CULT CLASSIC: MOTORHEAD-WHAT’S WORTH WORDS.
Cult Classic: Motörhead-What’s Worth Words.
When Wilko Johnson of Dr. Feelgood heard of a project to preserve William Wordsworth’s manuscripts, he decided to put on a fundraising concert on the ’18th’ February 1978. The lineup to the fundraiser featured Wilko Johnson and some of the bands from Chiswick Records’ label which he was signed to. This included The Count Bishop a group going by the name of Iron Fist and The Hordes From Hell. Those in the know knew that this was actually Motörhead, who because of contractual reasons, had to take to the stage using an alias. Some of the crowd at the The Roundhouse were in for a pleasant surprise when Iron Fist and The Hordes From Hell took to the stage.
After all, Motörhead was one of the rising stars of heavy rock. They had released their Motörhead on the ’21st’ of August 1977, which reached forty-three in Britain and was certified silver after selling over 60,000 copies. For founder Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister this was a reason to celebrate.
Just two years after Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister was sacked from Hawkwind after being arrested in Windsor, Ontario, at the Canadian-American border on drug possession charges in May 1975. This was the excuse the other members of Hawkwind had been waiting for, and Lemmy was sacked 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.
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.
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.
Nearly seven months after the release of Motörhead, Lemmy and Co. arrived at The Roundhouse on the ’18th’ February 1978. Parked outside was the Rolling Stones mobile recording studio which had been hired by Chiswick Records’ owner Ted Carroll to record The Count Bishops next album. Motörhead’s then manager Tony Secunda asked if the band could use the mobile recording studio to record their set. An agreement was reached and two albums were recorded that night at The Roundhouse, which was Wilko Johnson’s fundraiser to preserve William Wordsworth’s manuscripts. However, strictly speaking Motörhead shouldn’t even he at The Roundhouse.
Contractual problems meant that Motörhead wasn’t allow to play at Wilko Johnson’s fundraiser. They had hatched a cunning plan, and decided to dawn the moniker Iron Fist and The Hordes From Hell. The audience was in for a surprise as they took to the stage later that evening.
As Iron Fist and The Hordes From Hell prepared to take to the stage, producer Duncan Cowell took his place in the Rolling Stones mobile recording studio and prepared to record what would prove be a landmark concert.
As Motörhead took to the stage, they launched into one of Lemmy’s compositions The Watcher. It gave way to Iron Horse and Born To Lose before Motörhead revisited Larry Wallis’ On Parole, which had been a staple of the band’s early shows. By then, Motörhead’s mixture of high adrenaline heavy metal, hard rock, blues rock and rock ’n’ roll was proving a popular combination. There was no stopping Motörhead as they launched into White Line Fever, which took marked the halfway point.
They followed White Line Fever with Keep Us On The Road which was penned by Motörhead and Mick Farren. It gave way the first of four cover versions, including a cover of Holland, Dozier and Holland’s Leaving Here which was given hard rocking makeover. Motörhead then covered John Mayall’s I’m Your Witchdoctor which was a staple of their live sets. So was Train Kept A-Rollin’ had featured on Motörhead. Bringing this barnstorming performance to a close, was a cover of The Pink Fairies’ City Kids. Mick Farren then joined the band for a cover of Lost Johnny, which never made it onto the subsequent album.
That album was What’s Worth Words, which was released by Ted Carroll’s record label Big Beat on the ‘5th’ March 1983. What’s Worth Words is reminder of the classic lineup of Motörhead in full flight. Unlike most albums, there’s no overdubbing. It’s a warts and all performance from Motörhead who by 1983, were enjoying a glittering career. Everything the band turned to silver or gold. Little did any of the members of Motörhead realise that it was the most successful period of their recording career.
Following the success of Motörhead, which is now regarded as a genre classic, Motörhead returned on the ‘24th’ of March 1979 with their sophomore album Overkill. It was released on the Bronze label, and reached twenty-four in Britain. Soon, Overkill which is regarded in heavy metal circles as a minor class, became Motörhead’s second album to be certified silver. Soon, two became three.
Seven months later, Motörhead returned on the ’27th’ October 1979 with their third album Bomber. It was a difficult album to record, with producer struggling with heroin addiction. However, the album was completed and found favour with Motörhead’s legion of fans. This included both heavy metal fans and punks who were won over by Motörhead’s hard rocking sound. They were also won over by Bomber, which reached number twelve in Britain and was again, certified silver.
Having released two albums within the space of seven months, it was thirteen months before Motörhead returned with their fourth album Ace Of Spades. It was produced by Vic “Chairman” Maile, and featured a fusion of heavy metal, hard rock and speed metal. This found favour with critics, who called Ace Of Spades’ one of Motörhead’s finest albums.
Prior to the release of Ace Of Spades, the title-track was released as a single, on October the ’27th’ 1980 and reached number fifteen in Britain. When the album Ace Of Space was released on the ‘8th’ of November 1980, it reached number four in Britain and was certified gold by March 1981. This was the most successful album of Motörhead’s career, and one that later, would be called a classic.
The same can be said of Motörhead’s first live album No Sleep ’til Hammersmith, which was released on the ‘27th’ of June 1981. It reached number one in Britain, and charted in everywhere from Germany to Norway and Sweden to New Zealand. No Sleep ’til Hammersmith was also the first Motörhead album to be released in America. Alas. the album failed to trouble the US Billboard 200.
Buoyed by the success of No Sleep ’til Hammersmith, Motörhead returned ten months later, with their first studio album in nearly two years, Iron Fist. It was the much-anticipated follow-up to Ace Of Spades which was produced by Vic Maile. He started producing Iron Fist, but didn’t return to project after Motörhead played some gigs in November and December 1981 with Tank. Replacing Vic Maile were Will Reid Dick, Eddie Clarke. They played their part in the success of Iron Fist, which was released on the ’17th’ of April 1982, and reached number six on the British album charts, and was certified gold. Across the Atlantic, Iron First reached 174 in the US Billboard 200. Motörhead were making some inroads into the lucrative American market.
After the release of Iron Fist, Motörhead began work on their next studio album Another Perfect Day. Before it was released, Motörhead would release their second live album, What’s Worth Words. By 1983, Motörhead were no longer managed by Tony Secunda. After some issues, he and Motörhead parted company and Doug Smith once again, became the band’s manager. He helped negotiate the release of What’s Worth Words on Ted Carroll’s Big Beat Records.
What’s Worth Words featured Motörhead’s barnstorming, speed fuelled performance at The Roundhouse on the ’18th’ February 1978. It’s a snapshot in time, and features the material Motörhead played during the late-seventies and early eighties. After that, these songs hardly ever featured in Motörhead’’s sets. They were in the band’s past, a reminder of which is What’s Worth Words. It features the classic lineup of Motörhead at the peak of their powers.
Many critics agreed, and called What’s Worth Words one of the best live albums ever. It was a warts and all performance from Motörhead that was released on the ‘5th’ of March 1983, and reached seventy-one on the British album charts. This was disappointing considering that it’s one of Motörhead’s best live albums, and regarded as one of best live albums ever released.
After the release of What’s Worth Words, Motörhead released Another Perfect Day three months later, on June the ‘4th’ 1983. It reached just twenty in the British album charts, and was the Motörhead’s first studio album not to be certified silver or gold.
Sadly, none of the albums Motörhead released between Bastard in November 1983 and their twenty-second studio album Bad Magic in August 2015 were certified silver or gold. However, Motörhead enjoyed a glittering career between Motörhead in 1977 and Iron Fist in 1982, when they could do no wrong. This included the night they recorded What’s Worth Words at The Roundhouse on the ’18th’ February 1978. That night, the classic lineup of Motörhead reached new heights during a barnstorming performance where they worked their way through the nine tracks on their cult classic What’s Worth Words
Cult Classic: Motörhead-What’s Worth Words.