Motörhead (album)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Motörhead - Motörhead (1977).jpg
Studio album by Motörhead
Released 21 August 1977
Recorded 27–29 April 1977[1]
Studio Escape Studios, Kent, England[1]
Length 32:52 (Original)
52:14 (Reissue)
Label Chiswick (1977)
Big Beat Records (1988)
Chiswick (Ace Records) (2001)[1]
Producer Speedy Keen[1]
Motörhead chronology
Singles from Motörhead
  1. "Motorhead"
    Released: 10 June 1977
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[2]

Motörhead is the self-titled debut studio album by the band Motörhead, released on 21 August 1977, on Chiswick Records, one of the first for the label. It is considered the band's first album, as the recordings they did with United Artists were shelved until 1979, when the band had some commercial success after their next two albums.

This would be the first album with the "classic" line up of Kilmister, Clarke and Taylor and their only release under Chiswick, as due to the success of this album they were signed to Bronze Records by early 1978.


In May 1975, bassist Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister was fired from Hawkwind after he was arrested at the Canadian/US border in Windsor, Ontario on drug possession charges. Lemmy later explained to Classic Albums that he had been at odds with the band because:

..[I] did the wrong drugs, you know, I didn't do the designer drugs...I did the street stuff, so I was massively unpopular for that..

After he got back to England, he put together a new band, which he wanted to, and temporarily did, call Bastard; recruiting guitarist Larry Wallis (former member of the Pink Fairies, Steve Took's Shagrat and UFO) and drummer Lucas Fox to his side. The (at the time) manager Doug Smith stated to the band, that:

..they wouldn't get on Top of the Pops with a name like Bastard..

So he suggested Motorhead, as it was the last song Lemmy wrote with Hawkwind, which seemed fitting, so it became the name and history was written. They managed to get signed by United Artists, mainly because it was the label Hawkwind were signed with, and they recorded songs for an album at Rockfield Studios in Wales over the British winter of 1975–76, but United Artists doubted its commercial viability and refused to release it.[1] The Umlaut over the second "o" was added later by Lemmy after he and Joe Petagno had talked, as the Hawkwind version of the song does not have it on the original release of the track.

On 1 April 1977, disheartened by their experience with United Artists and their lack of commercial success in general, the band – which had consisted of drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor, who joined the band when it was clear Lucas Fox wasn't that committed, as he was also an acquaintance of Lemmy's from the "bikie" drug scene who said to Lemmy when giving him a lift to the studio one day "he could play the drums"; plus guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke, who Philthy knew from a house boat painting job he had, as Eddie was the foreman on site who had claimed he "played guitar in some bands" previously; Eddie had originally joined the band as the second guitarist in what was to be a double guitar 4-piece, but Larry Wallis left shortly after for his own reasons – had decided to disband after playing one final show at the Marquee Club in London that year.[1] Ted Carroll had started the Chiswick Records label after Lemmy had been fired from Hawkwind, and as they knew each other well from the rare 45 Record's store that Ted owned in London, Lemmy was a frequent customer, Ted decided to give them the break they needed, almost as a favour, because UA had shelved the album they had made over the British winter of 1975–76 in Wales; what would later be released as On Parole in 1979 by United Artists.[1] As Clarke recalls in the documentary The Guts and the Glory:

..It was going to be our farewell gig. I said, Let's get a mobile down at least to record the fuckin' year and a half we've been together and put something on the fuckin' tape, you know?..

The band asked Chiswick label owner Ted Carroll to record the show but, according to Clarke:

..the problem with the Marquee was they wanted 500 quid for doing a recording at the Marquee. Well, that was out of the question in those days..

Carroll then offered the band two days at Escape Studios in Kent, England, to record a single with producer John "Speedy" Keen. As Clarke explained to John Robinson of Uncut in 2015, the band finished the gig at the Marquee and drove straight to the studio in Kent:

..That was Friday night, so we had all Saturday and Sunday. We'd been playing these songs for a year, so we thought fuck it, we can do an album. In a few hours we had all the backing tracks down. Put the vocals down. Bit more speed, put some more guitars on. Few more beers – we were fucking steaming. Come Saturday night, we'd nearly finished it..

As biographer Joel McIver recalls in his book Overkill: The Untold Story of Motörhead: the story goes, by the time Carroll came back to the studio to hear the results, the band had recorded no fewer than 11 tracks. Impressed, he paid for more studio time to allow them to complete an album. The album did well enough to ensure the band would remain together, but it would be their next album, 1979's Overkill, that proved to be their true breakthrough..[3]


For their eponymous album, the band chose to re-record the United Artists album in almost its entirety; only "Fools" and "Leaving Here" weren't re-recorded at these sessions.[1] In addition, two new self-penned compositions, "White Line Fever" and "Keep Us on the Road", were added, as well as a cover of John Mayall's "Train Kept A-Rollin". Three tracks on the album were written by Lemmy when he was with Hawkwind, "Motorhead", "Lost Johnny," and "The Watcher," the latter a psychedelic acoustic piece. Like the band name itself, the song "Motorhead" (About this sound sample ) is a reference to speed – Lemmy's drug of choice till the day he died[4]- and was coupled with the non-album track "City Kids" (a Larry Wallis song from his Pink Fairies days) for release as 7" and 12" singles. In his autobiography White Line Fever, Lemmy recalls that producer Speedy Keen and engineer John Burns:

"..were speeding out of their heads because they couldn't afford to go to sleep – they didn't have time, and they wanted to make an album as much as we did. They mixed twenty-four versions of Motörhead alone!.."

In the Classic Albums documentary on the making of Ace of Spades, Eddie Clarke states that Lemmy's bass style, which featured maximum Mid-Range on his Marshall amps, with the Bass and Treble nearly turned off, was unique and still is to this day:

"..Motörhead wasn't a straight forward outfit to play with because, with Lemmy's bass playing being the way it was, it made it slightly different than all the other bands you'd hear at the time because there was no real bass guitar – it was like a bass rhythm.."

Four remaining tracks from the session were shelved until 1980, when they were released on the Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers EP. In his memoir Lemmy noted:

"..Once again it was cash-in time – for the record labels, at least. I've never recorded more than we need since! But having said that, I don't begrudge Ted Carroll that – he saved my band.."

The B-side and the EP were later added as bonus tracks to the CD release.[3] The band members were less than pleased with the album's muddled sound, however, with Joel McIver quoting Clarke in 2011:

"..That first album was pretty dreadful, the songs were good but the sound was shocking...It wasn't good enough, really. I wouldn't shell out four pounds for it.."


The sleeve artwork featured War-Pig, the fanged face that would become an icon of the band, created by artist Joe Petagno, who had worked with Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis and had designed the Swan Song Records logo for Led Zeppelin. It is supposed to be a combination of a bear, a wolf and a dog skull with boar tusks, according to Petagno. The original version had a swastika on the spike of the helmet, but this was removed.


The inner sleeve featured old and new photographs of the band and friends by long time friend Motorcycle Irene, who took most of the 70's pictures of Motörhead, plus letters of thanks from Lemmy, Eddie and Phil. Advertisements for the album, single, and tour bore the words "Achtung! This Band Takes No Prisoners".[3]

  • 21 August 1977 – UK vinyl – Chiswick, WIK2 – First 1000 printed black on silver foil sleeve. With inner sleeve.
  • 10 November 1979 – UK vinyl – Chiswick/EMI, CWK3008 – The first 10,000 copies pressed on white vinyl, with "White vinyl fever" written on cover. Later versions had a gold stamped promo sleeve.
  • 1981 – UK vinyl – Big Beat, WIK 2 – Red "Motörhead" lettering and "Includes inner sleeve with rare pix" written on cover. With inner sleeve. Black, clear and red (16,000 copies) vinyl editions.
  • Big Beat have also issued a Direct Metal Mastered LP edition.
  • One-sided test pressings (used in the trade; not mis-presses) escaped the pressing plant and are on the market.
  • 1988 – UK CD – Big Beat, CDWIK 2 – Red "Motörhead" lettering and "Plus 5 more headbanging tracks!!!" written on cover. With Bonus tracks.
  • 2 April 2001 – UK CD – Big Beat, CDWIKM 2 – Red "Motörhead" lettering. With bonus tracks. Liner notes by Ted Carroll.[5]
  • 16 July 2007 – UK vinyl – Devils Jukebox, DJB006LP – 180 g vinyl replica of original silver foil vinyl edition limited to 666 copies. First 100 with one sided 12" silver vinyl featuring the 5 bonus tracks, and poster.[6]
  • 8 October 2007 – UK CD – Big Beat, CDHP021 – CD replica of original silver foil vinyl edition limited to 3000 copies.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Alex Ogg of AllMusic wrote:

"..Though only a minor chart success, Motörhead patented the group's style: Lemmy's rasping vocal over a speeding juggernaut of guitar, bass, and wonder the punks liked them.."

Many critics have noted that the album is not as polished as later works like Bomber and Ace of Spades; assessing the album and its debut single in 2011, biographer Joel McIver states:

"..with the benefit of hindsight it's glaringly obvious that neither comes close to capturing the group's mesmerizing live sound.."

Track listing[edit]

Side A[1]
1."Motörhead"Ian Kilmister3:13
2."Vibrator"Larry Wallis, Des Brown3:39
3."Lost Johnny"Kilmister, Michael Farren4:15
4."Iron Horse / Born to Lose"Taylor, Mick Brown, Guy "Tramp" Lawrence5:21
Side B
5."White Line Fever"Kilmister, Clarke, Taylor2:38
6."Keep Us on the Road"Kilmister, Clarke, Taylor, Farren5:57
7."The Watcher"Kilmister4:30
8."Train Kept A-Rollin'"Myron Bradshaw, Howard Kay, Lois Mann3:19
Total length:32:52
Big Beat Records 1988 & Chiswick/Ace Records 2001 CD reissues & remaster bonus tracks[1]
No.TitleWriter(s)Original ReleaseLength
9."City Kids"Wallis, Duncan Sanderson1977 ~ Motörhead (Single)3:24
10."Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers"Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard1980 ~ Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers3:27
11."On Parole"Wallis1980 ~ Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers5:57
12."Instro"Kilmister, Clarke, Taylor1980 ~ Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers2:27
13."I'm Your Witchdoctor"John Mayall1980 ~ Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers2:58
Total length:52:14
40th Anniversary Chiswick/Ace Records 2017 CD reissue & bonus tracks[8]
No.TitleWriter(s)Original ReleaseLength
14."Lost Johnny" (Mix 2)Kilmister, Farren1977 ~ Motörhead4:17
15."City Kids" (Mix 1)Wallis, Sanderson1977 ~ Motörhead (Single)3:23
16."I'm Your Witchdoctor" (Alternative Mix)Mayall1980 ~ Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers2:58
17."The Watcher" (Mix 3)Kilmister1977 ~ Motörhead4:32
18."White Line Fever" (Mix 7)Kilmister, Clarke, Taylor1977 ~ Motörhead2:35
19."Keep Us on the Road" (Mix 1)Kilmister, Clarke, Taylor, Farren1977 ~ Motörhead6:05
20."Motörhead" (Alternative Vocals & Guitar Solo)Kilmister1977 ~ Motörhead3:12
Total length:79:16


Adapted from the album liner notes.[1]




  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Motörhead, Motörhead, Chiswick Records & Ace Records, CDWIKM 2, January 2001 Liner Notes by Ted Carroll, page 1 & rear cover
  2. ^ AllMusic review
  3. ^ a b c Burridge, Alan (April 1991). "Motorhead". Record Collector (140): 16–18.
  4. ^ "Lemmy's Last Days: How Metal Legend Celebrated 70th, Stared Down Cancer". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  5. ^ Ace Records Archived 24 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Devils Jukebox Archived 16 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Ace Records Archived 11 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Motörhead 40th Anniversary Edition". Ace Records. Retrieved 30 October 2017.