Motörhead mixed rock and roll, heavy metal, and punk rock into a blistering cocktail that never let up, never gave in, and inspired a legion of fans around the world.
If their music and image sometimes seem like a rock cliché it’s only because so many bands copied what they originated. Motörhead was the creation of bassist and singer Lemmy Kilmister with one simple goal: to make loud, fast, and vicious rock. He recruited guitarist Larry Wallis and drummer Lucas Fox to create an intense power trio sound featuring distorted bass and guitar, aggressive punk rock drums, and the melodic gravel of Lemmy’s voice. Lauded as a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, they were the first metal band to use the aggression and sound of punk.
In 1977, the “classic” lineup of the band -- featuring Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor on drums and “Fast” Eddie Clarke on guitar -- recorded their first self-titled album. The opening song “Motörhead” starts with Lemmy’s rumbling bass sounding more like a guitar riff, until Taylor’s drums rocket us off the ground only to crash headlong into Clarke’s guitar onslaught; the iconic sound influenced punk and metal from that point forward. The stream of albums made between 1977 and 1982’s Iron Fist built a catalog of hit songs still in heavy rotation today. The 1980 metal anthem “Ace of Spades” and the album of the same name are frequently listed as the number one metal song/album of all time. The song doubles down on the bass opening followed by drums and guitar, but when Lemmy’s growling voice breaks the noise, the listener is instantly hooked.
Motörhead experienced two distinct eras, first in the ‘70s and then in the ‘80s, ‘90s and beyond. Phil Campbell (guitar) and Mikkey Dee (drums) joined the band in that second era and pushed their sound into new directions. Campbell joined the band in 1983 for the No Remorse album and stayed with the band till the very end, playing on a number of classic killer albums that redefined Motörhead including Orgasmatron, Rock and Roll (which includes the very important track “Killed By Death”),1916, and Bastards. Dee joined in 1992 and became the defining rock drummer sound for the last era of Motörhead. His first full album with the band was the classic Bastards. In his autobiography, Lemmy referred to Bastards as “one of the best albums we ever did.”
Motörhead never wavered from its tried and true formula, continuing to make ferocious albums until their fearless leader’s death in 2015. Their music was the inspiration for musicians in numerous styles and almost single-handedly spawned the thrash metal subgenre. Their songs can be heard in video game soundtracks, films, television shows; as Beavis and Butthead once proclaimed, “This kicks ass…Lemmy rules!”
“Motorhead” Motörhead (1977) • “Overkill” Overkill (1979) • “Bomber” Bomber (1979) • “Ace of Spades,” “Love Me Like a Reptile” Ace of Spades (1980) • “Iron Fist” Iron First (1982) • “Dancing on Your Grave” Another Perfect Day (1983) • “Killed By Death” No Remorse (1984) • “Orgasmatron,” “Deaf Forever” Orgasmatron (1986) • “Eat the Rich” Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987) • “R.A.M.O.N.E.S” 1916 (1991) • “Till The End” Bad Magic (2015)