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Lemmy remembered

Photo: Stacy Schwartz


Motorhead was more than just one of the greatest metal bands ever. So many have attitude, heaviness, apocalyptic visions, tales of debauchery; and many manage to effectively translate these into their music. But precious few have expressed ALL of these, often in the same song, as articulately as Motorhead and Lemmy.

I never met Lemmy Kilmister. I don’t even have any particularly detailed stories of my many times seeing his band live. Well, none that don’t seem trite and amateurish—despite how epic they might have felt at the time—in comparison to the man himself. No one else, in an artistic medium known for its excesses, managed to keep both the music and the vices rolling for as long or at as high a level as Lemmy. Ever. It is unlikely anyone ever will.

For the record, my first Motorhead concert was Sept. 22, 1986, at Hammersmith Odeon. My last was at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, Mar. 8, 2011 (with Clutch and Valient Thorr). Lots of great sets lay in between, including a nearly private show in the mid-1990s at Equinox, a suburban nightclub in Houston, that sold so poorly I was pretty sure it would be the last time I saw the band.

I had Sept. 5, 2015, tickets for Motorhead's House of Blues Houston show. My wife and I were going with friends and were going to bring our son for his first Motorhead experience. Lemmy had to pull out. I was disappointed, but begrudged him nothing. How could I have? He spent his entire life showing me and the millions of others like me around the world the path forward: an unflagging belief in self, an insatiable lust for life, complete devotion to craft, and disregard for those who would suggest you had to compromise any of these to advance the others.

Motorhead put out 22 studio albums, but was ultimately a live experience. In that spirit, I’ve compiled my own list of the 20 greatest Motorhead songs ever and the best (mostly) live videos I could find for each. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Born To Lose. Live To Win.



Killed By Death

Album: No Remorse (1984)

Fact: A video for the song, directed by Plasmatics manager Rod Swenson, was banned by MTV for “excessive and senseless violence.”


Key lyric:

‘I’m a lone wolf ligger/but I ain’t no pretty boy’


Thoughts: Word for word, riff for riff, the closest thing to a guiding principle of a song for me that has ever been written.







Album: Motorhead (1977)

Fact: First written and recorded by Lemmy as a member of Hawkwind


Key lyric:

‘I should be tired/and all I am is wired/ain’t felt this good for an hour’


Thoughts: As far as band-name songs go it’s right up there with ‘Iron Maiden’ and ‘Bad Company.’






The Chase Is Better Than The Catch

Album: Ace of Spades (1980)

Fact: Feminists found this song offensive


Key lyric:

‘Silver-tongued devil, demon lech/you know just what I’m doing/I like a little innocent bitch/you know I ain’t just screwing


Thoughts: Truth







Album: Bomber (1979)

Fact:  Inspired by the Len Deighton novel ‘Bomber’ (1970)


Key lyric:

‘No night fighter/gonna stop us getting through/the sirens make you shiver/you bet my aim is true/Because you know we aim to please/bring you to your knees/it’s a bomber’


Thoughts: A prime example of Lemmy’s ability to be speaking history/social commentary and pub humor at the same time.







Album: Overkill (1979)

Fact: The last song Motorhead ever played


Key lyric:

‘Know your body’s made to move, feel it in your guts/Rock n’ roll ain’t worth the name if it don’t make you strut’


Thoughts: The Babysitters used to do a fantastic version of this at the Marquee, 90 Wardour, back in the day.






Ace of Spades

Album: Ace of Spades (1980)

Fact: Lemmy preferred slot machines, but didn’t find them as lyrically inspirational as cards


Key lyric:

‘You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools/but that’s the way I like it baby/I don’t wanna live forever’


Thoughts: I drew the ace of spades on a bus to Yankee Stadium once during a week long records and radio party as part of some game being played. Was sitting next to Mark Abramson. A huge Motorhead fan and one of the very best people to ever work any side of the industry. I don't remember winning whatever the prize was, but couldn't have drawn a better card!  Happy to still be in touch to this day.






Sex & Death

Album: Sacrifice (1995)

Fact: Written in 10 min on the last day of recording


Key lyric:

‘The answer to life’s mystery/is simple and direct: Sex & Death!’


Thoughts: Earth’s perpetual motion machine.






No Class

Album: Overkill (1979)

Fact: Lemmy dedicated this song to Wendy O. Williams—who covered it with the Plasmatics—after her death, noting that “she was very good in bed.”


Key lyric:

‘Shut up, you talk to loud/you don’t fit in with the crowd/I can’t believe you exist/I’ve crossed you right of my list’


Thoughts: While not driving, try to picture Lemmy and Wendy’s love child.







Album: Overkill (1979)

Fact: Lyrics inspired by 1927 Fritz Lang classic science-fiction silent movie ‘Metropolis’


Key lyric:

‘Ain’t nobody got their eye on you/I don’t care, I don’t care’


Thoughts: Not many words to this one, but damn if it doesn’t capture the vibe of its namesake.






Eat The Rich

Album: Rock n’ Roll (1987)

Fact: Written for Peter Richardson’s black comedy film ‘Eat The Rich’ (1987)


Key lyric:

‘Hash browns an’ bacon strips/I love the way that you lick your lips/No fooling, I can see you drooling/feel the hunger grow’


Thoughts: Lemmy in full social commentary-humor mashup mode.






Iron Fist

Album: Iron Fist (1982)

Fact: The last single featuring the original Lemmy/Philthy/Fast Eddie lineup.

Key lyric:

‘Flying horse don’t make a sound/flying hooves don’t touch the ground’


Stay Clean

Album: Overkill (1979)

Fact: ‘Overkill’ was coproduced by Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones, Traffic)

Key lyric:

‘Don’t be scared, live to win/although they’re always gonna tell you it’s a sin/In the end, you’re on your own/and there is no-one that can stop you being alone’


Thoughts: Live greatness






Built For Speed

Album: Orgasmatron (1986)

Fact: The album was originally titled ‘Riding With The Driver’ and the change was made too late to change the warpig-train artwork.


Key lyric:

‘Don’t you listen to a single word/against rock n’ roll/The new religion, the electric church/the only way to go’


Thoughts: Even if this song had simply meant Lemmy had a high-tolerance for amphetamines, the greatness of its lyric would not be diminished.






Doctor Rock

Album: Orgasmatron (1986)

Fact: Lemmy reckoned this album was destroyed by producer Bill Laswell (Herbie Hancock, Mick Jagger, PIL, Iggy Pop, Ramones, White Zombie) in the mix.


Key lyric:

‘Chin up, shoulders back/you’ve got a body like a Marshall stack’


Thoughts: Lemmy's a funny man.






Stone Dead Forever

Album: Bomber (1979)

Fact: Jimmy Miller, returning to work with the band after producing ‘Overkill,’ fell increasingly under the influence of heroin during the recording of ‘Bomber.’


Key lyric:

‘I think I see you, gone to seed/the only reasons were your guilt and greed’


Thoughts: Lemmy puts away the joke machine and calls out the world’s useless fucks pointblank.







Album: Orgasmatron (1986)

Fact: The title is in no way related to the device from Woody Allen’s film ‘Sleeper.’


Key lyric:

‘Obseguious and arrogant, clandestine and vain/two thousand years of misery and torture in my name/Hypocrisy made paramount, paranoia the law/my name is called religion, sadistic, sacred whore’


Thoughts: Lemmy lays waste to religion, politics, and needless wars.






Deaf Forever

Album: Orgasmatron (1986)

Fact: Motorhead is loud (but Lemmy is wise)


Key lyric:

‘No one knows, friends or foes, if Valhalla lies beyond the grave’


Thoughts: I can’t imagine what this record sounded like in its “good,” pre-mixed version.






(Don’t Need) Religion

Album: Iron Fist (1982)

Fact: The album followed ‘No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith,’ which debuted at #1 on the UK charts. Its name is derived from Iron First & the Hordes from Hell, a pseudonym Motorhead used live once for contractual reasons.


Key lyric:

‘Don’t need no blind belief/don’t need no comic relief/Don’t need to see the scars/I don’t need Jesus Christ Superstar’


Thoughts: Slo-mo and beautiful anti-church boogie.






Overnight Sensation

Album: Overnight Sensation (1996)

Fact: The title is ironic


Key lyric:

‘To live outside the law, my dear/you gotta give a damn’


Thoughts: The industry gets its turn.






Brave New World

Album: Hammered (2002)

Fact: The band convened in the Hollywood Hills to begin recording the day before the 9/11 attacks.


Key lyric:

‘Living in a constant state of dull frustrated rage/the innocent shot daily in the street….God is on your side, but I don’t think that you’re on his/if Jesus showed up now he’d be in jail by next week’


Thoughts: Go ahead and find a more pointed post-9/11 commentary than this one.




BONUS!: No Voices In The Sky

Album: 1916 (1991)

Fact: ‘1916’ was the first album recorded after Lemmy’s relocation to Hollywood.


Key lyric:

‘Ritual remembrance/when no one knows your name/Don’t help a single widow/learn to fight the pain’


Thoughts: Help yourself and your brothers, or the world will pick you apart. A sentiment also found in ‘Voices From The War.’ These two songs, along with ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Overnight Sensation’ showed off what Motorhead could do with a melody as their career progressed.




The end….how to die with one’s boots on


In Berlin, no less.

And a playlist to enjoy wherever you like.

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