Enlarge Photo Credit: Michael Sherer

Motorhead: A 40-Year Fight

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With the passing of “Fast” Eddie Clarke in January this year, the last of the classic Motorhead lineup has left us. His follows the death of Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor and legendary Motorhead front man Lemmy’s death in 2015. The band was without a doubt one of the biggest and loudest in the history of the heavy metal scene, and they took no prisoners throughout 40 years of success.

Caption: The Motorhead War Pig has become one of rock’s most enduring icons. Photo Credit: Frank Behnsen, CC BY-SA 3.0

Motorhead have a back catalog that spans 22 studio albums, 12 compilations and 10 live albums along with themed games, band T-shirts and endless memorabilia to their credit. They’ve even got a Grammy Award. But it wasn’t always easy. The history of Motorhead is, as you would expect, a turbulent and irreverent one depicting fighting with managers, producers, record companies and inevitably with themselves along the way.

The band even started in controversial circumstances, with Lemmy somewhat hypocritically fired from trippy space rockers Hawkwind after being arrested in Canada for drug possession in 1975. Returning to London, Lemmy formed Motorhead with Larry Wallis and Lucas Fox.

However, the problems started almost straight away, with Fox fired within months for being unreliable and replaced by Phil Taylor. To make matters worse, their record company refused to release their first album, claiming that it didn’t make the grade (although they were only too happy to cash in a few years later after the band found fame, releasing the rejected record under the title On Parole).

The following year, Fast Eddie Clark was recruited, causing Wallis to leave, and the classic lineup took shape. However, this didn’t stop them being voted The Best Worst Band in the World by music magazine NME.

Things degenerated even further the following year, with Taylor and Clark getting so fed up with their lack of earnings that they quit the band. Fortunately, they were persuaded to do one last gig, which led to a studio session, and Lemmy was able to snatch a Motorhead victory from the jaws of defeat.

After a successful debut album, the disillusioned pair were still not happy so they formed a band called The Muggers in 1978. Meanwhile Motorhead stumbled from manager to manager, looking for the spark that would get them the recognition they deserved.

Finally, success arrived with the release of classic albums such as Overkill and Bomber, and under the guiding hand of producer Vic Maile, the most iconic track of their 40 year career, “Ace of Spades.” But despite massive tours and festival headlines, Motorhead were not out of the woods yet, with a world of legal and personnel problems still to come.

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