Ghost rider in the sky: Lemmy, indestructible godfather of Heavy Metal, travels on Ghost rider in the sky: Lemmy, indestructible godfather of Heavy Metal, travels on.
It’s this irreducible Lemmyness of Lemmy which lies at the core of the gnarled heavy metaller’s mystique. Beyond fashion, as ageless as a rock’n’roll Flying Dutchman and with a constitution seemingly forged from buffalo hide and wrought iron, Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister is surrounded by his own private myth-bubble wherever he goes.
Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski spent three years shooting this documentary. Though it sometimes meanders shaggily, it contains some great anecdotes and fiery chunks of performance footage, and by the end they’ve managed to tease out what feels like something of the essence of the Motorhead supremo. Once you get past an opening salvo of eulogies from a diverse line-up of admirers – ranging from fans outside a gig to Slash, Dave Navarro from Jane’s Addiction, Billy Bob Thornton, Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue and more – the film gradually prises away the visible trappings of Lemmyhood and begins to shed light into some of his darker corners.
A performing musician since 1960, Lemmy embraced the travelling lifestyle from day one, or possibly even earlier, and has stuck to his chosen path with an unswerving dedication that would do credit to a medieval mystic. After enjoying early success with the Manchester-based Rocking Vickers – “We had Jaguars and speed boats” – he grew frustrated with their lack of ambition and headed for London. He roadied for Jimi Hendrix, whom he found “a very fair man”. Lemmy would buy LSD for him – “I’d give him 10 trips, and he’d give me three and take seven. But you’d have to take them on the spot.”
In 1971 he joined space rockers Hawkwind, and sang their best-known song “Silver Machine”, but the band sacked him after he was busted for drugs by Canadian police. “All it was was Seventies drug snobbery,” growls Lemmy, who was into amphetamines while his bandmates preferred psychedelics. He took his revenge, he claims, by “screwing their old ladies”. In 1975 he formed Motorhead, and created the template for the slavering, roaring beast known as Heavy Metal.
‘Lemmy, dressed in Wehrmacht regalia, let them film him visiting a collection of German armoured vehicles, where he proudly sat in the commander’s seat of a self-propelled gun as it rumbled around the countryside’
You would deduce correctly that Lemmy isn’t much of a Guardian reader, and Olliver and Orshoski have pursued him deep into his lair of political incorrectness. The never-married musician (who declares unequivocally that no relationship can survive one partner being in a rock’n'roll band) currently lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, which is crammed to the rafters with decades’ worth of mementoes. These include gold discs and Lemmy figurines, but also a scarily huge collection of Nazi memorabilia, from helmets and swastika banners to swords and bayonets. Unfazed, Lemmy, dressed in Wehrmacht regalia, let them film him visiting a collection of German armoured vehicles, where he proudly sat in the commander’s seat of a self-propelled gun as it rumbled around the countryside. He scoffed at suggestions of Nazi sympathies: “I’ve had six black girlfriends so I’m one of the worst Nazis you ever met… If the Israeli army had the best uniforms I’d collect them, but they don’t.”
It must be said that Lemmy puts his cards on the table, and people adore him for his defiant straightforwardness. “He’s a renegade,” said Joan Jett (the encomiums kept coming thick and fast), praising him for his refusal to toe the line and “assimilate” like everybody else. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, a friend and musical collaborator, grew quite emotional about Lemmy’s robust earthiness: “Fuck Keith Richards. Fuck all those dudes that survived the Sixties and are flying around in Learjets and fuck supermodels in the most expensive hotel in Paris… Lemmy is probably drinking Jack and Coke and writing another record.”
Lemuel_4Rather touchingly, we learned about Lemmy’s typically esoteric code of ethics. His son Paul Inder, with whom he’s now close after being separated from him when he was younger, described how Lemmy said to him, “Promise me you won’t do coke. Do speed, it’s much better for you.” But there’s also a chivalrous, old-fashioned side to him, as revealed by former Nashville Pussy bass player Corey Parks. Parks and Lemmy grew close while on tour together, but not apparently that close. Parks’s husband died not long afterwards, and among his personal effects she found a letter to him from Lemmy reassuring him that no hanky-panky, let alone rumpy-pumpy, had occurred. Lemmy’s own recollections about his mother, who brought him up after his father left her, were expressed with a simple tenderness.
For a summary of the spirit of Lemmy, James Hetfield of Metallica seemed to get it about right: “I don’t know how old he is and I don’t care. He could be 100 years old. The fact that he’s up there still doing it is absolutely inspiration for us.” To know him, it seems, is to love him. In the probable absence of a New Year ennoblement for Sir Lemuel Kilmister, this film will do nicely.
Written by Adam Sweeting Theartsdesk.com