When I read that Motorhead won a Grammy for best Metal performance with a cover of Metallica’s “Whiplash”, the irony seemed thicker than the head on Lemmy’s pint of Carlsberg Special Brew.
After guiding Motorhead for 30 years through its 10 lineup changes and amassing a vast catalogue of over 40 releases, including live and compilations, Lemmy and company were finally getting some much overdue recognition covering a song by a band they influenced 25 years prior. And while Lemmy bristles at the term Heavy Metal, always referring to Motorhead as a Rock and Roll band, there’s no doubt that taken in a historical context the music he’s created has been similarly influential as the best from the punk and new wave eras of the 70’s and 80’s. Motorhead’s brand of over the top amphetamine laced rock and roll boogie was the seed that led to Speed Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, Punk Metal and anything else that followed.
So while the Grammy was nice, hopefully it will open Motorhead to a wider audience. In case you missed them the first time, here are some good places to start:
1. “Ace of Spades”-The 1980 classic from the Lemmy, Phil Taylor and Fast Eddie Clark era is one of the most gloriously grimy rock records ever. Imagine ZZ Top going through a steroid rage. Heck, this was grunge before the term was ever invented! The title cut “Ace of Spades” beats punk at its own game with its rampaging fury and Lemmy’s fatalistic approach to life when he shouts, “I don’t wanna live forever!” The relentless pace set forth on this release no doubt caught the attention of the hardcore punk fans as well with Motorhead being one of the few bands to make that crossover appeal. Other favorites include “Love me Like a Reptile”, “The Chase is Better than the Catch” and “JailBait”.
2. “Another Perfect Day” -This lost classic from 1983 is one of my favorite releases of all time. It’s also the only Motorhead lineup to feature former Thin Lizzy whiz kid guitarist Brian Robertson who was originally hired to assist in the fall 1982 tour after Fast Eddie abruptly quit. It may have seemed a strange meeting of minds at the time, but the more melodic Robertson quickly added his magic touch and texture to these 10 scintillating cuts. Not content to let Lemmy’s trebley Rickenbacker bass overpower him, Robertson proved he could battle toe to toe as his multi-tracked wah-wah’d solos claw and fight their way out the speaker. After the carnage was over and the smoke had cleared it was deemed a draw. Unfortunately Robertson was gone by the end of the year.
3. The mid to late 80s were filled with litigation for the band but of their two Bill Laswell produced efforts, “Orgasmatron” from 1986 has a sharper, crisper overall sound while 1987’s “Rock and Roll” is raunchier relying on those high speed blues influenced riffs. Flip a coin.
4. “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” – One of the most violently aggressive and painfully loud releases ever, “No Sleep” simply obliterated the competition and whatever biases one had against live recordings as the terrible trio hammers the audience into submission with a selection of classics from the Fast Eddie era. When “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” was released in England in 1981, it went straight to number 1. Here in America they were developing a small cult following, but fans weren’t sure what to make of the feisty trio. Not pretty enough for the girls and too much to handle for the average Journey/Styx fan, Motorhead’s reputation continued to grow as the meanest nastiest band to grace a stage. After hearing “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” you’d be hard pressed not to agree.
5. Since 1993 Motorhead has remained a three-piece and of the seven releases during that time, all are worth hearing with “Overnight Sensation” from 1996 and 1995’s “Sacrifice” being top of the list. The latest CD “Inferno” finds Lemmy, Mikkey and Phil with their fullest and fattest sound yet along with some added surprises such as the acoustic “Whorehouse Blues” and a guest appearance by Steve Vai on 2 cuts wailing away in pure Motorhead style glory. They’ve broken no new ground again but what they do they do incredibly well, and man it still sounds good.Powered by Sidelines