No Sleep Til Hammersmith

All hail the mighty Motorhead, experts at growing old gracefully.

No Sleep Til Hammersmith. What a record. Up there with Live And Dangerous, Live At the Apollo, or just about any other live album you care to mention. I first bought the thing when I was 13 and played it twice a day for two years. Just this week I picked up a CD copy in the Secret Book & Record Store in Dublin, having long ago lost the vinyl album.

No Sleep... hit the number one slot in the summer of 1981. Motörhead were on a colossal roll following the Ace Of Spades album, and had just breached the UK Top 5 singles chart with the St Valentine’s Day Massacre EP, a collaboration with Girlschool which included a rip-roaring version of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ ‘Please Don’t Touch’. The single ‘Motörhead’ reached number 6 that July, a gobsmacking achievement for a song that made Black Flag sound like Crosby Stills & Nash.

The set was mostly recorded in Leeds and Newcastle during a short five-date tour in Spring of ‘81. This was the classic line up of Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, drummer Philthy Animal Taylor and guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke. The trio stripped metal to the bare essentials. Like all great bands – The Stooges, The Birthday Party, Crazy Horse – their music comes from a place way older than rock ‘n’ roll: the swamp, the forest, the cave. The record hasn’t dated one bit. The wah-wah riddled menace of ‘Stay Clean’. The thrash furnace of ‘Overkill’. ‘We Are The Road Crew’. ‘Ace Of Spades’. ‘Bomber’. Every one a killer. My favourite is ‘Capricorn’, which contains Lem’s most impassioned vocal:

A thousand nights, I’ve spent alone,

Solitaire, to the bone,

But I don’t mind, I’m my own best friend,

From the beginning, to the end,

My life, my heart, black night, dark star, Capricorn

December’s child, the only one,

What I do, is what I’ve done,

I realise, I get so cold,

When I was young I was already old,

My life, my heart, black night, dark star, Capricorn

I always knew, the only way,

Is never live, beyond today,

They proved me right,

They proved me wrong,

But they could never last this long.

For the last fifteen years the band’s most stable line up, featuring Phil Campbell on guitar and Mikkey Dee on drums, has toured and recorded relentlessly. Rolling Stone ran a major Lemmy profile last Spring, and there’s been a documentary film in the works for some time now (the trailer features testimonials from Dave Grohl, Slash, Mick Jones, Metallica and Alice Cooper among others). Scan YouTube for the Ace Of Spades Classic Albums programme, or the 2005 Channel 4 documentary Live Fast, Die Old, and you can’t help but be awed by the fortitude of a man who hasn’t given an inch to fashion over four decades. Motorhead are due to release their twentieth studio album, The World Is Yours, next month. We are not worthy.

 

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