Motorhead (song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the song. For other uses, see Motorhead (disambiguation).
single cover
B-side to "Kings of Speed" by Hawkwind
Published United Artists
Released 7 March 1975
Recorded January 1975, Olympic Studios
Genre Hard rock, space rock
Writer Lemmy Kilmister
Single by Hawkwind
B-side "Valium Ten"
Released October 1982

"Motorhead" is a song written by Lemmy while he was a band member in Hawkwind; it was his last before leaving the band.

The song was written in the Hyatt Hotel (a.k.a. 'Riot House') in West Hollywood, California. Lemmy explains how it was created:

I was on tour with Hawkwind in 1974, we were staying at the Riot House and Roy Wood and Wizzard were also in town. I got this urge to write a song in the middle of the night. I ran downstairs to the Wizzard room, got Roy's Ovation acoustic guitar, then hurried back to mine. I went on to the balcony and howled away for four hours. Cars were stopping and the drivers were listening then driving off, and there I was yelling away at the top of my voice." - Lemmy.[1]

The title of the song is American slang for a speed freak. The lyrics were explained by Lemmy:

The six thousand miles was a reference to Los Angeles, and the rest is self-explanatory. And yes, I am the only person to fit the word 'parallelogram' into a rock'n'roll number! I'm very proud of that.[1]

The guitars and bass are tuned down 1/2 step on the album version, effectively making the song's key Eb Major, but are described here as if in standard tuning. The bass follows the root note for all the chords, with a riff on the F♯, based on the A string between the tenth and twelfth frets. The introduction is in E, ending with two bars each in D and E♭. The verse is in E with a D/E 'kick' at the end of each lyric line, a pre-chorus follows, in G with two lines ending in D, the last in F♯. The chorus, like the pre-chorus is in G, but with only two lines, ending in D and F♯. The song consists of three verses in total. The solo break, on the verse/pre-chorus/chorus pattern, is after the second chorus.[2]

Hawkwind versions[edit]

The song first appeared on the B-side of Hawkwind's 1975 single "Kings of Speed" released on United Artists.[3]

The original backing tracks for "Kings of Speed" were taken by Dave Brock from that Olympic Studio session, and he later added overdubs and released them through independent record companies. In July 1981 "Motorhead" was released as the A-side to a 7" and 12" single on the Flicknife label, this time having a Brock vocal and synthesizer overdubs, the B-side being "Valium Ten". Flicknife re-released the single as a 12" vinyl in October 1982.[4]

"Motorhead" was also used by Hawkwind on their 1986 single "Motorhead"/"Hurry on Sundown", released on Flicknife Records.[3][5]

In 1992 the song was added to the Dojo CD re-issues of Hawkwind's Warrior on the Edge of Time album, as did Griffin in 1994. The song is used in various compilation albums, such as British Tribal Music, The Hawkwind Collection and The Hawkwind Anthology Vol. II.[3]

Motörhead versions[edit]

"Motörhead" / "City Kids"
Single by Motörhead
from the album Motörhead
Genre Hard rock, heavy metal

"Motörhead" (About this sound sample ) was chosen from Motörhead's 1977 album, Motörhead, for release as a 7" vinyl single in June 1977. Recorded at Escape Studios, London, it was initially issued with the 'Map of Chiswick' label, later it was switched to the 'Big Beat' label and pressed in other formats.[6] Chiswick also released a special 12" vinyl edition which was limited to 12,500 copies.[7] In September 1979 Chiswick released a 7" vinyl picture disc in two pressings, black & white, and blue & white as well as single colour pressings in black, blue, pink, orange and white vinyl.[7]

The track "Motörhead" is credited to Lemmy, the B-side, "City Kids", to Duncan Sanderson and Larry Wallis. The band members in the recording were "Fast" Eddie Clarke on guitars and vocals, Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor on drums, and Lemmy on bass and lead vocals. The single was produced by Speedy Keen, engineered by John Burns. The photographs are attributed to Motorcycle Irene.

"Motörhead" / "Over the Top"
Single by Motörhead

Motörhead recorded a live version, which was released as a 7" vinyl single on 11 July 1981. It fared much better than the original single and reached number six in the UK Singles Charts. Whereas the previous recording plays in E major, this recording plays in E♭.[2] The single uses recordings made in March 1981 while the band were on their four-day "The Short, Sharp, Pain in the Neck Tour", as were the other tracks on the parent album, No Sleep 'til Hammersmith.[6] Bronze Records released a 7" picture disc, the A-side has the same picture as the cover and the B-side has a white Motörhead logo on black. A promotional 12" vinyl single was released in the USA, with the album's "No Class" track as its B-side. This track has also been featured on unofficial releases, such as the 1993 Castle Communications double album compilation, All the Aces, and Deadline Music's 1999 Golden Years - The Alternate Versions, which was released under licence from Receiver Records.

The track "Motörhead" is credited to Lemmy, the track "Over the Top" to Lemmy, "Fast" Eddie Clarke, and Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor. The band members are the same as on the previous recording.

In 1988 Castle Communications released a 3" CD single of four Motörhead tracks, the inserts states track three is "Motorhead" but actually plays "Jailbait", the edition was limited to 5,000 copies.[6]

In 2008, the song was re-recorded as downloadable content for the rhythm game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, along with "Stay Clean" and "(We Are) The Road Crew".

Other cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Riffs that Changed the World". Starfarer's Hawkwind Press Clippings Part 15. Retrieved 2007-05-14. 
  2. ^ a b "Motorhead Chords". Ultimate Guitar Archive. Retrieved 2007-05-14. 
  3. ^ a b c Hawkwind Timeline. Simon King, Hawkwind and relations. Retrieved on 2007-03-07.
  4. ^ "Motorhead/Valium Ten". Index for Hawkwind 7", 12" & CD singles and EP's. Retrieved 2007-05-14. 
  5. ^ "Motorhead/Hurry on Sundown". Index for Hawkwind 7", 12" & CD singles and EP's. Retrieved 2007-05-14. 
  6. ^ a b c Burridge, Alan. Illustrated Collector's Guide to Motorhead. Published: 1995. Collector's Guide Publishing. ISBN 0-9695736-2-6.
  7. ^ a b Burridge, Alan (April 1991). "Motorhead". Record Collector (140): 17–18 and 21.