the unwavering determination of its founder, Lemmy himself.

Twisted Opinion

Okay, so Mr. Kilmister here gets busted with the good stuff at the border. Did star power help him get outta this mess?

Well, let’s just say when I recognized that glorious mane and those mutton chops, my inner fanboy took over. The badge and cuffs kinda faded into the background for a second there! I mean, this is Lemmy – the dude who will write Ace of Spades! Sure, I had to do my job, process the paperwork, blah blah legal stuff. But deep down, I was thinking, “Man, maybe those aren’t drugs…maybe it’s just magical rock ‘n’ roll dust that makes his music so awesome!”

Officer Rick “Roll” Reynolds (74),
Retired Rocker Cop