For 40 years Motörhead set the standard for rock n roll. 100% pure rock n roll. Their early albums fell in with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal but they were way more than those flash in the pan bands, and had nothing in common with Maiden, Priest or Def Leppard. Whilst the initial line up would flame out, Lemmy was always at the center of it or more particularly, positioned stage right - bass across his shoulder and chin angled up to growl into the microphone. Warts and all.
He's the last outlaw because at no stage has Lemmy given a hoot what others thought of him. The warts remained despite being offered plenty to remove them. They flirted with the mainstream thanks to Ace of Spades, appearances on The Young Ones and various mainstream music shows, but they never wavered from doing what Lemmy wanted. He drank a bottle of jack before hitting the stage and usually a bottle while he was up there. And really, until he was well into his 60s, he never slowed down. While AC/DC have released 3 albums since 2000, Motörhead have recorded and toured behind 8 new albums this millennium alone, each of them dipped in the vibes of Chuck Berry, the blues and a healthy shot of punk rock attitude.
Their war pig mascot has adored almost every one of their 23 studio albums and combined with their typeface is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of heavy metal in the world. There is far more to this band than that. And far more to the man.
The documentary Lemmy (2010) captured both the legacy and lifestyle of the man himself. Whilst it was mostly a tribute to exactly how badarse he was, there are moments tinged with sadness (he sits alone playing machines in the Rainbow, his difficulties being a largely absent father) but the man himself regrets nothing. He apologizes for even less.
I had the experience of seeing Motörhead at the forum in 2007. He stepped onto stage in his cowboy hat and boots and leered into the microphone - "we are Motörhead and we play rock n roll". And for 90 minutes they played new stuff, 90s stuff, and ended with Killed By Death, Ace of Spades and Overkill. They pulled out their acoustic number, Whorehouse Blues, too with Lemmy on harmonica.
Lemmy's legacy spreads beyond just Motörhead. He inspired others for 40 years. At his 50th birthday the house band was 4 dudes known as The Lemmys, whose day job was being Metallica. He's worked with Slash numerous times, helped out Dave Grohl on his probot project and wrote a Grammy winner for Ozzy Osbourne. Hell he wrote ballads for Ozzy, far away from the usual thunder of Chase is Better Than The Catch, Killed By Death and Iron Fist. He's covered Whiplash, God Save The Queen, Louie Louie and Stand By Your Man.
He was rock n roll. And rock n roll isn't the same without him. To quote the film Airheads - "who would win in a wrestling match - Lemmy or God?
Trick question. Lemmy is God"
Rest in ... Who are we kidding? He's gonna still be louder than everything else.
40 years of Motörhead playlist on Apple Music