Nearly five years ago, my very pregnant wife and I went to a midweek brew-and-view screening of Lemmy, the documentary about Lemmy Kilmister, the legendary founder, bassist and lead singer of Motörhead, who died Monday at age 70.
Truth be told, the documentary had some problems, being essentially a lengthy hagiography that the band Metallica came this close to ruining single-handedly with their usual Tom-fuckery. But the film was a worthwhile peek into the modest late years of a quintessential rock-n-roll life.
Aside from providing some valuable insight into Lemmy the musician — including his unique approach to playing bass, his surprising musical tastes and why he preferred to sing up into a mic — the documentary succeeded in making him entirely human. Lemmy & Co. may have looked fearsome when “Ace of Spades” first hit MTV in the early 80s, but he was notoriously friendly and gentle to fans.
In his later years, he was simply the haggard guy who held court at a dive bar in Hollywood, drinking Jack and Cokes and chain smoking, but always approachable. He even expressed a genuine love for one of his offspring, but he never apologized for his lifestyle, the choices he made or not wanting to live forever, as the lyric goes. In fact, he once told a British journalist that “I will be killed by death. I might be killed by too much booze, women or music, but it’s not a bad way to die.”
Musically, Motörhead was always a band that could pull off the rare feat of appealing to heshers and punk rockers alike, thanks to its up-tempo, propulsive rhythms, its imagery of fanged mongrels, leather and spikes, and a take-no-prisoners attitude that transcends musical sub-genres. The many songs that clock in under 3 minutes probably didn’t hurt, either. Lemmy was ahead of his time and is now receiving a lot of love from fans and admirers.
So as part of my tribute, here are a few Lemmy jams that aren’t “Ace of Spades.” Not because that song isn’t an absolute searing jam, but you’ll see that one plastered all over Facebook and everywhere else and there is so much more to hear. The band itself requested that fans “play Lemmy’s music LOUD. Have a drink or few. Share stories. Celebrate the LIFE this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself.”
“Iron Fist,” 1982
“Stay Clean,” 1979
Check out his bass skills during the solo.
“Silver Machine,” Hawkwind, 1972
My wife would insist I include this one, a hit song he sang for his previous space-rock band, which kicked him out essentially for being such a speed freak.