No Sleep ’til Hammersmith is the first live album by Motörhead. Released on 27 June 1981, it peaked at #1 on the UK album charts. It was followed by the release of the single "Motorhead" (coupled with the non-album track "Over the Top") on 11 July, which peaked in the UK singles chart at #6.
After releasing three albums and touring for five years, Motorhead's 1980 album Ace of Spades (their first LP to be released in the United States) gave the band its first taste of major success, although as drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor wryly notes in the documentary The Guts and the Glory, "The more famous we seemed to get, the more we were working all the time, and we just never seemed to see any money...This is how you know you're being ripped off - when they work you like dogs and hardly give you any time off, 'cause when you got a bit of time off you might start thinking about things." In February, 1981, the band released the St. Valentine's Day Massacre EP co-recorded with Girlschool, and in March headed out on a British jaunt called the "Short Sharp Pain in the Neck" tour, from which the songs on No Sleep 'til Hammersmith would be culled.
The original No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith LP includes two songs from their debut album, the title track from 1979's Bomber, five songs from 1979's Overkill, and three songs from Ace of Spades. The track "Motorhead" would be released as a single and become the band's biggest hit to date, reaching #6 on the U.K. chart. With the exception of "Iron Horse/Born To Lose" which was from a 1980 show, No Sleep 'til Hammersmith was recorded at the Leeds and Newcastle shows during the Short Sharp Pain In The Neck tour. The name of the tour was a reference to the injury sustained by Taylor when he was dropped on his head during some after-show horseplay. Despite the title of the album, the London venue the Hammersmith Odeon was not played on the tour, the shows being:
Backstage at the Leeds and Newcastle shows the band were presented with silver record and gold record for sales of Ace of Spades, a silver record for Overkill and a silver record for "Please Don't Touch". The sound at Leeds Queens hall was not good and most of the original album is taken from Newcastle. Vocalist and bassist Lemmy has stated that originally they intended No Sleep 'til Hammersmith to be a double album but they only had enough material for three sides. At time of the album's release, the band were in the middle of their first tour of North America, supporting Ozzy Osbourne. "When No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith came out," Lemmy stated to James McNair of Mojo in 2011, "it made a difference financially, but a lot of it went back into the show."
No Sleep 'til Hammersmith is the band's most successful in terms of chart positioning, peaking at #1 on the UK charts, having capitalised on the preceding success of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre EP and Ace of Spades album and single. Lemmy believes its success was due to a building anticipation from their fan base for a live album, due to the band having toured so heavily in the past, but also considered it "our downfall" due to the difficulty in following up its success. The album is listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Jason Birchmeier of AllMusic writes, "Motorhead could do no wrong at this point in time, as they were laying the foundation for the coming thrash movement, in a way, and their winning streak continues here on No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith, one of the best live metal albums of all time." Amazon.com: Motorhead's No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith captured the band at its earth-shattering, genre-forming peak...No Sleep is one of the best live albums of all time, capturing the live high-octane impact of the legendary power trio line-up." In the 2011 book Overkill: The Untold Story of Motorhead, biographer Joel McIver calls the album "the peak of the Lemmy/Clarke/Philthy line-up's career."