Shortly after former Jimi Hendrix roadie Scotsman Lemmy (as in 'Lemme a Fiver') Kilminster (Real Name: Ian Kilminster; vocals/bass) got the sack from Hawkwind (supposedly for his brief arrest in Canada over drug charges) he started his own band which he described as "The kind of band that if we moved next to you, your lawn would die". Originally to be named Bastard, Motorhead (a name he took from the last song he wrote with Hawkwind) debuted at The Roundhouse pub in London in July of 1975 with himself, along with Larry Wallis (guitar) and Lucas Fox (drums).
It was only a short time after signing to 'United Artists' that they released their debut album, On Parole (1975), a relatively laid back operation that had been shelved by the record company until 1979 and released during the band's popularity height. Fox would soon after leave to be replaced by 'Philthy' Phill Taylor, a personal friend of Lemmy with no professional musical experience. It only took a month before Taylor's friend Fast Eddie Clarke joined, with Wallis leaving to his former outfit. This 1976 line-up would last until 1982, at which time they had become the most famous threesome in Rock. Lemmy, had previously been a room mate with a former club president of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, a background that ended off attracting a strong biker fan base. It was with this following that the single Iron Horse came about.
'Chiswick' was the name of the label that finally had the guts to launch Motorhead with their true self-titled debut. This album featured some of the band's most infamous and enduring works; it was a formidable debut to say the least. Bikers weren't the only folks who enjoyed their maniacal style for Hardcore Punks took a liking to them as well.
When the group switched to the 'Bronze Records' label their classic period had begun, and over the next several years Motorhead would release a series of heavy hitting and popular albums including Overkill (1979), Bomber (1979) and Ace Of Spades (1980). The albums collectively featured tracks like No Class, Bomber and Overkill, showing the results of the first experiments of what we now call Thrash Metal. The singles generated from these albums routinely reached top 60 in the U.K., with the Ace Of Spades album featuring a title track as an outlaw anthem; one which gave them a 4 on the charts!
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre EP (1981) was the joint project with all female counterparts Girlschool, featuring a blistering remake of Johnny Kidd's Please Don't Touch. The track making a reference in the final verse to the Ballad of Eskimo Nell, an infamous bawdy poem written almost a century ago, with the line, "I woke up drunk, you know I felt like Eskimo Nell."
Live on stage Motorhead was a formidable motley crew of characters with Lemmy himself stealing the show; his witty sense of humor, his bullet belt, sideburns, cowboy boots and grating sandpaper-like voice all displayed with his neck craned at a 45 degree angle to the mic. was a show of its own. Lemmy obviously knew what he was doing for in 1981 Motorhead's live album No Sleep Til Hammersmith went immediately to number 1 on the U.K. charts; the first Metal album to ever do so on launch. Such an album is almost impossible to follow-up on and, indeed, the 1982 Iron Fist was less impressive commercially.
At this point Clarke left to form his own outfit, Fastway, to be replaced by Brian Robertson (ex-Thin Lizzy/ex-Wild Horses) but this line-up didn't work very well and after the Another Perfect Day (1983) release he was replaced by Michael "Wurzel" Burston and Philip Campbell (guitar); this made the Motorhead membership swell to four. After only two months Taylor would leave shortly after their appearance on the British Comedy TV show The Young Ones. Replacement Pete Gill (ex-Saxon) would be with them until 1987; his debut with them would be No Remorse (1984), a compilation that featured their toughest tracks, as well as a few new ones.
Orgasmatron (1986) showed Motorhead at their finest with Lemmy going above and beyond the call of duty; his voice, dripping with emotion and power, sounding part robotic and part demonic on the title track! That same year Phil Campbell would return in time for the Rock 'n' Roll album release the next year; its Eat The Rich track being used for the 'Comic Strip' film of the same name which saw Lemmy making his acting debut. Lemmy's acting career would continue with him being featured in the movie Hardware as a taxi driver. In an attempt to follow on the success of their previous live album, a new one No Sleep At All (1988) appeared; it didn't do as well, clocking in at 79 on the U.K. charts, a far cry from the predecessor's #1.
After a move to L.A., they were back in the charts with the launch of 1916 (1991). 1916 featured strong emotion by Lemmy as he narrated the story of a soldier lost in battle. Phil Taylor would rejoin, but only briefly to be replaced Swedish born Mickey Dee. Shortly after, Motohead delved into horror with the theme song to the movie Hellraiser III, landing them their first video and spots on insurance ads! (In the mid 1990s Lemmy himself would get another acting stint in the movie Airheads).
The release of March Or Die (1992) featured its first track co-written by Ozzy Osbourne and Slash (of Guns N' Roses). But the chart toppers ended for their latest releases, a sign of the times that maybe Motorhead was fading into history. The latest albums, Bastards (1993), Sacrifice (1995) and Overnight Sensation (1998) were of no less quality but were of less popularity with not a single one charting. The trend continued for their millennium releases of Snake Bite Love (1998), Everything Louder Than Everyone Else (1999), and We Are Motorhead (2000). As a promotion, on 1 April 2001 the band gave a one song performance for Triple H's entrance at Wrestle Mania X-Seven at the Reliant Astrodome in Houston.
In April 2002 a DVD of some of Motörhead's performances from the '70s and '80s along with some stock footage of the band was released as The Best of Motörhead. Two weeks earlier, the latest album, Hammered, was released and supported by the Hammered Tour, that started in the USA at around the same time. The United States dates continued until late May, and a European leg followed between June and August. In October, the band played five dates in Great Britain with Anthrax, Skew Siskin and Psycho Squad. The final venue was the Wembley Arena in London, where the band were supported by Hawkwind, with Lemmy performing Silver Machine on stage with them.
After the release of 2004's Inferno, Motörhead picked up their first Grammy in 2005 for the 'Best Metal Performance' category for their cover of Metallica's Whiplash on Metallic Attack: The Ultimate Tribute, a compilation Motorhead had participated in. From March until early May, the band toured the United States, and in June and August they boasted their 30th Anniversary tour in Europe. On August 22, the band were the subject of an hour-long documentary, Live Fast, Die Old, which was aired on UK's Channel 4 as part of The Other Side series of documentaries.
By the 20th of September of that same year, a compilation album containing the band's appearances on BBC Radio 1 and a concert recording from Paris Theatre, London, was released as BBC Live & In-Session. In October, the band toured Europe with Mondo Generator before returning to Great Britain to tour with In Flames and old buddies Girlschool in October and November. During the show at the Brixton Academy on November 19th, Lemmy joined Girlschool on stage to play Please Don't Touch. Motörhead finished the year's tours in December, with two engagements in New Zealand and five in Australia with Mötley Crüe.
Their next album, Kiss of Death, arrived on August 29th, 2006 via 'Sanctuary Records', with a video for Be My Baby to accompany it, while in June of the following year, Motörhead played an engagement at the Royal Festival Hall as part of Jarvis Cocker's Meltdown. On the 26th of February 2008, No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith was reissued again as a two disc CD, to accompany the previous years' release of the live album: Better Motorhead Than Dead Live At Hammersmith.
From March through to June 2008, the band convened in Los Angeles with producer Cameron Webb to begin work on their 19th album Motörizer tghat was subsiquently released on August 26th. The album did not feature artwork from Joe Petagno, however, the artist who designed many of their classic album covers.
On September 30th of 2008, Reuters reported that Neverdie Studios had signed a deal with Motörhead to develop and market Lemmy's Castle and Motorhead Stadium inside the virtual world of Entropia Universe, an online virtual universe. The year's touring ended with a 34-date tour of Europe with a variety of support bands including Danko Jones, Saxon, Witchcraft, and Airbourne. On March 6, 2009, the band played in the Middle East for the first time, at the annual Dubai Desert Rock Festival in Dubai. On April 1 that year the band entered into a two-year sponsorship deal with UK Roller Derby team the Lincolnshire Bombers Roller Girls.
The World is Yours, although sounding something like a James Bond movie title, was the first album by Motorhead to be released on their own label. Furthermore, in celebration of their 35 years on the road, it was announced in November 2011 the release of The Wörld Is Ours - Vol 1 - Everywhere Further Than Everyplace Else, a live DVD of Motörhead's last global tour to date including performances in 2010 at Manchester's O2 Apollo, 2011 at New York City's Best Buy Theater and also the 2011 performance at Santiago de Chile's Teatro Caupolican. In 2012 this was followed up with the follow up live DVD The Wörld Is Ours - Vol. 2 - Anyplace Crazy As Anywhere Else, and in 2013, the new album was revealed as Aftershock.
After delaying several European tour dates that would have seen them perform with Saxon due to Lemmy's ongoing health issues due to Diabetes, in March 2014, Motörhead announced that three heavy metal bands Megadeth, Anthrax and themselves will perform in September 2014 at the first annual Motörhead's Motörboat cruise on board the Carnival Ecstasy (self-proclaimed "The Loudest Boat In The World"), due to sail from Miami and visit the ports of Key West and the Cozumel island just off Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.
Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the band, Bad Magic would be their next album release. The subsequent supporting tours,however, were fraught with problems when they had to cut short their Salt Lake City show on 27 August 2015 (in the Rocky Mountains) due to Lemmy having breathing problems because of the altitude, and then they had to cancel completely their Denver Riot Fest set on 28 August 2015. Their tour picked up again on the first of September at Emo's in Austin, Texas (moved from Cedar Park Center) but the group were again forced to abandon their set after three songs and subsequent shows until the fifth of the month.
Despite his ongoing health issues forcing Motörhead to cut short or cancel several US shows, Lemmy Kilmister was able to return in time for the trio's annual Motörboat heavy metal cruise from Miami to the Bahamas on September 28 - October 2 including performances by heavy metal legends Slayer, Anthrax, Exodus, Suicidal Tendencies and Corrosion of Conformity.
This, it would turn out, would the be the end of the band for on December 28, 2015, Lemmy died, four days after celebrating his 70th birthday that Christmas Eve and two days after hearing he had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. He followed Phil Taylor who had died a month earlier. On the following day, drummer Mikkey Dee confirmed that the band would not continue and it was to end abruptly, stating: "Lemmy was Motörhead ... We won't be doing any more tours or anything. And there won't be any more records. But the brand survives, and Lemmy lives on in the hearts of everyone."
Lemmy, for his part, has earned (and rightfully so) the respect of the Heavy Metal music world and has proven to be a survivor within it, and life in general. His firm but fair public persona and sensible attitude were probably the reasons he was crowned 'King Of Metal' on his 50th birthday in the waning days of the 1990s. In 1998 Lemmy was interviewed on a radio talk show about his influence on the Thrash genre. He acknowledged his involvement in hind-sight but also pointed out that others were unknowingly involved also, and he emphasized the difference between bands of the 1990s and those of his generation by summing it up simply, "Oh, in Thrash they got the speed and volume right but they left the blues behind".
Footnote: The umlaut over the ö in their name was a record-cover art conceit, possibly derived from the similar "heavy metal umlaut" in the name of the Blue Öyster Cult. However, the band's name is not pronounced as the German usage. Spoof band Spinal Tap parodied the idea by putting the umlaut over the letter 'n' (which most computers are unable to display correctly).