3D Great Rock Bible
Motorhead iTunes Tracks Motorhead Official Website

Lemi.fw

Motorhead

+ {Lemmy, Slim Jim & Danny B} + {The Head Cat}

Led by the warts-n-all hard rock legend that is singer/bassist Lemmy (and son of a vicar no less), MOTORHEAD are to speed-shredding head-banging in the same way that death follows life. With whoever behind him thrashing out their liquid crystal molten metal, the 3-piece band have served rock’n’roll for over three decades, four if one counts Lemmy’s early initiations as roadie for the likes of The JIMI HENDRIX Experience, The NICE and PINK FLOYD. The man is also time-served as a reliably witty, no-bulls**t interview subject whenever metal is under the microscope.
One can trace the man’s rollercoaster career way back to the mid-60s when he passed through the ranks of forgotten bands The Rainmakers, The Motown Sect and The ROCKIN’ VICKERS; the latter act a band who’d released a couple of 45s for C.B.S. His roadie experience in 1967 – he also shared a flat with HENDRIX alumnus Noel Redding – led him to work the following year with SAM GOPAL’S DREAM. Alas, Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister missed out on the opportunity of cult 70s soundtrack-dom by a greasy whisker, briefly joining OPAL BUTTERFLY (as rhythm guitarist) just before they’d laid down tracks for Brit B-movie, Groupie Girl. Along with ‘Butterfly drummer Simon King (who did cameo in the movie!), he went on to trip the fright fantastic as bass player/singer for HAWKWIND; his vocal in the band’s only major UK Top 3 smash, `Silver Machine’, and bass runs on albums including 1973’s classic double, “Space Ritual”, was somewhat understated at the time – but not nowadays!
MOTORHEAD formed June ’75 in London, Lemmy’s five-year stint with hyperspace hippies HAWKWIND finally coming to a close when he was given the boot. His sharp exit came after he was briefly detained in Canada on drugs charges; a notorious speed freak, his penchant for amphetamines was directly translated into MOTORHEAD’s music, a synapse-crunching racket that somehow lent itself to a tune or two (the title of the band’s sadly withdrawn first single, `White Line Fever’, said it all really). Initially Lemmy had toyed with the name Bastards, before opting for the “Motorhead” moniker (in reference to amphetamine users), the title of the last song he’d penned for his previous band. Hooking up with ex-PINK FAIRIES guitarist/vocalist Larry Wallis and future WARSAW PAKT drummer Lucas Fox, this line-up proved to be counter-productive; gigs supporting GREENSLADE and BLUE OYSTER CULT respectively and sessions for United Artists Records with producer DAVE EDMUNDS, failed to win over their bosses, who then appointed Fritz Frier. Philthy Animal Taylor had already assumed the drum stool for the wayward Fox, and an album was due for release when it was pulled; “On Parole” subsequently issued some three years on when United Artists were happy to make money on the back of MOTORHEAD’s success. Meanwhile, late in ’76, the addition of axeman “Fast” Eddie Clarke led to Wallis reuniting with his old chums in The PINK FAIRIES; A year on, U.A. had blocked Stiff Records issuing the aforementioned single (a version of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s `Leaving Here’ was the A-side), and it seemed unlikely things would/could be resolved. It was the independent Chiswick imprint (and Lemmy’s acquaintance Ted Carroll) that finally had the balls to release something by the group, a group that’d soon be labelled in an NME poll as “the best worst band in the world”. On the threshold of calling it a day, and with little to show but their toils and troubles, the eponymous metal single `Motorhead’ was issued June ’77. Luckily, and on the back of a punk scene that embraced anything indie or fast ’n’ furious, it worked out, leading to their self-titled MOTORHEAD (1977) {*6} LP reaching Top 50 status. Leftovers from his HAWKWIND days, new re-vamps of `Lost Johnny’ and `The Watcher’ were eclipsed by an untidy finale re-tread of `The Train Kept A-Rollin’’, a one-time staple for groups from The JOHNNY BURNETTE TRIO to AEROSMITH. It was the first opus from the definitive MOTORHEAD trio/line-up, a combination that would become one of the most infamous in the history of heavy metal and create some of the most enduring material in the band’s career.
Yet while MOTORHEAD were the epitome of head-banging metal, their maniacal energy also attracted hardcore punks in the same way IRON MAIDEN’s early performances had a small toe in both camps. Over a series of shit-kicking albums, MOTORHEAD became a legend, laying the foundations of thrash with testosterone saturated anthems. Introducing them to Bronze Records (home to URIAH HEEP and MANFRED MANN’S EARTH BAND), a gutturally greasy re-take of Richard Berry’s `Louie Louie’ was the trio’s first entry in the singles charts. Buoyed by their identically-titled Top 40 hit, parent Top 30 album OVERKILL (1979) {*7} was produced by classic ROLLING STONES producer Jimmy Miller. Explosive and menacing, the simplicity of boogie-blasters `Stay Clean’, `I’ll Be Your Sister’, `Tear Ya Down’ and `No Class’, were imperative to the onset of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.
Hitting No.12 in the British charts, BOMBER (1979) {*7} was, in some measures, equal to its predecessor, perfectionist Jimmy Miller and the ear-bashing trio repeating the formula in the title track hit, while laying down further killer licks in `Dead Men Tell No Tales’, `Stone Dead Forever’, `Lawman’ and `All The Aces’.
On the back of a Top 10 live EP, `The Golden Years’ (as if to dismiss the delivery of backtrack set, ON PAROLE (1979) {*5}), and with Vic Maile now at the decks, ACE OF SPADES (1980) {*9} dealt out other top cards, Lemmy, Clarke and Taylor being the other aces in the pack. The album was a landmark MOTORHEAD release, its title track the ultimate outlaw anthem and a Top 20 hit to boot. The record went to No.4, illustrating how quickly the band had risen through the metal ranks. While Clarke and Taylor provided the musical fuel, Lemmy was undoubtedly the beast’s engine, his dirty, propulsive bass driving MOTORHEAD ever onwards like the aural equivalent of road rage. And crucially, like all genuine badass outlaws, Lemmy was ‘orrible!, yet he still got the chicks, and he had style – in bucketloads! Decked out in his white cowboy boots, bullet belt and mutton-chop sideburns, he stood centre stage, rooted to the spot, head stretched up to the mic (maybe Liam Gallagher clocked a few shows) like he was summoning up the God of Thunder (possibly). Lemmy didn’t sing in the conventional sense, or even in the heavy metal sense, rather he rasped like a piece of industrial strength sandpaper scraped across a blackboard. He also had more charisma than most of the preening queens that passed as frontmen, his sharp wit and biting sense of humour making him quite a celebrity in his own right and ensuring that his band never fell into parody.
MOTORHEAD gained further press attention when they hooked up with rock chicks GIRLSCHOOL for the `St. Valentine’s Day Massacre’ EP, released, appropriately enough, in February ‘81. Credited to Headgirl (guffaw, guffaw), the assembled n’er do wells ran through a suitably leering version of JOHNNY KIDD’s `Please Don’t Touch’. Their blistering live set was finally laid down on vinyl in the form of NO SLEEP ‘TIL HAMMERSMITH (1981) {*9}, the band’s first (and only) No.1 album and deservedly so. Surely the tightest rock band on the planet at that point, MOTORHEAD ran through a hair whipping frenzy of favourites, from `Stay Clean’ and `(We Are) The Road Crew’ to `Iron Horse’, Lemmy’s tribute to Hell’s Angels leader, Tramp.
This line-up recorded a further album, the slightly disappointing IRON FIST (1982) {*6}, before Clarke left to from his own outfit, FASTWAY. Clarke produced the Top 10 set, a record that boasted the Top 30 title track, and polished gemstones such as `Heart Of Stone’, `(Don’t Let ‘Em) Grind You Down’ and `Speedfreak’. The guitarist’s replacement was Brian Robertson (ex-THIN LIZZY, ex-WILD HORSES) who played on only one album, 1983’s ANOTHER PERFECT DAY {*5}. His more subtle style didn’t sit well with the trademark MOTORHEAD cacophony and he soon departed for the more appropriate FRANKIE MILLER band, both Phil Campbell and Michael Burston (aka Wurzel) superseding him. Taylor also departed; Pete Gill (ex-SAXON) being recruited to fill the drum stool and complete the new look four-piece MOTORHEAD. The new band made their debut on NO REMORSE (1984) {*8}, a double-disc compilation that collected their meanest tracks and showcased four new ones, among them the uber-grind of minor hit, `Killed By Death’, possibly Lemmy and Co’s finest hour. The other fresh tracks were `Snaggletooth’, `Locomotive’ and `Steal Your Face’.
The band almost made the Top 20 once again with the BILL LASWELL-produced ORGASMATRON (1986) {*5}, Lemmy sounding almost inhuman on the brilliant title track; part android, part wild beast. `Deaf Forever’, and `Built For Speed’ being the other songs that worked for the most part.
Taylor returned to the fold the following year for the ROCK’N’ROLL {*4} album, its `Eat The Rich’ track (and others) used on the Comic Strip film of the same name, in which Lemmy made his acting debut as an arms dealer. While most of the band’s screen dalliances have been live concert films, they did contribute incidental material to the unreleased soundtrack of Orwellian fantasy, She (1984). Another live album followed, NO SLEEP AT ALL (1988) {*4}, although it failed to make the same commercial impact as its predecessor.
Following a move to L.A. (it had to come sooner or later), the band were back in the charts and back on form with 1916 (1991) {*7}, its title track an unprecedented show of emotion from Lemmy as he narrated the tale of a young soldier lost in battle. As subtle as a sledgehammer, the singer was at his most effective on `The One To Sing The Blues’, `Going To Brazil’, `Make My Day’ and `R.A.M.O.N.E.S.’, the latter their tribute to the NY punks.
The wart-ridden one also indulged his war fixation on the title track to MARCH OR DIE (1992) {*4}, a record that featured new drummer Mikkey Dee, a cover of TED NUGENT’s `Cat Scratch Fever’ and a couple of OZZY OSBOURNE connections in the man’s `Hellraiser’ and in a duet `I Ain’t No Nice Guy’, the latter with SLASH. The subsequent BASTARDS (1993) {*6} – released only in Germany – plus SACRIFICE (1995) {*6} saw MOTORHEAD content to cruise rather than let rip. Lemmy was still donning his bass and there was a willing bunch of masochists ready to have their ears bled dry by the some of the loudest, filthiest rock’n’roll on the face of the earth. The first of these sets contained an add-on version of The ROLLING STONES’ `Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, while they had their last Top 50 entry by way of “Airheads” film track, `Born To Raise Hell’, a collaboration with ICE-T and Whitfield Crane (of UGLY KID JOE).
Without Wurzel, OVERNIGHT SENSATION (1996) {*7}, was strictly in the speed-metal category, the rabid Lemmy blasting out some frenzied beauts in `Civil War’, `Eat The Sun’ and `Crazy Like A Fox’. After the relatively disappointing SNAKE BITE LOVE (1998) {*5} and their obligatory live in Hamburg double-set, EVERYTHING LOUDER THAN EVERYONE ELSE (1999) {*6}, the remorseless sonic abusers returned to restate their claim with WE ARE MOTORHEAD (2000) {*6}, as loud and obnoxious as anything they’d come up with in the preceding decade. While never quite the darlings of punks are their likes, the heavy-metal trio were happy to re-tread the SEX PISTOLS’ `God Save The Queen’. Sadly, the fine classical violin playing with which Lemmy was gracing a high profile TV ad (would we kid you on?) was notably absent. No sign of it either on HAMMERED (2002) {*6}, MOTORHEAD’s umpteenth release but perhaps a candidate for title of the year? With no concessions whatsoever to musical fashion, even metal fashion, Lemmy and his cohorts once again showed that where MOTORHEAD are concerned, age ain’t nuthin’ but a number. Its worth checking it out for `Walk A Crooked Mile’, `Down The Line’ and the Ozzy-like `Voices From The War’.
INFERNO (2004) {*6} was meat ‘n’ two veg for Lemmy and Co, although it did feature legendary axeman STEVE VAI on a couple of tracks, `Terminal Show’ and `Down On Me’. Popping up every other year worked for MOTORHEAD as they ploughed on relentlessly on yet another decent set, KISS OF DEATH (2006) {*6}. If one was still clinging on to the hard-nose hard-rock of MOTORHEAD, then one could easily love tracks such as `Sucker’, `One Night Stand’ and the softer `God Was Never On Your Side’. Pity then that they were too late to be included on their “30th Anniversary” double-disc, BETTER MOTORHEAD THAN DEAD: LIVE AT HAMMERSMITH (2007) {*6} – recorded back in June 2005.
MOTORIZER (2008) {*6} and their 20th studio album THE WORLD IS YOURS (2011) {*7} was a typical set; Lemmy, Campbell and Dee at their best on volatile and thuggish tracks, `Brotherhood Of Man’ (very `Orgasmatron’), `Born To Lose’ and `Bye Bye Bitch Bye Bye’. It was sad news indeed when past member Wurzel was found dead on 9th July 2011.
LEMMY’s extracurricular activities, well at least on the musical front, didn’t get off to a grand start when a lame-suited, retro collaboration, LEMMY, SLIM JIM & DANNY B (2000) {*3} – with former STRAY CATS drummer Slim Jim (Phantom) and guitarist Danny B (Harvey) respectively – was savaged by reviewers. A back-pedal into the music of predominantly, BUDDY HOLLY, ELVIS and others of that ilk, Mr. Kilmister and Co should’ve just left it there. Trying to put it – as they say – bang to rights, the rockabilly trio were once again back in circulation in 2006 as The HEADCAT, and on much the same songs as their previous set; FOOL’S PARADISE {*4}. 2011’s WALK THE WALK… TALK THE TALK (2011) {*6} kept the motor running, and was pleasingly enough, a tighter set and a marked improvement.
MOTORHEAD were duly in the studio polishing off a new album, AFTERSHOCK (2013) {*7}, which surprised many Brit fans when it gate-crashed the US Top 30. Said to be their 21st set, but who was counting, maverick kick-ass rock’n’roller Lemmy regurgitated the NWOBHM decades on, by way of thrashers `Heartbreaker’, `Death Machine’, `End Of Time’ and `Coup De Grace’.
Forsaking cigarettes and alcohol (well almost) after health scares concerning diabetes, heart problems and other mortal coil malaise, Lemmy and his newly-fitted defibrillator implant bounced back with another MOTORHEAD chapter. Ever the cavalier and unwilling to give in until his body lay six feet under, the man of the moment croaked out BAD MAGIC (2015) {*7}; a Top 10 set (US #35). Loud and proud, the thrash trio were taking no prisoners on the fierce and fiery old-school `Victory Or Die’, `Thunder & Lightning’, `Teach Them How To Bleed’, `Tell Me Who To Kill’ et al; only their addendum take of The ROLLING STONES’ `Sympathy For The Devil’ seemed out of sync and simpatico.
Although not a member since leaving in 1992, MOTORHEAD fans would still be mourning the passing of sticksman Phil Taylor, who died after a long illness on 11 November 2015. Just over a month later, the prophetic “live fast, die old” motto of legend Lemmy rang true, when after being diagnosed with an extremely aggressive strain of cancer on the 26 December, he died at his home in Los Angeles two days later. A more hard-working rocker you’ll never meet.
Keen to cash-in on what was to be Lemmy and MOTORHEAD’s swansong gigs at the Zenith, Munich, in Germany on 20th/21st November, UDR unveiled concert piece, CLEAN YOUR CLOCK (2016) {*6}. Mixing up old, new, borrowed and blues from time immemorial (`Bomber’, `Ace Of Spades’ and `Overkill’, perennial killer cuts), it would take a tougher dude than Lemmy to criticise its sound-quality shortcomings (case in question `Orgasmatron’).
© MC Strong 1994-2008/GRD-LCS // rev-up MCS Sep2012-Jun2016

Share this Project

Leave a Comment