Saturday, June 2, 2007


The first and only time I ever got vanity plates on my car was back in the early '90s, but friends and strangers alike often asked me why my plates said "motherhood".  Thus, I was forced to explain that 'MOTRHD' stood for a band that I was heavily into at that time, the mighty Motorhead.  I originally tried to get 'MTRHED', but it was already taken, and thanks to the state of Missouri, we could only have six digits on vanity plates (Kansas allows seven, the bastards!).  Anyway, it was my salute to one of the most legendary and hardest-hitting heavy metal bands of all-time.

I first got into Motorhead long about 1988, thanks to MTV (of all things), and their "Headbanger's Ball" that aired every Saturday night.  They always played at least one Motorhead video each week, and the first one that caught my ear was a live performance of "Mean Machine".  The album's title caught my eye too—Orgasmatron—so I picked it up not long after that and was instantly hooked.  This was the loudest, rawest, raunchiest and heaviest record I had ever heard, and I was immediately drawn to Motorhead's founder and leader Lemmy (born Ian Kilmister).  The guy has one of the worst singing voices in the world, but for some reason, he was able to make it work with the type of music he wrote and played.  Pretty soon, I was buying up everything else the band had done up to that point, and those tapes certainly made my 53-mile commute to and from the radio station in St. Joseph during the summer of '88 a lot more fun—I still have fond memories of those early Sunday mornings after working graveyard shift screaming through the sleepy little towns along Hiway 169 in my '87 T-Bird with Lemmy and the boys cranked up full blast!

For whatever reason, I was unaware in 1988 of Motorhead's already-legendary status as metal gods via 1980's "Ace Of Spades", which is a certifiable Rock classic, as well as other gems like "Iron Fist", "Bomber" and "The Chase Is Better Than The Catch", but I quickly learned on the fly, and it wasn't long before Lemmy (so-named for his penchant for begging friends for money—"lend me a fiver", etc.) had more or less replaced Ted Nugent as my crazy surrogate Rock 'N' Roll uncle/father figure.  The dude has chrisma, isn't as arrogant (or bigoted) as Nugent, and he has a wry sense of humor in his lyrics too.  In fact, that's what really sets Motorhead apart for me compared with similar heavy metal bands—their humor and how they don't take themselves all that seriously.  Take Metallica, for instance—I've never gotten into that band, even though their music is not unlike Motorhead's sonically, because the subject matter of their songs is usually too tedious and dead-dog serious all the time.  You don't get lines like "You got a body like a Marshall stack" (from "Dr. Rock") or "Don't run, baby--don't call a cop" (from "Damage Case"), or "As we dismember you, we shall remember you" (from "Traitor") on a Metallica record.  Fuck "One", "For Whom The Bell Tolls" and "Master of Puppets"—I'll take songs like "Jailbait", "Love Me Like A Reptile" and "Killed By Death" any day over Metallica's stuff...

Lemmy, who was once a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, put Motorhead together in 1977 after leaving the band Hawkwind (taking their name from the Hawkwind song "Motorhead") and the band was initially a three-piece with Lemmy on bass and vocals, Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor on drums and "Fast" Eddie Clarke on guitar.  Clarke left in 1982 to form the band Fastway (of "Say What You Will" fame), and was replaced by former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson for the rather disastrous 1983 LP Another Perfect Day.  Then Lemmy completely overhauled the band in 1984, making it a four-piece with new drummer Pete Gill (formerly of Saxon) and two new guitarists, Phil Campbell and Mick Burston, who went by the name "Wurzel".  "Little Philthy" returned for 1987's Rock 'N' Roll album, and left again for good in 1992 and was replaced by Mikkey Dee.  Wurzel left after 1993's Bastards CD, and Motorhead has been a three-piece ever since, with Campbell and Dee remaining to this day.  Take notes—you'll be tested on this later...

If there's such a thing as a musical power scale that resembles a car's speedometer, my own personal musical power range would have Air Supply at the 0 end, The Partridge Family at 5, The Carpenters at 10, ABBA at 20, The Go-Go's at 35, John Hiatt at 45, The Beatles at about 55, The Stones at 60, ZZ Top at 65, The Who at 75, Van Halen at 80, Kiss at 90, W.A.S.P. at 105 and Motorhead would peg out at 120! They are as loud and testosterony as I'm liable to get—anything faster or louder (like Pantera, Slayer, et al) is just noise to me.  I saw Motorhead live back in 1999 at Roadhouse Ruby's in Olathe, or "Almost-Kansas City", as Lemmy called us, and he offered some sage advice early on in the show:  "Don't dance to this—you'll fuck your legs up!" I was deaf for two days afterward, and I fucking loved it!

Now if we could just ascertain the answer to Brother Beavis' question about Lemmy: "How come he's got those two Cocoa Puffs stuck to his cheek?"...

My all-time Motorhead Top 10
1) "Dr. Rock" (1986)
2) "On Your Feet Or On Your Knees" (1993)
3) "Traitor" (1987)
4) "Deaf Forever" (1986)
5) "Love Me Like A Reptile" (1980)
6) "Killed By Death" (1984)
7) "Bomber" (1979)
8) "Going To Brazil" (1991)
9) "Born To Raise Hell" (1993)
10) "Damage Case" (1978)

1 comment:

Dan said...

Orgasmatron was the very first Motorhead album (cassette) I ever picked up...this was back in 1986...I was heavily into bands like Megadeth and Slayer back then, so I thought I would love this new Motorhead album.

I thought at least half of it was decent, the other half "trash."

"Dr. Rock?" Really?

To each his own.

A couple years later I bought "1916" which still to this day is my favorite Motorhead album.