Motorhead is one of those bands that most Metalheads adore, and Lemmy was a very charismatic frontman and definitely among the most missed fallen heroes of Metal.
Motorhead was an English rock band founded in June 1975 by bassist, singer and songwriter Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, who was the band’s leader and constant member until he died in 2015.
The band was considered one of the forerunners and one of the first bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which revived heavy metal in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Nevertheless, Lemmy always labelled Motörhead’s music simply as rock and roll.
Motörhead released 22 studio albums, ten live recordings, twelve compilations and five EPs. As a power trio, they achieved great success in the early 1980s with several singles that got the UK Singles Chart space. The albums “Overkill”, “Bomber”, “Ace of Spades” and particularly “No Sleep ’til Hammersmith”, cemented Motörhead’s reputation as a top-notch rock band. The band entered the VH1 channel’s “100 Best Hard Rock Artists” list, ranking 26th. By 2012, they had sold over 15 million albums worldwide.
Motörhead’s sound is typically classified as heavy metal, but their fusion with punk rock made them speed and Thrash Metal pioneers. Motörhead’s lyrics usually deal with themes of war, good versus evil, abuse of power, promiscuous sex, drug abuse, and gambling. The name “Motörhead” – with the use of the metal umlaut – refers to users who use amphetamines. The band’s characteristic logo featuring a boar with chains and spikes was created by artist Joe Petagno in 1977 and used on the band’s debut album, appearing on most of their subsequent releases.
On December 28, 2015, it was reported on the band’s Facebook page that lead singer and bassist Lemmy had passed away. The next day, drummer Mikkey Dee officially announced that the band had ended after Lemmy’s death. On January 11, 2018, guitarist Eddie Clarke died.
Bassist Lemmy Kilmister started in music in the 1960s as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix’s band. His professional debut in the artistic world would be with the psychedelic rock band Hawkwind, which achieved some hits in the 1970s.
Lemmy was fired from Hawkwind in May 1975 for, according to him, “using the wrong drugs. He was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession at the Canadian border and spent five days in jail, forcing the band to cancel some shows on their North American tour. Now alone, Lemmy decided to form his band with drummer Lucas Fox and guitarist Larry Wallis and call it Bastards, a name he changed to Motörhead (an American slang term for amphetamine addicts), inspired by the last song he had written for Hawkwind. Lucas Fox was replaced by Phil Taylor, who was an amateur musician and Lemmy’s childhood friend, and Larry Wallis gave way to “Fast” Eddie Clarke.
Lemmy always focused on basic music: loud, fast, husky, rock n roll. In April 1977, living in cramped quarters with little recognition, and after some debate, the band agreed to do a farewell show at the Marquee Club in London. Lemmy eventually met Ted Carroll of Chiswick Records and asked him to bring a mobile studio to the show to record on it later.
Carroll could not bring the mobile unit to the Marquee Club but showed it backstage after the show and offered two days at Escape Studios with producer Speedy Keen to record a single. The band took the chance and ended up formulating 11 unfinished tracks instead of recording a single. Carroll gave them a few extra days at Olympic Studios to finish the vocals, and the band completed 13 tracks to release as an album.
Chiswick published the single “Motörhead” in June, followed by the album Motörhead in August, which spent a week in the UK music charts at position 43. The band played shows supporting Hawkwind in June, starting the ‘Beyond the Threshold of Pain’ tour with The Count Bishops in late July. In September 1978, the single “Louie Louie” was released, reaching number 68 on the UK Singles Chart, and the band toured the UK to promote it, appearing for the first time on the BBC TV show Top of the Pops on October 25. Chiswick capitalized on this new level of success by re-releasing the debut album on white vinyl via EMI Records. By this time, the standard of their performances had improved considerably, and the nonchalant nature of their music was beginning to gain a following from both metal and punk enthusiasts.
The single’s success led them to the studios to record an album. On March 9, 1979, they played the song “Overkill” on the Top of the Pops program in support of the single, which preceded the release of the LP Overkill, released on March 24. It was the band’s first album to enter the top 40 of the UK Albums Chart, reaching #24, with the single placing 39th on the UK Singles Chart. Months later, the band began work on their next album, Bomber, which reached position 12 in the UK. On December 1, it was followed by the single of the same name (“Bomber”), reaching #34 on the UK Singles Chart. This release’s European and UK tour featured the group Saxon as support. The stage of the shows featured a lighting rig with a spectacular bomber aeroplane as a decoration. The title track of Bomber was inspired by Len Deighton’s novel Bomber, which was a real-time chronicle of an RAF aerial bombing from the point of view of all concerned: from the RAF crews, the Luftwaffe, and the civilians on the ground.
They soon began to stand out on the rock scene, already bringing some songs that would become power-trio classics, such as ‘Overkill’, ‘Stay Clean’, ‘Damage Case’, ‘Metropolis’, ‘Bomber’, ‘Poison’ and ‘Stone Dead Forever.
During the ‘Bomber tour’, United Artists would jointly put tapes recorded during sessions at Rockfield Studios between 1975/76 and release them on the album On Parole, reaching #65 in English. The single “Ace of Spades” was released on October 27, 1980, as a preview of the Ace of Spades album, published on November 8. The single reached #15, and the album #4 in the UK charts, earning a Gold Certificate. The album has been described as “one of the best metal albums by any band of any era”.
The band achieved further chart success in 1981 with the release of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre EP, in collaboration with Girlschool, reaching rank five on the UK Singles Chart in February; the live version of “Motörhead” debuted at #6 on the UK Singles Chart in July; and the album from which it was taken, No Sleep ’til Hammersmith, ended up number one in June. Between January 26 and 28, 1982, the trio began recording their independently produced single. On April 3, the single “Iron Fist” was unveiled, reaching #29 on the UK Singles Chart, followed by the full-length album Iron Fist, released on April 17, the sixth best-selling album in the UK in its debut week.
In 1982, original guitarist Fast Eddie left the band, being replaced by Brian Robertson (who had played with Thin Lizzy), who did not warm to the band due to the poor reception by fans (and for refusing to play some old tracks) being replaced by a guitar duo, Mick Wurzel and Phil Campbell
Original drummer Phil Taylor was also replaced by Pete Gill around the same time. Philty would be out of the band for a short time, returning soon after recording the classic Orgasmatron in 1986 (whose title track was re-recorded by Sepultura). With his original drummer, they would record the albums Rock ‘n’ Roll and 1916. On the 1916 tour, Philty again left the band, replaced by Mikkey Dee, drummer in King Diamond’s band.
In 1992, they released March ör Die, their biggest commercial success, with the participation of guitarist Slash (ex-Guns N’ Roses) in several songs and a partnership with Ozzy Osbourne in the song “Hellraiser” (also released by Ozzy in the album No More Tears), present in the game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and widely broadcasted on radio and MTV.
After disagreements with Sony, they released Bastards (1993) on a small German label, with little success, as well as the following albums.
After the release of Sacrifice, guitarist Mick Wurzel left the band, which became a trio again.
The year 2000 marks Motörhead’s 25th anniversary with a concert at Brixton Academy, which became an album three years later. In 2004, the band recorded the album Inferno and went on tour in the UK in partnership with Sepultura. One year later, Motörhead won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance.
In the following years, Motörhead recorded three more albums: “Kiss of Death” (2006), “Better Motörhead Than Dead: Live at Hammersmith” (2007) and “Motörizer” (2008).
The band was present in the editions of Rock in Rio, Lisbon, on May 30, 2010, and in Rio de Janeiro on September 25, 2011.
As promised to the fans, in 2010, they returned to the studios and recorded the album The Wörld Is Yours. Before releasing their last album, they released 2013’s Aftershock. Their last studio album was titled Bad Magic and released in August 2015.
On December 28, 2015, the band’s bassist and vocalist, Lemmy, passed away due to various health problems, and the band ended.
“Ace of Spades”
The album that came out in October 1980 is considered by many as the apex, the best moment recorded by Motörhead, which captured the band at its peak. With this album, the band gained notoriety for the first time, appearing on the cover of the LP instead of the routine illustration, a fact that would be repeated only in 1996 with Overnight Sensation. Ace of Spades was recorded with the most requested producer of the time, Vic Maile. With all the success, the album became one of the greatest classics in the history of Heavy Metal, making Motörhead a big name in the metal scene.