Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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UK heavy metal band formed in 1975 by bassist Ian Fraser 'Lemmy' Kilminster (b 24 December 1945, Burslem UK; d 28 December 2015, Los Angeles) after being sacked from Hawkwind because of a drug bust on a Canadian tour. He originally named the band Bastard, took the new name from a Hawkwind B-side titled after U.S. slang for a speed freak. Introduced to ex-Pink Fairies guitarist Larry Wallis and drummer Lucas Fox, he determined on a power trio format, with bass almost as lead instrument against a wall of crashing guitar; rookie drummer Phil 'Philthy Animal' Taylor (d 11 November 2015 aged 61) replaced Fox for an album that was shelved (later issued on UA as On Parole '80). Willis was ousted as unreliable, replaced by ex-Blue Goose, Curtis Knight guitarist 'Fast' Eddie Clarke, who had been originally mooted as second guitarist.

They made a single 'White Line Fever'/'Leavin' Here' for Stiff only to have UA block its release. They attracted a live following due to their loudness with breakneck speed; Motörhead '77 was recorded for Chiswick after UA gave them up, and represented their sledgehammer act. They signed to Bronze; Overkill (produced by Jimmy Miller) and Bomber, both '79, both made UK top 30 LPs (latter peaking at 12); the title tracks were their first top 40 hits. Ace Of Spades '80 and live No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith '81 (latter entered UK chart at no. 1) proved to be their peak; EP The Golden Years '80, a live EP and duet single 'Please Don't Touch' with labelmates Girlschool '81 all made the top ten, but the band split with Spades producer halfway through Iron Fist '82, lost Clarke following Lemmy's plan to duet with punk Plasmatics' Wendy O. Williams on Tammy Wynette country classic 'Stand By Your Man'. (Williams was a suicide 6 April 1998, aged 48.) Ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson stayed through This Perfect Day '83 but was too good; Taylor left early '84 and Lemmy revamped the band entirely, bringing in twin guitars, ex-Persian Risk Phil Campbell and unknown Wurzel, replacing Taylor with ex-Saxon drummer Pete Gill. The new lineup made four tracks for compilation No Remorse '84; then problems with the label kept them quiet until Orgasmatron '86 on GWR/Profile, produced by Bill Laswell. The band's live act was good value if you liked that sort of thing (on Bomber tour a replica Heinkel swooped over audience); there was no musical progress in ten years but fans loved it. Further albums were Rock 'N' Roll '87, 1916 '91. Clarke turned up in Fastway with vocalist Dave King. Lemmy was still a Motörhead on Snake Bite Love '98 on SPV.