The new Motorhead: Live to Win by Alan Burridge is a true rarity in the world of rock and roll books. More often than not, these oversized books are filled with pictures, very little text, and come with an astronomical price tag.
True to the spirit of Motorhead though, this is a book made with the fans in mind. While it contains a many rare pictures, it does not skimp on the history, and is priced at about half of what I expected it to sell for.
Like a lot of fans in the US, I first heard of Motorhead in 1980, with the Ace of Spades album. I later discovered that Lemmy had started out as a roadie for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He then joined Hawkwind, only to be kicked out after being busted for drugs in Canada. Lemmy has always maintained that it wasn’t the fact that he was doing drugs that got him canned. It was the fact that he was doing the “wrong kind” of drugs that did him in. He claims to have formed Motorhead so that he could never be fired again.
One of the chief attributes of Burridge’s book is that he fills in the early years quite well for those of us who only knew the basics. There were plenty of false starts, both in the makeup of the band, and with the record labels. The “classic” Motorhead trio featured Ian Fraser Kilmister (Lemmy) on bass and vocals, “Fast” Eddie Clarke (guitar), and “Philthy Animal” Taylor (drums).
The band’s luck with record labels was miserable at first. They were initially signed to United Artists Records, and recorded an album that the label found unfit for release (until much later). Next was a deal with Stiff for a single, which was blocked by UA, and was only available as part of a compilation.
With all of these roadblocks, the only way the guys could earn any money was to play live, which they did relentlessly. When Chiswick signed them for a single, they were given two days in the studio to record it. The heavy gigging schedule paid off, as they were so tight they managed to record the basic tracks for the Motorhead album in those two days. Chiswick funded a couple of more days in the studio to finish it up, and released the album. It promptly went nowhere.