Metal Hammer asked me to write something about Fast Eddie and Motörhead. I wrote the following but they rejected it, said it wasn’t what they were looking for. Maybe you will enjoy it.
“I should have seen it coming,” said Lemmy years later. But he hadn’t seen it coming and when Hawkwind sacked him while touring America in the summer of 1975, Lemmy was devastated.
“I was fired for doing the wrong drugs,” Lemmy would tell me during one of our many nights on what he called “the old buck-you-uppo.” Hawkwind were all were “acid heads,” he explained. Lemmy was “a speed freak.”
He got his own back, though, when he returned to London. “I shagged all their old ladies. Take that you bastards!”
And that children, is how Motörhead came into being. Or rather that is how Bastard came into being – Lemmy’s original name for the group. Until his manager Doug Smith told him: “Come on, Lem. You’ll never get on the radio or the telly with a name like that.’”
When Lemmy refused to listen, says Doug, “I just went ahead and put out a press release saying his new band was called Motörhead.”
Lemmy was furious. Until everyone kept telling him what a great name it was – it being American slang for ‘speed freak’ and Lemmy being… well, you know…
Already a rock star having sung the lead vocals on Hawkwind’s 1972 mega-hit Silver Machine – “When Lemmy sang of having ‘an electric line’ to ‘your Zodiac sign,’ he meant it,” says Doug – getting Motörhead off the ground still took slog and luck and drugs and the help of some friendly bikers and willing groupies.
“I wanted it to be like the MC5,” Lemmy told me, referring to the Detroit legends whose infamous call-to-arms, “Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!” defined the hardcore rock scene in America in the late-1960s. “Fast and vicious.”
Former Pink Fairies guitarist Larry Wallis was first to join. He had a low-slung style and attitude that fitted. The trouble, said Lemmy, was “Larry worries. As soon as he gets hold of anything, he drops it on his toe.”
The drummer was a street urchin named Lucas Fox. He had never played in a ‘name’ band before but what he lacked in experience he did his best to make up for in nervous energy.
They did a string of shows around the UK, billed as Lemmy’s Motorhead (no umlaut in those early days) and got nowhere fast.
Lemmy: “We were doing a lot of covers and I had this blue-painted skull on my amp. It didn’t help. It was terrible.” A review in NME described one show as having ‘all the panache of a butcher stripping meat from an overripe carcass.’
Fox was fired soon after for daring, as Lemmy put it, “to try and keep up with my habit – the veins were standing out on his head.” Wallis simply stopped coming to rehearsals.
Fox’s replacement was a 21-year old former skinhead from Leeds named Phil Taylor. “I met Lemmy through speed really,” Taylor explained. “You know, dealing and scoring.” It was Phil who brought a new guitarist in: a part-time TV repairman named Eddie Clarke.
Eddie was 25, had played in a succession of no-hopers, and saw this as his last chance.
Eddie did one audition, he recalled when we spoke last year, and thought, “Oh, well, that’s it. Then the following Saturday morning, I’m lying in bed comatose and there’s this banging on my front door. I go downstairs in my underpants and Lemmy’s standing there with a leather jacket and a bullet belt in his hand. He gave them to me, said, ‘You’ve got the job,’ and walked off again. I just stood there in my underpants gobsmacked.”
It wasn’t just the clobber that went with the job. As with ‘Philthy Animal’, Lemmy would now add a sobriquet to the new guitarist’s name, making him forevermore ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke. And so was born the most famous line-up of Motörhead, the Three Amigos, as they became known – the one that over the next five years would record all Motörhead classic hits, beginning with the first thing they ever wrote together, the supremely aptly titled ‘White Line Fever’.
“After we got Eddie and Phil in I knew we had something special,” Lemmy recalled. While Clarke confided that, “It wasn’t until after three or four rehearsals that I realised we didn’t sound normal.”
Indeed, over the next five years Motörhead would release six bones-into-dust albums that came to define a ‘new’ normal in rock and metal that would influence both the early-80s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene and the birth of what became thrash metal.
“It’s simple,” Lars Ulrich, who ran the Motörhead fan club for a while, told me, “No Motörhead, no Metallica.” It was the same for Slash from Guns N’ Roses. “Lemmy, man, is the real fucking deal. When I die I want (We Are) The Road Crew played at my funeral.”
Of the albums they released between 1977 and 1982, when Fast Eddie told them to fuck off for the final time, the four must-haves-or-die are Overkill and Bomber – both released in 1979 – Ace Of Spades (1980) and the live No Sleep ’til Hammersmith (1981).
You think you know how to rock it? You think you know the meaning of metal? Kid, you don’t know shit until you’ve plunged your head deep into the apocalyptic whiteout of classic Three Amigos Motörhead.
Four Top 20 singles, three of which went Top 10. Six Top 30 albums, including two that went Top 10 and one all the way to Number 1. It was also now that Lemmy (words) and Eddie (riffs) co-wrote all the songs that would make Motörhead a legend.
“Lemmy was still finding his feet as a lyricist,” Eddie told me, “ and I’m not a virtuoso. But Eric Clapton never came up with the riffs to Ace Of Spades or Bomber. My job was giving Lemmy something to sing over. I mean, Stone Dead Forever, fucking hell! Did I really play that guitar?”
What’s more, these fuckers lived it. The idea of ‘stage clothes’ was not a concept Lemmy recognised. ‘Philthy’ wore whatever he liked when he liked. Eddie favoured a black shirt, done up to the collar, long dark jeans studded along the seams with metal stars. For Lemmy it meant a black shirt open to the navel, an Iron Cross dangling from his neck, dark blue jeans, and always but always those dirty-white cowboy boots.
The band’s blood-oath: Born to lose, live to win.
“I walked into this chick’s flat once,” Lemmy told me. “ And she goes, ‘Argh!’ I said, ‘What the fuck’s the matter with you?’ She said, ‘You’re dead!’ I said, ‘I assure you I’m not.’ That was a rumour. I heard that one twice. From the time I stayed up for two weeks solid on Methedrine. You used to get it in glass amps. They used to put it in with hydrochloride BP with a skull-and-crossbones symbol underneath it. You were supposed to inject it but we didn’t inject it. We used to put five in a glass of orange juice and drink it – and go and talk to everybody in Hyde Park within half an hour! Zzzz! Ahhhh! Buzz saw mouth, you know?”
He narrowed his eyes. “That shit is lethal. But good fun, you know?” By the time Lemmy had stopped, “All me teeth had gone…”
It didn’t matter. When ‘Philthy’ Phil broke his wrist on tour, they simply gaffer-taped the drumstick to his hand each night. When Eddie kept quitting they just ignored him and dragged him to the next gig.
Lemmy had an answer for everything. I quizzed him once about his immortal line from Ace Of The Spades, about being born to lose, and how gambling’s for fools, ‘But that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever!’
How true was it, though, I asked. Wouldn’t it come back to haunt him? “Of course!” he laughed. “But ‘forever’ is a long time. You could be 294 and not reach ‘forever’. But I think you’d be sick of it by then. I think anybody would be sick of it by then. Even me. And I like to stay up late, you know?’
He paused to blow cigarette smoke in my face. “Actually, I’d like to die the year before forever. To avoid the rush…”
When Eddie left for real in 1982, after an amphetamine-fuelled argument with Lemmy about keeping Motörhead metal (and not doing a cover of Stand By Your Man with Plasmatics singer Wendy O Williams), it was the end of the classic Motörhead line-up.
When ‘Fast’ Eddie died last month at the age of 67, it brought about another ending for the Three Amigos, following the deaths in 2015 of both Lemmy and ‘Philthy’ Phil.
What lives they lived though. As Eddie told me the last time we met, discussing the controversial track, The Chase Is Better Than the Catch from the Ace Of Spades album.
“It’s about the true life experience of what it’s like being in a band like this. Cos when you haven’t got a pot to piss in and slogging around the country and having a fucking laugh, you haven’t got time for thinking. If you got a drink and a joint and toot you figure your fucking life’s sweet, man, and a bird’s fucking sucking you off, what more do I ever want?”
The Essential ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke Motörhead Playlist
Ace Of Spades
As Eddie Clarke acknowledged there were many other technically superior guitarists, but none of them could come up with a death-grip riff like this.
(We Are) The Road Crew
If a guitar could learn to drink and smoke and fight and fuck all on its own, this is what it would sound like. Bludgeoning, relentless, undeniable, all bloody nosed.
Eddie’s secret ingredient as a guitarist – and the special sauce in the classic Motörhead line-up – was the comic invention of his playing. Like one punchline after another, ha fucking ha.
One of the all-time epic Motörhead tracks, maybe even the best thing they ever did. Lead drums, lead bass, lead vocals and that glorious, crazed, speed-twitching lead guitar. And repeat…
Another quintessential bugling, manic-laughter ‘Fast’ Eddie riff, so simple only a very complex, intensely fucked-up mind could have conceived of it. Not even a real solo just riff-riff-riff. Mental-metal deluxe.
Lars Ulrich was 16 the first time he heard this. Four years later when Metallica recorded their first album Kill ’Em All, it was like this track split into 10. Geddit?
White Line Fever
Lemmy sounds like he’s got a bottle stuck down his throat, Phil’s trying to sound like a proper drummer, and Eddie clearly doesn’t give a fuck. Nurse, quick, the screens…
Stone Dead Forever
Killer riff. Blood-spattered solo, spunk stains down the jeans. Lemmy, a giant gargling with nails wielding his bass like a knife. Phil fucking giving it… Did I mention the killer riff?
The Chase Is Better Than The Catch
Some female rock crits had a shit – calling it sexist! Most boy fans testified to its telling-it authenticity. Eddie ignored them all and just rode his guitar like a bitch. Oh, right, sorry…
The last cool thing the Three Amigos did. A rewrite of Ace Of Spades, but so what? This was Motörhead, baby. They could do what they liked. Until Eddie left and they couldn’t anymore.