How can you possibly make the coolest heavy metal band of all time just that little bit cooler? You take their iconic (and iconically cool) frontman and put him in a poker game with one of the most legendary characters in horror.
That’s exactly what happened when Motörhead decided to record a video for their version of Hellraiser, the song Lemmy originally co-wrote for Ozzy Osbourne‘s No More Tears album, but which ultimately got a fully Lem’d-up version for Hell On Earth, the explosive (and brilliantly daft) third entry into the ever-expanding Hellraiser movie franchise.
Released in 1991, Lemmy had written on no fewer than four songs on No More Tears – I Don’t Want To Change The World, Mama I’m Coming Home, Hellraiser and Desire (he later joked that he earned more writing those tracks than he did “in 15 years in Motörhead!”). While it was Mama I’m Coming Home that provided both No More Tears‘ breakout single and Ozzy’s definitive power ballad (it’s currently his second-most streamed solo song ever behind you-know-what), it was Hellraiser that Lemmy ultimately reused for his own band, albeit with a couple of slightly tweaked lyrics.
Despite neither version of the song having a single thing to do with dimension-hopping BDSM demons tearing people to shreds, it was decided that a heavy metal banger sharing the name of a horror series about to unleash its latest sequel was too good an opportunity to pass up. Motörhead’s version of Hellraiser was released in the summer of 1992 to promote upcoming tenth album March Ör Die, and was used over the closing credits of Hell On Earth, which landed right around the same time.
To give both releases the ultimate co-promotional rub, the video for Hellraiser featured a ton of footage from the movie, plus a tantalising, specially-shot appearance from Pinhead himself. Opening with an ominous warning from original Hellraiser franchise heroine Kirsty Cotton, taken from the character’s cameo appearance in Hell On Earth, the video then features Motörhead – then a four-piece comprised of Lemmy, guitarists Würzel and Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee – performing in front of a mostly empty venue. Empty, that is, aside from an onlooking Pinhead and some rather beastly henchmen.
Following some shenanigans in which a hapless Motörhead roadie gets abducted by Pinhead and his pals, Lemmy sits down with the Hell Priest for a game of poker, with his bandmates looking on from behind.
“The card game finished with me getting the Ace of Spades,” explained Pinhead actor Doug Bradley, who’d give his metal credit another boost years later courtesy of numerous collaborations with Cradle Of Filth. “The idea is that Lemmy wins the game, but at the price of losing his soul.”
According to Bradley, he was royally shown up in rock ‘n’ roll terms during the video shoot, as Lemmy made a, ahem, personal upgrade to one of his props.
“That was funny,” he added. “When we were playing that card game there was a decanter on the table, just as a prop, and Lemmy had a word with one of his people, the decanter disappeared but it came back again full of amber liquid. Which Lemmy proceeded to drink his way through while we shot that scene, like you and I would drink orange juice, while the dark pope of Hell sat on the other side of the table demurely sipping Evian water.”
Interspersed with various, entertaining moments from the movie, it was the kind of horror/heavy metal mash-up made in heaven. Or, should we say, hell. While Motörhead would actually record another song for the film’s soundtrack – the slow and lumbering Hell On Earth, whose lyrics were directly inspired by the franchise – it was Hellraiser that ultimately became synonymous with Pinhead et al.
In 2021, 30 years after the Ozzy version of Hellraiser was first unleashed, both versions of the song were stitched together into a special ’30th anniversary mix’, featuring vocals from both Ozzy and Lemmy. The accompanying animated clip, directed by Mark Szumski and Gina Niespodziani, may have taken more than a little inspiration from the ’92 Motörhead video; it featured both metal legends slaying the shit out of a variety of hellish-looking beasties.
As cool as it all looked, though, it could only ever be the second coolest Hellraiser music video to be made. Evidently, the experience of filming the Motörhead version left an impact on Doug Bradley, who paid tribute to Lemmy after he passed away in December 2015. In his message, Bradley revealed more of his experience working alongside the rock ‘n’ roll icon.
“‘Icon’ is a word perhaps thrown around too easily,” he noted. “Lemmy fits it like a glove. I said that as someone who was not much of a fan of Motörhead, though I stepped aboard [Hawkwind’s] Silver Machine with great pleasure 40 years and more ago.
“Then, of course, came the day I spent shooting the Hellraiser video with him in an abandoned theatre in downtown LA. It was a memorable day in many ways, not least for the time spent sitting across a card table from him, waiting to shoot the scene. I sipped water while he drank whiskey at an alarming rate, we swapped memories of The Goons and Spike Milligan and laughed a lot together. In spite of the liquor and the god-knows-what-else, a gentle, charming, funny man.”
The seal of approval from Pinhead himself? Hell yes. But then what else would you expect for Lemmy?