Motorhead- The Grandfathers of Modern Metal
Motorhead is an English band formed in 1975 by bassist, singer, and songwriter, Lemmy Kilminster. Since then he’s been the only member to stay constant, possibly because of his own strong views of the band’s direction. This likely espouses from his expulsion from the band Hawkwind. The story goes that he spent five days in a Canadian jail for drug possession, which did not fit with the image that Hawkwind sought to create for itself, though later members agreed that drug use was quite common. Lemmy goes on record saying that he was kicked out of the band for, “…using the wrong drugs.”
While many often consider Motorhead’s work to be one of the first heavy metal bands, contributing to other such genres as thrash and speed metal, Lemmy is persistent in avoiding any such labels. This is evident from his commonly used introduction when on stage, going, “We are Motorhead. And we play Rock and Roll.”
The name Motorhead is a British colloquialism arising from the time of the band’s inception, the American equivalent of which would be “speed-freak”, otherwise known as an amphetamine user. While all this talk of drug use would make one think that the musicians burned out fairly quickly, Motorhead still tours to this day. This name and the roadhouse motorcycle leather image that they took on was an attempt to create, “the dirtiest Rock and Roll band in the world.”
It could be argued that they succeeded in their attempts when, in 1977, they won a poll sponsored by NME magazine as the best worst band in the world.
They almost quit playing later in the year, and decided to perform a going-away show at the Marquee Club in London. It was attended by a friend of Lemmy’s, Ted Carrol of Chiswick Records, who offered them the chance to use his recording studio for two days to record a single track for the sake of posterity. By the end of the two days they had successfully recorded eleven tracks, though they were not completely finished at the time. Carrol was impressed with the work and allowed them to finish recording, releasing their first self-titled album shortly thereafter.
Since then Motorhead has toured across the world and released over 19 studio albums, 5 live albums, 5 compilation albums, and 20 hit singles. This is in addition to the 11 tribute albums produced by other bands who were inspired by their work. Most of their topics involve: love, drugs, war, hate, sex, Heaven, and Hell.
Though quite successful, Motorhead has had continuous issues with their record labels, and a number of lawsuits over the rights to their various songs. They always come out on top however, doing collaborations with other big names such as Ozzy Osbourne, Guns and Roses, Metallica, Slash, and the Ramones.
As of late they have produced a number of songs on behalf of the WWE, including Evolution, The Game, King of Kings, and Line in the Sand.
They are characterized by their strident bass and Lemmy’s distinct harsh rattling voice, which somehow sounds perfect for the type of music they play. Some people have criticized that their guitar-work, though deliberately distorted for a “dirty” sound does not allow for sufficient solos. Lemmy’s response to this is that a solo “…should only take long enough to let you open another bottle of beer.” It fits well with their roadhouse biker image, in my opinion.
What many people don’t often catch is the poetry of their lyrics. Though they often cover sensitive or distasteful topics, they are always well thought out and can stand on their own for written poetry.
Another distinct hallmark of the band is the “Warpig”, Motorhead’s logo. It appeared on their first album, a red face twisted in rage, sprouting tusks, hung with chains, armored, and bearing an iron cross somewhere about its head. Since then the Warpig has appeared in one form or other on all Motorhead’s albums and paraphernalia.
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