Why Lemmy Preferred the Beatles to the Rolling Stones
For Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister, the "Beatles or Rolling Stones" question was easy: It was the Fab Four all the way.
Coming from England when he did, of course, Lemmy had been front and center when both bands dominated the ‘60s. Despite the fact that the members of the two groups were friends, there was always someone trying to push the angle of a feud. Lemmy’s opinion was formed not from the made-up battles in the press, but in physical fights on the streets.
“[T]he Beatles were hard men,” he wrote in his 2004 memoir White Line Fever. “[Manager] Brian Epstein cleaned them up for mass consumption, but they were anything but sissies. They were from Liverpool, which is like Hamburg or Norfolk, Virginia – a hard, sea-farin' town, all these dockers and sailors around all the time who would beat the piss out of you if you so much as winked at them. Ringo's from the Dingle, which is like the fucking Bronx.”
He continued: “The Rolling Stones were the mummy's boys – they were all college students from the outskirts of London. They went to starve in London, but it was by choice, to give themselves some sort of aura of disrespectability. I did like the Stones, but they were never anywhere near the Beatles – not for humor, not for originality, not for songs, not for presentation. All they had was Mick Jagger dancing about. Fair enough, the Stones made great records, but they were always shit on stage, whereas the Beatles were the gear.”
Lemmy cited a particular night at the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool, soon after Epstein had signed on as the Fab Four’s manager. “Everyone in Liverpool knew that Epstein was gay, and some kid in the audience screamed, ‘John Lennon's a fucking queer!’ And John – who never wore his glasses on stage –put his guitar down and went into the crowd, shouting, ‘Who said that?’ So this kid says, ‘I fucking did.’ John went after him and BAM! gave him the Liverpool kiss, sticking the nut on him – twice! And the kid went down in a mass of blood, snot and teeth. Then John got back on the stage. ‘Anybody else?’ he asked. Silence. ‘All right then. 'Some Other Guy.'’”
In their time, Motorhead covered the Beatles’ “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Sympathy for the Devil.” Speaking in 2015, soon after the release of their version of “Sympathy,” Lemmy said: “I thought we beat them. I thought we beat it to death. I mean, I like the Stones’ version, but I like ours better.”
Motorhead - ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’
Motorhead - ‘Sympathy for the Devil’