"Fast" Eddie Clarke: The soul of Motörhead

Mot\u00f6rhead (Image credit: Getty Images)

Do it now. Listen to Ace Of Spades for 3,725th time. It’s still fucking amazing, isn’t it?

‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, guitarist with Motörhead during their greatest years of success, has passed away aged 67. Just as we mourned the loss of Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor and, of course, Lemmy, so we mourn the death of yet another heavy metal hero and rock ’n’ roll revolutionary. We send our condolences to his family and friends.

Prior to joining the world’s noisiest trio in 1976, Eddie paid his dues in several bands, veering from bluesy prog to more straightforward hard rock and picking up the ferocious chops he would use to devastating effect a few years later. But it was when friend Phil Taylor introduced him to Lemmy that all musical hell broke loose. From the opening seconds of the retooled trio’s self-titled debut album onwards, it was obvious to anyone with functioning ears that something extraordinary was happening. Seldom has chemistry between three musicians been more outrageously potent: listen to pretty much anything from the five albums the three men made together – that’s Overkill, Bomber, Ace Of Spades and Iron Fist, just in case you’re deranged and don’t already own them all – and the effect is similar to being plugged directly into the mains.

Quite how anyone could compete with the thunderous din Lemmy and Philthy were making, but Eddie’s stripped down, speed-fuelled blues licks were every bit as compelling as his band mates’ arse-wrenching clatter. Put simply, his contribution to Motörhead’s genre-busting, revolutionary sound cannot be overstated. Never mind that the trio were knocking out ageless anthems at a startling rate – their greatest achievement was to single-handedly, and yet seemingly by accident, invent an entirely new way to play rock ’n’ roll. It was louder, harder, faster and nastier than anything that gone before: a winning formula that immediately defied the odds by bringing punks, metalheads and all manner of volume-hungry, hedonistic freaks together while simultaneously conquering the UK pop charts. It really, really wouldn’t happen today.

Ultimately, Motörhead were an electrifying proposition, both in the studio and, in particular, on stage. The band’s chart-topping live album No Sleep Till Hammersmith is all the proof anyone needs: nearly 40 years old and yet as visceral, vital and indecently thrilling as it was when it was first released, it’s a snapshot of three fearless, slightly unhinged musicians on a heroic rampage, armed with some of the most insanely exhilarating songs ever written and, quite possibly, off their collective bollocks on industrial strength amphetamines. Jesus H. Kilmister, they were awesome.

And while Lemmy may have been Motörhead’s brain and Philthy its beating heart, Eddie Clarke was the band’s soul; firing off those airtight, ultra-gnarly rock ’n’ roll riffs with sly insouciance, looking cool as fuck and yet ever so slightly dangerous too. His solos were short, sharp, belligerent affairs, almost minimalist by design, but always firmly rooted in the purest essence of rock ’n’ roll, and as with all of the greatest architects of heavy music, you know an Eddie Clarke riff when you hear it. And then you bang your head.

Of course, When Eddie quit the band in 1982, Motörhead kept charging forward regardless, just as fans expected, and countless great albums and tours followed, but it’s hard to deny that the magic between that first classic line-up was unique and never to be repeated.

Following his departure from Motorhead, Eddie formed Fastway and released a handful of great, gutsy hard rock albums that would probably have been far more successful had they not arrived in the midst of glam metal’s commercial reign. Check out the band’s bluesy 1983 debut for further evidence of the great man’s brilliance.

Most importantly, you will struggle to find anyone with a bad thing to say about ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke. A gentleman and a rock ’n’ roll lifer, he will be sorely missed, but his music will still be giving us tinnitus in decades to come. Go on, listen to Ace Of Spades again.

'Fast' Eddie Clarke's 5 Essential Guitar Albums

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.