I’ve deliberately avoided writing an obituary-style piece on Lemmy. There are many of those out there, better and more insightful than anything I might have contributed. Suffice to say I am a huge fan of Motörhead. As a musician, they’ve long been a massive influence (I’ll Be Your Sister was a regular part of my solo blues set for a fair few years and the Dog Moon Howl track Punching Walls was intended as a cheeky wee Motörhead nod). I was looking forward immensely to seeing them in Glasgow this month. Sadly it wasn’t to be. Lemmy’s death took the wind out of my sails somewhat, half expected and yet utterly inconceivable – the unstoppable force that stopped.
I’ve been trawling through the albums and various live videos and the likes and in the end the best way I could think of to remember Lemmy was to listen to No Sleep ’til Hammersmith with a Jack Daniel’s or two. So I did …
Jesus, what a band Motörhead were. Proof? Not only did they have Ace of Spades in their arsenal but they could open with it – a great version at that – and not have the gig go downhill from there. The many highlights here include: Stay Clean, with its awesome bass solo, those great slightly-psych leads from Eddie Clark on Iron Horse and then there’s No Class with its riff lifted from ZZ Top’s Tush, improving on perfection. Overkill, the template for the entire thrash scene and still the best. Furious. Phil Taylor’s drumming. Oof. On We Are the Road Crew, Lemmy’s lyrical skills and knack for looking at things from an unexpected perspective bring us a “rock’n’roll excess” song but from a roadie’s vantage point (“Another bloody customs post/Another fucking foreign coast/Another set of scars to boast/We are the road crew”). Capricorn is a heavy slab of moody psych-rock. A real favourite of mine, betraying Lemmy’s Hawkwind roots (and, as per his introduction, his idea of a “slow one”!). His war/militaria obsession comes to the fore in Bomber, as classic as it gets with this version giving the original studio cut a run for its money. Motörhead, the song, finishes things on a high.
No Sleep ’til Hammersmith is one of a clutch of live albums from the ’70s and early ’80s which were arguably their respective artists’ definitive statements. Certainly, it stands with Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous and UFO’s Strangers in the Night among the greatest of live rock recordings. It might be perfect.
I always knew – the only way
Is never live – beyond today
They proved me right – they proved me wrong
But they could never last this long
My life – my heart
Black night – dark star