I fucking love Motörhead and so should you.

I’m pretty sure I first heard Motörhead via Headbanger’s Ball, around the time of the March or Die and Bastards albums. I distinctly remember the video for “Hellraiser” from March or Die making quite an impression on me; Lemmy Kilmister had to be pretty badass to be playing cards with Pinhead. I already loved horror movies when I started getting into heavy metal in the early nineties, so making a connection between my two obsessions made perfect sense, even if Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth didn’t exactly turn out to be cinematic gold.  Also, being already familiar with Ozzy Osbourne’s version of “Hellraiser,” I thought Lemmy must be doubly badass if The Prince of F’n Darkness is stealing his tunes. The Bastards album spawned “Burner,” which is a great song and had a pretty cool accompanying clip in spite of it being a glorified performance video, as well as “Born to Raise Hell,” which appeared on the soundtrack to Airheads, a horrifically dumb movie  (which I absolutely love) about a metal band holding a radio station hostage.

Even in the early nineties, Motörhead’s discography was intimidating. Wanting to dig into their classic material first but being faced with limited access (due to living in the asshole of the Midwest), I managed to snag a used copy of the No Remorse compilation. Jam-packed with 22 tracks, including classics such as “Overkill” “Bomber” “We are the Road Crew” and of course “Ace of Spades,” the comp was my own personal Motörhead bible.  In college, I made something of a ritual out of blasting “Ace of Spades” before heading out for a night of debauchery (of which there were many), hoping that just a little bit of Lemmy’s outlaw spirit, undeniable cool and tolerance for booze (and other substances) would be imparted upon me for the evening.  It never did quite work out that way, and let’s be honest, listening to “Ace of Spades” to kick off a weekend bender is probably about as cliche as it gets.  But, I think we can all agree that it’s a cliche for a reason; everyone knows and plays “Ace of Spades” because it’s one of the most badass songs ever written, right up there with the likes of “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Breakin’ the Law,” and “TNT” when it comes to true outlaw anthems.  But we’re getting off track here, this isn’t meant to be a love letter to just one iconic song, but rather to the whole of Motörhead’s oeurve.

The last thing one would expect from a former member of British space rock weirdoes Hawkwind (Lemmy was famously sacked from the band for “doing the wrong drugs”), Lemmy’s rejection of the bloated trappings of psych/prog/space/hippie/whateverthefuck and subsequent embrace of stripped-down, blisteringly fast (for its time) hard rock ultimately lead to a contribution to heavy music that is every bit as significant as that of Black Sabbath.  You see, I’m a firm believer that there wouldn’t be any speed metal, thrash metal, crossover, hardcore, grindcore, death metal or black metal if it weren’t for Motörhead. 

I mean, just look at the facts: it’s been stated countless times that Motörhead were among the first bands to be embraced by both punks and metalheads, precisely because their style was a hybrid of what both heavy metal and punk rock would evolve into; in essense they were a crossover band even as the genre boundaries of metal and punk were just beginning to define themselves, before there was even such a thing as thrash or hardcore.  As for black and death metal, anyone with ears can tell you that Venom clearly laid down their souls to Lemmy’s rock ‘n’ roll, adding some tongue-in-cheek satanic lyrical content and sloppy musicianship to the mix.  Same goes for pre-Viking Bathory, while Hellhammer was just Motörhead on qualudes.  Motörhead caused a metallic chain reaction that changed the trajectory of the genre; labels like Nuclear War Now! and Hells Headbangers wouldn’t have a roster of bands (I’m looking at you Midnight, Speedwolf, Children of Technology, etc), or probably even exist at all if not for Lemmy and Co. honing in on the raw, straightforward side of rock ‘n’ roll’s seedy underbelly and turning it into something gnarly-as-hell and fast-as-fuck.

While the importance of Motörhead’s emphasis on mixing speed and heaviness cannot be denied, what appeals to me most about the band is their stripped-down simplicity.  Everything is blunt, to-the-point and unwavering its intent to kick your ass (and probably drink your booze and steal your woman).  No beating around the bush, no nonsense, no changing with the times; listen to a brand new Motörhead record in 2012 and you get the sense that Lemmy is the same man he was in 1975.  I recently picked up the band’s 2010 album The Wörld is Yours, so I know this to be true.  The disc is front-to-back badass (there’s that word again; probably the one word I associate most with Motörhead), and the fact that the band’s approach has rarely if ever altered or faultered in over three decades speaks volumes about the timelessness of the music; real rock ‘n’ roll will always have value and find an audience, while whatever manufactured, computerized, ghost-written, flavor of the week music the recording industry pumps out like shit-widgets from a turd-factory will be forgotten forever within six months.

Motörhead is pure rock ‘n’ roll, possibly the purest rock band ever.  Call them heavy metal, proto-thrash, whatever, at the end of the day they’re a rock ‘n’ roll band, made up of the same primordial DNA that spawned the genre in the 1950s, but sped up, distorted and injected with a ramped up dose of darkness, sleeze and pitch-black humor.  Hell, if Lemmy had been born ten years earlier, parents in the fifties wouldn’t have given a shit about Elvis Presley’s swiveling hips; they would’ve been too busy flipping out over Lemmy enticing their young daughters with poetry such as “If you squeeze my lizard / I’ll put my snake on you / I’m a romantic adventure / And I’m a reptile too.”  I’ve written exhaustively in the past about metal bands tapping into the most primitive part of our brains; Motörhead might not have invented that shit, but they elevated it into an art form both musically and lyrically.  Some interesting food for thought; Lemmy refers to himself as a reptile in numerous songs.  Besides the aforementioned lyrics from “Killed By Death” (my personal favorite Motörhead song), there’s “Burner,” in which Lemmy states “I am the midnight snake to bite your little girls” and of course “Love me like a Reptile,” with lines such as “Love me like a reptile, I’m gonna sink my fangs in you,” to name just a few.

What I’m ultimately getting at is, everything I love about heavy metal points directly back to Motörhead.  The speed, the aggression, the sleeze, the rawness, the riffs; Motörhead did it first and continues to do it better than just about any other band out there.  I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know, or hadn’t thought of yourselves.  I’m merely looking to add my voice to the chorus of lizard-brained ‘bangers heaping praise upon Motörhead, the band that was born to lose, but lives to win.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “I fucking love Motörhead and so should you.

  1. No Remorse was one my first metal albums in about 1990. I loved it then as a 12-year-old boy and still love Motörhead now. You can hear their influence everywhere, particularly that trademark twanging bass and propulsive speed.

    Ace of Spades somehow never gets old. It might actually be immortal…

    Like

  2. >even if Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth didn’t exactly turn out to be cinematic gold.

    Ha! I was just watching that yesterday. Atrocious acting. 🙂

    And Lemmy probably = my favorite vocalist.

    Like

  3. @Matt – I would definitely agree with you that Motorhead’s material from the time period to which you’re referring definitely sounds “hungrier” than the more recent stuff. But, I think at this point they know they don’t have anything left to prove and can whip this shit up in their sleep.

    @FMA – re: “boyishly enthusiastic” that’s exactly the tone I was going for, and the tone I’m often going for whenever I wax nostalgic about metal, glad at least one person is picking up on that. 😉 I hope I never lose that enthusiasm I had for metal in my early teens… I’d like to think I’m hanging on to at least a shred of it.

    RE: the video for “Killed by Death,” yes it does rule and I was hoping to squeeze it in here somewhere but ended up just not having the space. Have you ever seen the movie Dellamorte Dellamore, aka Cemetary Man? There is a scene where a zombie drives the motorcycle he’s buried w/ out of the grave, and his still living GF hops on the back… you’ve gotta wonder if Motorhead’s video inspired that scene.

    @dschalek – Man, you are lucky as hell, I would kill to see Motorhead and/or Mercyful Fate even once! Thank you for sharing that experience so I can live vicariously through your past!

    Like

  4. Motorhead was the first headlining band that I ever saw. The date was December 6th, 1984, and the show took place at the old Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. The opening bands were Exciter and Mercyful Fate. Exciter were supporting “Violence And Force”, and Mercyful Fate were famously supporting “Don’t Break The Oath.”

    Memories: Exciter were good, and I distinctly recall both “Heavy Metal Maniac” and “Violence And Force.” Mercyful Fate were awesome. King Diamond held the Bone Cross high when they strode onto stage, tipped it over, and they launched into “A Dangerous Meeting.” Sometime during the show, however,a heckler threw something at KD, who stopped the song such that security could toss the guy out.

    I recall Motorhead finishing with “The Chase Is Better Than The Catch.” I bought two t-shirts: Mercyful Fate and Motorhead. I’ve subsequently seen Motorhead at least ten times over the years, the most recent being the Metal Masters Tour a few years ago with Testament, Heaven & Hell, and Judas Priest.

    Like

  5. Great article, at least as far as preaching to the choir goes. It might sound a little too boyishly enthusiastic to a skeptic, but I’m certainly no skeptic here.

    My first exposure to them was on the Bride of Chucky soundtrack. At first I didn’t like the vocals, but a couple years later I found myself really loving it. Today I have ten of their twenty albums, spread from throughout their career.

    Seven years ago I wrote a blog post about their music videos (link). “Killed by Death” has one of the greatest music videos ever. Here is my description: “Classic 80’s beginning: a girl dresses like a slut and her dad tells her she can’t go out. But then, Lemmy comes to save the day, by driving a motorcycle through the wall. Hell yes! But that’s not the best part. The cops catch Lemmy in the video and put him in the electric chair, and then it goes to his funeral, with everyone standing around over the grave and laying flowers on it. At this point, you expect him to rise from the grave and freak everyone out, and Lemmy does not disappoint—but he rises from the grave by driving his motorcycle out of it. That’s right. Let me repeat it: he drove his motorcycle out of the grave. If that is not the coolest thing you have ever even conceptualized in your mind, then you must be taking some very strange drugs.”

    Like

  6. It’s awesome to read some love for Hellraiser! One of my favorites that most Motorhead fans seem to disdain.

    As a diehard fan of 1916 and Bastards-through-Snake Bite Love, I find the last decade’s worth of material to be pretty bad. Other than Lemmy’s lyrics, they seem to be completely on autopilot these days. Sure you could say, “not giving a fuck just makes it more authentically rock’n’roll.” But you can hear the STRIFE in the 90s stuff! They were really striving for greatness, or maybe just survival, and coming up with some of the best metal ever written in my opinion.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s