Throughout their forty year career, Motörhead became renowned for their no nonsense live shows. There are a vast amount of official live recordings in circulation, with the 1979-80 period especially well served on CD and various later period shows on DVD (including the excellent ‘Everything Louder Than Everything Else’, a show capturing Lemmy & chums promoting the excellent ‘1916’ album.
At an unspecific point in 1979, my dad arrived home from work carrying a long playing record. It turned out to be the new Police album. At this point, ‘Message In a Bottle’ had been all over the radio and I knew I liked this new music. My mum, on the other hand did not have quite the same enthusiasm; she’s a bit put out that this does not have ‘Roxanne’ on it. Presumably, the album – like others – had been purchased at Barnaby’s, a record shop (no longer there) very near my dad’s then place of employment; a giant tin shed in which he worked with dangerous acidic chemicals and little regard for health and safety. That Police album (‘Reggatta De Blanc’) got played a lot. If I think hard, I can still see Dad sitting by his Fidelity stereo system lifting the needle onto the record and playing the title track over and over and I remember thinking how fitting it was that the word emblazoned on the front looked a bit like the word fiddle. That piece of music must have spoken to him: decades later, he would still attract my attention by calling my name to the tune of that track.
The sight of my dad coming home with new music in this way was not entirely uncommon.
In 1991, Motörhead realeased the album ‘1916’, an album on which they sounded more alive than they had in years. The songs were sharper than their late 80s efforts and the band sounded like they’d regained a lot of their spark. There was a surprise too: the title track was a cello backed ballad, where Lemmy crooned about young men joining up to fight for king and country in the First World War. Nobody saw that coming…and they say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.
“I don’t do regrets. Regrets are pointless. It’s too late for regrets. You’ve already done it, haven’t you? You’ve lived your life. No point wishing you could change it.”
From his breakthrough with Hawkwind in the late 60s, Lemmy was a man who lived with little to no compromise, reinvented how the bass could be played and gave us music that would endure the ages. While his formative years with Hawkwind would shape him as a musician, it was with his own band Motörhead he would change the face of rock music. Black Sabbath had laid the foundations of metal with heavy monolithic riffs, but Lemmy bought speed and no-nonsense aggression, without which we would never have had any of the 80s thrash or hardcore metal that followed. In Lemmy’s vision, of course, it was all one thing: rock ‘n’ roll. He just played it faster and louder than his heroes and predecessors and set a new benchmark in the process.