Say It Ain’t So, Lemmy

Greg Kot

2 Min Read

No less an authority than Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister once advised a bandmate that there were very few hard, fast rules in rock, but one of them was “don’t wear shorts on stage.”

And yet in addition to flying the flannel, Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament and Eddie Vedder frequently wore shorts on stage in the band’s early years. They weren’t alone in their sartorial choices. A number of rockers have violated the Lemmy rule while on stage. These include:

Angus Young: The most inspired of all the shorts-wearing rock stars, the diminutive AC/DC guitarist has been wearing knickers as part of his schoolboy uniform since the ‘70s when he first stomped through the Australian bar scene. “With an outfit like that, I knew we had to be good or else there would’ve been a brawl,” Young once told me.

Freddie Mercury: The Queen singer set the tone for the band’s flamboyant take on hard rock with shorts that included rhinestone hot pants and skin-tight spandex.

Anthony Kiedis: It’s extremely rare to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers vocalist preening with a shirt and long pants. He frequently appears in various forms of undress, often favoring athletic shorts and sometimes adding leggings to the mix, as he did during the band’s Super Bowl halftime performance in 2014.

Bob Weir: An avid mountain bicyclist, the Grateful Dead guitarist often looks like he’s ready to go for a long ride after the show with his short shorts. For Weir, it’s also a matter of beating the heat onstage. “It’s always July under the lights,” he once said.

Axl Rose: Besides the bandana and flannel shirt tied around his waist, the Guns N’ Roses rabble-rouser made short shorts key to his signature look from 1991-93.

Henry Rollins: With Black Flag and later as a solo act or with the Rollins Band, the singer would strip down to a pair of shorts for each high-energy show.

Rollins performing with the Rollins Band in 1993.

Corey Glover: During the “Vivid” era, Living Colour’s singer at times resembled a cut aerobics instructor with his brightly colored, skin-tight array of outfits.

Ian MacKaye: In his hardcore days on the Washington, D.C., scene, the punk icon dressed appropriately for rocking in packed, steamy, claustrophobic basements and hole-in-the-wall clubs.

Greg Kot is the editorial director of The Coda Collection. He is also the cohost of the nationally syndicated public-radio show and podcast “Sound Opinions” with Jim DeRogatis, and previously the music critic at the Chicago Tribune for 30 years. His books include acclaimed biographies of Mavis Staples (“I’ll Take You There”) and Wilco (“Learning How to Die”) and a history of the digital music revolution (“Ripped”). He also coauthored “The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Rivalry” and has written extensively for Rolling Stone, BBC Culture and Encyclopedia Britannica. When he takes off the headphones, Kot coaches in his Chicago-based youth travel basketball program ( In addition, he has coauthored two best-selling editions of the book “Survival Guide to Coaching Youth Basketball.”

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