This ‘Motorhead’ Goes to 11

“I was on tour with Hawkwind in 1974, we were staying at the Riot House (the Hyatt Hotel in Los Angeles) and Roy Wood and Wizzard were also in town. I got this urge to write a song in the middle of the night. I ran downstairs to the Wizzard room, got Roy’s Ovation acoustic guitar, then hurried back to mine. I went on to the balcony and howled away for four hours. Cars were stopping and the drivers were listening then driving off, and there I was yelling away at the top of my voice.” – Lemmy

 
And there you have it: The origin of a hugely significant song, one that inextricably connects Lemmy’s history with Hawkwind to his subsequent success with Motorhead. Originally positioned as a non-album single B-side, the song would eventually became a ‘hit single’, rising to #6 in the UK singles chart.

 
The song in question was named for the American term for speed freak: ‘Motorhead’. One could therefore easily deduce exactly what kind of drugs Lemmy was on on that night in LA; I’m no expert, but suddenly being struck with an urgent need to write a song in the middle of the night and bellowing off a balcony at the top of your lungs for four hours may indicate the use of speed. Well, they say ‘write about what you know’, and Lemmy did just that. ‘Motorhead’ is a snapshot of what was happening in Lem’s head during that late-night writing session:

 
Sunrise wrong side of another day, Sky-high and six thousand miles away
Don’t know how long I’ve been awake, Wound up in an amazing state
Can’t get enough and you know its righteous stuff?
Goes up like prices at Christmas

 
And of course, no examination of Lemmy’s ‘Motorhead’ lyric would be complete without a mention of the infamous ‘parallelogram’ line:

 
Fourth day, five day marathon, We’re moving like a parallelogram
Don’t move, I’ll shut the door and kill the lights, If I can’t be wrong, I must be right
I should be tired, and all I am is wired, Ain’t felt this good for an hour

 
‘Moving like a parallelogram’? YES. When you do drugs with Hawkwind, everything moves like a parallelogram. Speaking of drugs, the fact Lemmy’s ‘Motorhead’ would appear as the B-side of Hawkwind’s ‘Kings of Speed’ single confirms some previous assumptions about the band’s drug use. Beyond the obvious ‘speed’ reference, the ‘Kings’ lyric also makes reference to cocaine:

 
Between you and me Mr. C, I think we have what these boys need
We guarantee you the sweetest ride, You’ll go so far you’ll think you’ve died
The biggest attraction, the brightest star, Boys you’re going fast and far
Kings of Speed, Kings of Speed, We’re gonna make you, Kings of Speed

 
‘Motorhead’ was the perfect compliment to ‘King’s of Speed’, as the songs are clearly linked thematically, making the single a kind of musical tribute to amphetamines. It would also be the last song Lemmy Kilmister would ever write for Hawkwind, as Lem would be fired in June the following year. Excerpts from a short piece in the NME from June of 1975 gives us insight into Lemmy’s firing, and the significance of speed to this time period in The History of Lemmy:

 
“Sacked. I was sacked. We were going from America to Canada and I had two grammes of Sulphate. They thought it was cocaine. A bit later I was called to Dave Brock’s room. They were all sitting there. I was told I was being sacked. I said ‘Thanks very much’ and left the room. I must tell you I was Upset. Tears Were Seen. Anyway, I pleaded Not Guilty and the charges were dismissed. After all, it wasn’t the Big C — only Biker Sulph, which ain’t illegal in Ontario.”

 
Lemmy further explained that his new band would “concentrate on very basic music: loud, fast, city, raucous, arrogant, paranoid, speedfreak rock n roll … it will be so loud that if we move in next door to you, your lawn will die”. While he first considered naming his band ‘Bastard’, an allusion to his recent firing, ultimately he decided to see the title of his final contribution to his previous band: ‘Motorhead’. As he moved on, he also took the song itself with him and reshaped it for his new project, with great vengeance and furious anger.

 
‘Motorhead’ the song has been re-recorded by Motorhead the band three times, features on two of the band’s official live albums, and many alternate versions of the song – by both bands – have appeared as bonus tracks on ‘Deluxe’ re-mixed/re-mastered versions of the original classic records. I count no less than eleven versions of ‘Motorhead’ that I consider worthy of your attention. Here they are, in the order that they were originally recorded:

 
‘Motorhead’ Version 1 / Instrumental by Hawkwind, from the ‘Warrior on the Edge of Time’ sessions, 1975

umbling to life with a patented Lemmy Bass Intro, the first recording of ‘Motorhead’ lopes along at a friendly, almost laid-back pace. What makes this version interesting is that, in the absence of a lead vocal or guitar solo, the energetic bass strumming of frustrated guitarist Lemmy can be clearly heard in certain sections. Laid bare like this, the simplicity of the song’s riffs and overall arrangement reinforce a stark contrast between most of Lemmy’s songwriting contributions to Hawkwind and the trippy prog/jam sound that characterized most of the band’s music.

 

‘Motorhead’ Version 2 / Brock Vocal by Hawkwind from the ‘Warrior on the Edge of Time’ sessions, 1975

Say what you will about Lemmy’s …unique… vocal stylings, but Hawkwind founder Dave Brock’s vocal take is blah. Maybe it’s just that we’re so used to Lemmy belting out this tune, but Brock’s somewhat thin voice lacks character and his lazy approach to the lyric’s rhythms dulls the impact of a song that’s supposed to be all about the manic intensity of an amphetamine high. The guitar solo here may have been just a ‘scratch’ take, and not intended to be retained, as it’s completely unfocused and aimless; though backed with Hawkwind’s warped electronic sound effects, it actually kinda works.

 
‘Motorhead’ Version 3 / Single version by Hawkwind, B-Side of ‘Kings of Speed’ single, 1975

This is the first recording of the song that anyone outside the band ever heard. The WotEoT Deluxe liner notes state that Lem had lost his voice when it was time to record the vocal to his song, and Brock stepped in and sang Lemmy’s lyrics, completing the tune. Apparently Lemmy wouldn’t have it, and he eventually laid down his vocal, job done. Not to be outdone, Lemmy added a lower harmony, which lurks beneath the main vocal and lends the lead vocals an ominous tone. Another major difference from the previous two iterations is the inclusion of a violin solo. You read that right. Welcome to Hawkwind.

 
‘Motorhead’ Version 4 / Dave Edmunds Demo by Motorhead, 1975

With Larry Wallis on guitar and Lucas Fox on drums, we have arrived at the very first version of ‘Motorhead’ actually recorded by Motorhead. Compared with the Hawkwind version from earlier in the year, the tempo is juiced, the energy level is way up, and harmony vocal is gone. Lemmy’s vocal performance is spirited and the guitar flourishes by Wallis bring the song squarely into Hard Rock territory. In my humble opinion, this is the ‘best’ studio version of this song. A pity Dave Edmunds, producer of the demo, didn’t stick around to do the album that followed…

 
‘Motorhead’ Version 5 / UA ‘Debut’ Album Version, 1975

This problematic version is the opening track on what would have been Motorhead’s debut. Recorded in 1975 but shelved by United Artists, the record was ultimately released as ‘On Parole’ in 1981 to cash in on the smash success of Motorhead’s ‘No Sleep ’til Hammersmith’, which entered the UK charts at #1. Side One/Track One opens with the sound of a motorcycle roaring to life, obscuring almost all of Lemmy’s bass iconic bass intro; the annoying bike noises continue well into the song. The ‘production’ on this version is questionable at best, with its tribal drums and droning guitar overdubs rendering this version an unfocused mess.

 
‘Motorhead’ Version 6 / Chiswick Debut Album Version, 1977

Because Motorhead’s very first version of ‘Motorhead’ (the 1975 demo) was unheard for 22 years, and the second (UA album version) was locked away for six years, this third Motorhead version of ‘Motorhead’ that the general public would hear. With the classic ‘Three Amigos’ line-up of Lemmy, Fast Eddie Clarke, and Philthy Animal Taylor in place, the band recorded this version during a whirlwind weekend session in 1977 that was supposed to produce a 2-song single; instead, the session yielded this song, plus 12 additional backing tracks.

 
Eddie tells it:

 
“That was Friday night, so we had all Saturday and Sunday. We’d been playing these songs for a year, so we thought fuck it, we can do an album. In a few hours we had all the backing tracks down. Put the vocals down. Bit more speed, put some more guitars on. Few more beers – we were fucking steaming. Come Saturday night, we’d nearly finished it.”

 
Speed, indeed! Even the producer’s name was Speedy Keen. Management agreed to up the budget and a full album was completed.

 
Rough and ragged, this take on the band’s namesake song sounds very punk and has a live ‘warts and all’ (no pun intended) feel. When the band crashes in to the song proper, and Phil’s hi-hat work and Eddie’s wall of sound guitars meshing with Lemmy’s trebley bass savagery, it’s clear: while still in its primitive stages, there’s something special happening here. Eddie’s hyperactive solo is the icing on the cake: Motorhead have arrived. Lem’s lead vocal carries a bit more rasp than usual; yours would too if you’d double-tracked vocals for 12 songs in 48 hours. This version was also released as the band’s first official single, with their version of Larry Wallis’ ‘City Kids’ on the flip, in June of 1977.

 
‘Motorhead’ Version 7 / Chiswick Session Alternate Take, 1977

Unearthed and included with a 40th Anniversary re-release of the ‘debut’ album in 2017, this alternate take is even more frantic than the album/single version, but probably wasn’t used due to the fact that Eddie applies a an echo effects pedal midway through his solo, and then a flange pedal near the end, which he never de-activates, allowing the effect to continue throughout the entire 2nd half of the song. The vocal is not doubled, and Lemmy’s lead vocal sounds great, although this take was likely abandoned early in the sessions.

 
‘Motorhead’ Version 8 / ‘No Sleep ’til Hammersmith’ Album Version, 1981

Recorded on March 29, 1981 during the ‘Ace Up Your Sleeve’ tour in 1980 in Newcastle. The Three Amigos had come a long way since their ‘debut’ appeared in 1977, rapidly evolving into the unstoppable wrecking machine heard on their first official live album ‘No Sleep ’til Hammersmith’. Lemmy intros the band’s final encore with a tossed-off ‘Just in case…’, and unleashes that classic 4-string intro, his bass approximating the sound of the flaming metal wreckage of the Hindenburg impacting the ground. The band sounds absolutely vicious throughout. This recording was also released as a single, unedited, with one minute plus of ear-piercing, squalling feedback and air raid sirens at the song’s end retained from the album version; it peaked at #6, becoming Motorhead’s highest-ever charting single.

 
‘Motorhead’ Version 9 / ‘No Sleep til Hammersmith’ Alternate Version, 1981

Also intro’d with a ‘Just in case…’, this one is a bit more ‘unorganized’ than the ‘No Sleep’ version discussed above, but overall quite similar, as it was recorded on March 30, at a second Newcastle City Hall show. This was released in 2001 in a 2-CD ‘Complete Edition’ of ‘No Sleep ’til Hammersmith’, which compiled an alternate version of the ‘No Sleep’ album with unused recordings from the Leeds and Newcastle shows. As is usually the case when tracks that didn’t pass muster the first time around are hauled out as bonus tracks, these tracks are interesting, but not up to the standard of the material chosen for the official album.

 
‘Motorhead’ Version 10 / ‘The Birthday Party’ Live Version, 1985

This version is surprisingly tight, considering there were 9 people on stage playing it together! For the final song during Motorhead’s Tenth Anniversary gig at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, the 2-guitar version of Motorhead – Lemmy, Wurzel, Phil Campbell, and Pete Gill – are joined by Phil Taylor, Eddie Clarke, Brian Robertson, and Lucas Fox – every previous member of Motorhead with the exception of Larry Wallis. Wallis didn’t make it, but that was fine; his spot was taken by none other than Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott! Employing 5 guitarists, 2 bass players and 2 drummers (Fox played guitar here, not drums), this rendition could have completely fallen apart, but it all hangs together well, as this mob bulldozes through the old warhorse and does it proud. This show was released on CD and VHS in 1990; sorry, no legit DVD or Blu-Ray exists.

 
‘Motorhead’ Version 11 / Guitar Hero III Video Game Version, 2008

For the next iteration of ‘Motorhead’, we have to jump forward almost 25 years, and into the video game era. In 2008, the song was recorded by would would be the final line-up of Motorhead: Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee. This version was released as downloadable content for the Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock video game, along with new versions of “Stay Clean” and “(We Are) The Road Crew”, so once again, this song may be an entire generation’s introduction to the magic of Motorhead. This take absolutely rages, and while there’s a definite modern metallic sheen to the proceedings, all of the punk-ish elements in the song remain intact, 30+ years after it’s inception. This track was added to the posthumous covers compilation ‘Under Cover’ in Japan as a bonus track in 2017… But was this really a cover?

 
‘Motorhead’ was not a song that appeared very often in Motorhead’s live set, even in the early years. Perhaps it’s because the song’s structure and feel are somewhat outside of what would become the ‘Motorhead sound’; lyrically, it’s 6,000 miles away from the much more grounded lyrical output Lem would pen for his band. I mean, in the end, it’s really a Hawkwind song, isn’t it? But the opposite argument could also be made: ‘Motorhead’ is really the very first Motorhead song, it’s title and lyric encapsulating the renegade spirit and chemically-enhanced manic intensity that would fuel Lemmy’s career from that moment forward; it’s music embodying the garage-punk Rock n’ Roll attack that he would harness and hammer into the mean machine called Motorhead.

 
By the way… I would so buy this album!

Lemmy’s Band Banned By BBC

The list of songs that have been banned by the BBC is as long as it is ridiculous. Since the British Broadcasting Service, the UK’s public broadcasting corporation, has been banning songs since the 1920s, the list is a long one; too long to reproduce here. It’s a vast collection of music that runs the gamut from the tame innuendo of Cole Porter’s ‘Love for Sale’ to Prodigy’s patently offensive ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, with a whole bunch of seemingly-random material in between. Songs concerning themselves with sex, violence, drugs and alcohol, the Devil, and war abound, but the reasons for banning the vast majority of this seemingly innocuous material are baffling. Fatboy Slim’s ‘Fucking in Heaven’? Okay. ‘The Monster Mash’? Really?

 
A whopping 67 songs were banned after the start of the first Gulf War. This sub-list also contains it’s fair share of head-scratchers (John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’?), but much of the material is more obvious, such as The Cure’s ‘Killing an Arab’ or Edwin Starr’s ‘War’. But where were the charting singles and rock radio staples from the world of Heavy Rock? Two singles by Status Quo are as loud as this list gets. ‘War Pigs’, helloooo?! Doesn’t AC/DC alone have 67 songs about firing guns, canons, and shooting things down in flames? Motorhead’s ‘Bomber’ single entered the UK Top 40 in the winter of 1979; how did this escape the ban hammer?

 
As it happens, Lemmy actually was banned by Auntie Beeb, and it was a song about a bomber … But maybe not the one you think.

 
Space Rock pioneers Hawkwind hired Ian Kilmister, aka Lemmy, as their bass player, just after the release of their second album ‘In Search of Space’. During the year previous to Lemmy’s hire, Hawkwind had established themselves as the go-to band for free shows and benefit concerts, contributing performances to the early Glastonbury and free festivals movements. With Lemmy on board, the band also aligned themselves with several fringe political organizations, playing benefit concerts for the likes of the White Panthers and the Stoke Newington Eight.

 
The Stoke Newington Eight were members of the Angry Brigade, a far-left militant group responsible for a series of bomb attacks in England between 1970 and 1972. Using small bombs, they targeted banks, embassies, a BBC Broadcast van, and the homes of Conservative MPs. In total, police attributed 25 bombings to the Angry Brigade. The bombings mostly caused property damage; only one person was slightly injured. Eight people eventually stood trial for these bombings between May and December in 1972.

 
It was during the Angry Brigade trial that Hawkwind performed a benefit concert for The Eight. Right around that same time, the Hawks struck gold with their ‘Silver Machine’ single, released on June 9th, 1972. The record rose to #3 on the UK singles chart that summer, giving the cosmic crew a bona fide smash hit. But their brief intersection with the Stoke Newington Eight would have significant repercussions when the band attempted to follow up the success of ‘Silver Machine’ with a new single in the summer of ’73.

 

The song ‘Urban Guerrilla’, co-written by recent Hawkwind acquisition Bob Calvert and Hawkwind mainstay Dave Brock soon after the band’s brief intersection with the Stoke Newington Eight, was a strong contender. Musically, it’s quite simple when compared to the average Hawkwind track; less-‘prog’ and more ‘rock n’ roll’ in style and structure. This was likely one reason it was chosen as the follow-up single to ‘Silver Machine’. Although… the choice was a bold one, as new recruit Calvert’s lyric seems to directly support the Eight’s anarchist philosophies and methods:

 
I’m an urban guerrilla, I make bombs in my cellar
I’m a derelict dweller, I’m a potential killer
I’m a street fighting dancer, I’m a revolution romancer
I’m society’s cancer, I’m a two-tone panther
So let’s not talk of love and flowers
And things that don’t explode
You know we used up all of our magic powers
Trying to do it in the road
I’m a political bandit, And you don’t understand it
You took my dream and canned it, It is not the way I planned it
I’m society’s destructor, I’m a petrol bomb constructor
I’m a cosmic light conductor, I’m the people’s debt collector
So watch out Mr. Business Man
Your empire’s about to blow
You know I think you had better listen, man
In case you did not know

 
It was rare at this point in the band’s history that the band would declare their political philosophies directly, without the drug-feuled sword & sorcery trappings. The surface layer of Hawkwind’s lyrics consisted of hippie-trippy fantasy or sci-fi themes, with an underlying expression of desire to overcome oppression; to be free. From the simple don’t let the man bring you down of ‘You Shouldn’t Do That’ to the gritty urban hopelessness of Lemmy’s ‘Lost Johnny’, Hawkwind’s worldview condemned mainstream culture and embraced escape, by any means necessary… Including chemistry. ‘The Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear in Smoke)’ basically says ‘modern society sucks, so let’s do drugs’, which handily sums up the vast majority of Hawkwind’s lyrical canon.

 
‘Urban Guerrilla’ stood out in stark contrast to Hawkwind’s usual cosmogology, and was quite plain in it’s messaging. Band manager Doug Smith said, “It was a major political statement.” ‘Guerrilla’ summarized the harsh reality of Hawkwind political position, the dark side of the counterculture, the come-down of the 70s after ‘peace and love’ had gotten the hippies nowhere. “We definitely had a sense that we were part of a revolutionary movement” agreed Lemmy, “not some hippie-drippy never land, something much more immediate.”

 
Bob Calvert’s time as frontman and lyricist in Hawkwind was the band’s most successful era; also their most turbulent. Calvert suffered from bipolar disorder, which often caused friction within the band, and during one particularly acute cycle, Calvert was committed to a mental hospital under the UK’s Mental Health Act. The people closest to him were likely not surprised at all by the content of his ‘Guerrilla’ lyric. Nik Turner: “Robert Calvert used to dress up as an urban guerrilla. He wore jackboots and combat clothing quite a lot, khaki stuff. His influences were probably people like Lawrence of Arabia. He was really into military uniforms. One nervous breakdown he was having, he dressed up as a soldier, marched for 25 miles and admitted himself to a loony bin.”

 
With the Stoke Newington Eight trial a year behind them, the band chose ‘Urban Guerrilla’ as their next single. The song was backed with ‘Brainbox Pollution’ and released in July of 1973, two months after Hawkwind’s live mindfuck ‘Space Ritual’ hit the Top Ten. This band was on a serious roll; a lot was riding on the band’s next move. And the gamble seemed to work: initial sales of ‘Urban Guerrilla’ were strong, and the record seemed likely to enter the singles chart in the Top Forty. Then, suddenly…

 
18 August: Two fire bombs exploded at Harrods department store at Knightsbridge, London causing some serious damage. No one was hurt. ‘The Troubles’ had arrived in London earlier in the year; the IRA would ultimately be responsible for 36 bombs detonated in the city in 1973. The August 18th bomb came just three weeks after Hawkwind’s new single hit, and forced the title and lyrics of the song into a new context. The BBC refused to play the record, banning it from the British airwaves. Band, management, and label also reacted quickly. A blurb in the weekly NME read:

 
HAWKWIND WITHDRAW “GUERRILLA”

 
HAWKWIND’S new single “Urban Guerrilla” has been withdrawn from the market with immediate effect by United Artists, at the special request of the group themselves – despite the fact that the Hawks are currently undertaking a tour to promote the record, which is on the verge of chart entry. Reason for the withdrawal is the current spate of bombings in central London.

 
A spokesman for the group commented; “Although the record was selling very well, we didn’t want to feel that any sales might be gained by association with recent events – even though the song was written by Bob Calvert two years ago as a satirical comment, and was recorded three months ago.”

 
At the groups suggestion, United Artists now plan to release the “B” side of “Urban Guerrilla” as a new single. It is “Brainbox Pollution” and will be out as soon as possible.

 
The promotion of ‘Brainbox’ never happened. After three weeks in shops and on the air, the single had entered the charts at #39… but was instantly a non-issue. As BBC Radio is the only broadcast outlet The BBC in Britain, the ban had killed the record dead, and the withdrawal of the single was a necessary move by the band and their label to prevent accusations of opportunism as the IRA continued their bombing campaign in England.

 
Nik Turner related some of the fallout from the ‘Guerrilla’ debacle in 2012: “They tore the floorboards up in my house looking for guns and bombs and stuff like that. They didn’t find any of these things. Then, the record company withdrew the single because of unfavourable publicity and because of the situation in Ireland, really. The IRA was letting off bombs and stuff like that. So, the authorities investigated me and investigated the band. When we were on tour we were stopped by Customs, when we went out of Britain and we were kept waiting around for a day or so. It was very inconvenient, really. But the record company was withdrawing the record eventually, because the radio, BBC, wouldn’t play it anyway. They were very silly at the time and we had a lot of problems because of that single as you can imagine.”

 
The single’s withdrawal cost Hawkwind valuable momentum, they failed to follow up their #3 smash with another hit, and the band’s next two singles both failed to chart. Who knows how high in the charts the ‘Urban Guerrilla’ single would have climbed? Hawkwind’s albums continued to chart, and the band was well on it’s way to becoming a touring institution. But the banning of ‘Urban Guerrilla’ killed any chances of Hawkwind ever becoming a ‘pop’ group, which was likely fine with linchpin Dave Brock, who famously pledged to “stay as far outside the music business as possible”.

 
Of course, some six years later, Lemmy would write a song about a very different kind of bomber, inspired by a Len Deighton novel of the same name. His post-Hawkwind band, Motorhead, would ride the song to #34 in the UK singles charts, five places higher than ‘Urban Guerrilla’ had reached as it was pulled.

Of Pigs and Power

After appearing on classic albums by UFO, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd, one of the UK’s biggest rock stars is calling it a day. The name might not be familiar, but this legendary icon’s contributions to rock music are surely familiar to just about anyone who owned a turntable in the 1970’s.

The Battersea Power Station is located on the South Bank of the River Thames, in the Battersea District of South West London. This coal burning power plant is actually 2 identical buildings; Station A, built in the 1930’s, and Sation B in the 1950’s. The station stopped producing power in 1983, but has nonetheless become one of the most popular landmarks in London and one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Since its decomission, investors have sought to make the building into a theme park, a stadium, and even another, more modern power station. Since 2012, the site has been under development as a giant mall, with residential apartments and townhouses, and opened these rental untis to the public on May 1st of this year. Thankfully, the British government required all bidders on the 39-acre site to include the 4 iconic chimneys in their redevelopment plans, thus retaining the buildings’ iconic look and national landmark status.

So how does the largest brick building in Europe become a rock star? Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters lived near Battersea in the 70’s, and those famous chimneys constantly loomed as part of his local skyline. When the Floyd needed an image to communicate the ideas found on their upcoming ‘Animals’ album, Waters thought the coal burning, smoke spewing power station, which was then within a few years of outliving it’s usefulness, would be an effective way of communicating the record’s concept. Loosely based on George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, the album’s theme centered on the UK’s outmoded class system hierarchy. The pig floating between two chimneys sealed it, a mocking symbol of corruption hovering majestically between two of Battersea’s towering chimneys, as they belch black smoke into the sky. The image perfectly encapsulated Waters’ view of Britiain’s class system and the societal and moral decay he felt it produced.

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‘Animals’ was released in January of 1977. Today it is acknowledged as Pink Floyd’s reaction to the burgeoning Punk Rock movement, an attempt to tackle some of the same ideas and concepts so vociferously explored by punk music. Battersea provided Floyd with an iconic image (created by the legendary Hipgnosis graphics group) that helped the record achieve 4x Platinum status, which in turn helped make Battersea one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.

Next up for Battersea was an appearance on the cover of UFO’s ‘Lights Out’ album in May of ’77. Hipgnosis once again looked to our favorite power station for an image to communicate another Punk Rock-inspired idea: Who controls the ‘power’, and what happens after the ‘power’ goes out and no one is looking? And where better to question the goings on along the corridors of power than… along the corridors of power?

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‘Lights Out’ was not a concept album, but the lyric to the title track, with its artful allusions to the bombing of Britian during WWII, deals with such themes as war in the streets and a forced toppling of the status quo, a perfect description of what was going on in the UK’s music scene in 1976/77. Battersea provided the backdrop for an image of power station workers, ie those who control the power, disrobing while on the job, clearly up to something other than their work. It’s a subtle but striking graphic representation of the abuse of power.

In June of 1977, Hawkwind released their seventh studio album, ‘Quark Strangeness and Charm’. To many, the psychedlic Space Rock of Hawkwind, with it’s sci-fi lyrics and hippie jam band musical aesthetic, may have seemed immune to the siezmic shifts in rock music caused by the birth of Punk Rock. But the hippies shared with the punks a major imperative: ‘Question Authority’. Hawkwind had also shared members with UK proto-punks The Pink Fairies, so the self-appointed Psychadelic Warlords were a lot closer to the punk rock fray than most rock fans realized. In a timely attempt to underscore Hawkwind’s connection to punk’s ideals, Hipgnosis staged the image to illustrate the band’s political stance, and shot the cover to ‘Quark’ in one of the control rooms at Battersea.

Hawkwind-Quark-Strangeness-and-Charm

The image is set in the enterior of a high-tech control room, and depicts two machines interacting together, with dangerous-looking results; lightning and laser light are arcing into the nearby control panels, while a portal of some sort seems to be opening between them. The lab-coated human in the picture looks the other way, completely oblivious to the activity behind him. The back cover features a close-up of the ‘face’ of one of the machines, while behind and to the left, the human technician is shown to be asleep in a chair with paperwork covering his face. This artwork brilliantly captures the essence of Hawkwind’s underground philosophy: Let’s change the world while ‘The Man’ isn’t looking. It’s another compelling image with a charged political message, depicting those in control asleep at the switch.

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In the first 6 months of 1977, as the Punk Rock apocalypse poked, prodded and outright threatened more established rock acts, three major British bands rose to the challenge, and looked to the artists at Hipgnosis to graphically express their responses. Hipgnosis, in turn, found their go-to symbol to represent power, authority, and control; the perfect setting to stage three chilling tableaus of corruption, abuse and moral decay: the brick and wrought iron fortress known as the Battersea Power Station.

From coal-fired electric power plant to unlikely rock star to metrpolitian shopping mall. There’s a concept album in there somewhere.

Motorhead: The First Three Years

Shortly after his firing from UK space rock pioneers Hawkwind, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister adopted the biker motto ‘Born to Lose, Live to Win’ and made it his new band’s mission statement. As luck (both good and bad) would have it, he would spend the next few years living both sides of that creedo, earning the right to make it his own every day while struggling to get his new band, Motorhead, off the ground.

Motorhead was doomed from day one. But Motorhead was also destined for greatness. Lemmy knew both of these statements to be true even at the very beginning. Motorhead survived more drama and disaster in their first few years of existence than most bands suffer in decades, all through the sheer force of one man’s will. Lemmy’s bold self-belief, dogged perserverance, and abject refusal to give up and go home kept Motorhead alive during the nearly complete clusterfuck of their first three years.

Of course, being 49% motherfucker and 51% son of a bitch didn’t hurt either.

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Born To Lose: In May of 1975, Lemmy is arrested at the Canadian border for possession of amphetamine sulfate. Management bails him out and puts him on a flight to Toronto. At 4am after the Toronto show, he is fired from the band he once performed with on Top of the Pops, singing lead on their Top Ten (#3) single ‘Silver Machine’ in 1972.

Live To Win: Within two weeks of returning to England, Lemmy steals his equipment back from Hawkwind’s rehearsal space, repaints his psychedelic amps black, and forms a band he calls Bastard. He retains his Hawkwind-era manager, who persuades him to change the name. He re-christens his new band Motorhead, naming it after the last song he wrote for his previous band.

BTL: In July, Motorhead’s live debut takes place at the Roundhouse, a high-profile UK venue. Lemmy himself states the band were “bloody awful”. After a 10-show trek across Britain in August, the band opens for Blue Oyster Cult at the Hammersmith Odeon in October. In December, based on the Hammersmith performance, Motorhead wins “Best Worst Band in the World” in the reader’s poll featured in the year-end issue of the respected UK music paper Sounds.

LTW: Motorhead manages to secure a record deal with Hawkwind’s label United Artists. Dave Edmunds, one of Lemmy’s heroes, is set to produce. The band prep their originals and a few covers and enter the studio In December.

09-10

BTL: After recording only four songs, Edmunds abandons the project. Drummer Lucas Fox, trying to keep up with Lemmy’s speed habit, is a disaster in the studio. His drum tracks are not workable and his behavior is erratic, even dangerous; he is fired before the record is complete.

LTW: 21 year old drummer Phillip Taylor is drafted in as Fox’s replacement. Taylor overdubs all of Fox’s drum tracks (except one) and the album is completed with producer Fritz Freyer.

BTL: United Artists shelve the album, deeming it ‘unfit for release’. Motorhead, still under contract with UA, cannot record for another label. In the Spring of 1976, immediately after Lemmy drafts Eddie Clarke in to the band as rhythm guitarist; Larry Wallis quits.

LTW: Motorhead hire a new manager, who arranges another recording. In July, Kilmister/Clarke/Taylor record a single for Stiff Records, ‘White Line Fever’/’Leaving Here’.

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BTL: Motorhead are still under contract with United Artists, who block the release of the Stiff single. Motorhead have now recorded music for 2 labels and neither label has released anything. They limp through the rest of 1976 with one-off gigs, living in squats and starving. Just a few months into 1977, Phil and Eddie decide to call it a day.

LTW: A farewell performance is booked at the Marquee in London in April ’77. Lemmy convinces Ted Carroll of Chiswick Records to record the show in a last-ditch attempt to get anything with the Motorhead name on it released.

BTL: The mobile studio promised by Carroll never materializes at the Marquee gig; the farewell show is not recorded.

LTW: Carroll shows up backstage after the show and by way of apology, offers the band 2 days of studio time to record a single. The band instead record basics for 11 songs, and their single deal with Chiswick becomes an album deal. Carroll gave the band the cash to complete the unfinished tracks, with which Motorhead records 2 additional songs, for a total of 13. The album, called ‘Motorhead’, released in August of 1977, peaked at #43 in the UK.

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BTL: About a week into the headlining tour to promote their ‘debut’ album, Phil Taylor breaks his wrist in a fight and the rest of the tour is cancelled. The band is unable to do any live work until a November gig at the Marquee. Motorhead’s manager cuts ties with Chiswick, citing lack of support, and the band, in turn, fires him. Phil and Eddie throw together another band, The Muggers, and once again consider leaving Motorhead.

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LTW: Motorhead hire manager Doug Smith, who secures the band a deal with Bronze Records for a single. In August 1978, ‘Louie Louie’/’Tear Ya Down’ was released, and hit #68 on the UK Singles chart. The success of the single resulted in Morohead’s first appearance on BBC TV’s Top of the Pops program. It was Lemmy’s 2nd appearance on the show, his first having been to promote Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’.

So: After three years of struggle, Lemmy had come full circle. He had dragged himself and his new band through a minefield of bad deals, bad breaks and plain old bad luck. Lemmy never wavered. Each and every time he was kicked, he kicked back; every setback was met with a grim determination and a raised middle finger. Lemmy made his own good luck by constantly pushing against any and all obstructions, ignoring his detractors and doing plenty of good old fashioned hustling.

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All of this led up to their watershed moment: the release of their seminal ‘Overkill’ album. Lemmy (and Motorhead) ultimately won. Of course, all of the rejected material that was recorded during this time period was eventually released by labels eager to cash in on the Motorhead’s chart success a few years later. Hawkwind has even re-released ‘Silver Machine’ 3 times, and each time it has charted again. Lemmy of course never saw a dime from any of this thievery, but the vindication is priceless. As if the ongoing success of Motorhead, some 40 years on now, weren’t vindication enough.

The lesson in all this? As the slogan on the back side of the picture sleeve for the ‘Louie Louie’ single reads, “NIL ILLEGITIMUM CARBORUNDUM”.

Don’t let the bastards grind you down.