Motorhead: The 21 Best Songs From Their Classic Lineup
Earlier this week, we reported on "Fast" Eddie Clarke's death; with his passing, none of the three members of Motorhead's classic lineup still walk the earth; it's the end of an era. Clarke, along with Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor and, of course, Lemmy Kilmister helped define heavy metal and hard rock, and would inspire speed metal, thrash metal, and nearly every strain of the genre that would follow.
Here, we take you through the original lineup's discography, album by album, calling out their twenty-one best songs (we've put them all in a Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page).
The group's first album features songs built on a formula of unabashedly fun rock and roll inspired by the New York City punk rock scene, notably the Ramones. Indeed, "Motorhead" could have been a Ramones song.
"Iron Horse / Born To Lose" is slow (by Motorhead standards), and is reminiscent of Lemmy's time in Hawkwind. Note Clarke's mean solo in the end section. Motorhead's badass attitude is readily apparent here, and is even more so on "White Line Fever."
We probably could've put all of Overkill on this playlist, but we've narrowed it down to six absolutely essential songs. The album's opening title track immediately lets the listener know what they're in for, namely madness at breakneck speed. Their attitude from the debut is still there, but Lemmy is beginning to find his voice. The title track, which inspired a legendary thrash metal band to adopt the title as their name, is a highlight. Just when the song feels like it has run out of speed, it starts back up again, hurling the listener straight at a wall, using a vigorous solo and total abandon, like a car battery charging on and off.
"Stay Clean" is a speed-metal update of Lemmy's beloved straight up old-school rock and roll, letting the heaviness be an outer coating for a chugging good time and assisted by his pointed criticism at authority figures. "No Class" is an anthemic car crash of a song, the guitar work gets dirty, and the lads don't care if you don't like it.
"Damage Case" accelerates the album's heart rate, while "Metropolis" is its own kind of rush, incorporating bluesier guitar.
Following the popularity of Overkill, Motorhead had amassed a following in the very diverse camps of aggressive guitar music; both metalheads and punk rockers loved Lemmy and the boys; not many bands enjoyed support with both crowds. Title track "Bomber" introduces Lemmy's fascination with the history of war, something he'd return to over the decades.
"Dead Men Tell No Tales" shows development in Clarke's guitar work; by now, everyone knew that he could solo all day long, but here, he seems more interested in riffs that serve the song. "Stone Dead Forever" and "Poison" are other highlights, and they are two reasons why Overkill's presence has to be on any credible "Best Metal Albums of All Time" list.
ACE OF SPADES (1980)
"Ace of Spades" is one of the best-written songs of all time - in any genre. Period. Its main riff is iconic but simple, made so memorable thanks to its gritty sound and lightning fast speed. The band's mission statement is right there, in one simple lyric: "You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools. But that's the way I like it baby, I don't wanna live forever."
The rest of the record lives up to "Ace of Spades." "Shoot You In The Back" is pure outlaw badassery. "Live to Win" and "(We Are) The Road Crew" further blends together the group's influence of punk and blues, standing tall as inspirations to musicians of many different stripes.
On "The Hammer," Clarke's guitar recalls a runaway train, and Lemmy is at his most crazed by the song's conclusion.
IRON FIST (1982)
The final album with the three amigos was 1982's Iron Fist. It follows up the success of Ace of Spades, and title track "Iron Fist" sounds like it could be a deranged cousin of "Ace of Spades." "Loser" is a model citizen of attitude, moody guitars spitting venom at the listener.
The double entendre of "Speedfreak" shows the band awareness of their own propensity for fast guitar playing (among other things). "Don't Need (Religion)" is a mean bastard of a track, Lemmy taking aim at organized religion (and not for the last time, this is another theme he'd return to ).
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