Motörhead Biography

In 1975, Lemmy (Ian Fraser Kilmister, 24 December 1945, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England; vocals/bass) was sacked from Hawkwind after being detained for five days at Canadian customs on possession charges. The last song he wrote for them was entitled ‘Motörhead’, and, after ditching an earlier suggestion, Bastard, this became the name of the band he formed with Larry Wallis of the Pink Fairies on guitar and Lucas Fox on drums. Together they made their debut supporting Greenslade at the Roundhouse, London, on 20 July 1975. A projected album for United Artists Records was shelved, although the sessions were eventually released on 1979’s On Parole. Fox left during these sessions to join Warsaw Pakt, and was replaced by ‘Philthy Animal’ Phil Taylor (b. 21 September 1954, Chesterfield, England; drums), a casual friend of Lemmy’s with no previous professional musical experience. Motörhead was a four-piece band for less than a month, with Taylor’s friend Eddie Clarke aka ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke (b. 5 October 1950, Twickenham, London, England) of Continuous Performance as second guitarist, until Wallis returned to the Pink Fairies.

The Lemmy/Taylor/Clarke combination lasted six years until 1982, in which time they became one of the most famous trios in heavy metal. With a following made up initially of Hells Angels (Lemmy had formerly lived with their president, Tramp, for whom he wrote the biker epic ‘Iron Horse’), the band made their official debut with the eponymous ‘Motörhead’/‘City Kids’. A similarly titled debut album charted, before the band moved over to Bronze Records. Overkill and Bomber (both 1979) firmly established the band’s modus operandi, a fearsome barrage of instruments topped off by Lemmy’s hoarse invocations. They toured the world regularly and enjoyed hits with ‘Ace Of Spades’ (one of the definitive heavy metal performances, it graced a 1980 album of the same name that saw the band at the peak of their popularity) and the Top 5 EP St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (as Headgirl or Motörheadgirlschool). Their reputation as the best live band of their generation was further enhanced by the release of No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith, which entered the UK charts at number 1 in 1981.

In May 1982 Clarke left, citing musical differences, and was replaced by Brian Robertson (b. 12 February 1956, Clarkston, Scotland), who had previously played with Thin Lizzy and Wild Horses. This combination released 1983’s Another Perfect Day, but this proved to be easily the least popular of all Motörhead line-ups. Robertson was replaced in November 1983 by Würzel (b. Michael Burston, 23 October 1949, Cheltenham, England; guitar) - so-called on account of his scarecrow-like hair - and Philip Campbell (b. 7 May 1961, Pontypridd, Wales; guitar, ex-Persian Risk), thereby swelling the Motörhead ranks to four. Two months later and, after a final appearance on UK television’s The Young Ones, Taylor left to join Robertson in Operator, and was replaced by ex-Saxon drummer Pete Gill (b. Peter Gill, 9 June 1951, England). Gill remained with the band until 1987 and played on several fine albums including their GWR debut Orgasmatron (1986), the title track of which saw Lemmy’s lyric-writing surpass itself.

By 1987 Phil Taylor had rejoined Motörhead, and the line-up remained unchanged for five years, during which time Lemmy made his acting debut in the Comic Strip film Eat The Rich, followed by other celluloid appearances including the role of a taxi driver in Hardware. In 1991, the band signed to the Epic Records subsidiary WTG, releasing the acclaimed 1916. The following year’s March Ör Die featured Tommy Aldridge (b. 15 August 1950, Pearl, Mississippi, USA) and Mikkey Dee (b. Michael Delaouglou, 31 October 1963, Gothenburg, Sweden, ex-King Diamond) on drums after Taylor was fired after recording just one track, and guest appearances by Ozzy Osbourne and Slash (Guns N’Roses). The title track revealed a highly sensitive side to Lemmy’s lyrical and vocal scope in the way it dealt with the horrors of war. On a more traditional footing, the band performed the theme song to the horror movie Hellraiser 3, and convinced the film’s creator, Clive Barker, to record his first promotional video with the band. Lemmy also hammed his way through insurance adverts on UK television, taking great delight in his press image of the unreconstructed rocker.

Dee was subsequently hired as the band’s full-time drummer, making his live debut in August 1992. Another change of record label followed, with ZYX releasing the following year’s Bastards, but the union proved short-lived. Wurzel left Motörhead in 1996 to form his own band, Wvkeaf. The line-up of Lemmy, Campbell and Dee continued to release albums on a regular basis for the CMC and SPV labels into the new millennium, showing no signs of slowing down. They received their first Grammy in 2005, winning the Best Metal Performance award for their cover version of Metallica’s ‘Whiplash’ from the Metallic Attack: The Ultimate Tribute Album. The idiosyncratic Lemmy singing style, usually half-growl, half-shout, and with his neck craned up at 45 degrees to the microphone, remains in place.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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