The year was 1975. Bassist and singer Ian 'Lemmy' Kilminster was kicked out of the space rock group Hawkwind for being arrested for the possession of drugs1 at the Canadian border while heading to a gig. Soon after, he decided to start his own band. Kilminster chose the name 'Bastard' initially, but his manager informed him that the band would never get on Top of the Pops2. Changing the band name to Motörhead, Lemmy recruited the ex-Pink Fairies guitarist Larry Wallis and drummer Lucas Fox. Before the year ended, Motörhead started recording at the studios. During recording sessions, however, Fox got replaced by 'Philthy' Phil Taylor.
Getting a Taste of the Big Time
Their record label was unimpressed with their work and dropped Motörhead in 19763. While they were searching for a new record label, the band decided to find a second guitarist, and recruited 'Fast' Eddie Clarke after auditioning him. The comings and goings continued and Larry Wallis left Motörhead during the audition for unknown reasons. The band then started playing gigs and recording. The year 1977 saw the release of their first album, (which helped them increase their fan base) on the Chiswick label, which was self-titled. In 1978, the band's manager took them out of the Chiswick deal, and got them a contract with Bronze Records. Their second album, Overkill (1979), was released. It was a hit and soared up the charts. The band toured England and Europe, then went right back into the studios and recorded a third album, Bomber (1979). It was even bigger than Overkill. They toured yet again.
Ace of Spades
1980 was truly an epic year for Motörhead. They released their fourth album, Ace of Spades in both Europe and America, gaining massive momentum and topping charts world-wide, appearing a great number of times on Top of the Pops. It was the first that Americans had heard of them. To this day, Ace of Spades has been re-released and continues to sell in great numbers. However, fame came at a price, drummer Philthy accidentially broke his neck while meeting a large, over-enthusiastic fan.
All Hope is Not Lost
Lemmy and Eddie passed their time waiting for Philthy to heal by spending 1981 doing many projects, such as collaborating with female rock group Girlschool. They released St Valentine's Day Massacre in February that year, which featured the single 'Please Don't Touch', a Johnny Kidd and the Pirates cover. Lemmy, Eddie, and Girlschool appeared together as Headgirl, on Top of the Pops, and, as well as being a guest on Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Oz tour, Motörhead released their fifth album and first live album, No Sleep 'Till Hammersmith, which sold like hotcakes and entered the album charts at number one.
Return to the Road
In 1982, Philthy had recovered from his injury. He rejoined Motörhead and, reunited, they recorded a second live album Iron Fist. Motörhead recommenced touring, but Eddie left the group shortly after the band recorded a cover of country artist Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man (with Wendy O Williams of the Plasmatics) due to his own objections to covering such a song4. They replaced Eddie with Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian 'Robbo' Robertson and recorded only one album with him, Another Perfect Day (1983). but Robbo did not build a very good fanbase and remained unpopular with the fans; he left before the year ended. Motörhead, faced with the choice of either Phil Campbell or Wurzel5 as a new guitarist, chose both. Philthy, however, left the band. They hired Saxon's Pete Gill as a replacement drummer.
A New Label
In 1984, Motörhead released No Remorse, a greatest hits album. This album even included a few entirely new tracks. In 1985, legal troubles with their label Bronze emerged. They could not record a new album that year, and were only able to tour and appear on TV and radio programmes. So, in 1986, after settling with Bronze Records, Motörhead released their 9th album on the GWR label, titled Orgasmatron, which had a powerful title track and continues to have a fan following almost rivaling that of Ace of Spades. Motörhead starred in Eat the Rich, a 1987 comedy movie, with Lemmy playing a major role and the entire band recording the soundtrack album. Drummer Pete Gill left during this time, and Philthy returned. They recorded their tenth album, Rock 'N' Roll (1987)6.
The 1990s and Beyond
After the group released their third live album No Sleep At All in 1988, legal troubles with GWR arose in 1989, forcing the band to spend the end of the 1980s touring and guest-starring on other people's albums. In 1990, Motörhead's legal issues with GWR were resolved. Lemmy also moved from England to the US, Motörhead signed up to the Sony WTG label, and they began to record another album. The album 1916 was released in 1991, and contained many classics such as their tribute to the legendary punk rock group The Ramones, titled 'R.A.M.O.N.E.S.', and the incredible title track. They were nominated for a Grammy in 1992 but lost out to Metallica. Still, Lemmy attended the festivities. Among all this activity, Philthy left yet again for, so far, the last time7.
Former King Diamond drummer Mikkey Dee arrived, and the band recorded March ör Die (1992). This album included guest stars Ozzy Osbourne, and Guns 'n' Roses guitarist Slash. In 1993, Motörhead was dropped from WTG (the company subsequently went out of business). They produced, recorded, and released their 13th album, Bastards, by themselves, which was distributed by the company XYZ. It did not sell very well, and it is hard to find even today, though it was played on the radio much more than the previous two albums. No new records were released in 1994, though the comedy movie Airheads did utilise the track 'Born to Raise Hell' (from the Bastards album) on the soundtrack, with guest vocals from rapper Ice-T, and additional guitar work courtesy of Whitfield Crane of Ugly Kid Joe.
1995 marked the 20th anniversary of the band, as well as Lemmy's 50th birthday. Metallica attended the band's celebration and all of their band-members dressed up as Lemmy and played some of Motörhead's classics. Due to personal issues, Wurzel had to leave the band after the recording of their 14th album, Sacrifice. This move left Motörhead a trio once more and the lineup has been unchanged since then. Motörhead trudged on as always and released Overnight Sensation (1996), Snake Bite Love (1998), the fourth live album Everything Louder Than Everyone Else (1999), We Are Motörhead (2000), an official Best Of album (2000), The Chase is Better than the Catch: The Singles A and Bs (2000), Over the Top: All the Rarities (2000), All the Aces, Boneshaker: 25 and Alive8 (2001), and Hammered(2002). In addition, Motörhead played R.A.M.O.N.E.S at the 50th birthday party for the (now deceased) Ramones frontman and singer Joey Ramone (2001). Motörhead are not planning to quit anytime soon, and much more should be expected from these rock legends in years to come.