Thursday, March 24, 2011
Ripple Theater - Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son of a Bitch DVD
Ever since people stopped buying rock records in decent quantities, there’s been an increase in quality documentaries on classic artists like The Ramones and Rush as well as rescuing a band like Anvil from obscurity. Given the subject matter, it seemed like Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son of a Bitch would be the ultimate portrait of rocks favorite ugly son but unfortunately this one falls pretty short of expectation. While definitely worth watching, the overwhelming feeling I’m left with is “what happened? How did they not get the job done?”
Granted, I’m a bigger Motorhead fan than most Motorhead fans. Motorhead’s music changed my life the first time I shoplifted Iron Fist from Caldors back in 1982, and when I saw them for the first time in 1983 my ears rang for 8 days afterwards. To this day, all live performances are measured against that high energy volume overkilldose. It’s obvious the filmmakers are fans but not stone deaf forever Motorheadbangers. They have stated many times that the movie is about Lemmy and not a history of Motorhead but we all know that those two things are one and the same.
Some of the better parts of the film are about Lemmy’s days before Motorhead, including a great segment about the Rockin’ Vicars, the band he played guitar for in the mid-1960’s. They managed to track down some of his band mates and even legendary producer Shel Talmy (The Who, The Kinks) who make it clear that Lemmy was pretty much the same guy back then that he is now. The section on Hawkwind is also good. Lemmy repeats his often told tale of how he got fired from the legendary space rock band, but you also get to hear Dave Brock and Nik Turner’s side of the story, too. Even the Amazonian dancer Stacia gets some screen time. Unfortunately, there isn’t that much discussion of Hawkwind’s groundbreaking music. No one mentions that everyone should own a copy of Space Ritual and there’s no information about the classic albums Lemmy made with them.
The formation of Motorhead takes up about 120 seconds of screen time. Guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke is on and off the screen way too quickly. Philthy Animal Taylor apparently did not want to be interviewed for the movie and he’s barely mentioned. Again, there’s hardly a word on the incredible run of albums that line up made. Wurzel, Pete Gill and Brian Robertson are written out of the script. Mikkey Dee and Phil Campbell wind up looking like mere sidemen of a band that they’re equal partners in.
Way too much screen time is spent on pointless interviews with Billy Bob Thorton, Jarvis Cocker and the bass player from New Order. Who fucking cares what these clowns have to say about Lemmy? The usual VH1 talking heads like Scott Ian, Dee Snider, Dave Navarro and Henry Rollins have some good stories and there are interviews with all the members of Metallica except, surprisingly, Lars Ulrich. Dee has one of the funniest lines in the movie where he talks about not having seen Lemmy for a long time and goes backstage and it’s all the same roadies that he knew from ten years before. Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible of The Damned share some great tales from the insanity they participated in with Lemmy in the late 70’s.
One thing that the filmmakers get right is showing just how dedicated Lemmy is to his music. This is someone that has literally sacrificed everything for rock n roll. He’s had some moderate success but lives in a rent controlled 2 bedroom apartment with his enormous World War II collection when he’s not on tour or at the Rainbow Bar & Grill in LA. He has one son that he has a good relationship with and another one he’s never met. When he’s not playing music, he’s reading or gambling but always drinking.
Luckily the DVD helps correct some of the problems with the feature film. It’s worth picking up just for the full interview with Fast Eddie Clarke. It’s up to him to tell the real story of how the band started and he’s the only one to mention original guitarist Larry Wallis by name. Eddie also gives insight into how Motorhead got their signature sound – speedy music played by guys on speed. He claims that speed is a great drug to take when you’re playing music since you don’t have to leave the stage every 20 minutes to re-up. His story on how they wrote their signature song “Overkill” is hilarious and inspiring.
Other cool extras include extended interviews with Lemmy and individual features on Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee. The movie could have used more of this and less ass kissing testimonials. Any movie about Lemmy is worth watching, and this one definitely is, but it should have been so much better.
Buy here DVD: Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son Of A Bitch
Buy here Blu-ray: Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son of a Bitch [Blu-ray]