MOTORHEAD: “I Was Born A Poor Black Child” (1989)

Published on January 11th, 2013


LEMMY Kilmister laughs the same way he looks. Mean. Motorhead’s latest LP No Sleep At All is due on Aussie shelves any second and Eat The Rich, his debut performance as a thespian, is now showing so it’s time for the inevitable round of tiresome interviews. Lemmy’s in California, and is exercising his dry wit sparingly, being charming and overbearing simultaneously.
Lemmy, and the various identities of Motorhead (which now includes Wurzel and Phil Campbell on lead guitar and Philihy ‘Animal’ Taylor on drums) have not had it easy of late. Lemmy has had more fights with management, promoters and other band members than you’d care to mention since 1981’s No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith made Motorhoad so big a cult hand they completely skipped being pop.
They’ve struggled to recapture that over since.
But hell, everyone knows who Motorhead are, and what Lemmy looks like. Ho’s the one with the straggly hair, the outdated semi-circle bikie moustache and the denim outfit. The guy who drives his Harley through a wall and up out of a grave in the “Killed By Death” video.
“Killed By Death”. Pretty funny, huh? And that’s why your average trendy, who thinks Jimmy Barnes can’t sing and Metallica is just noise, still likes Motorhead. Wurzel is often pictured with a digit up his nose like a member of Bad News and Lemmy looks too disgusting to be serious. They have a sense of humour. Although often misinterpreted as making a complete mockery of Heavy Metal, they’re just outsmarting everyone.
“We certainly have a sense of humour, that’s for sure, A lot of bands don’t seem to have one, especially about themselves. I don’t understand that attitude at all. If you can’t have a good laugh at yourself then you should get out of it.”
Lemmy knows what the Washington Wives and their blue rinse relatives think of him, “I just plays up the image to the point of it being slapstick, and they end up looking like imbeciles”. That mole on his loft cheek almost says, “If you really believe I’m like this, you’re dumber than you think I am.” His attitude is far more stylish and effective than getting all upset and writing nasty songs about half-naked evangelists, as one English frontman has done recently.
In actuality, Lemmy is by all accounts  a pussycat. Well, not quite. When I ask him about fans joining the band on stage, I can almost hear his pulse quicken above the gravelly voice. “I’ll kick ‘em off if they jump up on my stage. That stage is mine. The houselights go down, the band goes on stage, the audience doosn’t. If they come on my stage, I’ll kick ‘em In the head” Ok, I believe you, you’re serious.
Lemmy’s observance of the stage’s sanctity was actually brought up by Axl Rose during Guns N’ Roses’ Sydney concert in December. Rose told the crowd, “We did Donington in England this year which had, like, a hundred and ninety thousand people, I was talking to Lemmy from Motorhead (loud cheering), and what he said was right. It only takes one punk in the crowd to throw a knife, and that’s the end of your career.”
Two people were crushed to death during Guns N’ Roses’ set at Donington last year. “I think two out of half a million ain’t bad, really’ says Lemmy. “Better odds than the Second World War. It cost us two hundred thousand … to get on the beach in France in 1944 and that was the same amount of people.”
It was at Donington Lemmy met Pete Richardson, one of the Comic Strip team that put together The Young Ones and, ironically, Bad News. He wanted Lemmy to play a rogue espionage agent in an upcoming spoof on Britain’s rich. Lemmy scored the Eat The Richpart, which depicts a macho, wealthy politician being thwarted by a bunch of poor weirdos, who take over an exclusive London restaurant and feed the customers. Literally, that is, to other customers,
So is Lemmy worried about the class structure in England?
“The movie is about cannibalism, that’s what it’s about,” ho says. “Rock ‘n’ roll is classless. I don’t care what class you’re in, as long as you know there’ll always be good guys and bad guys. Rock ‘n’ roll is an  international language really. It crosses borders, people in Russia demanded rock’n’roll and they got it. I mean, 20 years ago you couldn’t buy a pair of jeans of Moscow, People were swapping all kinds of things for a pair of blue jeans. Now East Germany makes blue jeans and exports them to the west. Rock’n’roll did that too, because the kids want to hear it. If you can go across the Berlin Wall, mate, you can go anywhere.
“The basic idea is that music is classless. You don’t oven have to know the language. People buy our records and they don’t even know what we’re singing about.”
Somo prudes would suggest that even if you do know the language, it can be difficult to understand what Motorhead are singing about anyway, although it is doubtful they’d suggest this to Lemmy. Certainly,  Motorhoad’s best material is grating, raw and completely energetic. And so it should be, Lemmy’s been playing music and singing since he was a wee pup, and was once a Jimi Hondrix roadie, although he claims he learnt nothing from the, er, exporience.
So how does an old campaigner like Mr Kilmister, former member of Hawkwind, cop young babies like Bon Jovi and Europe using the hard rock moniker to sell?
“I don’t care. Good luck to ‘em. If they can make a buck, go get it. I think there’s room for everybody, you see. There always has boon. I never noticed anybody got out of the charts because somebody else got in.”
Yet if this monster of rock sounds like he cares not for charts, ho does. He admits to checking them meticulously every week to see how the latest Motorhead epic is faring. For Motorhead to claim they are actually worried about being commercial is something of a contradiction but it doesn’t say much for all those top ten bands who constantly deny recording intentionally profitable material when that is blatantly what they’re doing.
What do you think of the stuff Hawkwind have done sincr you left in 1975?
“Up until they got Alan Davey on bass, not much. He’’s helped a lot. He’s got a bit of volume back into ‘em. I thought they were very tame for a while, but they won’t go out of England. They won’t tour anywhrre out of England which is a shame.”
For now, it’s a short rest after the American tour and then back into the studio for yet another frightening vinyl odyssey, although there’s not one song written or thought of for it yet. Lemmy even says he’d have no hesitation in cutting that hair, “If I wanted to”.
“People put so much emphasis on what I look like, I mean, find out for yourself what people are like. It’s not their hairstyle. If people are gonna be judged on their hairstyle, we might as well all give it up.”
The world’s most frightening rock star sounds earnest, as if he’s going to make his most important trans-pacific statement. “You see in the newspapers. .. I haven’t seen any child molesters that look like mc. Do you see any mass murderers who look like me?
“No, they all look like good guys, don’t they? All child molesters have short hair. They might be wearing a nice jacket. So what does that mean?”
It means, my dear Lemmy, that you can’t judge a book by its cover, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so on. Motorhead may not be lookers but musically they’re a mean mother – long may they reign.



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