25 Fascinating Facts About Motörhead
Born to Lose, Out to Lunch!
On January 10, 2018, British rock guitarist Edward "Fast Eddie" Clarke, best known for playing in Motörhead and Fastway, died at the age of 67. He was the last member of the "classic" Motörhead lineup to pass away, following the deaths of drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor in November of 2015 and iconic bassist/vocalist Lemmy Kilmister in December of the same year.
Between 1977 and '82 this trio released five classic, bombastic, skull-crushingly loud studio albums: Motörhead, Overkill, Bomber, Ace of Spades, and Iron Fist. They also released one legendary live disc, No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith, which forever blurred the lines between old time rock 'n roll, heavy metal, and punk rock.
Many band members came and went throughout Motörhead's long and mostly-proud history. Lemmy was the only constant, but Clarke's death marked the closing of a major chapter in hard rock history. As a way to honor the memories of Lemmy, Fast Eddie, and Philthy, here are 25 fascinating facts about Britain's all-time loudest band!
1. The band's name came from a song Lemmy wrote while he was a member of the progressive rock band Hawkwind. "Motorhead" is a slang term for a "speed freak," or amphetamine user. Lemmy also considered calling the band "Bastard," but was told that they'd never get played on the BBC's "Top of the Pops" with that name.
2. One of Motörhead's earliest press releases boasted that the band's music was so loud that, if they moved in next door to you, "your lawn will die."
3. Lemmy, Fast Eddie, and Philthy are considered the "classic" Motörhead lineup, but they are not the original lineup. Lemmy recorded the first Motörhead album in 1976 with drummer Lucas Fox and guitarist Larry Wallis, but United Artists Records deemed the recordings "unusable" and shelved them. Three years later, when the band's star was on the rise in England, the label cashed in by belatedly releasing the disc as On Parole.
4. Motörhead's catalog consists of 22 studio albums (23 if you count On Parole, which is not considered "official" by some sources), 13 live albums, and dozens of compilation albums, singles, EP's, and videos.
5. The original 2-LP release of 1982's "Greatest Hits" set No Remorse was packaged in a cover made from real leather.
6. The fanged, toothy beast that adorns the majority of Motörhead's album covers and merchandise is known affectionately by fans as "Snaggletooth," though artist Joe Petagno (who created the critter) also calls it the "War-Pig" or "The Little Bastard."
7. Lemmy's full name was Ian Fraser Kilmister. His nickname "Lemmy" came from his youthful addiction to slot machines, because he was always asking friends "Can you lemmy (lend me) a quid?"
8. Drummer Mikkey Dee officially joined Motörhead in 1993, though he actually played on one song on the prior year's March or Die album. Before Motörhead, Mikkey had played for King Diamond and in Don Dokken's solo band.
9. Lemmy helped write four songs on Ozzy Osbourne's mega-selling No More Tears album (1991). He later said that he made more money off the royalties from those four songs than he ever did from Motörhead .
10. A Motörhead song appears on the soundtrack to The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004). "You Better Swim" is a re-worked version of the 1992 song "You Better Run."
11. Lemmy was a big fan of the Ramones and wrote a song about them on the 1916 album ("R.A.M.O.N.E.S."). The Ramones later recorded their own version of the track, and Lemmy joined them onstage at their final concert in 1996 to perform it with them.
12. At Lemmy's 50th birthday party in 1995, the members of Metallica made a surprise appearance as a tribute band called "The Lemmys," dressed up in wigs and sunglasses and playing a set of Motörhead covers. Live recordings from that gig were released on Metallica's Garage Inc. album in 1998.
13. Comedian Michael Palin of Monty Python fame made a guest appearance on 1987's Rock & Roll album, offering a "blessing" upon the band members. He asks the Lord to "increase four-fold their already large sums of loot," which would allow them to own "one other pair of trousers each" in their lifetimes.
14. Motörhead was nominated for several Grammy awards during their career, but their only win was in 2005 for a cover of Metallica's "Whiplash." Lemmy later called the award a "mercy f**k" from the Grammy academy, and said that the win would've meant more to him if it had been for one of Motorhead's original songs.
15. The band's music video for "Killed By Death" was banned by MTV in 1984 for "excessive violence." In the clip, Lemmy crashes through the wall of his girlfriend's house on a motorcycle, flips off her parents, gets shot by police after a high speed chase and executed in the electric chair. Later he roars back out of his own grave on the bike!
16. Over the years Motörhead has covered songs by the Rolling Stones, Twisted Sister, Metallica, Ted Nugent, David Bowie, and many others. Most of these tracks were compiled on the 2017 posthumous release Under Covers.
16. During his down time from Motörhead , Lemmy was a member of Head Cat, a rockabilly group with Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom that performed songs by Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly.
17. Prior to joining Hawkwind, Lemmy played guitar for The Rockin' Vickers, who released several singles between 1964 and '66, including a cover of the Kinks' "Dandy."
18. In the late '70s, Lemmy was asked to teach then-new Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious how to play bass, but Lemmy gave up after only a few lessons, saying Sid was "hopeless."
19. Motörhead collaborated with female rockers several times. A "split EP" with British all-girl band Girlschool in 1981 was called The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. A 1982 single with Lemmy and Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics, covering the Tammy Wynette chestnut "Stand By Your Man" is widely considered to be one of the worst records ever made.
20. Motörhead's highest-charting album in the U.K. was the No Sleep 'til Hammersmith live disc, which hit #1 in 1981. Their highest charting studio album was the prior year's Ace of Spades, which made it to #4.
21. 1983's Another Perfect Day was the only Motörhead album to feature Brian "Robbo" Robertson, formerly of Thin Lizzy, on guitar. Lemmy would later describe the record as "very good," but said working with the temperamental Robertson was "f**king torture." Robertson was dismissed as soon as they were done touring for the album.
22. Lemmy is the only band member to appear on every Motörhead release. The band employed five guitarists and four drummers during their long career.
23. The final Motörhead lineup - Lemmy, guitarist Phil Campbell, and drummer Mikkey Dee - was also its most solid, lasting from 1996 to 2015. This trio recorded a total of ten studio albums together (Overnight Sensation through Bad Magic).
24. Motorhead's final live performance took place in Berlin on December 11, 2015. Lemmy passed away two weeks later, on December 28th.
25. Lemmy's funeral service was live-streamed on the official Motörhead YouTube channel and was viewed by more than 200,000 people. Members of rock royalty including Dave Grohl, Lars Ulrich of Metallica, and Rob Halford of Judas Priest gave tributes during the service.
"We are Motörhead... and we play rock 'n' roll!"
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© 2018 Keith Abt