For 31 years, metal-minded English fans have delighted in blasting Motorhead’s frenzied and deafening music on record players, 8 tracks, cassette tapes, Walkmen, CD players and more recently, Ipods. Although Motorhead is not a true punk band, they use a punk-like energy to infuse their music with the palpably raw feel generally associated with the punk movement. When people hear Motorhead’s lyrics and see their tough, biker-inspired appearance they know they’re in the presence of a high powered metal band. And any band that has to think about transferring their work from old technology to something more current must have something that stands the test of time.
Motorhead was formed by Lemmy Kilmister in 1975 when he was fired from his gig with the rock band Hawkwind. This thirty year old Englishman had been a roadie and a fixture in several rock bands for18 years. When a Canadian charge of drug possession netted him 5 days in jail and cost him his job, he decided to form his own group.
He toyed with the name Bastard, but settled on Motorhead instead.
With his newly hired guitarist, Larry Wallis, and Lucas Fox on drums Lemmy started to develop a unique vision and sound for Motorhead. They had gigs supporting other bands, and they soon developed an unmistakably rebellious sound guaranteed to upset parents everywhere. Refusing to adhere to the punk dress code they set out to emulate the appearance of those social outcasts, bikers. They had struck on an attitude that would endear them to society’s disenfranchised for three decades to come.
Motorhead has had a tough time arriving at their current comfortable position.
Joke: - What’s the definition of confusion?
Answer: - Trying to sort out which musicians have belonged to Motorhead, and when.
They have gone through players, managers, directors and labels like they were aiming at Guinness’ Book. They have made records only to have them rejected by their current label. They have later seen these albums resurrected when Motorhead’s bankability was at its height, by label execs with dollar signs in their eyes.
It was the trio of Lemmy, Philip Taylor (Philthy Animal), and Eddie Clarke that created what is now referred to the “classic” sound of Motorhead. When UA rejected their debut album in 1976, the band found itself at a low point. Motorhead endured an interlude of performing without benefit of contract, manager or money, but managed to cut a single for Stiff records at the year’s end. Unfortunately this single wasn’t released for 2 years.
Their next venture was Overkill, Motorhead’s debut album on the Bronze label. Things were looking up when this album steadily climbed the charts and its title track made the Top Forty. Their popularity increased steadily, causing their concerts to sell out and their next album - Bomber, to rise higher on the charts than Overkill had. At this point UA released the album On Parole, which they had earlier rejected. Motorhead’s next effort, the album Ace of Spades, was a big hit in Britain, but the band was disappointed with how it was received in the US market. Motorhead’s apparently unstoppable British success peaked in 1981, when they released an album made in collaboration with the female group Girlschool. Their live album, No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith entered the charts at #1, and the group can be excused for thinking that their hard times were behind them. But it wasn’t to be. By the time Motorhead was on the promotional tour for their latest hit, Iron Fist, tensions were building to a climax which resulted in Clarke’s quitting the group. Brian Robertson replaced him.
The momentum which had swept this unique group to the top of British metal music had been lost. Their release of Another Perfect Day in 1983 marked the beginning of a severe down-turn in their fortunes. Between 1983 and 1986 band members were hired, only to quit under acrimonious circumstances. The only steady presence was that of Lemmy Kilmister. Things came to a head in 1984 when Motorhead left the Bronze label immediately after releasing their single, Killed by Death. The execs at Bronze filed an injunction against the group, which prevented them from releasing any recordings for 2 years.
With their legal troubles solved, Motorhead got back in the game with their 1986 contribution to the charity compilation put together by Hear’n Aid. Their next release, Orgasmatron did well both in England and with a growing cult audience in the US. The group was now made up of Lemmy, Pete Gill, Phillip Campbell and Michael Burston. Their next release, Rock ’N’ Roll was released to rave reviews, establishing the group as a long term success in the music world. Their live show, No Sleep At All played to sell out crowds. Between 1990 and 1994 Motorhead released four more successful albums and experienced a slight waning of their popularity in the US. A new drummer, Mikkey Dee joined the group in 1991.
Touring with their huge repertoire for the rest of the 90’s absorbed most of the group’s energy. However they also managed to release three new albums before the millennium. So far, in this, the twenty-first century they have released three new albums, and seen the release of a deluxe 2 CD edition of their classic albums.
This is one group that keeps delighting their loyal fan base, especially in England. I notice that some of Lemmy Kilmister’s musical contemporaries have been knighted.
I assume that Lemmy, at 61 will not be accorded the same honor. His rough, metallic image would prevent any such occurrence. That might be the one thing that would cause his fans to desert him
Motorhead members are:
1979 On Parole
1980 Ace of Spades
1981 No Sleep 'til Hammersmith
1982 Iron Fist
1983 Another Perfect Day
1984 No Remorse
1987 Rock 'n' Roll
1988 No Sleep at All
1992 March ör Die
1996 Overnight Sensation
1998 Snake Bite Love
1999 Everything Louder Than Everyone Else
2000 We Are Motörhead
2000 The Best Of
2003 Live at Brixton Academy
2005 BBC Live & In-Session
2006 Kiss of Death