When Lemmy Starred in Boys Don’t Cry’s ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy’ Video
In 1986, the mighty Motörhead released their seventh album, promised to make you "Deaf Forever," Orgasmatron. That same year, Lemmy Kilmister showed off his acting abilities in a spaghetti western-styled video for Boys Don't Cry's single "I Wanna Be a Cowboy." The story of how Lemmy ended up playing a bad guy with the looks and attitude of an actor who often portrayed badass cowboys himself, Lee Van Cleef, is a good piece of heavy metal mythology.
First, let's clear up the common belief that the synthpop band's name, Boys Don't Cry, has any relation to the classic early single of the same name by The Cure. The inspiration was lifted from 10cc's "I'm Not in Love." The lyric in question, "Be quiet, big boys don't cry," was whispered by Kathy Redfern, the secretary for Strawberry Studios where 10cc was recording their third album, The Original Soundtrack.
However, the misconception wasn't lost on Boys Don't Cry, and they had some fun with it by including an instrumental number titled "The Cure" on their 1987 album, Who the Am Dam Do You Think We Am. The band's connection to Motörhead, while on the surface seems odd at best, was formed due to a series of events involving Motörhead's management, musical catalog and straight-up reverence for Lemmy Kilmister.
In 1986, Boys Don't Cry vocalist Nick Richards owned GWR Records (formerly Bronze Records), which had Motörhead on its roster, and both Boys Don't Cry and Motörhead were managed by the same guy, Doug Smith. When it came time to make a video for "I Wanna Be a Cowboy," Richards knew Lemmy had to somehow be a part of it after spending an evening watching Clint Eastwood movies such as For a Few Dollars More.
"Basically, at that time 1986, I owned Bronze Records which were Motörhead’s record label," Richards tells us. "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."
MTV hated the video, and Richards has said that VJ Martha Quinn told him they didn't like the video because it "wasn't rock and roll." But, he added, they had to play it because it was a Top 40 hit. In just one weekend the network had received 200,000 requests for the video.
But if Lemmy Kilmister looking perfectly at ease, clad in black and causing trouble as a desperado with nothing to lose isn't rock and roll, what is?