Ask the kids today what Motörhead means to them and they’ll most probably tell you one or more of three things – Lemmy, the rock ‘n’ roll pensioner with a penchant for Nazi memorabilia; the distinctive logo, emblazoned on a Top Shop t-shirt near you right now; and if you’re lucky ‘Ace Of Spades’. To the kids back in those days (myself included), however, Motörhead were a far more enticing proposition, a trio of less than attractive men who made equally rough and ready music that somehow barged its way into the mainstream.
This new boxset doesn’t tell the whole story from start to ongoing career but it does capture their halcyon days, a rise that peaked with their finest hour before an acrimonious split saw them start to drift. The story begins in 1979 with the Overkill album, arriving as punk had blown itself out and British heavy metal was enjoying a resurgence. Like Iron Maiden, the trio of Lemmy, Fast Eddie Clark and Philthy Phil Taylor were very much in the latter camp but also took inspiration from the Mohawks and safety pin brigade. Although the production sounds thin now, Overkill is still a blistering listen.
They would continue on the theme with the rapid release the same year of Bomber and 1980’s Ace Of Spades, albums that largely fly by at 100 mph but still demonstrated more depth than many perhaps gave them credit for, and although there was always the odd slip into tired cliche (‘Jailbait’), Lemmy’s lyrics also reflected wider and personal interests. On a high from their continued success, their best moments to date were collected on the live album No Sleep Til Hammersmith, the key release – not only in this collection – but in their career. From a breakneck ‘Ace Of Spades’ to the speed fueled rock n roll of ‘Motörhead’ it has aged not a jot in the intervening 30 years. The dedications to Hells Angels, the false endings on ‘Overkill’, the broad humour of ‘(We Are) The Road Crew’ (“another backstage pass for you, another tube of Super Glue”); albums – live or otherwise – don’t come much more thrilling than this. The fact that it went to number one in the UK charts at the height of the new romantics was just as remarkable.
It would also, as Lemmy himself admits, be a milestone that the band would always struggle to match. Iron Fist was a lacklustre follow up that would see Clark depart, replaced by Thin Lizzy’s Brian Robertson for Another Perfect Day. It was another patchy release and one that means that calling this a classic album collection is slightly wide of the mark. They (or basically Lemmy) still continue to this day but this is all you really need to know and, with a trio of good and one absolutely essential record, there is more than enough here to teach today’s generation a vital history lesson.