Personally, I feel that documentaries should have a somewhat lofty purpose, whether that be to inform audiences of atrocities or injustices or to depict the life of a figure who’s changed the world for the better. And while Lemmy leans towards the latter to some extent, the primary message of the doc is “Oh, my God. Lemmy Kilmister is fucking awesome, right?” and then to interview several contemporary and former rock gods to get confirmation of said awesomeness. But you know what? Lemmy IS fucking awesome. Motorhead — which at this point consists entirely of the pirate-cowboy virtuoso and two other guys — has been a major influence on pretty much any and ever band that labels themselves metal. Lemmy’s like Ozzy before Sharon neutered him, famous for just pounding jack and coke, thrashing on his bass, and living hard and unapologetically. But he’s a hard-working motherfucker. He’s constantly putting out albums, or working in his various side project bands, or jumping on stage for a song or two with any band that makes the request. Lemmy isn’t bullshit, he’s never tried to change his ways, and by staying constant has managed to outlive the various fads and trends in metal. But after following Lemmy for three years, documentarians Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski have created what amounts to a superfanboy VH1 Behind the Music, a simultaneous fan letter and tribute to a man who’s lifestyle should have killed him years ago. Despite lacking any nutritive value, it’s hard to deny the pure pleasure of watching a virtual who’s who of long hair thrashers offer praise to the charismatic rocker.
It would be pointless to rehash the biography of Lemmy and his long hard climb to fame. What I enjoyed most about Lemmy is that he’s unflinching and brutal. He’s been on this earth and lived so hard, he doesn’t give a shit. Even as he’s pushing 70, he’s still throwing back hard liquor and going out and doing shows. Lemmy reminded me of Bad Blake, because we writers love a convenient shorthand. But most of the performers he’s rocked with — and by God he’s rocked with them all — attest that the dude may soak up booze like the springbreak sands of Daytona but he’s never once fallen off the stage or fucked up a gig or failed to perform. He’s got a warped code of honor that works for him. He’s partied hard, but will walk away if people start hitting the heroin, since it’s killed so many of the people in his life that matter. He collects World War II memorabilia to the extent that probably would qualify him as a legitimate scholarly historian. (How bad would you want to see Lemmy on a History Channel doc correcting a professor before headbutting him in the face?) Most of this is Nazi paraphernalia, but Lemmy laughs off accusations while sitting in a restored tank. He’s lived his life as he chooses. While Ozzy toddles about like a nursinghome dementian trying to clean up his hard living ways, Lemmy sits at the Rainbow Room bar, sipping a jack and coke and playing Megatouch trivia. He’s unapologetic and unrelenting, but he’s also one of the hardest working motherfuckers in the biz, so it’s hard to deny him.
Lemmy the doc and Lemmy the man are both hilariously unvarnished. Lemmy could have his own wildly successful reality show, but he just doesn’t brook that kind of bullshit. He’s not a spotlight hound. You get the feeling he agreed to do the documentary with the same sort of amiable gruffness that has him playing gigs with Metallica or covering “Run Rudolph Run” with Dave Grohl. He’s an accommodating dude who does whatever he feels like. Watching him at the question and answer session after the film was just as entertaining as the documentary. You get the feeling Lemmy’s used to deflecting stupid fanboy requests. Someone challenged him to a drinking contest, and he laughed and said, “You’ll lose.” Someone asked him who he wants to play him in a feature film about his life, and his answer was “Helen Mirren.” In the lobby, he was having conversations with fans while scoping the asses of the betarted biker chicks who were doing marketing. He’s weathered an industry that sands people down and constantly tries to repackage them without once changing. He’s just as comfortable jamming one of his classic tunes as busting out oldies with hep cat rockabilly bands. And he’s always laughing like a crazy fucking pirate about to board a cruiseliner. So it’s hard to deny Olliver and Worshowski their worship-flick. Because after watching this, I’m ready to fucking worship Lemmy, too.