Kings of speed
From page 81 of Classic Rock Magazine October 2003
Definitely not the first, but certainly the best boxed set collection yet from Ian Kilmister’s perpetually over-cranked rock’n’roll institution. Fast, ferocious and eternally influential, Mot6rhead unsleeve their aces in timeless style.
‘Stone Deaf Forever!
THERE’S A SCENE IN FRANC RODDMAN’S 1979 film Quadrophenia, a recreation of the 1964 Bank Holiday battle on Brighton beach between the mods and the rockers, where we see a leather- clad biker laying into a cowering lad who’s wearing a parka. Emblazoned on the back of the mod’s parka is the logo of The Jam; on the back of the rocker’s leather jacket is the snarling monster from the cover of Mot6rhead’s self-titled 1977 debut album. Although it’s one of many such temporal anomalies in the film, it’s a very telling illustration of the great divide in British rock’n’roll, a divide that’s still here to this day – like a cultural iron curtain.
Paul Weller has, in a sense, led us to a dead end of insular, backwards-looking bands (Oasis, Travis, Stereophonics et al), while Mot6rhead have helped to spawn almost every subgenre of metal – from black metal to stoner rock.
Mot6rhead link the greasy British rocker scene of the late 50s with the Notting Hill Gate yippie underground in the late 60s, the ‘silver age’ of heavy metal in the late 70s and early 80s, and the current resurgence of proper long hair-an’- leather biker rock.
It’s almost always folly to issue a major retrospective on a band who are still working, who haven’t quite settled into that God’s departure lounge of ‘the heritage circuit’ – Mot6rhead are still as loud and ugly as they ever were. But in the wake of Lemmy’s autobiography White Line Fever, a really decent musical look back at the past three decades of Mot6rhead is arguably long overdue. And this exhaustive, five- CD boxed set collates most of what you’d ever want from the band, from the rather unpromising eponymous 1975 Hawkwind B-side right up to tracks from last year’s ‘Everything Louder’, with all manner of rarities, unreleased tracks and alternative versions littered across all the discs.
Mot6rhead did not have a promising birth.
Always considered a bit of a liability, despite having written their best songs, Lemmy was sacked from underground stalwarts Hawkwind after being nicked in Canada for pursuing his lifelong interest in chemistry. He then teamed up with long-time associate, ex-Pink Fairies guitarist Larry Wallis, and drummer Lucas Fox to form an outfit that was originally intended to delight in the name Bastard. The bullet-belted leviathan was ultimately talked out of this by a relatively astute manager who pointed out that not only would the band never get on Top Of The Pops or be played on the radio, they’d also have trouble advertising gigs and even releasing records.
Seeing sense, Lemmy renamed the band after the American street slang term for a chronic amphetamine abuser.
The fruits of the Lemmy/Wallis era (which lasted a matter of months) can be found on the speed-debilitated ‘Leavin’ Here’ and ‘White Line Fever’, recorded for Stiff but not actually released until after the band’s debut album.
Early Mot6rhead were dreadful, but eventually the classic power trio line-up of Lemmy, ‘Philthy Animal’ Phil Taylor and ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke gelled into the band we know and presumably love. As well as tracks from the 1977 debut – including the definitive version of ‘Mot6rhead’ and ‘City Kids’, a Pink Fairies legacy from Larry Wallis – there is an excellent John Peel show session from 1978 that catches them at their abrasive best, particularly their cover of ‘Louie Louie’.
Apart from the outlaw biker style, Mot6rhead were virtually indistinguishable from punks such as the Sex Pistols and The Damned, and continued to command the punks’ respect even after the battle lines between the new wave and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal were drawn.
Although Mot6rhead appealed to the metal counter-revolutionaries, they were never just a heavy metal band in the strict sense. It’s a small and maybe insignificant difference, but they were and are a really, really loud rock’n’roll band, with as much in common with great British rockers such as Johnny Kidd And The Pirates (exhibit A being the killer version of their ‘Please Don’t Touch’, from ‘Ace Of Spades’, included here) as with contemporaries such as Iron Maiden.
If there’s a criticism to be made of ‘Stone Deaf Forever!’ it’s that the compilers have stuck too rigidly to a chronological format, when it would probably have made more sense to plunder the rarities cupboard for more from the band’s classic years – roughly from 1979’s ‘Overkill’ to ’83’s ‘Another Perfect Day’ – at the expense of later album tracks.
But this is a small quibble. There are some great treasures here, such as the 1986 BBC session version of ‘Killed By Death’, and ‘Black Leather Jacket’ from a Channel 4 TV slot. Best of all is the fifth disc of live tracks, which includes BBC In Concert recordings; a mere two tracks from ‘No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith’; a Greek single called ‘Acropolis’ (a version of ‘Metropolis’); and a bootleg romp through ‘Silver Machine’ recorded live during a reunion with Hawkwind in 2002.
IN A NUTSHELL Hell-for-leather, rarity-laced rock’n’roll nirvana with everything louder than everything else.