CULT CLASSIC: MOTORHEAD-MOTORHEAD.
Cult Classic: Motörhead-Motörhead.
By the time Motörhead’s eponymous debut album was released by Chiswick Records in August 1977, the two previous years had proved eventful for Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and his band. So much so, that it was a wonder Motörhead was ever got as far as recording, never mind releasing their eponymous debut album Motörhead. Everything that could’ve gone wrong, had gone wrong. It was as if Motörhead had upset the musical gods.
During the last two years, Motörhead had survived two changes in their lineup; had signed for United Artists who refused to record the album they had recorded and and even got as far as planing their farewell gig. Then Ted Carroll the owner of Chiswick Records rode to the rescue, by securing Motörhead’s release from their United Artists contract.
Ted Carroll then gave the group £500 to record their debut album Motörhead which was released in August 1977 and became one of the group’s classic albums. It’s also the album that started Motörhead’s career that lasted five decades, twenty-two albums and thirteen live albums. Their story began forty-two ago when disaster struck for Lemmy.
In My 1975, Hawkwind’s tour bus arrived in Windsor, Ontario, at the Canadian-American border, but before the band could cross over into America, for the next part of their tour, the band were subjected to a routine drugs search. For Hawkwind bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, this spelt disaster and resulted in his arrest on drug possession charges. For Lemmy it was the end of the road for him, and he was sacked by Hawkwind. This was the always thought, the excuse the other members of Hawkwind had been waiting for, to sack Lemmy from the band.
On his return home to England, Lemmy started putting together a new band, which he initially called Bastard. This was what he planned to call the new band which featured guitarist Larry Wallis, who previously was a member of The Pink Fairies. Steve Took’s Shagrat and UFO. He was joined by drummer Lucas Fox who joined Lemmy on bass in Bastard’s rhythm section. However, the group’s then manager Doug Smith explained that there was no way a group called Bastard would feature on prime time TV, and suggested the name Motörhead.
Not long after this, Motörhead signed to United Artists, which was also home to Lemmy’s former group Hawkwind. With the ink dry on the recording contract, Motörhead headed to Rockfield Studios in Wales to record their debut album.
During late 1975 and early 1976, Motörhead recorded what was meant to be their debut album. However, when United Artists heard the album, they refused to release it. This was a huge blow to Motörhead.
Just over a year later, and Motörhead’s lineup had changed beyond recognition by the ‘1st’ of April 1977. Drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor had replaced Lucas Fox who didn’t seem committed to the band. Guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke had also joined Motörhead as the second guitarist and would join up with Larry Wallis. However, not long after this, Larry Wallis left Motörhead. This was another blow to the band.
So much so, that Motörhead decided to call time on their short but eventful career. However, they were determined to bow out in style with a farewell gig at London’s Marquee Club later in 1977.
Meanwhile, Ted Carroll was running Chiswick Records, the label he formed not long after Lemmy was fired from Hawkwind. Ted Carroll also owned a record shop, where Lemmy was a regular visitor, buying rare singles. When Ted Carroll heard that United Artists weren’t willing to release Motörhead’s debut album, he decided to ride to the rescue.
After negotiating Motörhead’s release from their contract with United Artists, Ted Carroll signed the bad to his label Chiswick Records. At first, Motörhead wanted to record their farewell gig at the Marquee Club. However, the owners of the Marquee Club wanted £500 to allow the recording to take place. That was out of the question, so Ted Carroll offered Motörhead the chance to record a single over two days at Escape Studios in Kent, England, with producer John “Speedy” Keen. That was the plan.
By the time Motörhead arrived at Escape Studios, the band had a list of songs they wanted to record. This included the eight that would eventually find their way onto Motörhead. Two of the, Motörhead and The Watcher were penned by Lemmy who cowrote Lost Johnny with Mick Farren. White Line Fever was the first song penned by the three members of Motörhead who cowrote Keep Us On The Road with Mick Farren. Drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor wrote Iron Horse/Born To Lose with Mick Brown and Guy “Tramp” Lawrence. The two other songs were Vibrator, which former Motörhead guitarist Larry Wallis, plus a cover of Train Kept A-Rollin’. These tracks were recorded during a stimulant fuelled seventy-two hour recording session.
Between the ‘27th’ and ‘29th’ April 1977, Motörhead aided by some illicit substances recorded eleven tracks. When Ted Carroll heard the tracks, he paid for further studio time to complete Motörhead which features the classic lineup of drummer, Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke. They would write their name into musical history.
From the opening bars of Motörhead, the group’s unique and inimitable musical style reveals itself. This consists of Lemmy’s raspy, rasping, lived-in vocal which sits atop the rhythm section of Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor’s drums, Lemmy’s bass and “Fast” Eddie Clarke’s guitar powers the arrangements along as Motörhead gives way to Vibrator, Lost Johnny and Horse/Born To Lose. By then, Motörhead have gone through gears and have their feet to the floor as they power this stimulant fuelled musical juggernaut along. Although Motörhead playing lacks the polish of later albums, it’s a mixture of energy and enthusiasm.
That’s the case as Motörhead launch in White Line Fever, which gives way to Keep Us On The Road. By then, there’s no stopping Motörhead as they launch into the dark almost sinister sounding The Watcher. Closing the album in style was Train Kept A-Rollin’, and Motörhead take their bow after just under thirty-three hard rocking minutes.
During that time, Motörhead showcased their unique and inimitable style that had taken shape since they made their debut in 1975. By 1977, Motörhead was fusing hard rock and rock ’n’ roll with a hint of blues rock, which all played a part in their barnstorming, speed-fuelled performance on Motörhead. Forty years later, Motörhead has stood the test of time, and is regarded as one of Lemmy and Co’s finest albums.
When Motörhead was released on the ’21st’ of August 1977, it reached forty-three in Britain and was later certified silver. Somewhat belatedly Motörhead’s recording career was underway.
Motörhead would go on to release twenty-two studio albums and thirteen live albums between 1977 and 2016. Sadly, by then founder Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister had passed away on the ‘28th’ of December 2015, four days after his seventieth birthday. One of the hardest living men in rock music had outlived and out-rocked many of his peers. Motörhead with Lemmy at the helm had been one of the most prolific and of the past forty years, and their thirteenth live album Clean Your Clock was released in June 2016. This brought to an end a long and successful, hard-rocking career.
It began with the release of Motörhead by Chiswick Records in August 1977, which nowadays, is considered one of Motörhead’s classic albums. Motörhead was the album that started it all of for Motörhead.
They embarked upon a six-year period where they could do no wrong, and enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. Motörhead also released several genre classics, including their eponymous debut album Motörhead,Overkill, Ace Of Spades and the legendary live album No Sleep ’til Hammersmith. Along with their second live album What’s Worth Words, these albums include some of the best music that Motörhead recorded during a five decade career.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Motörhead were one of the great rock bands of the past forty years. Sadly, after Lemmy’s death, that was the end of the line for Motörhead. Without Lemmy’s vocal and bass playing, Motörhead wouldn’t be the same band.
Lemmy was at Motörhead’s helm for forty years. He founded the band in 1975, after his sacking from Hawkwind. Being sacked from Hawkwind was the beset thing that happened to Lemmy, who had the last laugh, and enjoyed much more success than Hawkwind between 1975 and 2015. During that period Motörhead were one of the hardest living and hardest rocking bands on planet rock, and released several classic albums, especially between 1977 and 1983. This included Motörhead’s hard rocking opus Motörhead which featured a barnstorming, speed-fuelled performance and music that was raw, raucous and truly timeless.
Cult Classic: Motörhead-Motörhead.