By Jase of Spades – November/December 2016.
Motörhead is my favourite band, period. The reason I was asked to write this band history, is largely because I spent 2016 listening to nothing but Motörhead. Across 53 blog posts, I wrote over 70,00 words about the experience, digging deep into these records, and theorizing what it all meant – questing for an answer that may not even exist.
The crusade I undertook doesn’t make me qualified to write this; I am however, both privileged and honoured just the same. Sharing my zealotry for the band that Mr. Lemmy Kilmister founded back in 1975 is absolutely one of my most revered things to do.
Most of these history type pieces move sequentially – I’m going to deviate from that blueprint a tad. I’m not going to write about our Ian, growing up in Wales. I’m definitely not going to bump on about the fucking horses either. There have been some amazing accounts of the lives of the band members, and this invincible force they comprised. From the earnest Alan Burridge of Motörhead Magazine fame, who took over the fan club from Phil’s dad and sister, to the meticulously researched Joel McIver. And then, there’s first writer to reveal what happens at the end – Mick Wall and his definitive biography. The events that shaped the people who conspired together as Motörhead are known; each author providing an alternate lens on the chapters that comprised the saga. Even Lemmy’s own White Line Fever, written in conjunction with Janiss Garza, now unintentionally incomplete, provides yet another portal into the great man’s life. The latter years managed – at least in part – by more contemporary mediums like film and DVD. Lemmy: The Movie bringing the vocalist to life in a way that words on a page could only hint at.
So, in the words of the late, great Lemmy Kilmister, let’s run it up the flagpole, and see who salutes it.
When the sky comes looking for you.
On December 28th, 2015, Ian Fraser Kilmister, AKA Lemmy, died; a scant few days beyond his 70th birthday on the 24th. Despite appearing to be in poor health in the months leading up to December, he soldiered on with his two comrades in arms – drummer Mikkey Dee, and guitarist Phil Campbell – men he had created with, traveled with, and performed alongside for 22, and 31 years respectively. Motörhead played their final show on December 11th, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Kilmister would pass just over two weeks later, his death certificate citing prostate cancer, cardiac arrhythmia, and congestive heart failure as the cause. Lemmy told Mick Wall, “When Motörhead leaves, there will be a hole there that just can’t be filled.”  Tell me when truer words were spoken?
Sadly, Lemmy was the third member of Motörhead to pass. Philthy died on November 11th of 2015, and Wurzel on July 9th, 2011.
Lemmy said many wise, wonderful, and profound things. It is no surprise that his egalitarian persona was, and continues to be, cherished equally as much as the band’s music. For Lemmy and Motörhead, one was inextricably woven into the other. It’s as though his 30 years of life prior to Manager Doug Smith’s 1975 press release, announcing Kilmister’s new, post Hawkwind band, ceased to exist.
And as was customarily the case, no one could say it better than Lemmy himself. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he said of Motörhead, “It’s my life completely. It stopped being a job a long time ago. ‘Cause I know intellectually, there was a time when I wasn’t in Motorhead, but I can’t actually remember it.” 
Band is too simple a label to apply to Motörhead. The force that for over 40 years comprised luminaries such as Ian “Lemmy” KIlmister, Larry Wallis, Lucas Fox, Philthy “Animal” (for sexual reasons) Taylor, “Fast” Eddie Clarke, Brian “Robbo” Robertson, Phil Campbell, Michael “Wurzel” Burston and Mikkey Dee was never going to be framed in such basic terms.
There are thousands of bands; not one of which presented that same rush as Motörhead. Say the word. Say Motörhead! aloud, and that expression immediately conjures up a storm of sound, fury and anthemic rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve tried to define that essence; apply terminology to it. Attempting to identify what exactly it is that injects Motörhead fans with that surge of power.
Were Motörhead were authentic? Yes.
Was it the eccentric personalities of these oft aliased men; readily visualised on Police Station index cards – calling to mind the classic layout of AC/DC’s 1976 ball tearer Dirty Deeds? Yes.
Let’s not for a moment discount the band’s fearless leader, Herr Kilmister. Was it because of that visceral roar they summoned, the self deprecating humour, their approachability as people and that egalitarian spirit? Yes.
Was it because when you think of speed, bikes, booze, and the Iron Fist; artist Joe Petagno’s immortal Little Bastard comes immediately to mind? Of course.
Does this give comprehension to this spirit that Motörhead injected into all of us? It’s a damn fine place to start.
We began at the beginning,
Moving high and moving fast,
Machine’s clean, so sweet and mean,
Should have known it wouldn’t last. 
And even though Lemmy captained the Motörhead ship for 40 years, the band writing over 250 songs, I struggle to think of four lines that better encapsulate the brawn, and the undying modus operandi of Motörhead – a spirit that will be perpetuated every time the opening thrumb of Iron Fist is blasted. Four decades is a long time for a band to wage a sonic war with its fans. My greatest experience of Motörhead live being in 2010 when they last came through Melbourne, Australia. It felt to me like 50% sonic violence, 50% white noise. It was incredible!
When Alan Burridge wrote in Motörhead Magazine about the introduction of the Bomber tape at the head of the band’s live show, there was no impact that could rival the overkill that Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey conjured that night. We most definitely got what we came for.
Motörhead would make only two more studio LPs beyond The World Is Yours from 2010, and it’s rare, in my experience, for bands to make vital and compelling music across one decade, let alone four. Aftershock and Bad Magic are face melters in their own right. They aren’t the domain of completists; these are essential Motörhead records, made by Motörhead, with Motörhead in mind. The band remained true to the spirit that drove them since their inception. The most subtle difference, mostly evident to the seasoned Motörhead veteran, is the gentle decay in Lemmy’s voice. Noticeable on Aftershock, prominent on Bad Magic. Coming full circle in a sense.
“…to come up with the pristine Motörhead riffs is a fine line,” said guitarist Phil Campbell to Ultimate Guitar about the band’s writing process. “So it gets harder each year… but we don’t put anything out we’re not happy with. We don’t listen to record companies or anything. We write for us three; we don’t write for fans. I think when you’re writing for what other people want to hear then you’re taking away the purity of the music. I think that’s probably why we’ve survived so long.” 
We began at the beginning.
A little history lesson: Motörhead performed their first show on July 20, 1975. Lemmy was invited to leave Hawkwind after the band’s show on May 18th the same year. Kilmister wasn’t idle for long, and according to the excellent Lemmy: The Definitive Biography by Mick Wall, the now legendary press release was dispatched to the music media, by manager Doug Smith and his business partner, Richard Ogden, declaring Lemmy’s new band as Motörhead. This nomme de guerre a little more conservative that Lemmy’s predilection for Bastard, the band name he first declared for his post-Hawkwind offensive. Describing the term Motörhead as more conservative is largely contingent on one’s view, and knowledge of what Motörhead actually meant.
An NME article declared, “Lemmy Quits Hawkwind. His new band will be the dirtiest in the world.” The piece also included that perennial quote from Lemmy, where he testified, “If we moved in next door your lawn would die.” And for Motörheadbangers, this comment would remain a badge of honor; an encapsulation of the ferocity the band would wield, on, and off the stage.
The press release narrative continues with Smith going on the record to Mick Wall, stating that it was he who gave the band its name. Motörhead is a brilliant label for the soldiers who marched under its flag, and that it was final song Kilmister penned for Hawkwind made it even more optimal. The press release was viewed by management as the antidote to Lemmy’s reticence to get moving with a new outfit; seemingly devastated by his exit from Hawkwind; a band he recalled in an interview with Spin Magazine:
Moving high and moving fast.
To observe that Motörhead had a few lineup changes over the years, would be a reasonable statement to make. To suggest the magnitude of these personalities contributed significantly to their immeasurable success, and the instabilities alike, would also be a safe assumption. That each of these personalities contributed to the band’s overall legacy, well that hardly needs to be said, does it? Lemmy, the sole constant, didn’t aspire to front the band per se. His initial plan, to emulate his heroes, the MC5. However, in the spirit of advancing the puck; pragmatic soul he was, Kilmister scaled down to an MC3, joined by drummer Lucas Fox, and Pink Fairies guitarist Larry Wallis. Kilmister reluctantly captained the ship – taking on lead vocals in conjunction with his rhythm bass, and the most commanding mic stand positioning imaginable. Like the handlebars of those classic chopper motorcycles his pals the Hell’s Angels rode, the parallel couldn’t have been more perfect, even if the intention wasn’t what it appeared.
“It’s also one way of avoiding seeing the audience,” Kilmister ventured. “In the days when we only had ten people and a dog, it was a way of avoiding seeing that we only had ten people and a dog.” 
“If it’s up there I don’t have to look at the audience. In the early days, there was very often no audience. We played to empty places. But it’s also easier to get the notes out. Straight out the windpipe, you know.” 
Guitar players typically impact a band’s sound most significantly, and for Motörhead, the band worked through no less than five before the sun had set on its first decade. Motörhead’s first guitar player, Larry Wallis, aspired for this MC3 to be an MC4, which is where painter, and blues enthusiast, “Fast” Eddie Clarke entered from stage left. The legend supposes that Wallis turned up to rehearsal, uttered not a single word, and proceeded to played his guitar, at ear bleeding volume, for Eddie, rather than with him. There’s little in the retelling of these events to suggest the four actually played together, though Clarke’s feature on the Lemmy documentary from 2010 alludes to some degree of short-lived sonic conspiracy where all four kicked out the jams. The more popular version asserts the guitarist, who had been already considered somewhat reclusive at this point, left the building, never to return.
Fast Eddie became the first Motörhead guitarist of notoriety. While Wallis was a credible musician, and his influence over the intended Motörhead debut On Parole is significant, his impact on the band is rendered largely as a footnote in hindsight. Despite this historical blunder, he wrote four of the 1975 record’s nine tracks, taking the lead on vocals for Vibrator and Fools.
“This is a song for all you managers and agents out there. Are ya listening? Good!” 
Interestingly, like Lemmy’s embryonic contributions, conjured under the bohemian flag of Hawkwind, of Wallis’ four compositions, On Parole, Vibrator, Fools and City Kids, the last listed was a Pink Fairies cut he liberated from 1973’s Kings of Oblivion LP. Somehow it all worked – least until it didn’t. The On Parole album sadly shelved by United Artists until 1979. The label arguably signed Motörhead because of Lemmy’s tenure in Hawkwind, and did the band no favours by relying on their independently achieved success by unearthing a record that had well and truly been succeeded by a similar, but significantly nastier self titled debut in 1977. Fox was replaced (figuratively and literally) by Mr. Philthy “Animal” Taylor, and as mentioned, Wallis would also find a reason to detach himself.
“The game didn’t look as if it was worth the candle,” Wallis told Furious.com of his motivation for quitting the band. “I wanted another guitarist to flesh it out, but once Eddie Clark[e] came along, it was apparent he would be the man to replace me. He had the enthusiasm that had been eaten away from me by circumstances.” 
It’s possible to infer from the same interview, that the limitations that Wallis experienced during his reasonably short occupation in Motörhead were due in part, to Fox’s performance:
“In hindsight, it would of been great to dump Lucas Fox right then and there. We never really spotted that being Keith Moon on a busy day wasn’t his forte. I guess exuberance, noise and dope made us blind to the fact.” 
Wallis and Kilmister aren’t credited as writing anything together; Vibrator enduring as part of Motörhead’s canon into 1977 when the self titled LP was cut for Chiswick. Not exactly a live favourite, Vibrator was last performed April 1979 in Birmingham.
It has been written that the 1984 track Snaggletooth that appeared on the No Remorse compilation LP was inspired by Lemmy’s rapidly decaying teeth. How exactly artist Joe Petagno’s iconic summation of Motörhead’s abominable cacophony became known as such is something of a mystery. It is however this visual representation that became integral to Motörhead. It’s probably the first thing that springs to mind when somebody utters the name of our most revered Motörhead.
Those massive paintings that were organised by former manager Tony Secunda painted on walls on London, reinforced the vision Joe had produced to the mirror the trio’s sound. It’s biker-esque presence another perfect alignment – especially if you buy my suggestion that Motörhead at their most vital, resonates the wind in the hair, and the fuck-you in the fist! Born with the Hammer down! Built For Speed!
“I did some research on wild boar skulls, and gorilla skulls, and made a hybrid skull of dog-gorilla type thing, with the over dimensional wild boars horns,” artist Joe Petagno recalled the origins of the most iconic sigil in heavy music. “And lemmy loved it. I think he put the chains on it, the spit, and the helmet might have been his idea too… I guess that’s how it happened, and that’s how the bastard was born.
For the sake of a common reference, I’ll continue to refer to Snaggletooth throughout, but I do like Joe’s Little Bastard moniker. I like it a lot!
Fast Eddie contributed, “I shuddered when I saw it the first time, and I thought, ‘Blimey this ain’t gonna down that well,’ because it was just way over the top then. But I grew to love it because it came a thing. But at first it was a bit, not scary or horrifying, but in those days it would have been deemed bad taste.” 
Phil Campbell’s view is my favourite however, “It’s the meanest motherfucking logo you’re ever going to see! It’s pure mean. It’s genius! The guy is really clever, and it suits us. He knows – he’s like another member of the band. Joe Petagno is part of the guts; the engine! 
Have more t-shirts ever been made in honor of another icon? At least one deserving – one so cherished. Has Snaggletooth fared better than some of the other iconic depictions – Black Flag’s bars, the DK of the Dead Kennedys or Crass’ possibly unnamed for example? How much of that purity of purpose, and (unintentional) preservation of the band’s values and convictions plays a role? Motörhead never compromised, never forgot why they did what they did. When your heart is pure, you cann’t lose your track – you’re undertaking the mission you’re compelled to.
It may seem more appropriate to compare Snaggletooth to the mascots of acts more closely aligned to the heavy metal scene that Motörhead was more typically appropriated by, but these mascots seem more like cartoonish caricatures than Motörhead’s vile, demonic entity. And like the Eddie’s or Rattlehead’s, Petagno’s Little Bastard would manifest in various full figured forms – the key difference being the symbiotic relationship with Motörhead’s sound that Snaggletooth possessed – far more than decoration or affectation. And listening to Joe Petagno talking about his art is so goddamn satisfying.
The Bronze Age.
Often referred to as the Three Amigos, on occasion the Three Musketeers, these labels seems to have been applied retrospectively, yet remain a suitable reference for the line up hailed as delivering the band’s most essential material. Popular opinion doesn’t directly translate to best; but it is difficult to deny the impact of the 1976 to 1982 period, where Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, “Fast” Eddie Clarke, and Philthy “Animal” Taylor ruled the heavy music landscape, and ruled it with no velvet glove. This rambunctious trio forged six of the most profoundly influential records on the aggressive rock landscape. Was it hard rock? Heavy metal? NWOBHM? Philthy summed it up best when he declared Motörhead’s sound as:
And he was right. Motörhead’s Bronze Age made a greater impression on more bands than one could readily count. Think of a heavy band that owes no debt to Motörhead. If you can, they probably aren’t worth listening to.
United Artists were not the only label to at least partially disarm the Motörhead warmachine, who, by 1977, were starting to view the prospect of their material manifesting on vinyl as slim. In April of the same year, the band planned to do a farewell show; disillusioned with their apparent lack of progress, and frustrated by the shelving of their debut 7” which was recorded for Stiff Records. Stiff weren’t able to release Leaving Here b/w White Line Fever while Motörhead still had business pending with United Artists. And the malaise had set in.
Interestingly, this low point for the band flies in the face of Kilmister’s typical response when asked how the band managed to survive for so long; but even the greatest warriors have moments of doubt. And though Motörhead may not have been able to see it at the time, April 1977 was the genesis of their ascent. There is much to be said for not giving up.
Lemmy approached Chiswick label head Ted Carroll to record the band’s final show, which was booked at the Marquee on April 1st. And while the Motörhead phoenix was set to rise, the flame didn’t quite burn bright enough for the mythical bird to awaken, and the band were dealt another blow. As Fast Eddie revealed in documentary The Guts and the Glory from 2010:
Carroll instead offered the trio a deal to cut a 7”, and by the bottom of day one, of their two day booking at Escape Studios with producer Speedy Keen, they had captured almost an entire album. Legend has it that Carroll was impressed by what he heard, bid the lads onward, and on August 21st the same year, the band’s official debut Motörhead was released via the Chiswick label. 
The chronicle has it that Motörhead started recording this EP/LP immediately after the Marquee gig. In typical defiance of convention; they took the ruckus from the stage to the studio with zero pomp or ceremony. No remorse indeed!
The Motörhead LP, released by Chiswick, peaked on the UK chart at #43.  Not radically different from On Parole; the tracklist noticeably modified, and the sound definitely more souped up than the 1975 offensive. Was it right to remove the motorcycle throttle from the start? Not so sure.
Five selections from the original nine tracked for On Parole were re-recorded for the Chiswick debut, Motorhead, Iron Horse/Born to Lose and The Watcher even maintaining the same position in the original sequence. Vibrator, and Lost Johnny were also included, just as they were in 1975, while the self titled also featured White Line Fever, Keep Us on the Road, and The Train Kept A-Rollin’ at the expense of On Parole, City Kids, Fools, and Leaving Here – the last of which bore the Kilmister brand.
Only way to feel the noise is when it’s good and loud!
Overkill is significant for a slew of reasons – but most decidedly – the legacy of Philthy’s double kick drum set up, and how it impressed itself onto the title track of the band’s second LP. The band’s overall sound was truly converging at this point, and of course there have been legions of drummers who heard Taylor’s call to arms; taking up either the drums, or injecting double kick into their own musical ambitions.
“I always wanted to play two bass drums but I always said to myself, ‘No, I’m not gonna be one of these wankers who goes on stage and has two bass drums and never even fuckin’ plays ’em’.
“So I got this other bass drum and I used to get to rehearsals a couple of hours before the other guys and just practice, you know, just sit there… like running, or something like that. I was actually playing that riff, just trying to get my coordination right, when Eddie and Lemmy walked in, and I was just about to stop and they went, ‘No, don’t stop! Keep going!’ That was how Overkill got written.” 
Eddie’s recollection of the track, rose coloured through the lens of nostalgia:
“Hey man, this song’s called Overkill. Anyway why don’t we fuckin’ finish, and start it again. Yeah, fucking great man. In fact, let’s fucking do it again! So we did it three times. Fucking awesome man.” 
Eddie is another guy I love to listen to as he talks about the good old days of Motörhead. Priceless.
The record which was recorded across December ‘78 and into January ‘79, was released on March 24th of the same year. Peaking at #24 on the UK charts, the LP was preceded by a single – one of two to roll off the album.
Lead track Overkill b/w Too Late, Too Late, entered the UK charts at #39, prefacing the LPs’ release by two weeks. No Class b/w Like a Nightmare followed at the bottom of June. It didn’t fare as well commercially as the lead EP, but the charts weren’t where the swelling legions of Motörheadbangers were looking to have their beloved Motörhead validated. Authenticity, commanding performances, and sonic rock ‘n’ roll was all the success criteria required.
Overkill manifested as the first insolent platter for Bronze, in a series of records that would see Motörhead and Gerry Bron’s label, prosper well beyond the imagination of pretty much everyone revolving around the trio in the early days. The false starts experienced with United Artists and Stiff could have just as easily threatened this wonderful Bronze Age.
Label head Gerry Bron reflected on the band’s inaugural record for the label – Louie Louie b/w Tear Ya Down, released on the 25th of August, 1978.
“They did Louie Louie and I thought it was the worst record I’d ever heard. It went in the charts at 72 and I thought ‘whatever I think, there has to be something here.’ I went to Hammersmith Odeon and it was filled with screaming jumping crazed people. I thought ‘this band has got a following, we’ve got to have an album’ so we signed them to a long term deal.” 
The rock ‘n’ roll battlefields are littered with could have beens and Gerry Bron wasn’t the only label boss to have failed to hear what the zealots tapped into from day one. But Gerry’s instinct about the band’s burgeoning fanbase was correct, and Motörhead’s relationship with Bronze is, from a recall perspective, the creative period most readily accessed by fans and tourists alike.
Louie Louie secured the band a slot on TV show Top of the Pops  and peaked on the UK singles charts at #68. Motörhead clearly made the right decision to weather the storms of their embryonic stages – as obvious as that may be in hindsight.
We shoot to kill, and you know we always will!
It wasn’t unusual for a band to release more than one studio album in a single year. Led Zeppelin did it in 1969, so did Black Sabbath in 1970. Even Lemmy’s beloved Beatles thought it appropriate. In an age where band’s go six, eight years between offensives, two in a single year seems a little overkill – if you’ll pardon the pun.
And Motörhead, propelled by the success of the first chapter of their Bronze canon, Overkill, did what they had observed both friends, and influences doing, entering the studio on the 7th of July, to record their second long player for 1979.
While it’s not pertinent to this narrative, Bomber is for me the more impressive of these releases. It’s diversity, tone and energy is a condition of both progression and good fortune. Their craft coalescing further – the dying embers of the 1970s representing a completely contemporaneous creative period for Lemmy, Eddie and Philthy, where no shackles from the past held any sway. Naturally, the band remained stylistically influenced by the glory days of rock ‘n’ roll, yet their own caustic lens took it pretty much as far from the below the waistline revolution envisaged by Elvis and Little Richard, as it was likely to venture.
In the spirit of leveraging on previous successes, former Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller was invited back into the studio, and while the results of Bomber are, in my opinion, a great leap forward from Overkill, Miller’s ghosts had reportedly returned, corrupting his ability to deliver the band to the studio standard they aspired.
Those with an even rudimentary understanding of the character that was Lemmy Kilmister, will be well aware of his aversion to heroin. To find the person they’d entrusted to produce what they hoped to be another world destroyer was struggling with an addiction; less than ideal. The Bomber LP sequence kicking off with Dead Men Tell No Tales then seems an appropriate declaration of Kilmister’s contempt. A perfect storm of irony were it not intended:
You used to be my friend,
But that friendship’s coming to an end,
My meaning must be clear,
You know pity is all that you hear,
But if you’re doing smack,
You won’t be coming back,
I ain’t the one to make your bail,
Dead Men Tell No Tales 
The band spent approximately seven weeks at both Roundhouse, and Olympic studios, cooking tape and sizzling boards, wrapping Bomber in the glowing coals of August. The album was the first official studio offering to feature an image of the band on the cover, which was designed by fantasy artist Adrian Chesterman. While I spend a little time imagining what sort of hellish vision Joe Petagno would have conjured for the Motörhead’s LPs that didn’t bear his mark, Bomber makes enough sense when factoring the title and lyrical theme. And listeners can feel Lemmy’s razor tone amplified on the band’s third studio record proper.
Released on October 27th, peaking at #12 on the UK music charts, Kilmister sticks it to police, his paternal father, heroin, and the man in general. Eddie stepped up to handle the vocals on the blues soaked ode to defiance, Step Down, and outside the backing vocals he performed far and wide, his most significant vocal contributions manifested in the alternate version of Stone Dead Forever, and his co-lead performance on the band’s greatest cover – ZZ Top’s Beerdrinkers and Hellraisers – the 12” EP that Chiswick would unearth approximately a year from Bomber’s inaugural ascent.
Bomber b/w Over The Top was released as a single at the dawn of December ‘79, spending seven weeks in the charts, peaking at #34. Their highest position for a single to date.
The Bomber tour started in Amsterdam, October 20th – a week before the record’s release, and ran for close to 80 dates, concluding at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham on August 20th, 1980. The band hadn’t quite become a household name at this point, but, their infamy had reached a fevered pitch, with the trio nearly crushed by overzealous fans at a show at the Wolverhampton Town Hall in the UK, some six weeks into the tour. The band explained their frustration to Motörhead Magazine editor, and burgeoning fan club manager, Alan Burridge who wrote:
“But fame demands it’s due. On November 12th, 1979, at Wolverhampton, the undreamed of happened and Motörhead were mobbed by fans. The band wandered into the hall and found themselves pinned to the wall, trapped by a solid mass of fans and unable to move; as the fans at the back tried to push to the front and the fans at the front were unable to get out of the way. Lemmy, Phil, and Eddie kept saying they would sign all the autographs and any there wasn’t time to sign before the gig, they would sign after, but no-one wanted to risk being missed out.” 
So, come Wednesday, the 14th of November, the band were ordered by management to stick to the backstage area before the show. Alan Burridge detailed:
“The powers that be weren’t going to have the band hurt in a stampede of over enthusiastic fans.”
Eddie offered, “I couldn’t believe it was happening. I saw some fans crowd round Lemmy and thought that would be all. Next thing I knew, they’d got me too and were all over us.”
Phil contributed, “They got me pinned against the wall, and I kept saying, ‘take it easy, there’s a fucking wall behind me,’ but they wouldn’t take any notice. It’s no joke.”
“We’re not that kind of band,” Eddie resolved. “People might think we don’t want to bother with the fans any more, but that’s not true.” 
Wolverhampton wasn’t the only time the pace got frantic. On a trip through Europe, the band were performing in Yugoslavia, toward the end of April 1989, when a person who had attended the concert threw a razor blade, glued between two coins, at the stage, striking Lemmy on the hand. The frontman received a significant wound.
Motörheadbanger Ned Popac was quoted in Live to Win, by Alan Burridge:
“Lemmy showed his left fist, which was bleeding, to the audience; he was shouting, ‘What idiot thinks this is funny? If you’re so brave, come onstage and I’ll kill you, you bastard!’ it was very sad. Silence everywhere. He could have stopped the show, but he kept on playing with his hand bandaged, and blood dripping on the stage.”
Lemmy featured in a spot on the Bailey Brothers TV show where he recounted the occurrence and his extreme agitation over the incident:
“I nearly lost my hand, you understand me? If I lose my hand, my life is over. You realise that? I’d have to shoot myself because I can’t stand it.
And Lemmy held true to his word. For a long time I was convinced that Motörhead would never return to Australia after cutting their Brisbane show of Winter 1991 short after an incident where cans were thrown on to the stage. It took 15 years for Motörhead to return.
Don’t try to run, don’t try to scream, Believe me, The Hammer’s gonna smash your dream!
To cite Ace Of Spades as the sole driver behind Motörhead becoming a household name in the UK is a little misleading, but for a trio who raged defiantly against convention, the system and what was expected of them, for their fourth studio album to peak at #4 on the UK charts was testament; not only to a ripper collection of songs, but to the value people place on authenticity. Sure, plenty of manufactured music (think of it in the most derogatory sense) makes its presence felt, but it’s abandoned as readily as it’s noticed. Motörhead, the words of their fearless leader:
…came up from the gutter / The wrong side of the tracks. 
And nobody told Motörhead what to do. For these soon to be amigos, achieving commercial success was a component of survival. More importantly it was also a validation – a fist in the face of all detractors in whatever form they manifested. Those who said they’d never.
While the NME quoted Lemmy’s deathless declaration, “If we moved in next door your lawn would die,” they also promoted the results of a listeners poll, labelling Motörhead “the best worst band in the world.”
“Motorhead was all about the groove,” Eddie reminisced. “One of those headlines we had, ‘Worst band in the world’, but it was in big letters. I mean that was fucking great… the kids were turning up. ‘I want to see the worst band in the world, they must be great!’” 
Ace Of Spades was Motörhead’s first record to be certified in the UK for gold status, meaning it had sold 100,000 copies in that territory alone. No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith shared a similar success, where the self titled, as well as Bronze Age offerings Overkill, Bomber, Iron Fist, and the greatest compilation in the world, No Remorse all achieved Silver status by transcending the 60,000 sales mark. That the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre EP recorded in collaboration with Girlschool would exceed sales of 200,000 is a story for another day, and an event, which at the end of 1980, which was still part of a future yet to be realised.
The artist’s image is simultaneously critical and completely superfluous to the success of their music. For some acts, image it seems, is all they have, yet we all know Motörhead were far more complex than aesthetics would intimate. Motörhead’s image suited the band to perfection; legitimate, it aged relative to its members. These wild west outlaws, captured on the cover of their breakthrough LP were definitely a force to be reckoned. The band aspired to traipse over to the USA for a shoot in a desert, yet found themselves in a quarry of sorts in Chipping Barnet – possibly meaning a lot more to UK residents proximate to this area than those who are not. It wasn’t quite the Arizona desert that the band may have hoped – more of a wild, vaguely north-west of London kinda scene. The conviction of Lemmy, Eddie and Philthy is what carries this shot however. The difference of location, in my opinion would have been negligible. Bullets, studs, leather, ponchos; a truly sinister facade with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as likely inspiration. The trio presented with indomitable clout. Their planets aligned.
Motörhead did get to the US for the Ace Of Spades tour which kicked off on April 19th, which saw the trio perform 47 shows across North America. They also secured distribution for the Spades record via Mercury, and did manage to hit Arizona toward the latter part of June, 1981. Their desert dreams by then less urgent.
The Mercury tracklist was sequenced differently to the Bronze version, the primary variation between the US and rest-of-world versions being that Ace Of Spades became the lead cut on side B, and Chase was moved from side B, track 5 to the record’s opening declaration. The US cover featured a tiny Motörhead logo – almost like a little halo above Philthy’s head, and a recent reissue opted for a slightly different image from the original shoot.
What did Lemmy say in the US when he couldn’t say, “Track 1 side B, Fire Fire” one wonders?
Vic Maile worked with the Kinks, Hawkwind, Amon Düül and Girlschool to name but a few; was an unassuming character who, as Ace Of Spades testifies, brought forth the magic from Motörhead, driving greater performances, and a more polished craft, without sacrificing the essence of their diabolical intent.
The ever hilarious guitarist “Fast” Eddie told Uncut Magazine:
“[Vic Maile] didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke, and he was very delicate because he was diabetic. He had to have his Ryvita at six o’clock. We couldn’t get heavy with him, couldn’t fucking shake him, you know what I mean? He might die! So we had to listen to him.” 
I love this idea that shaking the engineer was an appropriate way to get your message across. And while Vic survived any physical dressing down, pre-production sessions for 1916 some ten years later saw things get a little hazy between Lemmy and Ramones producer Ed Stasium. Somewhere between an upturned chair, The Rainbow’s sound system and an apparent lack of bass, the two parties separated; Pete Solley eventually handling the production for the band’s first Grammy award nominated opus.
But that’s been written with more authority elsewhere, and not entirely important at this point in time.
Ace Of Spades b/w Dirty Love hit the streets a week prior to the full length, and if peaking at #13 was a bad omen, it wasn’t immediately evident what it was that confounded Motörhead who continued to bring the hammer down, night after night to rapturous applause.
The Clarke, Kilmister, Taylor trilogy would dissolve less than two years after the release of Ace of Spades which unsurprisingly became the cut almost entirely synonymous with the band. Fast-forward 15 years from this point, and July 16, 1995 would see the filming of the Classic Albums special which explored and celebrated Ace Of Spades. Essential viewing, it is also peculiar to see the trio assembled in this context; banging out vintage Motörhead for the first time, in a long time. If there was friction, it wasn’t overly evident; what was however was the chasm between their road ready exteriors; Lemmy’s seemingly invincible facade never failing to project battle ready status.
This one is dedicated to little Philthy. This is called The Hammer!”
One of the great ironies of the most exceptional live LP ever recorded, is that while it was recorded in England, surrounded by maniacs, as the sleeve notes declare, it was not recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon as the title would reasonably imply. In fact, of the five dates that comprised the Short Sharp Pain In The Neck tour that kicked off on March 27th (fortunately Phil had been liberated of his neck brace by this time), not a single show took place, nor was any imaginary show recorded, in the hallowed halls of the Odeon. The Newcastle shows of March 29th and 30th are essentially what comprise the Hammersmith LP; a couple of selections from the Leeds show of the 28th made the grade, another five finding their way onto the 2001 2CD edition. Eddie was understood to be whelmed by said CD reissue, suggesting the record was perfect the way it was originally released. Fans of the day agreed that the first official live album was stainless, and Hammersmith, headed by Ace Of Spades and closing with Motörhead, debuted at #1 on the UK charts. The band were touring the US at the time, California, when they received a call with the news. The Vic Maile live production has never been bettered by Motörhead, and the band certainly gave live records a compelling position in their official output.
Get On (Off) The Bus.
Iron Fist rates as one of Motörhead’s most exalted cuts, yet as an album, it drew criticism from a from all quarters – the band included.
Long before Cameron Webb made the scene, and Motörhead declared allegiance to one single producer, they had certainly given it a go with Vic Maile. Versions as to why the band ceased working with Maile differ, and it’s probably simplest to cite this shift as an imperfect storm. Eddie had recently produced the Tank debut Filth Hounds of Hades, and dissatisfaction with the initial tracking of Iron Fist had been expressed. And in the spirit of the rapid escalation, Eddie assumed production duties of the band’s 5th studio endeavor. Though the album peaked at the #6 position, and leads with what I’d claim to be Motörhead’s greatest ever song, there was rot in this amigo romance.
Lemmy shared during the course of documentary film The Guts and the Glory:
“I was pissed off ’cause we let Eddie produce it. I wasn’t at the time, though. Fair play. But it became obvious after it was released; I sort of sobered up and realized it was garbage – most of it. And there’s at least three songs on there that weren’t even finished. We just finished them in the studio, you know, like cobbled it together. It just was a substandard album. But the trouble is how do you follow a live album that went straight in at #1?” 
The Iron Fist single, backed with Remember Me, I’m Gone offered a better pairing of tracks than at least two that made the studio long player, yet made little headway where commercial endurance was concerned. Motörhead certainly not the first band to experience fortunes misaligned to the relative excellence of their craft.
Fast Eddie’s first Motörhead production was practically his last – at least from a completed session point of view. Iron Fist was also to be the guitarist’s final full length with the band he joined just six years earlier. Clarke played his terminal show at the New York Palladium on May 14th of 1982, and as is so often the case, left the band with neither pomp, nor ceremony.
The story for this occurrence habitually snakes back to the tracking of the Stand By Your Man sessions that Motörhead undertook with Plasmatics members Wendy O Williams, Richie Stotts and Wes Beech. Eddie reportedly abandoned the sessions he had signed on to produce, and perform on – an assembly which manifested in three unexpected and decidedly feral expulsions, led by the Tammy Wynette and Billy Sherrill classic, Stand by Your Man. I don’t know if Wynette ever heard the Wendy O/Lemmy O rendition, but I’d hazard it wasn’t a vision she had conceived for her song.
Those assembled for the sessions also cut No Class by Motörhead, with Wendy O on vocals, and Masterplan by the Plasmatics with Lemmy at the helm. Kilmister’s satisfaction with the experience seemed to outweigh the captured results, but experience, and perception is relative to whomever undertakes it. Considering the overwhelming success of the HeadGirl collaboration on Please Don’t Touch, over 200,000 copies sold in the UK alone, coupled with Lemmy’s admiration of Wendy O, the mathematical motivation ain’t hard.
Eddie reflected on his last show as an official member of Motörhead. And while everyone knows that your final show with Motörhead isn’t necessarily your final show with Motörhead, in May of 1982, this precedent was yet to be established.
“After the show – which I thought was terrible, the agent, Nick Harris came to me and said, ‘Why don’t we go and talk to Phil and Lemmy? and I said, ‘Okay,’ because I didn’t want to leave, it was the last thing I wanted. So he takes me into their dressing room, and it’s full… The Plasmatics, everybody’s in there. And they peel away from the crowd down the end of the dressing room, and I’m standing with Nick Harris and they [Lemmy and Phil] say, ‘Yeah, what do you want?’ and I said, ‘Well guys, this is a bit over the top, isn’t it? Can’t we just carry on? What’s the problem here?!’ They said, ‘No, man, fuck off.’ And that was it. What could I do? So I walked out, and that was the end of it.” 
This occurred just two days after the Live in Toronto special  was filmed. It’s evident that the band are a little looser that one may desire, but the footage wouldn’t necessarily suggest anything to be out of order. Out of tune, out of time? In the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll – absolutely. Motörhead, just as we like it, fast and loose!
Eddie would rejoin Motörhead on stage a number of times over the years. The first engagement most proximate to the demise of the three amigos line up, was the legendary Birthday Party concert from 1985, in which the quartet celebrated ten years of Motörhead. The show, which was captured for both prosperity, and for release on VHS video, featured the entire cast of Motörhead, and a couple of additional luminaries.
From the audio of The Birthday Party:
“I don’t know, I don’t think Larry Wallis has made it, but apart from that we have everyone who has ever been in Motörhead on this stage right now. And one bloke who has never been in Motörhead in his life, Phil Lynott. Who is warble warble ever going to get. He couldn’t resist, he’s a publicity ligger just like me. This is called Motörhead, thank you for the last ten years.” 
Motörhead, the song, now 12 years since it was conceived, had aged really well. The right degree of speed and ferocity was applied in this arena. Have another stick of gum! If I ever wrote a book about Motörhead, that’s what it would be called.
Eddie has expressed varied degrees of lament that things didn’t work out with his good self in the band, and naturally, journalists like to ask what if questions. Lemmy’s position was different to Eddie’s as you may expect. After all, Kilmister never stopped the Motörhead warmachine. Lemmy was asked in 2011 by Guitar International if he’d consider reuniting with Philthy and Eddie:
“No, because these two guys with me now [Phil Campbell, Mikkey Dee] have been with me longer than the original two. They played Ace Of Spades more often than those two. They played Overkill more often than those two. Why should I put Phil and Mikkey on hold to go off with guys who probably can’t play them as well? They’ve been out of practice. It’s ridiculous to think of it. Then I would be a nostalgia act. I’m all for the now and the future.” 
Lemmy wasn’t only loyal to the here and now, his affections for the guitar player he work with for 35 years was suitably captured by Mick Wall, “…he plays very, very good guitar and he’s my brother.” [35A]
There is no question that a huge part of what inspires this impression of classic Motörhead is largely reliant on this image of Lemmy, Eddie and Philthy. Each a frontman in their own way; they represented an overdriven, blues soaked pyramid of power. They were also wildly successful from a commercial point of view – where that barometer is measured by album sales, concert attendance and the validation that the mainstream music charts gave bands during this age. To suggest that Motörhead’s glory days were behind them is naive at best. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we stuck around for the music, for the rush, not because the mainstream media, or commercial music business endorsed our most revered.
In a swift five years, the band had progressed through questioning whether they should continue, right through to producing their own 1977 exit strategy, to winding up on top of the mainstream charts. With Eddie’s extraction into the New York night, Lemmy and Philthy were left wondering, “What’s next?”
Another Perfect Day. Oh, the irony!
While ex-Thin Lizzy and Wild Horses guitar player Brian “Robbo” Robertson would sign as Motörhead’s third official guitarist, word is that Steve “Lips” Kudlow from Canadian proto thrash metal ensemble Anvil was offered the gig.
It’s not as left of centre an idea as the reported approach from former W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes, to whom Lemmy reportedly responded by saying “Chris, are you serious? I wouldn’t play with you for a second.” 
For my money Another Perfect Day is a colossal Motörhead record; I am eternally grateful for its existence, and that Lemmy and Philthy elected to onboard the Scottish wildman they knew as Robbo. But history has a habit of reinventing itself, and astute watchers of the passages of time will keenly observe the drama of certain events are amplified, relative to the angst experienced by the teller of the tale.
Alan Burridge’s incredible Motörhead Magazine, Volume #6 recalls the first occasion he met Robbo, and was privy to a rehearsal session where the band performed the track that would become I Got Mine.
When asked by Lemmy for his opinion, the fan club manager responded, “What can I say? It’s brilliant. It’s the best you’ve done for years!”
Lemmy: “Yeah, but we’ve got a decent guitarist now! Ha Ha!” 
And there isn’t a weak spot on Another Perfect Day. It may not have spawned an Ace Of Spades, Overkill, or Iron Fist but it was as close to consistently perfect from start to finish as any Motörhead record had ever been. Further, Robbo seemed to understand exactly how one plays lead guitar in a band like Motörhead. I’d argue the guitarist made the greatest impact with the band in the least amount of time. There was no rule book for Motörhead, I think Robbo’s approach was without peer.
Another Perfect Day, outside bearing the utopian Motörhead production, positions Lemmy’s bass and vocal at the centre of this sonic universe, grinding effortlessly through the course of the band’s most melodious adventure to date. Underpinned by Philthy’s fast and loose, laid back attack (more physically than literally), Robertson wove guitar wizardry around these static elements, conjuring an experience musically thrilling, but highly visual also. If there was ever a goal to find the optimal way to perform with a bass player of Lemmy’s style, Robbo found it, and fast. He didn’t compete for the headline, he simply added his own performance to the pre-existing dynamic.
The complexities that Motörhead experienced with Robbo were kind of ironic when evaluating some of the specifics. While he contributed to thrilling, and visually rich arrangements, it was his appearance that seemed to rankle the band, and particularly their fans. He didn’t want to play the band’s most exalted material, and he definitely didn’t plan on looking like a member of Motörhead. Those who recall Eddie’s anecdote of getting the gig, will capture a sense of what the trio required, and importantly, what the band’s legions of Motörheadbangers desired.
“It was a Saturday morning, I’m laying in bed, in me flat. There’s this banging on the fucking door; I thought the door was gonna cave in!” Eddie explains. “It’s eight in the morning, and I’d only just gone to bed. So I jump up, and I get to the door, and there’s Lemmy standing there. He’s got a bullet belt in one hand, and a leather jacket in the other. And he hands them to me, and says, ‘You’ve got the job,’ and walks off. It was fucking classic.” 
Robbo was also reported to like a drink. Nothing unusual from Motörhead’s point of view, the endorsement only running as deep as the performance was virtuous. His attire offended his hosts; some of whom may have ranked among …all the Angels in here… and ultimately, he had to go.
In just 18 months, Robbo’s tenure in Motörhead was concluded; Philthy’s nine year stint coming to an end not long after, in February of 1984. Philthy made one performance with the twin guitar lineup that featured Wurzel and Phil Campbell that year, appearing as part of Motörhead on acclaimed TV show the Young Ones. Not only was Bambi the best episode of the show which aired in May of the same year, it was a rollicking good setting for the band, despite all the noise and uncertainty tethered to the troupe at that time.
Philthy had left Motörhead for the first time, but fear not, he would return – his reign of terror far from complete.
It’s fair to say that Another Perfect Day soured in the eyes of the band members, and particularly the fans. Motörhead didn’t turn their backs on it completely however, and tracks like Shine, I Got Mine and Dancing On Your Grave were performed through the mid 90s – as late as 2006. Another benefit of enduring for 40 years, you can always return to classic cuts from deep in your catalogue; at least once the stench has lifted.
Lemmy told the German crowd who witnessed the filming of the StageFright DVD in 2004, “This is from our most hated album ever… It’s called Another Perfect Day. (Crowd cheers.) I see it’s improved with age (laughs).” 
Time has been kind to this record; propelled by one of artist Joe Petagno’s most hellish visions to date. Whichever way you slice it, it’s essential Motörhead.
Phil Campbell’s band of the day, Persian Risk, performed with Motörhead on November 11th of 1983 at the Metropol in Berlin. Interestingly, the date coincides with Robbo’s final show as guitarist in the band. This was at least Campbell’s second encounter with Kilmister, who he first experienced when requesting an autograph at a Hawkwind show, a sound decade earlier. While Mr. Campbell didn’t know it as the November 11th show wrapped up, the universe was trying to direct the Welsh guitarist somewhere specific. The message would be received soon enough.
Just call me Snaggletooth!
In February of 1984, Lemmy auditioned two guitarists. Well they auditioned eight guitarists before this particular audition, but two were important. One can only imagine how many submissions they received for an opportunity to be even heard by Motörhead, let alone considered for the gig.
Michael “Wurzel” Burston included a letter along with his tape which read, “I hear you’re looking for an unknown guitarist. Well there’s nobody more unknown than me.”  Not hard to imagine the sort of impression that would have made. It’s a fine example of the type of humour Wurzel would also inject into the band.
Wurzel had been part of a short-lived band called Bastard (talk about planets aligning), and Philip Campbell was ready and willing to move on from Persian Risk, the band who three short months earlier opened for Motörhead in Germany.
Legend has it that an immediate decision as to which of the the two guitarists to proceed with did not present itself, and left to their own devices, they were overheard attempting to resolve how the pair could share the guitar parts between them. At last, the Larry Wallis vision of an MC4 was realised, and Motörhead became a twin guitar band.
With Philthy keen to follow Brian Robertson into another band – a goal not actualised until 1986 when Taylor and Robinson briefly joined forces in Operator, former Saxon drummer Pete Gill entered the fray in time for the band to record new material for the No Remorse compilation of 1984.
Bronze Records felt the band’s halcyon days had passed, and angled for a compilation LP. Lemmy, in his infinite wisdom, agreed, but insisted on bookending each of the vinyl records’ four sides with a brand new cut. Six exemplary new tracks were captured in those May sessions, which ran a scant six days, allowing the band to debut the studio prowess of this new version of Motörhead when No Remorse hit the street, on September 15th that year.
Now comprised of a 75% new line up. The fruits of the No Remorse labor including Killed By Death, Snaggletooth, Locomotive, Steal Your Face, Under The Knife (Slow Version), Under The Knife (Fast Version). The LP version was adorned with the first four cuts only, and Killed by Death became one of the most frequently performed Motörhead tracks ever. Considering Overkill was unleashed five years prior, one could argue that statistically, it was second only to Ace Of Spades.
Backed by arguably Motörhead’s most legendary video for Killed By Death (I’m So Bad a close contender) – Lemmy seen bursting through the wall of a suburban home on his motorbike, joined on the pillion by the daughter of two aghast looking parents, in what is best described as the height of 80s teen rebellion. Born with the Hammer down, built for speed indeed!
I am the one, Orgasmatron!
August 1986, some two and a half years after Mr. Campbell and Mr. Wurzel auditioned for Motörhead, the band’s inaugural four piece debut manifested on GWR, or Great Western Road – a label created by the band’s management team, Doug Smith and Dave Simmons, in conjunction with Ray Richards of Legacy Records. The label was named after the location of the GWR offices, and operated for approximately five years.
Led by Orgasmatron from 1986, Motörhead followed with Rock ‘n’ Roll in 1987, No Sleep At All in 1988, and The Birthday Party – which was licensed to a host of international labels including Roadrunner Records, and released in 1990, some five years after it was captured. A similar period of time was experienced between the Live In Brixton release and the What’s Words Worth LP in which the band performed as Iron Fist and the Hordes From Hell. interestingly, none of these were specifically endorsed by the band, and aren’t to be confused with the 13 official Motörhead live albums.
Add to four full lengths, approximately three singles, which included the Ace Of Spades b/w Dogs, and Traitor live EP which was withdrawn due to a disagreement with the band. It has been posited that this even led to the band disengaging with the label, but events that lead to a band seeking detachment from their label are rarely as binary as this would suggest.
While 1987’s Rock ‘n Roll was a tidy LP, indirectly reuniting Lemmy with the silver screen, Orgasmatron is the oft debated, but righteously worshipped platter that continues to inspire fevered discussion. Featuring artist Joe Petagno’s greatest realisation of Snaggletooth, the aesthetic is rightfully best aligned to the originally slated title Ridin’ With The Driver. I would love to know what Joe would have conjured for the record, had he known it was to become Orgasmatron. I wonder how this would have further been influenced by producer Bill Laswell and his vision of what Motörhead should sound like. It’s not a typical sounding Motörhead record. It’s as though Bill Laswell’s imagining for successful execution of the title track was applied to the head and tail of the record, while it’s only the guts of it that staggers proximate to what I expect the band were vying for.
I’ll be eternally confounded by the conflict between the traditional Motörhead expression and the decidedly metallic (literally speaking) tone. The reverby drums a highlight, the scratchy guitars and limited bass, not so much. Lyrically it’s exceptional, vocals sound perfect – overall, it’s an unquestioned classic. Is it possible, I wonder, to have made Orgasmatron the track it was, without applying the same brittle tone to a significant part of the remaining cuts? Orgasmatron deserves hallowed status even if for one solitary feature – it includes one of the truly great Motörhead sequences: Claw, Mean Machine and Built For Speed. Can you tell me where three other songs flowed so perfectly together?
Built For Speed, other than possessing of the most legendarily sleazy ass riffs, also features some righteous drum fills. Speed proves that it doesn’t need to be fast in order to be heavy. Lemmy’s bass meanders through some great runs, amplifying the melody through the bottom end, and the song is an overall vision of the open road, the wind in your hair, and the fuck you in the fists.
Were to look up “wild abandon” in the encyclopedia, you’d be likely to find our protagonist, Mr. Kilmister staring back at you. It’s not hard to love rock ‘n’ roll when cuts such as this are the gifts we are given in its name. Deaf Forever indeed!
Remember me I’m Gone.
Pete Gill joined Brian Robertson and Larry Wallis as Motörhead members who committed themselves only to a single studio LP; Gill differentiated in that he was in the band for the longest of the trio, spending three years in the lineup before parting in what was reportedly acrimonious circumstances. This opened the portal for Philthy to return to his rightful throne, as commander of the fast and loose in Motörhead. This allowed him to be featured on the Rock ‘n’ Roll LP as well as in the Peter Richardson directed black comedy, Eat The Rich. The soundtrack of which features no less than six Motörhead cuts, as well as a Wurzel solo offering. Three of the Young Ones cast were involved in the film – Motörhead’s second engagement with the renowned comedians. Philthy almost bookending his departure and return to the band in the company of Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer.
I’m in love with Rock ‘n’ Roll, it satisfies my soul…
Rock ‘n’ Roll was Motörhead’s eighth studio LP, and it hit the streets in September of 1987. Calling it solid doesn’t really do it justice; but it’s noteworthy that beyond the title track of the comedy the band appeared in, which in turn became the lead single, Eat The Rich, is the most remarkable composition on offer. Petagno’s reimagining of his immortal Warpig seemingly had little to do with the LP theme, despite it being one of the greatest presentations of the most feted heavy music icon. Note to self, take a look at the cover upside down. Is it better? Does it make more sense?
It’s also not the first time that a B side was a little on the superior side to some of the album’s material. Just ‘Cos You Got the Power was one of the band’s ten most played live cuts of all time – ahead of even Bomber. Naturally, songs aren’t designed to be hits – at least not in the domain of credible artists who create music as per the direction of their compulsion, so this remains an interesting detail, and little else. Somewhat resonant of the Killed By Death single from three years earlier; that Just ‘Cos You Got the Power could have fit on to Rock ‘n’ Roll isn’t to say it should have, but I doubt anyone would have lamented its inclusion.
Motörhead had a stab at recording the live follow up to not only their greatest commercial success to date, but the most visceral live LP to ever be forged on to vinyl. I am of course talking about No Sleep Til Hammersmith – or in this case, its successor, No Sleep At All. No Sleep would be the final LP released by GWR, and Motörhead had more than one stab at getting it right.
“It’s my birthday tomorrow!” Lemmy declared from his pulpit during the recording of what would manifest as Live In Brixton, released by Roadrunner Records in 1994. Dissatisfied with what was tracked during the Brixton performance, the band would embark for Finland, and capture their sonic discharge at the Giants of Rock Festival, Hämeenlinna, at the dawn of July, 1988. While the record’s sleeve design made sense, it was unremarkable – by Hammersmith or the standard of any preceding Motörhead releases. Motörhead would release over ten official live albums, and countless other recordings from shows around the world. What they captured on No Sleep Til Hammersmith wasn’t to be repeated. No Sleep At All did however allow Motörhead to kick out live versions of cuts composed in the seven years beyond their first #1 UK album.
Listeners can get a great sense of Lemmy’s self deprecating humor through these recordings; his reverence for those who gathered night after night to experience the band’s semi harnessed chaos, and his affection for his musical co-conspirators. If truth is captured in these unrehearsed moments, Lemmy was a fella who laid his soul bare.
The LA Trilogy – Fog, for Smog.
A new decade – a new horizon. While the early 90s was both cruel and merciless to most of the top-of-the-heap metal bands of the day, Motörhead were men of conviction, and just as they had for the first 15 years of their existence, they continued to be Motörhead. The only real difference was location. Motörhead in a sunnier climate sounded like a band who’d left their dreary homeland behind.
With the GWR legal matters resolved, Motörhead were free to ink another deal. This time, their home was to be Sony subsidiary Epic/WTG. Even those foggy on the minutiae of Motörhead’s history can probably predict that this relationship with a major label wasn’t going to be sustainable – remember, Motörhead wasn’t a band that were told what to do. It may be unfair to say that greater contempt would have been doled out to major label personnel, than other perhaps well meaning individuals, but our Lemmy was not one to suffer fools. And fools were what he reportedly found during this experience.
I make love to mountain lions, sleep on red hot branding irons!
I love the absurd. From what I can tell, Lemmy did also. The opening line from what is absolutely one of my fave Motörhead tracks I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care) brings me equal parts pleasure and amusement. The very notion of getting your swerve on with a mountain lion is so preposterous, but so righteously staunch. Forget the song, the line itself reveals all you need to know as to why being a Motörhead fan rules. Oh and what a song. What a video! 
1916 isn’t an album that divides Motörhead fans. The lamentous ode that concludes the album has its detractors, but I also like to think of this more as a personal preference, rather than any contempt for what Lemmy conjured here. The title track conveys such a forceful and vivid scene, of tragedy, loss and futility. It is certainly soul stirring. A hundred years on from the Battle Of Somme, the inspiration for this offering, seems little about humanity has changed. Not surprising that Lemmy would return to themes of war, religion and politics time and time again.
Rounded out by March Or Die, and Bastards, the three records that form this triumvirate have a decidedly bright, luminous tone. Motörhead’s delivery as radiant as the LA skyline – that yellow freeway haze a perfect metaphor for the band’s filthy overtone. Remember, this ain’t no California dreaming (in the popular sense).
Though 1916 was composed through the lens of Lemmy being a Los Angelean aspirant, he may as well have already worn a trough between his apartment and the Rainbow, when considering how American this record feels. These are also the first chapters to introduce the Motörhead ballad and while this term is applied as a generalisation, it helps to illustrate the key difference between classic Motörhead rock ‘n’ roll and the moodier, more bombastic, subtle/dramatic orchestrations. Of particular note Lemmy’s more organic singing style; if there was any confusion over his place of origin, this delivery quashed that immediately. The polar opposite of his habitual roar.
1916 is also the most feted of these three records. The band’s first major label record was followed by a second, and final for Epic – March or Die, which saw that courtship come to an end, and Motörhead make the seemingly abstract decision to partner with German dance label ZYX. They made an excellent record in Bastards, and oh, the irony of a greater deal for the band resulting in underwhelmingly representation from a distribution and sales perspective.
It’s difficult to ascertain whether the shift in fanaticism that clouded the full length LPs of ‘92 and ‘93 was to do with the songs themselves, or whether there was a sense of the stink of mainstream wiping its filthy hands over this coveted act. But something was amiss, and the band would enter something of a lull in fervor, despite the standard of their records bearing no tarnish.
Where 1916 is plainly referenced as a Motörhead classic, the two that came in its wake are equally as accomplished, but for contrasting reasons. Bastards vacillates between being a ballsy, hard rock record, and a polished vehicle to deliver the band’s most focused speed metal expulsions to date. The sequence of this album amplifies its potency – becoming distinctly more textured as it progresses. You’ll hear the fanatics talking about Burner or Death Or Glory, but the B side is rife with hidden treasures. We Bring The Shake belongs among the band’s finest choruses, and the surreal Lost In the Ozone has an almost dream like aura – rich and melodious.
March or Die is not surprisingly a logical progression from 1916, and while stylistically more readily aligned to Bastards, the theme of the title track closes the album out in a similar manner to its predecessor. It’s important to listen to these records in the order they were cut; there’s a clear progression to be witnessed. The ‘92 long player was also notable in that Philthy left the band for the second, and final time during the recording of March Or Die; his final show executed March 28th, 1992 at Irvine Meadows, California.
Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy, Gary Moore, and Whitesnake among others) completed the tracking of the band’s 1992 opus. Exceptions coming from Mikkey Dee’s performance on Hellraiser and Philthy’s last studio impression, captured on the Ozzy and Slash collaboration of I Ain’t No Nice Guy, which was originally written by Lemmy, for his pal and former countryman, Ozzy Osbourne. The double O cutting it on his No More Tears LP from 1991.
To add to the chaos of this time, March… was recorded during the 1992 Los Angeles riots to a backdrop of Hollywood ablaze. If you can imagine such a setting! The Pete Solley production, quite polished relative to some of the band’s more impure sounding offerings of yore. Motörhead also decided to fire their manager, Doug Banker, electing to entrust their collective futures with the unproven, but determined Todd Singerman. Singerman would manage the band for the next 23 years, and if you knew who you were looking for, he was readily spotted with the trio, becoming like family to Lemmy. Despite being publicly averse to the sanctity of marriage, Lemmy was staunchly passionate about family. Whether Singerman, his band mates Phil and Mikkey, his girlfriend of twenty years, or his son, Mr. Paul Inder who featured in that profound, and clearly unscripted moment of Lemmy: The Movie, captured by producers Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski, where he cited his son as the precious thing in his apartment – Lemmy’s loyalty was never in question. The infamous Road Crew were elevated, and Motörhead persisted in touring, even where they were plagued with sickness. Letting the fans down wasn’t part of equation. I can’t think of another band who held their fans in higher regard.
It’s not to say that Motörhead would never roll snake eyes however. Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me, from March Or Die is a track that seems to partition fans. Stirring, poignant – it is both these things, but I don’t think Lemmy was the right person to deliver this consideration. You could argue that he knew that – his name wasn’t at the top of his list of preferred vocalists – Joan Jett and Lita Ford never coming online to perform it as hoped. I admire that the desire to distribute the message of the song overwhelmed any concerns as to who was best to front it, and I respect creative conviction above all.
Mikkey Dee was the last person to join Motörhead. Making his live debut on August 30, 1992, he was the final member who would be inducted into the band. Of Greek and Swedish parentage, Dee was best known for earlier performances in King Diamond, and Dokken. A powerhouse drummer, Dee gave Motörhead a precision that wasn’t earlier evident in the band’s output; an on-the-beat attack, and an approach he once described as more musically correct.
It is Dee’s drumming that contributed to setting Bastards up as the rip-roarer it is – Mikkey’s performance and style, which captured here as it was, proves to be one of his most formidable. This isn’t to say he never played better, only that he really nailed it here, and the production of this 1993 full length was favourable to his performance style, as well as for fans of more organic sounding drums.
Hellraiser turned up in the third instalment of the Pinhead horror movie saga, while Born To Raise Hell was the party anthem of the year, amplified by Lemmy’s appearance in Airheads as former editor of the school magazine. A noble celebration of rock ‘n’ roll rebellion as only American cinema could convey it.
The pain is on you now, do not consider flight for gain.
If Dee was the last member to join Motörhead, Wurzel was the last to leave. Sacrifice, which was released July 1995, represented the first fruits of the band’s 13 year lock-in with German label Steamhammer/SPV, and sadly, Wurzel’s last strike. Motörhead would of course march on from this, and I’ll refer to Wurzel’s departure as a disappointment, rather than a set back. It was understood that Lemmy took Wurzel’s withdrawal the hardest. But like Motörhead’s fallen soldiers before him, Wurzel would again make the stage with the band he called home for 11 years.
1995 was rounded out with a bash for Lemmy’s 50th birthday, where some band called Metallica performed as The Lemmy’s for Kilmister’s birthday. What an incredible honour to pay to a band the San Franciscans had drawn so much influence from. Those intimate with Metallica’s early days will be au fait with Lars Ulrich’s fanaticism for Motörhead, and I struggle to think of a single more significant tribute.
Three decidedly different amigos.
Comparing Eddie Clarke to Phil Campbell is like comparing reason and fundamentalism – other than being guitar players, and members of Motörhead, their playing styles and distinct roles in the band were considerably different. Though it’s fair to say that the progression of each was far from static, let’s allow for some generalities. Phil’s material was significantly denser than Eddie’s. As time wore on, Campbell was writing the majority of material for the band; less reliant on the all-in approach, and he definitely strayed from Eddie’s more blues based, resonant, and open chord style of playing. Phil’s blues orientations typically manifested in his overdriven lead playing, of which he is truly a master of his craft. Campbell also preferred to take more of a back seat approach, relative to his co-conspirators who worked the stage with significantly more presence and gusto. The Welsh guitarist certainly amplified his position on the left side of the stage beyond the unfortunate retirement of Wurzel, who I’d argue was a more aggressively visual player than Clarke and Campbell combined. Lemmy knew how to find a character, that’s for sure.
The bad boys stole your franchise, and stole your Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The opening cut of 1996’s Overnight Sensation is symbolic for a number of reasons. It’s a totally barnstorming riff, it’s a blueprint for the band’s overarching stylistic approach that would permeate their firebrand rock ‘n’ roll for the following 19 years, and with Mr. Campbell the sole guitarist, the band possessed clarity, which only served to make their live assaults bigger, badder and more sonic; never confusing volume for power. Motörhead inherited a more metallic overtone at this point – mostly channeled through Phil’s more fluid-than-thou riffs, and Mikkey’s on-the-beat attack. Records like Bastards had definitely delivered a speed metal rush, but fans were now graced with a sharper, more concise sounding trio.
We’ve got the power, we’ve got the speed!
This is the part of the story where the wilderness is slowly tamed, where the trio who would be identified as Motörhead would remain a consolidated unit till the end of time. When the band were arguably at their lowest point commercially speaking, and they would demonstrate exactly what they were forged of. Grunge had peaked – not that Motörhead had been impacted by this expulsion of anti-establishment creativity, and nu-metal was manifest, but hadn’t quite captured mainstream music attention. The Classic Rock genre was still in its infancy, the massive US touring roadshows were proving lucrative, vinyl was deader than Elvis, and Motörhead released Snake Bite Love early in 1998.
Motörhead records range from great to fucking great, and it would be fair to say that the band’s third LP for Steamhammer wasn’t one for the tourists. Having said that, it would be misleading to suggest that this was a poor offering from the trio. The vertical logo notwithstanding. Phil, Mikkey and Lemmy made for a really tight three piece band, and though beyond Lemmy’s inimitable vocals, the style bears little of the Motörhead that burst out with Overkill, Bomber and (We Are) The Road Crew. The same sense of humour remained, but the band would take on a more ominous tone as the years wore on. The more Lemmy absorbed; through life, and through his insatiable love for reading, the richer the narrative, the denser his words, and the more dire his message.
Often asked if there is any unreleased material locked away in the vaults, Phil Campbell’s most pragmatic response directs people to the records of the 1995 to 1998 era; namely Sacrifice, Overnight Sensation and Snake Bite Love. And they could do with a little more love than they get. It pleases me to say that like all Motörhead records, time has been especially kind to each. It’s evident enough when each of the stars that comprise Motörhead’s constellation were recorded, but it would be naive to confuse the benefits of a contemporary studio sound, with an aimless attempt to appeal to the here and now.
We are Motörhead and we don’t have no class!
There’s a perverse pleasure I extract from artists who reference their songs within their songs, and it’s true that the impact of some of these timeless themes has been best appropriated by Motörhead.
“…this one is for me and Eddie. And this is called No Class.” 
Whether Lemmy believed this to be true is open to debate; and what exactly constitutes class in this sense is also up for discussion. For Motörhead’s legions, the band had it in spades. As the year 2000 warmed up, or cooled down, depending on your geographic location, Motörhead struck with what was arguably their most vital LP since Bastards from 1993. Tied together with the seemingly abstract Sex Pistols cover God Save The Queen, the record’s closing cut and title track was possibly the greatest egalitarian fistbanger since Road Crew. Motörhead literally stormed the gates like it was 1982 and that great mechanical Iron Fist was unfurling on the stage. And people heard it, and boy did they respond! Herr Petagno’s vision a war-torn siege, Snaggletooth a scythe-wielding fiend for blood. Motörhead were back on the UK charts for the first time since March Or Die and if there was a juncture where the spirit in old fans was rekindled, and new fans simultaneously awakened, this was it.
To Motörhead’s immense credit, they sustained this drive and standard of output for the seven consecutive forays into the carpeted catacomb bands refer to as the studio. Hammered from 2002, Inferno from 2004, Kiss of Death from 2006, Motörizer from 2008, The Wörld Is Yours from 2010, Aftershock from 2013 and Bad Magic with its subjective forecast of the end, in 2015. And though it has a sense of foreboding, When The Sky Comes Looking For You is equally exhilarating. An exceptional closer to the band’s phenomenal forty year crusade. Bad Magic’s faithful rendition of The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil so perfect on Lemmy’s lips at this point of his life. Their second run at a Rolling Stones classic, and sequentially speaking, the final studio output.
The last six studio conjurations from Motörhead were all recorded by Cameron Webb; five of those captured; in part at least, at the same studio – NRG. This isn’t to say they lack their own distinct sound. It’s more a case of this being a collective body of work where the baseline is relatively constant. Same studio more or less, same line-up, same modus operandi. Less focus on discovery and more on the execution would be one description.
The band’s concentration gravitated toward writing great songs, composing riffs that honor Motörhead; remembering that there’s a significant difference between remaining loyal to your vision, and getting caught up in creating with others in mind – fans, labels, or future fans. Motörhead never bowed before the labels, the man, or any power higher than their craft. Authentic to the bone!
With that consistency of execution, builds the temptation that tracks from the records of the band’s final ten years are effectively interchangeable from one long player to the next. I don’t posit the idea that this is necessarily a bad thing; I believe there’s an inherent role in the way music is recorded in the digital age, the less volatile nature of equipment used – on stage and off. The music may not be any less erratic in the band’s latter years, but none of these offerings have Bill Laswell’s eccentric stamp as Orgasmatron was blessed (or cursed) with – depending on your point of view.
If you compare Bomber to Ace Of Spades to Another Perfect Day, Orgasmatron and 1916 or Bastards, these are decidedly different beasts. Shine was never going to appear on 1916, any more than Burner would have turned up on Ace Of Spades – forgetting for a moment that Burner emerged 13 years after. There’s a clear correlation between a tight and focused unit and their continued output. Another Perfect Day wasn’t only a glitch in the matrix because Robbo had joined the band. It was a time of chaos.
Motörhead live and loud in your lounge room.
Home video was a pretty novel concept throughout the 80s. I speculate that the production costs of filming and editing, coupled with the commercial production of the video tapes, distribution and shelf space all added to the cost, and inherent scarcity that existed prior to the new millennium. Motörhead’s legendary 1985 performance The Birthday Party was perfect for this format, and I’d venture that much of the charm of this colossal show is embossed in this overly complex tape format – generically known as VHS.
As the year 2000 rolled into view, there was a fairly rapid shift to the DVD format, and for a lot of bands the limitations of producing a marketable VHS release were decimated. This advent also coincided with Motörhead’s 25th Anniversary. Their Boneshaker DVD was recorded at the Brixton Academy toward the end of 2000, and released approximately a year later. Quite a deluxe presentation too, coupled with an audio disc and further features captured at the Wacken festival in Germany during August 2001. Like The Birthday Party from 15 years earlier, the show featured a suite of guests: Lemmy’s son, Paul Inder; Phil’s son, Todd Campbell, who would co-write what is arguably the band’s best cut of their final decade in Going Down. Brian May, Doro Pesch, Whitfield Crane and Fast Eddie all found their places on the stage for a truly incredible event.
The aforementioned Classic Rock genre had matured, and this coincided with the European festival circuit gaining increased potency – escalating artists such as Motörhead to the elder statesmen of these events. Motörhead were once again on the ascent, and the fire that was lit under fans past, present and future was never to burn out. Congruent with Motörhead’s indomitable convictions, there was no chance they could have become a parody of themselves. If sustainability, purity of purpose and doing what you love are the virtues that perpetuate success and longevity, Motörhead was never in question.
Boneshaker wasn’t the only DVD Motörhead would produce, and when one reviews the live shows made available for home viewing, Motörhead’s history goes all the way back to 1982, when Live in Toronto was captured. Only days out from Eddie’s departure from the band, the lead in footage of the band is gold. Lemmy and Philthy comedians till the end! The show is loose, but that’s how we like it right?
Deaf Not Blind from 1984 housed a set of live in the studio clips, as well as Motörhead’s official videos of the day. Killed By Death no doubt blowing minds!
The Birthday Party celebrated Motörhead’s tenth anniversary, and the hour long show featured the cast of Motörhead past and present (Larry didn’t make the stage, but he was definitely there). Any questions pertaining to Motörhead’s vitality in a post Eddie, post Robbo world were truly crushed, and by virtue of distribution, the world didn’t need to wait to catch the band in order to experience it. There’s never been an official DVD release of this. A crying shame.
The European leg of the 1916 tour saw the creation of Everything Louder Than Everyone Else, and as it’s peppered with interviews with the band, and random anecdotes of life as a member of Motörhead, it’s definitely more entertaining than a live show alone. Philthy an inventor? Who knew. He evidently did, and Everything Louder… introduced all of us into that dimension of his already complex personality.
2011 and 2012 would see two more live sets making the scene – The Wörld Is Ours – Vol. 1: Everywhere Further Than Everyplace Else and The Wörld Is Ours – Vol. 2: Anyplace Crazy as Anywhere Else. Captured in Chile, New York and Manchester, Volume 1 trades off the main arena event with the band’s triumphant return to Wacken, Germany for Volume 2 – almost a spiritual home for the trio. Additional UK footage, and further South American fanaticism also featured.
Divisive for entirely different reasons, the 2016 posthumus release Clean Your Clock which captured some of the band’s final shows was filmed on November 20th and 21st at the Zenith in Munich, Germany. It was challenging for many fans in that there are lot of people who didn’t wish to see our hero in such a frail condition. I have little interest in waging some debate over whose interests were being served at this point in time, but let’s acknowledge that it was Lemmy’s dream to spend his life doing what he loved – and he did exactly that. Clean Your Clock the communication of his incredible life in its twilight.
Remember Me I’m Gone.
Lemmy was one of those people whose reputation preceded him. More often than not, that reputation would, I’d argue, be misaligned with his actual salt of the earth persona. I never met the man, but did have the good fortune to see Motörhead perform in both the UK and Australia. From the outpouring of emotion and reverence, I’d argue the man who sang those songs we spin with wild abandon was pretty much exactly as he presented himself – particularly to those who liked the cut of his jib. Without pretense, philosophical – a realist and one who was comfortable articulating himself in relatively simple terms.
I didn’t watch the live stream of the memorial, and while I’m sure there were a countless parade of luminaries sharing anecdotes and reflections of their individual experiences with Lemmy, my intersection with the man lies in my passion for the hundreds of songs he and his musical conspirators unleashed. People today are so concerned with authenticity – this guy was as real as you’re likely to get. Same could be said for Larry, Philthy, Eddie, Robbo, Wurzel, Mikkey and Phil – the latter pair I expect profoundly affected by Lemmy’s seemingly rapid decline. Motörhead felt like a band that would march on forever, naive a notion as that is.
Electing to play nothing but Motörhead for the entire 366 days that comprise 2016 seems a fitting tribute to a band I’ve long cited as my favourite, fronted by a personality who always inspires a “fuck yeah!” from me. I can’t even explain exactly why that is – simply feels right, feels true. It’s a rush that never fades. No one was ever embarrassed by what Motörhead released or where they found themselves on their journey. As trite as it sounds, they were the real deal. For Lemmy’s part in that, I’m grateful.
Motörhead for life!
A chart identifying the correct way to rate all Motörhead records.