Lemmy’s attitude to his band was simple. “We are Motorhead,” he said. “And we play rock and roll.” Some people would be more inclined to describe their music as heavy metal, but this was a band that drew its inspiration and its sounds from the rock and roll bands of the 1950s. They may have played faster, louder, and filthier than anyone had before, but what they played was still rock – at least according to Lemmy. Whether you agree or not, the one thing that’s not in dispute is their prolific output. Over a career spanning 40 years, they released 22 studio albums, 12 compilation albums, five EPs, and 10 live recordings. That’s a lot of material to wade through, but for the common good, we’ve done the homework and come up with the 10 best Motorhead songs of all time. Crank the volume to max and enjoy.
10. Born to Raise Hell
As loudwire.com notes, “Born to Raise Hell” might be best known for opening the movie ‘Airheads,’ but it’s also the song that by rights should have been playing when Lemmy entered the world. With an anthemic chorus and a little extra help from Ice-T and Whitfield Crane, it’s loud and furious enough to raise hell twice over.
9. (We Are) The Roadcrew
Back in the late 1960s, Lemmy worked as a roadie for the Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Nice. The experience clearly made an impression, and 10 years later he paid tribute to roadies everywhere with “(We Are) The Roadcrew,” a bluesy riff on gigs, beer, and broads. The song is as hedonistic and colorful as the lifestyle it describes, with all the hallmarks you’d expect of a classic Motorhead tune.
8. Killed by Death
The only thing the British music press likes to do more than make a band is to break them. By the mid-80s, that’s exactly what they were on the verge of doing to Motorhead. In fairness, it wasn’t entirely undeserved – the band’s recent output had been a long way from their best. But Lemmy wasn’t quite ready to be packed into early retirement just yet. In 1984, the band returned with the brilliant “No Remorse,” a compilation album with 4 new tracks. ‘Killed by Death’ was one of them. Despite being cheesier than a block of cheddar, the video got banned from MTV for “excessive and senseless violence.” The subsequent lack of exposure didn’t help the song from a commercial point of view, but its classic Motorhead sound at least meant the critics withdrew their knives.
As ultimateclassicrock.com points out, “Motorhead” is where it all began. The last song Lemmy wrote during his time with Hawkwind makes no bones about the fact his exit was down to “not liking the same drugs as the rest of the band.” Those were the days when a preference for uppers rather than downers was enough of a reason to get you fired, something that, judging from the ferocity of the track, clearly rankled with Lemmy. But where one door closes, another opens: Lemmy formed a new band, re-recorded the track, and from there, the only way was up.
6. Dancing on Your Grave
Taken from the only Motorhead album ( “Another Perfect Day”) to feature Thin Lizzy’s Brian “Robbo” Robertson on guitar, the newly approachable sound of “Dancing on your Grave” went down like a lead balloon when it was released, with hardcore fans accusing the band of selling out. They weren’t, they were just evolving. Thanks to hindsight, we can now see both the album and the song for what they actually were: outstanding.
Lemmy was, amongst many, many other things, a lifelong collector of World War II memorabilia. His passion for Nazi trinkets didn’t always go down well, but on 1979’s “Bomber,” we were less concerned with the ethics and more concerned with our eardrums bleeding. This is a fast, furious ride that takes no prisoners. It’s not for the lily-livered and it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. But if you like your rock with more punk than funk, this is the song for you.
4. Iron Fist
The final album recorded by the classic Motorhead lineup of Lemmy, “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor is 1982’s “Iron Fist.” It’s not a faultless album, and the rift that would soon rip the band apart is more than apparent at times. But its title track is a thing of beauty, with a fist-pumping chorus, dynamite percussion, and Lemmy at his gravelly best. Lemmy might have balked at being called thrash metal, but this is the track that showed every would-be thrasher how to do it.
“Overkill” is the sound of a band finding its groove. The songwriting is a major leap forward, as is the band’s ability to thrash out their own parts without drowning everyone else out in the process. It’s tight, precise, and ferocious as hell, with a thrusting bass and an explosive drum tattoo that puts Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor’s talents on full display. The thrash metal scene broke in the US a few years later: this is why.
Anyone who called Motorhead a heavy metal band to Lemmy’s face was asking for trouble. But whether he accepted it or not, some of their songs were as close to metal as brothers are to family. Case in point, “Orgasmatron,” a 5:23 minute nugget of viciousness that might read like poetry (‘Your bones will build my palace, your eyes will stud my crown… for I am Mars, the God of war and I will cut you down…’) but plays hot and heavy and very, very much like metal. Built around a malevolent riff and mean vocals, this is quite possibly the nastiest and heaviest song in the Motorhead cannon.
1. Ace of Spades
Finally, we come to “Ace of Spades.” Sure, it’s the obvious choice, but when the obvious choice is this good, what does it matter? With its blunt power and ferocious delivery, this ode to gambling and risking everything for the love of the game has frequently been called “the definitive Motorhead anthem.” Lemmy disagreed, claiming the band made its best work after Eddie Clarke left the band in 1982. We have to disagree. Perfectly pitched and intense enough to leave a mark, this is Motorhead at their very finest.