Nobody’s talking while I’m on, they’re either watching the band [Motörhead] or they’re leaving!” – Lemmy Kilmister, Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey (2005)
Yesterday, the rock world was well and truly quaked by news that many fans and big names of the genre thought that they would never hear: Lemmy Kilmister had passed away.
Ask anybody, and they would tell you that they thought that Lemmy would live forever. One fan, in the eponymous 2010 documentary, even said “All that’s going to be left of this Earth, is Lemmy and cockroaches!” With a career spanning nearly 5 decades as a member of The Rockin’ Vicars, Hawkwind and the founding member/frontman of Motörhead, one can say that Lemmy didn’t do too badly.
Everyone remembers the first time that they heard Motörhead. Lemmy’s signature growl is pretty iconic/ cannot be imitated (believe me I’ve tried). The first time I heard Motörhead, I didn’t even know that they were Motörhead! It was in WWE with Triple H’s entrance song, “The Game.” It was only after I’d heard “Ace of Spades” and the like that I properly got into Motörhead as a band, and that was largely down to Lemmy’s iconic vocals and his uncanny ability to play rhythm guitar parts on a bass guitar with more overdrive than a Harley running on nitro (he found a way…see below)
I went to my very first gig when I was a fresh faced 16 year old, and now that I’m a not-so fresh faced 23 year old, those memories have come rushing back faster than Jabba the Hutt at dinner time. It was Dubai Desert Rock Festival in 2009, and Motörhead were headliners. It hit their time for the evening, and there was no intro music, no round up track, nothing. Just silence, followed by a deafening distorted bass tone and a gritty guitar grind. There stood Lemmy, still but more powerful than a tank armoured Hercules. There, he spoke the 3 most iconic and unmistakeable phrases of the band’s career: “Good evening. We are Motörhead, and we play rock’n’roll!” before launching into opening track “Iron Fist.” It sounds childishly silly and more optimistic than thinking that CM Punk will return to the WWE, but this truly was a setlist that set the bar for every other show that I attended. It turned me into a huge Motörhead fan, and more importantly a Lemmy fan, in the process. Wether it was the heavy chug of “Be My Baby”, the fury of “In The Name of Tragedy” or the unmistakable bass riff of “Ace of Spades” this set was more captivating than a date with a hypnotist. As the gig closed with the traditional “Overkill”, Lemmy reached for the mic and bellowed “Thank you, we are Motörhead, don’t forget us!” – like there was any chance of that happening. Earlier on, he claimed that he was going to “Send you home deaf!”, and after cranking everything up to 11, Lemmy ensured just that.
In short, Lemmy truly was one of a kind, and there’ll never be anybody else like him. In tribute, I’ve made a list of my 10 favourite Motörhead tracks. Now there are some rules for this list, in the sense that it doesn’t include “Ace of Spades”, “Overkill” or “Killed by Death.” I would explain my reasoning, but I think Lemmy himself summed it up fairly well (Also if you haven’t listened to “Ace of Spades” by this point, then you need a good look in the mirror):
To be honest, although Ace of Spades is a good song, I’m sick to death of it now. Two decades on, whenever people think of Motörhead, they think “Ace of Spades.” We didn’t become fossilized after that record you know. We’ve had quite a few good releases since then. But the fans want to hear it, so we still play it every night. For myself, I’ve had enough of that song. – Lemmy Kilmister, “White Line Fever” (2004)
So, in no particular order (because I’ve already done ranked a list, go read it *nudge nudge wink wink*), here are my 10 favourite Motörhead songs:
The Game (Hammered, 2002)
Any WWE fan knows this song. Motörhead have written quite a few songs for the pro-wrestling outfit, including “Line in the Sand” and “King of Kings” (all used in some way or another by Triple H funnily enough). But, if there’s one stand out song, it’s the aforementioned Cerebral Assassin’s theme song. The first time I’d seen what the band looked like was when they played him to the ring. Lemmy looked like a fookin’ badass!
Going To Brazil (1916, 1990)
This song is basically “Johnny B. Goode” on speed and with more distortion. Normally played as a pseudo-show closer, this brings rock’n’roll fury a-plenty (as well as key change slicker than a mid-winter mudslide)
The Thousand Names of God (Motörizer, 2008)
Next to doubling the band’s use and patent of the metal umlaut, Motörizer was a lot more bluesy than previous records. It still provided more grit than your shoes after a day at the beach. Case in point “The Thousand Names of God” –
Hellraiser (March Ör Die, 1992)
One of Motörhead’s more commercial joints, and understandably so, it’s pretty damn catchy! Originally written by Lemmy for Ozzy Osbourne’s record “No More Tears”, Lemmy clearly just said “y’know what, fuckit, I’ll record it myself too”, and ended up filling the song with all kinds of biker themed badassery. The fact that it was used in the film of the same name, was a giant feather in Motörhead’s cap, and tended to serve as a theme song for Lemmy of sorts. Certainly put a spell on me
Iron Fist (Iron Fist, 1982)
The very first Motörhead song that I ever heard played live, and my eardrums still haven’t quite healed. When Lemmy said that, at this point, Motörhead were probably doing more speed than anybody else, he wasn’t kidding. This track’s faster and more furious than a rabid Sonic the Hedgehog. Brilliant album and show opener.
One Short Life (Motörizer, 2008)
Remember way back when, about 3 paragraphs ago when I said the Motörizer was a bluesy record, well no track sums that up better than “One Short Life.” It’s rougher than a badger’s arse, it’s more of a cowboy anthem than “Home on the Range”, and it’s bluer than Eiffel 65. If you listen to this song and don’t feel like a badass, then you’re just wrong…period. The lyrics speak for themselves “I live without dishonour, I won’t have to die ashamed.”
Deaf Forever (Orgasmatron, 1986)
This title basically refers to anyone and everyone that’s been to a Motörhead gig. You leave with ringing ears or no ears at all. That and it comes from an album that I’m pretty sure every 80s man wanted as a nickname
In The Year of the Wolf (Inferno, 2004)
There are some that view Motörhead as a heavy metal band, and this song is probably why. It’s heavier than putting distortion on in a tragic romance film, and Lemmy’s resounding snarl has never been more appropriate (hint, he’s singing about wolves).
One Night Stand (Kiss of Death, 2006)
Not many men refer to themselves as “sluts.” Well, Lemmy not only calls himself one, he threw it right into the chorus of his song. An anthem for a man who is said to have laid with 1000 women, I’ve a feeling Lemmy wrote this one in about 10 mins. The opening line is “One lucky devil, that’s me,” and that coming from a guy who probably lived more in 5 minutes than I have in 5 days. That and the song’s pretty badass
In The Name of Tragedy (Inferno, 2004)
Possibly my personal favourite Motörhead track, as it acts as the most accurate summary of the band. It’s the epitome of that unholy combination of bluesy-rock and punk infused heavy metal (yup…that’s about 4 genres right there…also I’m not sure if you can have an “epitome of an unholy combination” but there you go). “In The Name of Tragedy” is were Lemmy’s rhythm guitar infused bass tone really shines, allowing axeman Phil Campbell to solo away to his heart’s content. No other man can make the line “pity, you still think like a monkey” sound badass.
Well, there we go. I’ve done my best to pay tribute to a man who was such a key part of rock for the better part of 50 years. Wether it was psychedelically freaking people out with Hawkwind, or defining the very basis of a genre with Motörhead, it cannot be denied that Lemmy’s influence on music will be long-lasting. We could all learn from a man who took life as it came, and not only did he knock it in the face, he flipped it the bird while doing it. As Ozzy Osbourne said about him:
He’s Lemmy, either you take him or you leave him, and he don’t give a flying shit whether you do or not!” – Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy (2010)
I would say “Rest in Peace”, but the reality is, wherever Lemmy is now, it probably stopped being peaceful about 5 minutes after he arrived. Thanks for all the awesome music Lemmy. Rest in Power!