How Lemmy Kilmister Turned A Pop Video Into A Western Epic

Jessica Branstetter, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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A poet and philosopher who transcended the tribal constraints of genre, Lemmy Kilmister was so much more than just a kick-ass musician. Universally adored, to hear the tornado of a human being behind Motörhead speak was to love him. Lemmy was the perfect ambassador for rock and roll.

1986 might have been when Motörhead’s relentless masterpiece Orgasmatron hit the shelves, but it wasn’t all hard and heavy for our hero.

That same year, Lemmy teamed up with synthpop band Boys Don’t Cry to star in the spaghetti western-influenced video for their hit single “I Wanna Be A Cowboy.”

The pairing of a bubbly top 40 band like Boys Don’t Cry and Motörhead might seem weird, but when you peel away the layers it begins to make sense. As it turns out, Boys Don’t Cry vocalist Nick Richards owned the label Motörhead were signed to, GWR Records (formerly Bronze Records), and both bands were managed by Doug Smith. After an evening spent watching a few Sergio Leone classics, Richards became convinced that not only did he have to make a cowboy video, Lemmy had to be the star.

In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Richards said, “Basically, at that time 1986, I owned Bronze Records which were Motörhead’s record label. I was buying catalogs at the time [and] was convinced CDs were the next big thing. 

“When I came up with the concept of the ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy’ video I wanted a Lee Van Cleef bad boy in the video. Lemmy came to mind immediately! I rang him to say, ‘Please be in the video and how much it would cost me!’ He replied, ‘Just make sure you have a bottle of vodka (Smirnoff) on set!’ We started filming at 6AM on a freezing cold morning in London’s Hampstead Heath. He turned up on time and was the ultimate pro and gentleman. We had a fab time, I adored him.”

As it would turn out, MTV loathed “I Wanna Be A Cowboy.” The network claimed the video wasn’t rock and roll enough, but that they had to play it due to its overwhelming popularity.

Regardless of what MTV might have thought at the time, everything Lemmy touched turned into rock and roll gold.