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Movie Review: Lemmy
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Lemmy
Directed by Greg Olliver, Wes Orshoski
Starring Lemmy, Dave Grohl, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, Robert Trujillo, Henry Rollins, Scott Ian, Billy Bob Thornton, Ozzy Osbourne
Damage Case Films
Released: December 7, 2010 (Limited UK)

He is ex of psychedelic space-rockers Hawkwind, master of many a collaboration, a skilled lyricist, and the bass-playing gravel-voiced leader of the neverending metal machine that is Motörhead. He is Lemmy, the ‘baddest motherfucker in the world’.

Lemmy describes the music that influences you the most as the stuff you listened to when you were 20 that knocked you out. For many, like me, that was Motörhead. Although I was nearer the age of 10 and my dad let me watch an episode of the chaotic comedy The Young Ones in which each week they would have a musical ‘guest’ where a band would play a song in the young ones’ house while all hell was breaking loose in cutaways. While Rick, Vyvyan, Mike, and Neil made their way to the train station to make an appearance on University Challenge, a man in shades with long hair played the greatest song my pre-teen ears had ever heard: “Ace Of Spades.”

The man who can’t sing, but no one can sing like him, became a fascination. Onstage Lemmy hardly moves but is a frighteningly captivating and charismatic performer. Lemmy’s book, White Line Fever is a great read of some of the most unbelievable drug stories and one incredible rock and roll life. He never tells his drug stories in any kind of salacious way. It is honest; it is what it is.

Lemmy is a documentary about the man/myth Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister. Lemmy is revealed in a series of anecdotes by his legions of famous fans and his influence over a generation of rock stars is still obvious to see. The guys of Metallica seem genuinely thrilled to share the stage with Lemmy when they perform “Damage Case” together at a Metallica concert. Scott Ian of Anthrax and Henry Rollins smile and giggle like excited kids as they remember spending time with their hero.

The most fun moments in the movie are the times when Lemmy is sharing his stories. Like his love of country music (with harmonies that could ‘make you cry’) and Little Richard with Billy Bob Thornton, or telling Dave Grohl about scoring dope for Jimi Hendrix, or meeting his six-year-old son for the first time while he was waiting for a dope deal, or sleeping with over a thousand women (which, he argues, isn’t many a year). Uncompromisingly honest, but endearingly so, there always seems to be a twinkle in his eye.

‘Eccentric’ doesn’t really describe Lemmy accurately. But then what word does? His apartment is a geek’s dream. Not an inch of wall space (and most of the floor) is wasted, piled high with DVDs, books, toys, gifts from tours, award statues, fan artwork, music, music memorabilia, war paraphernalia, and guitars. Here is a man who walks around the sunny streets of California dressed all in black — usually with a Motörhead t-shirt on — who has a huge collection of knives and when not onstage is happiest sat playing one-armed bandits drinking jack and coke, chain-smoking cigarettes.

Being a rock star comes effortlessly to Lemmy, and Dave Grohl hit the nail on the head when he talked about all these rock stars who talk about ‘surviving’ the sixties, now they’re hanging out with their supermodel girlfriends on their Lear jets, staying in the best hotels. These people have stopped that lifestyle and now cash in on that image of themselves. They write books and appear on talk shows telling all who listen about the times they were ‘crazy’ because of all the drink, drugs, and dancers. Lemmy doesn’t do that, because he is still living the same lifestyle. A lifestyle which, for 40 years every aspiring rock star has tried to emulate. It could be said that the entire ‘hair metal’ scene of the 80s, that whole Sunset Strip thing, would not have happened if it were not for Lemmy. Everyone was trying to be the hardest-living band. Everyone was trying to live like Lemmy.

In stark contrast to his funny stories about getting high in Hawkwind or becoming a speedfreak is what all this is doing to his body. His years of hard living have caught up with him and now he takes medication for diabetes and high blood pressure. Even Ozzy Osbourne doesn’t understand how Lemmy is still alive. Lemmy has never sought to glamorise the way he lives, he doesn’t boast, and he doesn’t want to appear on camera to advertise his lifestyle which, as he says, killed a lot of his friends. Lemmy is honest enough to tell you what he has done; not stupid enough to appear as a spokesman.

Less a probing documentary on Lemmy’s life, but more a series of anecdotes told by his friends and peers, Lemmy is still a very interesting documentary. Directors Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski clearly spent a lot of time with him and present this as an honest look at one of rock’s legendary figures. Lemmy is funny, intelligent, and still rocking as hard as ever. All listeners of Motörhead and metal music should watch this and bask in the glory of the baddest motherfucker in the world.

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