Musicians have enjoyed courting controversy since the dawn of the culture surrounding popular music. Whether it’s reactionary, to gain notoriety, or just vacuous attention-grabbing, it usually makes for a strong statement when delivered to a mass audience. Entire subcultures have established themselves by utilizing controversy to drive a particular set of aesthetics, the 1970s punk movement being the most famous and canonized in popular culture. As it so happens, punk was one subculture to explicitly utilize Nazi-era style, imagery, and paraphernalia in clothing and popular culture, which also brought about the emergence of Nazi chic.
This isn’t just limited to punk bands; a more recent example involves the controversy surrounding Nicki Minaj and her usage of imagery which bears a similarity to SS symbols. However, this list focuses more on the overt usage of Nazi iconography and memorabilia as well as the artists’ rationale or motivation for doing so. Bands that are openly neo-Nazi or have real ties to neo-Nazis are excluded, like Ace of Base, whose founding member Ulf Ekberg started out his career as a neo-Nazi skinhead.
10. Lemmy Kilmister
Lemmy Kilmister’s fascination with Nazi memorabilia might not constitute flirting but rather outright infatuation. In an interview he gave to Rolling Stone for a major 2009 profile, he recalled an occasion when he brought a journalist into his home. Lemmy stated, “It was quite funny because I brought [the journalist] around to my house, which looks like a shrine to Nazism. But it’s just my collection. I mean, you can’t put it all in the cupboard; it won’t fit.” However, it is unclear as to how amusing this was to that particular reporter.
Other musicians have voiced very strong disapproval of Lemmy’s vast Nazi collection. Disturbed front man David Draiman, who is Jewish, stated that he found it “super-duper taboo and offensive” and couldn’t understand rock stars’ fascination with Nazi memorabilia. Regarding Lemmy, who has been known to openly wear iron crosses, hats from the German air force, and sometimes a full uniform among close friends, Draiman went on to state in an interview with Revolver magazine that: “I don’t give a f— who you are. If you’re going to brandish Nazi symbolism, I’m going to have a problem with you because I don’t understand how anybody could think it’s OK to wear something on their body that symbolizes the annihilation and genocide of my people. I’m not OK with that and there is no excuse and there is no explanation.”
Lemmy, throughout his career as a hard rocker, defended his collection on many occasions, saying that he merely collected artifacts of war history: “I only collect the stuff. I didn’t collect the ideas.” He gave more detail in another interview, saying:
It’s not my fault the bad guys had the best s—. But by collecting Nazi memorabilia, it doesn’t mean I’m a fascist or a skinhead. I’m not. I just liked the clobber. And let me tell you, the kind of people who do collect this stuff, they aren’t yobbos either. They are people with Masters degrees, they are doctors, professors. I’ve always liked a good uniform, and throughout history, it’s always been the bad guy who dressed the best: Napoleon, the Confederates, the Nazis. If we had a good uniform, I’d collect ours as well, but what does the British Army have? Khaki. Makes them look like like a f—ing swamp frog . . .