And gambling's for fools
But that's the way I like it baby
I don't wanna live forever
- Motorhead, "Ace Of Spades"
If Charles Darwin were alive today, it's a safe bet that he'd be wracking his brain over how to fit iconic British rocker Lemmy Kilmister into his theory of evolution. For if you threw Johnny Cash, Hunter S. Thompson, Keith Richards and Sonny Barger into one of Seth Brundle's nifty teleporters from The Fly along with a thimbleful of dinosaur DNA, the end result would still be a pale shade of a man who casts a very long shadow indeed.
Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski's new documentary Lemmy explores the life and legacy of the 65-year old legend, who has survived nearly 4 decades of rock 'n' roll excess on a diet of little more than speed, cigarettes, Jack Daniels and sheer, take-no-prisoners reptilian attitude.
From his less-than-humble beginnings as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, through his tenure with '60's Kinks contemporaries The Rockin' Vickers, the '70's space-rock outfit Hawkwind, and the formation of the hugely influential 36-year-old metal juggernaut that is Motorhead, the film is an affectionate and unflinchingly honest portrait of a man who staunchly refuses to go calmly or quietly into that endless winter night.
Having been a Motorhead fan since the early '80's, I was immediately struck by Lemmy's casual, soft-spoken demeanor and seeming absence of ego. Authenticity and humility have always been rare commodities in the music industry, but the grizzled veteran genuinely seems to possess immense reserves of both. In an increasingly hollow, plastic age that seems to fall away faster with each passing day, Lemmy is a walking anachronism and a testament to the power of sticking to your guns no matter what.
While some will likely be put off by his embrace of certain vices, he makes it clear that his choices are his alone, and that he doesn't want to advocate a lifestyle that has claimed the lives of many of his contemporaries. More troubling perhaps is his penchant for Nazi war memorabilia, which some have taken as evidence that he is some sort of a closet Nazi. Lemmy dismisses such concerns with an unapologetic shrug, and leaves the question for the viewer to decide.
Whereas many bands and artists are punch-drunk on ego and image, Lemmy comes across as one who talks the talk and walks the walk without a single shred of pretension. Whether on stage or off, with Lemmy, what you see is what you get. No fakery. No phoniness. Just pure Lemmy. Take it or leave it. Rather than a lavish country estate, Lemmy chooses to live in a tiny, cluttered apartment just off the Sunset Strip that's probably smaller than Mick Jagger's laundry room. And while most in his position choose to wall themselves off from their fans, when he's not on the road, Lemmy can often be found sipping a Jack and Coke, playing video trivia and signing autographs at the Rainbow Bar & Grill.
The film blends current and archival video footage with interviews from a veritable who's who of rock royalty including Alice Cooper, Slash, Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne. Watching these music giants gush over Lemmy's influence really underscores the fact that, rather than just another rock star, Lemmy is the missing link that bridges the gap between early rockers like Buddy Holly, Elvis and Little Richard, and bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax.
To those who might roll their eyes at the thought of yet another decadent rock star baring all for the camera, this isn't the story of just another rock 'n' roll badass, it is the story of THE original rock 'n' roll badass - a lurching Tyrannosaurus Rex of a man who has chunks of guys like Slash and Keith Richards in his stool, and who will likely be gnawing on all our skulls long after the human race is swept into the dustbin of history.
Review by Dave Paiz, Loft Cinema Facilities Manager and host of "Bat Country Radio" Saturdays from 2-4 a.m. on 91.3 FM KXCI.
LEMMY plays Wednesday, February 2nd at 7:30PM at The Loft Cinema.