Step Down, Eddie: A Tribute

by Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Apologies, apologies for those of you who were expecting a column last week. I know there’s probably one of you, two of you maybe. I’m probably just going to give up soon. Do you want an excuse? Sure. Sadness, and an inability to find the right words to justify this column in such a short space of time. However, one week has passed, and there’s an ability to now put into digital print just what the passing of “Fast” Eddie Clarke means to me, and the wider music community.

With Eddie‘s tragic passing at just the age of 67, this now means that the ‘classic’ Motorhead line up is no longer of this earth. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve dropped the edgy r/atheism side to my personality, I don’t really care what people believe as long as they’re good & righteous in their actions, and taken a wider view as to what happens to us when we die. Whilst I don’t know what happens when we die, I do hope, wherever the Three Amigos have ended up, there’s a bottomless bar, a stack of Marshalls and some er… ‘nasal decongestants’ to paraphrase Philthy Animal.

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But with his passing last Wednesday, the last connection to some of the most influential rock ‘n’ roll records in the world was finally closed, to an outpouring of love & sadness from the people who inspired him most. Despite the fact he hadn’t played with Motorhead since 1982, his lightning riffs & screaming solos laid the blueprint for some of the biggest bands in the world, including Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeth. Whilst Lemmy will forever be remembered as the beating heart & snarled face of MotorheadEddie should forever be remembered as the soul of Motorhead. “Fast” by name, “Fast” by nature, he contributed to the full-frontal speed based attack that made Overkill, Bomber Ace of Spades so good and why they’re still widely regarded as some of the band’s best works, despite all being on the cusp of 40 years old.

Which says it all, considering that he spent considerably more time out of Motorhead than in Motorhead, both he and Philthy Animal are still held in such high regard, not just because of their raw talent, but because as a trio, they were, and still are a formidable combination. 50% of early Motorhead was the music, the other 50% was because they looked & sounded like biker pirates from outer space, who’d steal your wallet, your girlfriend & your heart in the same one hour set. If someone wanted to dress up as a rockstar for the evening, you’d just need to show them a photo of late 70s Motorhead and be done with it. That was and still is rock ‘n’ roll. But there was no posing involved, that’s how they genuinely dressed, cool as ice as they played red-hot music.

However, it’s not like Eddie left Motorhead in 1982 and then just disappeared after falling out with the band over recording with The Plasmatics; or being pushed out of the band largely by Philthy, depending on which version of events you believe although no member was available for comment on this via ouija board. After leaving, he formed his own hard rock, heavy metal express Fastway. Was this just a way of keeping himself busy? Absolutely not. In the eighties alone, Fastway released five full-length studio albums, each bottling the essence of heavy rock itself; fast, loose and unforgiving. Had glam rock risen to prominence in the mid-Eighties, history may remember Fastway a bit more kindly, but music nowadays is all about finding those hidden gems. Go and stick Fastway and All Fired Up on, you’ll be pleasantly delighted. It’s not quite Motorhead, but it’s still got that roll-in-the hay filth to it.

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With Lemmy’s passing just over two years ago, which I’m still not fully over, the death of Philthy a few weeks prior and now Eddie, it’s terribly sad that the creators of some of the finest rock and roll albums ever have now passed on. Eddie made sporadic appearances here and there with Motorhead, one of which I missed because I was on holiday with my awful, horrible, nasty girlfriend at the time, and every time he climbed on stage, he was greeted as if he never left. Every fan in that audience, even the ones born years after he left Motorhead recognised and understood Eddie‘s contribution to the rich tapestry that was those first five records, plus No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, still one of the finest live records out there.

So with this, after booking out an entire column to pay tribute to you, all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you, Edward Allan Clarke, for playing a huge part in writing some of my favourite albums, for inspiring some of my favourite bands, and for forever creating a white-hot rock & roll aesthetic.

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