Motörhead mainman and all round icon Lemmy may no longer be with us, but his spirit lives on. His band’s songs part of the very fabric of rock’n’roll, and anyone who claims otherwise needs to be tied to a chair and forced to listen to No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith until they see the error of their ways.
But what’s the greatest Motörhead song of all? Tough call, frankly, given there are so many. For some, it might be something from that vintage run of albums they made in the late 70s and early 80s. For others, it could be a track from their post-millennial purple patch, when they proved that they could still show the younger bands how it was done. Or it might be some deep cut or lost treasure that no one by the most avid Motörheadbanger knows about.
To find out, we decided to do the only sensible thing and ask the people who know: you. You voted in the thousands, and – cue rumbling bass – here are the results: the 20 greatest Motörhead songs of all time…
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20. Lost Woman Blues (Aftershock, 2013)
One for all those who believe Motörhead were always one dimensional, only about being aggressive and raw. This is a slow moving, smokin’ blues song, one that allows Lemmy to display a wider range of his vocal repertoire. The laidback feel is deceptive, because Phil Campbell’s guitar approach is still intense, without the need to fill every nanosecond with a powerchord. Yes, the lyrics come from the clichéd end of the blues – lonesome man bemoans the woman who cheated on him – but there’s a sly, wry humour at work.
19. Dancing On Your Grave (Another Perfect Day, 1983)
1983’s Another Perfect Day is an album often decried by purists, because Brian Robertson came in to replace Fast Eddie Clarke and brought a more virtuosi approach. But when you now listen to Dancing On Your Grave, the charms of the music rage through. The clarity of the production and the musical arrangement mean this is as close as the band ever got to – ulp! – AOR. But the way Robertson weaves his magic around Lemmy’s snarling bass lines and Philthy Animal Taylor’s yelping drum attack is stunning,. The song is an attack on those who put money ahead of integrity, delivered with that customary Lemmy sneer. Brilliant.
18. Iron Horse/Born To Lose (Motörhead, 1977)
From the self-titled album that first brought Motörhead to everyone’s attention. And this track was a crucial reason why both metalheads and punks alike immediately fell under their swell. It’s about the idealism of the open road. Just one man and his machine, riding forever into the sunset. The ultimate relationship. The performance is primitive and stripped bare, but that’s what made it all wotk. As an almost world weary Lemmy raises his the spectre of lost dreams, yet never loses touch with the idealism of the underlying emotion. And it’s all done with a sense of live thrill.
17. The Hammer (Ace Of Spades, 1980)
It became tradition for Lemmy to end every Motörhead show with the declaration that, “We are Motörhead and we play rock’n’roll”. A song like this makes clear exactly what he meant. This tucks right down into that Chuck Berry groove, being so simple that anyone seemingly can play it. But no-one did this sort of thing better. On the surface, it’s about serial killer who violently targets women. But underlying the sentiment is perhaps something a little closer to home, as Lemmy warns of those sinister individuals in positions of power who will mislead you into torment.
16. Iron Fist (Iron Fist, 1982)
This has the distinction of being the last single ever released by the Lemmy/Fast Eddie/Philthy Animal line-up, and it bristles with all the seeping energy for which the trio had become renowned. A couple of years earlier, Motörhead did a charity show under the pseudonym Iron Fist And The Hordes From Hell, from which this title was taken. Despite the fact that the album of the same name was regarded as a disappointment, this track is bonafide classic, raising all sorts of drug and alcohol induced spectres. There’s a punchy riff and an even more devastating punch line.
15. The Chase Is Better Than The Catch (Ace Of Spades, 1980)
And the title says it all. On the Ace Of Spades tour at Hammersmith Odeon, Lemmy cryptically dedicated the song to Kelly Johnson of Girlschool. When asked why he might have done that, all Kelly would say was, ‘Ha, ha! I’m glad he never caught me. Otherwise we mightn’t have this song!’. This could have come across as a bitter, twisted song, but in fact is loaded with a sense of frivolity and tour-fuelled fun.
14. Rock’N’Roll (Rock ‘n’ Roll, 1987)
This is essentially a paean to Lemmy’s love of the genre. As he says in the lyrics, ‘it satisfies my soul’. No matter what goes wrong in his life, and whoever lets him down, Lemmy knew he could turn to that one constant: rock’n’roll. And the way the song opens up is a celebration of all that’s timeless and great about the music. This is a passionate, feel good track on which the great man delivers a vocal performance that stretches his talents right to the max. You can tell he and the rest of the band are living the sentiments, not just strumming their way through.
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13. Stone Dead Forever (Bomber, 1979)
There are those who would tell you that all Motörhead songs sound the same. They’re a quick fix and then all over. But this isn’t the case here. Stone Dead Forever is close to five minutes in length, and never sounds as if it’s overstayed its welcome. Predicated on a cool riff from Fast Eddie, it builds into a formidable barrage, as Lemmy recounts a message warning people they should watch the way they treat others. Because while not a morality tale, it can be interpreted as an indication that karma has a way of coming back to snap at your soul. One of those ‘Head songs that gets beneath the surface, and proves the depth of their talent.
12. Metropolis (Overkill, 1979)
Lemmy once said he wrote the lyrics to this song in just five minutes, after seeing the classic 1927 film of the same title at a cinema in London’s Portobello Road. And certainly this isn’t exactly a verbose tune. But it captured the sparseness of the Fritz Lang movie quite brilliantly. Nestling against a dark riff from Fast Eddie, and some tangled drum patterns from Philthy, the lyrics cut through, as Lemmy stands back and shrugs his shoulders at the cold complexity of life. Oh, and the bass line here pulses with insouciance. If you want proof that Lemmy was a master musician, here it is.
11. Born To Raise Hell (Bastards, 1993)
Lemmy originally wrote this for German band Skew Siskin, but thankfully Motörhead ended up doing it themselves. The best version, though, is one put out as a single in 1994, with Ice-T and Ugly Kid Joe’s Whitfield Crane joining Lemmy on vocals. That has bite and spit, and you believe this trio will soon be trashing a bar round the corner. You can hear the song at the end of the movie Airheads, in which Lemmy has a cameo role. In some ways, this sums up Lemmy’s attitude to life and music. ‘Born to raise hell, we know how to do it and we do it real well’… now there’s a claim nobody would argue with.