There are imitators, but there is only one Motörhead; there will never be another. Whether it is the sex, drugs, and rock and roll persona that came naturally to Lemmy, and his musical counterparts, or their musical talent that was beyond reproach, there is little doubt that Motörhead changed rock and roll forever, starting with this eponymous debut.
While Motörhead was not technically the first Motörhead album, it was the first released to the public with the earlier effort, On Parole being shelved until 1979. This review is based on the original 8-track release from 1977. While an expanded 40th Anniversary Edition is also available, I’m somewhat of a purist and while there is nothing fundamentally wrong with extended releases, there is something special about the original 33-minute release. It leaves you wanting more and I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I feel that is a good thing.
Motörhead is a killer opener that was originally recorded by Hawkwind, when Lemmy was a member, and by Motörhead for the On Parole album. The Hawkwind original is, as you’d expect, more psychedelic but is, in my opinion, a superb recording with a killer violin solo. It was also the last song Lemmy wrote for Hawkwind. The On Parole recording is rather raw, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the motorcycle revving introduction is incredible. This version, by comparison, is a perfect evolution of the song, even though I’ve always felt Philthy’s drum track, while sensational, was compromised. When listening via speakers, it isn’t as apparent, but when using headphones, there is a flat wallop sound to the drums. Look, Motörhead was never going to win any audiophile awards, but it just doesn’t sound right as it is a little concealed; of course, that could be part of the song’s and album’s appeal as it has most certainly stood the test of time.
Vibrator is an old-school rock and roll tune that I simply adore and the drums on this recording are significantly better than Motörhead when listening on headphones. There are some killer musical riffs to be heard here and if you haven’t already, may I suggest you turn the volume up. This version is more rock and roll than the original found on On Parole and perhaps the most appealing aspect is Lemmy’s deeper, whiskey-soaked, vocal delivery as Larry Wallis’ original vocal on the On Parole version is piss-weak.
Lost Johnny is a solid rock tune. It isn’t anything to write home about, but it is a perfect addition to the album with a killer guitar solo by Fast Eddie. This version is so similar to that as heard on On Parole that I’m torn as to which I prefer. Of course, Lost Johnny’s origins go further back as the song was originally written by Lemmy for Hawkwind and I adore that version, feeling it is much stronger than the subsequent Motörhead re-recordings.
Iron Horse / Born To Lose is one of the coolest, no, it has to be the coolest, song on the album. Lemmy was, without a doubt, one of the greatest bass players to have ever recorded a tune. He had incredible rhythm. Bloody brilliant! If you haven’t checked out the original, while very similar to this re-recording, it simply must be heard as it’s equally impressive.
White Line Fever is another rhythmic masterpiece, but Lemmy sounds a little too far back in the mix. It isn’t a mood killer, but I would have loved to have heard his vocal more prominent in the mix.
Keep Us On The Road is a song you can groove to. A killer tune!
The Watcher has incredible rhythm and is yet another song, from the Motorhead collection, where you’ll need your air guitar to fully enjoy it. It is, thankfully, significantly stronger than the version from On Parole. Although, as with a few of the original Motorhead songs, The Watcher was originally written by Lemmy for Hawkwind and that psychedelic acoustically-styled rendition is simply magical.
The Train Kept A Rollin’ is a classic song that’s been covered by a who’s who of rock and roll with Aerosmith probably championing it most throughout their career with the song being featured on Get Your Wings. Nevertheless, the bass-heavy groove that Lemmy throws into the song really works well and while I remain unconvinced that The Train Kept A Rollin’ was the perfect closer for this eponymous debut, I find that it still compels me enough to listen to the album again.
Motörhead may not have been the first set of studio recordings from Motörhead, but the album showcased a band that was highly polished as a result of extensive touring; especially considering the album was recorded in 48 hours*. Is Motörhead subjectively a stronger album than On Parole? Yes, I believe it is, but On Parole is definitely one album you should check out as it is arguably the true origin of Motorhead and this debut is merely a more polished re-recording of many of the original tracks. If you’re at all interested in Motörhead, then this eponymous debut is essential for your collection. It is raw, full of energy, and is pure rock and roll.
Motörhead is available to own on Vinyl and CD.
Motörhead 40th Anniversary Edition is also available on CD and Apple Music.
*Lemmy: The Definitive Biography - By Mick Wall (pg. 129)