Motörhead: No Sleep ’til Hammersmith (1981)

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
Capricorn

Tapes For My Walkman - No Sleep 'til Hammersmith

The original Bronze tape refused to play so a Castle reissue made do.

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6 thoughts on “Motörhead: No Sleep ’til Hammersmith (1981)

  1. I was always more aware and familiar with Lemmy than the music (other than Ace of Spades and a few other bits and bobs). However, I’ve been looking to get this one for a while on LP after getting into Motörhead a wee bit over the last couple of years (their two most recent albums are brilliant, huh?).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah those last two albums were great – Aftershock really does stand with their best. If you’re just dipping your toes you can’t go wrong with …Hammersmith or AoS/Bomber/Overkill from the classic lineup. Orgasmatron is their best of the ’80s (it’s a monster) and if you want to hear them going full-on metal, check out Inferno from ’95ish. Top stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A chap I work with suggested the AoS, Bomber, and Overkill albums. Reckon I’ll be listening and digging them soon enough. Then wondering why I never listened a bit more sooner …

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great choice, I really don’t like live LPs (most are of pretty dubious ‘liveness’ anyway) but this really is the exception for me. The track ‘Motörhead’ wins for me every time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Live albums are where it’s at for me much of the time, I’m afraid. Maybe because of my blues/roots/jazz sensibilities and despite my unabashed love for Live and Dangerous, I’d be inclined to dispute the notion that “most” aren’t really live. I suppose rock albums fall victim to more tinkering than most due to the physical/visual elements getting in the way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alright, substitute ‘some’ for ‘most’ and we can part friends! Judas Priest’s ‘Unleashed In the East’ is my favourite – talk about blatant, even the cover looks like it was faked in a studio!

        Liked by 1 person

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