By Öliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)
And on the 20th day… of the er, 7th month… of the nineteen thousand and seventy fifth year, God created Motörhead. God saw what he had created, and it was fucking loud. Louder than the big bang, which was 120 decibels, which created everything, and Motörhead’s mantra was “Everything Louder than Everything Else”, so it’s cool AND factual, the best kind of cool.
For 42 years now, stages, speakers and spleens have been ruptured to the growling thunder of Motörhead, with that guy Lemmy leading the charge. Despite him no longer strutting this earth, his presence is still felt, missed and celebrated, with July 20th marking the second official Motörhead day, a day of heavy riffs and steady boozing, just the way he’d want it. So in celebration of this Christmas of sorts, should we have a look at the 10 best Motörhead albums, as ranked by me?
10 – Inferno – 2004
“Well we come up from the gutter, the wrong side of the tracks”
Kicking off with a bold opinion, had this album been released around the Motörheydays of the early 1980s, it’d be widely regarded as one of their finest albums. That’s my bold opinion and I will scream free speech over this until I’m put in the cold hard ground, it’s a fine piece of work and rightly deserves its place in tenth position.
One of the highlights of this album is one of the most surprising numbers that Motörhead have ever brought out with the easy ridin’ acoustic jam Whorehouse Blues, featuring a lil’ mouth harp blues from Lemmy (a solo he could still get note perfect in late 2015, just a few weeks before his death). Songs like Killers, Terminal Show, Fight, In the Black and In the Name of Tragedy are absolute quality and have a larger, wider feel to them than most classic Motörhead tracks, which doesn’t mean much, except that the steam train that hits you is larger… and wider, something that is indicative of the era where Cameron Webb produced their records. It was still Motörhead, it just felt… bigger, which could be said for all the albums from Inferno onwards. They just pumped out great, enjoyable albums, nothing that’ll be as good as the classics, but I’d argue that between 2004 – 2015, there wasn’t a bad Motörhead album.
If there’s one Motörhead album that’s a little unloved, I’d argue that it’s this. The tightness of the Kilmister-Campbell-Dee express holds this album together, with the rhythm and blues section holding the ship steady as Campbell went off on one of his shredxpeditions.
Whilst 10th position will forever be up for grabs, with many great albums snapping and clawing their way into the top 10, the prize goes to Inferno. However, as a post-script in this section, it was a straight fight between this and Bomber, but Inferno was the first Motörhead album that I’d ever been fully exposed to, so it slides in on sentimental grounds.
9 – Motörhead – 1977
“Fourth day, five day marathon, we’re moving like a parallelogram”
Where it all began! Well actually, the beginning was On Parole, which was recorded in 1976, but only released when Overkill and Bomber established Motörhead as a serious proposition. Motörhead and record companies, a dangerous mix.
Purely based on the fact that Lemmy got to use to word ‘parallelogram’ in a song and make it rhyme, Motörhead, by Motörhead, off the album Motörhead should be regarded as one of the finest albums and songs ever.
A mishmash of originals, Hawkwind songs written by Lemmy, Pink Faries songs borrowed from former guitarist Larry Wallis, Motörhead isn’t the best album they’ve released, but it’s the blueprint and the genesis of everything that would follow, and part of the primordial ooze that’s still in the DNA of any slightly heavy song that’s recorded today. This album also proved a savvy business decision, as including the song Vibrator no doubt helped launch the range of Motörhead branded vibrators, available from all good toy stores. Fucking Vibrator though. No doubt Lost Johnny has some implication around a lost prophylactic as well. You can never fault that band’s sense of humour. But that’s what it’s about, Vibrator, White Line Fever and Motörhead, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
Whilst all interests in the band would later complain about the sound, there’s only so much you can achieve in a mobile studio when you’re buzzing off your tits on speed and finish the album in a weekend, but this album has the feel of a live album, something that Motörhead did so well in all incarnation and lineups. The sound is a bit jagged, a bit dirty, but it’s the kind of dirty that you find yourself thinking about at the most inappropriate times, which is always a good thing.
This is such an enjoyable album though, it’s got the razor blades and sledgehammer approach that’s synonymous with Motörhead’s live sound, but it’s got the smooth crusin’ blues influences that caused Lemmy to pick up a guitar in the first place. This was Genesis, but the drummer’s much better…
8 – We Are Motorhead – 2000
“And I will plead no contest, if loving you’s a crime, so go on and find me guilty, just one more fucking time”
What, when you’re known worldwide, have had many acclaimed albums and are 25 years into your life as a band do you name your next album? We Are Motörhead of course, making sure you properly introduce yourself to the six people on this earth who’ve never heard of fucking Motörhead, and what an introduction! As soon as the trademark Mikey Dee machine gun drum beat kicks in at the start of See Me Burning, you just know you’re strapped in for a ride.
One of the deeper cuts off the album is possibly one of the best. (Wearing Your) Heart on Your Sleeve is a raughty rattler of a rippin’ record that could wake the dead, and one of the best songs released by Motörhead in the 21st century. However, no matter how raughty and rippin’ that song is, it doesn’t have a patch on the slow moving, thunderous One More Fucking Time, perhaps made more meaningful after Lemmy’s departure, but it’s a deep, moving track, again showing the sonic flexibility of the sledgehammer attack.
This album is just the classic speed-infused rock ‘n roll attack that quite literally says We Are Motörhead, with Stagefright/Crash and Burn moving at a hundred miles and hour, with tracks like Slow Dance and Wake the Dead providing that blues-coated-in-razor-blades sound that makes this band so unique, and so fucking enjoyable.
Despite having a catalogue of originals, Lemmy and the boys just couldn’t resist a cover over the years, with a monstrous cover of Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen, done louder, done harder, done with more distaste for the monarchy. Fucking lovely stuff, that. Titular track We Are Motörhead is probably one of their best later-era songs, and whilst obviously self-indulgent, it’s not wrong, they are Motörhead, come to kick your ass, they don’t have No Class, they were the first, and they still might just be the last. Will we ever have another Motörhead? A band with charisma, humour, and a sledgehammer approach? Not until Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee return my calls.
7 – 1916 – 1990
“I make love to mountain lions, sleep on red hot branding irons!”
Stylistically, this is probably one of the deepest and most complex Motörhead albums, but the departure from full-frontal rock ‘n’ fuckin’ roll pays huge dividends in 1990’s 1916, earning the band a Grammy nomination, losing to Metallica, who had a similar sonic departure with their eponymous album. The students had become the masters, but they’d be nothing without Motörhead.
Tracks like Love Me Forever and Angel City don’t adhere to the Motörhead style guide, but they work so, so well. Does a saxophone belong on a Motörhead record? Debatable, but it feels right at home on Angel City. Claves and tambourines are not welcome on Motörhead records, as producer Ed Stasium found out when he slyly added them to a mix of Going to Brazil, and was promptly fired for it. Stasium then went on to state that Lemmy’s drug and alcohol intake had far exceeded his patience, so he quit. As if he was unaware that Lemmy was a man who enjoyed a snifter of whiskey and a cheeky sniffle of speed. Try again, Ed.
Nightmare/The Dreamtime is another sonic departure, that’s just creepy as shit, but again, it works. It’s not your set menu Motörhead, but you’re dining a la carte, and it’s delicious. Titular track 1916 could well be presented as one of the finest tracks Motörhead have ever produced. A dark and sombre ballad, inspired of the Battle of the Somme, Lemmy’s vocals and the use of a cello for the solo is beautiful, inspired and poignant.
But were you still being repeatedly hit by a truck on 1916? Of course you were, this is Motörhead, with the rockin’ and rollin’ Going to Brazil still remaining a fan favourite, and was a setlist regular until the very end. R.A.M.O.N.E.S, Shut You Down and The One to Sing the Blues repeatedly punching you in the face, with I’m so Bad (Baby I Don’t Care) containing one of the finest, daftest lyrics ever seen in the history of music.
6 – Sacrifice – 1995
“The pain is on you now, do not consider flight for gain, in you the poison breeds, crawling with the mark of Cain”
Unless you’re REALLY into your Motörhead, it could have taken you forever to guess that they released an album in 1995 called Sacrifice, but this was in a pretty shitty period for the band; March or Die had refused to march and er… died in a slump, and whilst Bastards was arguably one of their finest hours (oh, we’ll get to that), you could barely find it outside of Germany, leaving Sacrifice to be forgotten under a pile of old Radio Times issues in the garage, shame really, because it should be put on the mantle and shown to guests, Lemmy regards it as one of his favourite Motörhead albums, and he’s had a few.
This album goes a notch above the heavy sledgehammer attack from the Motörhead blueprint, pinning the listener down and shoving nails in their ears whilst dropping bricks on your head. The brawlin’ riffage on this album are some of the best riffs you’ve never heard, the ringleader in this being Over Your Shoulder, which comes up behind you and breaks your shoulder. Sex and Death, All Gone to Hell, Order/Fade to Black and the titular Sacrifice are the sonic equivalent of a multi-vehicle pileup on the M6. No survivors, just carnage. There’s even a song about you, Dog-Face Boy. The song In Another Time is also quite apt, because in another time when Motörhead, this album would ascend from the heavens, being worshipped by all. But instead, it gets the title of hidden gem.
5 – Ace of Spades – 1980
“There ain’t no way, you’ll see another day, I’m shooting out your lights, bring you eternal night”
Oh yeah! Motörhead! Ace of Spades! Is a conversation any ‘Head head will have to endure many times. So much as mention your affection for this band, and you will have to converse with someone about Ace of Spades. Trick is to say you’ve never heard it. But outside of the title track, which is the most well known track for an exceedingly good reason, there are some absolute fucking rippers on this album!
Believe it or not, this album is a more mature offering, compared to predecessors Overkill and Bomber. Working with produced Vic Maile, who, Lemmy’s words; “[Vic] was great. He was the first one who told us we were all cunts and work harder.” And clearly, being told you’re all cunts and to work harder pays off, as a more solid, much more tighter Motörhead appeared on this album.
Commercially, this was one of Motörhead’s biggest hits, and it’s not hard to see why. Choice cuts like Shoot You in the Back, The Hammer, The Chase is Better Than the Catch, Fast and Loose, Bite the Bullet and (We Are) The Roadcrew are definitive classics. Are there better and more preferred Motörhead albums out there? Yes, we’re only at number six, but if my yet-to-be-concieved child asked what music daddy listens to, they would have this pumped into their ears until they wanted a Rickenbacker for Christmas. It’s the defining Motörhead album, and apparently one of the best metal albums ever. Except they’re not a metal band, they’re a rock and roll band. So either everyone who’s said that is an idiot, or it’s so good it’s permeated into other genres. The good times never really ended for Motörhead as the party never stopped, but this album, coupled with the rip-roaring No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith may well have been as good as it would ever get. But I doubt anyone in the band would care, as in the words of ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke;
“We weren’t trying to get a message across, apart from have a good time, you know: get pissed, get stoned, and fuck a chick. And that’ll do…”
Hm, yes, quite.
4 – Another Perfect Day – 1983
“Rock and roll’ll save your soul, and I got it, give it to me loud and free, don’t knock it”
Everyone hated this album when it came out, but as they say, time’s a healer, and 34 years later, it’s regarded as one of the most unique, but one of the best Motörhead albums of all time. Featuring the one and only Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy one his one and only Motörhead album, ‘Robbo’ certainly improved on ‘Fast’ Eddie’s handiwork, with the solo on side one, track one, Back at the Funny Farm instantly shredding through your skin. Good as he was though, Robbo just wasn’t Motörhead, with the recording of this album and subsequent live performances being a smidge more than frustrating. Hell of an album, mind.
Aged to perfection, songs like Shine, I Got Mine, Rock It and Dancing On Your Grave popping up in setlists until the last days of the band, so whilst the birth may have been painful and frustrating, with fans recoiling at this ugly child, it grew into a beautiful swan of an album, which is why it’s at number four, obviously. Turkeys like March or Die still have to wait for someone to love them. I Ain’t No Nice Guy was a belter, mind. And Hellraiser, which Lem wrote for Ozzy, plus Mama I’m Comin’ Home in the space of a day. Hell of a wordsmith, that man.
Oh, right, yeah.
Despite the fact that many people try to deride Motörhead by saying “buhhh all their songs sound the same”, it’s fair to say they have a musical blueprint, but songs like Another Perfect Day and Turn You Round Again sound nothing like I Got Mine or Die You Bastard. Sure it’d take Robbo some seventeen hours to do one guitar track, but when you end up with an album that sounds as diverse and dirty as this, fuck man! Spend thirty four hours on your guitar tracks. Sure there’s the dirty bass track and the growling vocals, but past that, any sonic elements of a Motörhead album are up for the toss.
Another Perfect Day was Another Perfect Album from the ever changing Motörhead lineup, but nobody knew that back then.
3 – Bastards – 1993
“Alone and dying, I’m a thousand miles from home, I know I never was so broken and alone, I searched the sky for God, shivered to the bone, drowned in sorrow, lost in the ozone”
March or Die, as we covered earlier on, was a total flop. Failing to follow on from 1916, March or Die had three drummers, nearly threw Motörhead’s
legacy in the bin and failed to score a hit with Ozzy and Slash because Sony were using WTG as a tax loss. Bastards, the lot of them.
Going back to the bulletproof blueprint for their next album, Lemmy, Phil, Wurzel and new boy Mikkey were going to do this album, hard, fast, and filthy. The result? Bastards, which is probably the best Motörhead album you’ve never even heard of. Their record label at the time failed to promote it outside of Germany, charting only there, Sweden and Japan, despite being one of the band’s crowning glories.
This album was very much a ‘back to basics’ album and as Born to Raise Hell correctly states, “we know how to do it and we do it real well”. The band loved this album, the fans loved this album, and any critics that were able to find this album loved it. It really is an inch perfect album with so much depth, with songs such as Lost in the Ozone and the harrowing Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me providing a dark aura to the album. Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me is probably one of the deepest, most powerful and darkest songs that Motörhead have ever done, but expertly executed, covering the horror of child abuse. It was offered to Joan Jett and Lita Ford, who understandably, turned it down. But do, give it a listen. It’s harrowing but moving.
But there’s movin’ groovin’ numbers on this album, with the honky-tonk piano and the bluesy feel to Bad Woman is incredible, heavy, stomping numbers like Liar and I Am the Sword frogmarching you through the album, with We Bring the Shake containing some of the finest lyrics you’ll ever get from Lemmy‘s pen. The only word for I’m Your Man is struttin’.
Standout track of this album though? Burner. It’s like someone took a classic Motörhead riff and stuck it on the record player at 77rpm. It quite literally burns a hole in your eardrums, causing you to burst into flames, knowing that you’ll never hear a song that filthy again.
If there’s one Motörhead album you need to listen to – it’s this. It’s perfection, it’s aggresive, it’s fantastic. But… it’s not the best.
2 – Orgasmatron – 1986
“And so the ballet starts again, exit stage left through the door, and we begin the horizontal dance, and he begins to know just what the claw is for”
I’ve got this album on vinyl, fucking SIGNED by Phil Campbell. Bought it off a lovely lady named Cath. Probably a bigger Motörhead fan than me, but she’s not writing for Blinkclyro. Lovely, lovely woman though.
The production values on this album were frowned at by the band, but I struggle to see what they say, it’s a roaring album, laced with entendre, riffs, and someone has a copy signed by Phil Campbell. The production and sound of this album only make it that little bit more special, as it adds yet another unique edge to Motörhead‘s sound. Tracks like Nothing Up My Sleeve, Ain’t My Crime and Claw are laced with double entendres, and flow with the heavy force of a thousand monstrous trains. Fun fact regarding the cover; Lemmy was living in a houseboat and collection model trains because fuck you, I’m Lemmy, and said to long-standing cover artist Joe Petango “Joseph, I want a fucking train”, as the album was originally meant to be called Ridin’ With the Driver, a track that can also be found on this album. A fucking train was given to Lemmy, and a fucking great album cover was the result of said fucking train.
This is another album that’s only gotten better with age, as despite the fact it was disliked by the band when compared to their earlier works, with the production values decried, it sounds fantastic, with the apolitcal, atheist themes in Orgasmatron’s title track being one of the highlights of this album. Built for Speed is yet another reference to the big man’s preferred nasal decongestant of choice, and is just as enjoyable. Probably. Whilst Orgasmatron sat on the shelf of unloved albums with Another Perfect Day, they were slowly brought into the hearts of Motörhead fans, turning them from rejected records to adored albums, which is why they rank so highly. But none rank more highly than…
1 – Overkill – 1979
“Know your body’s made to move, feel it in your guts, rock ‘n’ roll ain’t worth the name, if it don’t make you strut”
This is it. This is the number one Motörhead album. From start to finish, front to back, arse to elbow, this is the definitive Motörhead record. Whilst I was far from alive in 1979, I can only imagine what hearing that double bass drum fire up for the first time was like. Hell, if it wasn’t for Philthy’s double bass antics, Lars Ulrich would have been a mediocre tennis player, and we may never have had Metallica. Can you imagine? Wimbledon instead of Whiplash.
Motörhead had laid down the blueprints for the next 40 years, but Overkill built the foundation on which a mighty kingdom would stand, and would go on to inspire some of the world’s biggest rock and metal bands. From the first bar of Overkill to the last note of Limb from Limb, this is rock ‘n’ roll at high speeds. No Class sounds awfully like Tush by ZZ Top, unsurprising considering Lemmy is a fan, but this sound could only be considered an imitation, only if Tush had been weaponised and had a nuclear warhead slapped on it.
Songs like Stay Clean, Metropolis and Damage Case were setlist mainstays, especially the former, which never seemed to disappear out the set, and the big man could still nail the trouser-stretching solo until his last concert. This was the first full-blown fire and brimstone offering from Motörhead and to this day, it’s still one of the best. Maybe it’s because it was the first right hook, or maybe it’s because it was fuelled by passion, anger and of course, speed. It was raw, dirty and unapologetic, something that didn’t change over the course of 40 years, but it was the first time Motörhead stood on your toes and looked you in the eyes whilst grinning.
It’s another album where the sound feels gritty, as if it was recorded on stage and put into stores the following day. The way the bass cuts through on Tear Ya Down sounds as if Lemmy stuck his Marshalls in your living room and went ham at you. The stomping drums of Capricorn, the throat It was the grit and the guts that gave Motörhead the glory, and albums like Overkill are as gritty as a mouthful of sand.
Is it a sound-perfect, tone-polished album? No. It’s like having razor blades pushed into your ear whilst three reprobates kick you to death, but that’s why it’s a belter. It’s uncouth, it’s rude, it’s spilt your pint, but it’s a fucking riot. It grabs you by the hand and throws you over the bar. And that, kids, is why it’s the best Motörhead album ever.
But let’s be real, all Motörhead albums range in ratings from either ‘Great’ to ‘Fucking Great’.