Motörhead is Born to Lose

Jarisleif By Jarisleif, 11th Jul 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3k-d2evu/
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Music>Hard Rock & Metal

"Motörhead" is the debut studio album by the British heavy metal band of the same name. It was released in 1977 on Chiswick Records and produced by Speedy Keen. The line-up for the album was Lemmy (vocals/bass), Eddie Clarke (guitar) and Phil Taylor (drums).

Introduction

From the beginnings of heavy metal music in the 1960s with Black Sabbath right up until the modern age of the genre, sub-genres have been invented. Motörhead is one of those bands that can quite easily say that they were the first to ever play speed metal, and their debut album made fans look to three guys with nicknames for their fix of metal. Ian 'Lemmy' Kilmister, 'Fast' Eddie Clarke, and Phil 'Philthy Animal' Taylor went into the studio to record this album in just two days, and it was released four months later in August of 1977. The result put Motörhead firmly on the heavy metal map, and paved the way for various other artists to gain recognition as speed metal merchants. Is it any good? Let's find out!

Motorhead

This is a song which is about amphetamines, Lemmy's drug of choice. To do the drug simply implies that you are a motor head, and it is believed that the front man did the drug in abundance. There's a lot to like about this song, and I especially single out the pre-chorus where the guitar drops down a tune and the riff played sounds brilliant to the ears. It's one of those songs which fits in anywhere. It fits right in as an album opener and it would equally be just as good as the last song of the night at a loud gig. Lemmy's bass is down and dirty here which showcases his talent for playing the instrument.


Sunrise, wrong side of another day
Sky high and six thousand miles away
Don't know how long I've been awake
Wound up in an amazing state

Vibrator

Here is a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of sex toys, and a story told in that typical Lemmy way. Musically, the song is very much set in punk rock ways and it is easy to wrongly label the band as such. It is one of those tracks that goes by so fast that you think it's a 2-minute power piece, but it is actually three and a half minutes of speediness. You can't really pick out the lyrics as much, but that's probably a good thing as far as the content is concerned. It's a good song, though, so don't let that put you off. The original version of this song was on the band's "On Parole" release and featured then guitarist Larry Wallis on lead vocals. It was a slower rendition and didn't work, in my opinion.

Larger than life, sharper than a knife
Ever ready for the time
Slick and smooth I'm bound to improve your mood
And make you feel fine

Lost Johnny

This song first appeared on Hawkwind's 1974 album, "Hall of the Mountain Grill". Lemmy was in the band from 1972-75 and wrote the song with The Deviants' singer, Mick Farren. This also appeared on Motörhead's debut album, "On Parole". Now this is where it gets confusing, because while this album is the band's official debut album, "On Parole" was recorded first, in 1975. However, United Artists refused to release it because of its apparent lack of commercial value, and the band recorded this album which was released. "On Parole" was eventually released in 1979. The song itself has a funky bass line that provides the venom as Lemmy's vocals are softer on here more than any other track on the album.


Underneath the city
The alligators sing
Of how the fool he cannot dance
When someone cuts the strings

Iron Horse / Born to Lose

This is a truly excellent song, which is about the Hells Angels and one in particular from the London faction called Tramp, whom Lemmy lived with for a while. The Angels are known to be fans of Hawkwind – Lemmy's first real success in music – and Motörhead in particular and are often seen at the band's gigs. The studio version of the song is a little slower than any live version, but any recording of the song is usually pretty good. As is standard with Motörhead, the mix between guitar and bass is spot on with the drums backing them up. Lemmy's bass often acts as a second guitar but no bass should ever be as powerful as this. Not that I'm complaining!

One day one day, they'll go for the sun
Together they'll slide, on the eternal run
Wasted forever, on speed bikes and booze
Yeah tramp and the brothers, all born to lose

White Line Fever

This is another obvious reference to Lemmy's then drug of choice, amphetamine. The frontman has been known to be a bit of a hair raiser and the song reflects his experiences with the drug. Lemmy has said many times that he doesn't condone the use of drugs but he has called for the legalisation of heroin due to the overdose of a woman he once lived with. He said, "She tried heroin just to see what it was like. It killed her three years later. I hate the idea even as I say it, but I do believe the only way to treat heroin is to legalise it." The song itself is a fun rock and roll number that comes in at the mid-way mark of the album. I really enjoy the rawness of this track and often think that if it had been done with better production, it may not have sounded as good.


We can move around now
You know it's so good
But I know you wouldn't come clean now, baby
Even if you could

Keep Us on the Road

Here is a song about an uncertain future as a musician ponders his life and what will become. It was written collectively by the first incarnation of Motörhead and they are basically saying that if you buy the records and keep attending the shows, then the band will keep playing for you. Lemmy didn't really know how successful Motörhead would become back then and he was almost ready to pack it in for something else until his big break came. It is another slower song but one that is heavy also. There are some very powerful chords being played here, and a lot of feeling has gone into recording the song. There is a great heartfelt guitar solo during the bridge that showcases just how good 'Fast' Eddie Clarke was at playing the instrument.

It was round about the third day
I remember it so clear
We came across a black night
Naked, grinding fear

The Watcher

This is a song about Big Brother and George Orwell's 1949 novel, "Nineteen Eighty-Four". Big Brother is watching us and it is becoming even more intrusive into our lives today more than any in the past. Orwell most certainly predicted the future in the novel and Motörhead follow up with the paranoia with going over the 'thoughtcrimes' in this song. It is almost bluesy but with a classic heavy metal feel to it. It definitely has a blues bass line that is played wonderfully by Lemmy, and Eddie Clarke pays his guitar at a great rock and roll tempo. It is by no means the best song on the album but it is a dark horse, in my opinion. It's not a track I come back to time and time again, but I enjoy listening to it when I do.


World in prison screams in pain
There are no leaders you can blame
Human greed destroys your sphere
And there's no room for you out here
You're on your own now

The Train Kept-a-Rollin'

The album comes to an end with Motörhead's version of a song which was originally recorded in 1951 by Tiny Bradshaw. Over the years, the likes of Aerosmith, The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin have all covered the track, and I'm not afraid to say I've not liked any version – even this one. People call it rockabilly, others call it rock and roll, but I am not sure which genre it should go under. If I had to give it a positive, it would be that Lemmy does a great job at singing it and the band is in time, but it really doesn't do anything else for me, I'm afraid.

I was alone, she was a woman
I was a man, I never knew her name
And she was pretty, New York City
I just gotta let it go

Summary

This is as raw as you're going to get with Motörhead and heavy metal. The production isn't brilliant by any means, but that's what I like about it. It maintains its heaviness and also adds in splashes of the blues, rock and roll, and traditional heavy rock also, but the one true lasting feature it has is that Lemmy, Philthy Animal and Fast Eddie are unified in their mission to bring their style of music to the table. It's easy to say "Ace of Spades" was their defining moment, and while that may be true, we still have some excellent songs on this album. Don't just take my word for it – try it for yourself!

Track Listing

1. Motorhead
2. Vibrator
3. Lost Johnny
4. Iron Horse / Born to Lose
5. White Line Fever
6. Keep Us on the Road
7. The Watcher
8. Train Kept-a-Rollin'

Tags

Heavy Metal, Lemmy, Motorhead, Music

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author avatar Jarisleif
Author of movie and music reviews, with the occasional oddity thrown in.

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