The 50 best Motorhead songs

30. Poison (Bomber, 1979)

Appropriately, Poison is one of Bomber's more venomous tracks – which says something considering the fury found elsewhere in the record. Striking with urgency that sits halfway between the more rock'n'roll tracks the band would trade in around the late-70s and the proto-speed metal they had dabbled in on Overkill, the song was a marker for a progression to the all-round harder sound they took on in the 80s.

Lyrically, the track delved into Lemmy's personal life more than almost any other Motorhead song. The verse 'My father, he used to be a preacher/Never taught me nothing but scorn/If I ever catch him on the street again/I'll make him wish he'd never been born' makes explicit mention of his relationship with his father, who left the family when he was three months old. 

29. I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care) (1916, 1991)

'I make love to mountain lions!' Ludicrous as its lyrical content is, there's nobody brave – or stupid – enough to argue with Lemmy. Drawing on the lineage of rock'n'roll boasts that stretches from Iggy Pop's tenure in The Stooges right back to Bo Diddley's proclamation that he 'wears a cobra snake for a necktie' in his 1956 song Who Do You Love?, I'm So Bad (Baby I Don't Care) maintains a decades-long tradition for proclaiming danger with a massive smile on its face.

The song marks one side of the dichotomy at the heart of 1916, the album offering up a mixture of thoughtful meditations on war (the battlefields of World War 1 Europe and anti-war poetry of figures like Wilfred Owen looming large over the lyrical content) and the band's veering towards making 50s-style rock'n'roll, but louder. I'm So Bad clearly fits into the latter category, its riff like an amphetamine-laced take on Little Richard and Chuck Berry.

28. English Rose (Motorizer, 2008)

The percussive bombast of English Rose captures just how tight a unit the line-up of Campbell-Dee-Lemmy had become by 2008, thundering like a locomotive whilst mining the depths of rock'n'roll history. 

As with Runaround Man and Rock Out, there is a distinct 50s influence that shows off Lemmy's love for Little Richard, but the gallop at the heart of the song shows how Motorhead souped up the classic rock'n'roll sound to fit their own preference for going harder and louder than anything that had come before.

27. Trigger (Kiss Of Death, 2006)

Teaming back up with producer Cameron Webb (producer of 2004's Inferno, arguably the record that put Motorhead back on track after a shaky start to the 2000s), Motorhead were on ferocious form when they went in to record Kiss Of Death. The heavy sound Webb had mined for Inferno was developed further for its follow-up, Trigger showing off some muscular finesse the band hadn't exhibited since at least Orgasmatron

It's astounding Trigger never made the translation over to the band's live sets as the song bears all the hallmarks of latter-day Motorhead brilliance. The rock'n'roll engine thunders away but it has an enormous chorus and some flashy guitar work from Phil Campbell that really make this song shine.

26. Dust And Glass (Aftershock, 2013)

Winter had arrived and Lemmy seemingly knew it. Veering away from rock'n'roll, Motorhead went full blues for Dust And Glass, one of the band's more reflective songs made all the more stark for its near-spartan lack of fire. Campbell shows off some excellent string-work, but is about the only member afforded the spotlight here, Lemmy even opting for his own take on the croon in the vocal department. 

On the whole, Aftershock was a much more blues-oriented record but Dust And Glass really hammers the point home by stripping almost everything everyone knew about Motorhead whilst still being undeniably, well, Motorhead. Bitter lyrics betray a sense of exhaustion that has seeped bone-deep, Lemmy inhabiting world-weariness with the same effortlessness that he had as the embodiment of rock'n'roll for almost four-straight decades before.

25. Rock Out (Motorizer, 2008)

With a title like Rock Out, it wasn't going to be another ballad, was it? Lemmy was open about the daftness of the lyrics on Motorizer, describing at least one song as "nonsense set to an infectious beat", which considering Rock Out rhymed the title with 'cock out', is fair. 

Even so, he wasn't wrong about the song being infectious. Motorizer has a brilliant sense for the 50s in tone that feels like piano keys are plinking just out of earshot, and Rock Out captures that gleeful primordial rock'n'roll worship at its very best. The track was ultimately picked up for WWE Unforgiven, helping to give it more airplay that in turn helped Motorizer hit achieve the band's best UK chart position since 1916, landing at no. 32 in the main charts and no. 2 in the UK rock and metal charts.

24. 1916 (1916, 1991)

Talk about massive stylistic departures. The final track on the album of the same name, 1916 was a salute to the anti-war sentiment that had cropped up throughout the band's discography. Motorhead approached the song with a sobriety that is almost disconcerting, stripping away guitars and bass to leave only vocals, organ-like keys and even cellos in a massive stylistic departure.

This is one of the few songs that isn't indebted to the world of guitar music, coming off more like a hymn dedicated to the fallen during World War I. Inspired by the Battle of Somme, the lyrics offer repeated instances of poignancy, covering everything from children who would lie about their ages to sign up, to the loss of friends and pointless slaughter of those in the trenches.

23. R.A.M.O.N.E.S. (Hammered, 2002/Live At Wacken Open Air, 2001)

You could get whiplash from the sheer stylistic swings on 1916. While the ballads are few and far between on the album, their existence does make it feel like the more standard rock'n'roll approach Motorhead take feels a bit more disposable than usual, songs like Angel City and Make My Day not managing to shine out amongst the band's (admittedly incredibly well-stacked) catalogue. 

R.A.M.O.N.E.S. however managed to break that spell, a short-sharp shock of full-throttle fun befitting the band for whom it was named. Though they would cover it later themselves (even getting Lemmy up to sing when they played it at their last ever show), Motorhead had written the song and it was always truly theirs, particularly in their frantic live version. Videos exist of the band playing it at various shows and festivals over the years, but the version recorded at Wacken Open Air in 2001 remains one of the clearest and brightest renditions of the song put to tape. 

22. Love Me Like A Reptile (Ace Of Spades, 1980)

Love Me Like A Reptile drips with such sleaze that you can't help but wonder if Lemmy is the snake-oil salesman, the snake oozing the oil or both. This is Motorhead at their most gleefully greasy, captured in their full glory as they bolster the wider Ace Of Spades Western motif.

From the rattlesnake-like hiss that accentuates Philthy's drums to the the howl of Fast Eddie's guitars, this is classic Motorhead pure and simple. The sheer blatancy of the lyrics earned the band some ire over the years, but this still feels less crass than just about anything else that emerged from the 80s hard rock scene.

21. Born To Raise Hell (Bastards, 1993)

Philthy was out for the last time and Motorhead had found their new sticksman in Swede Mikkey Dee. Dee brought with him a gravitas and thunder behind the kit that made songs like Burner go from 'speeding locomotive' to 'bunker-buster' in terms of physicality, but the man was also a deft hand at keeping steady pace whilst imbuing each beat with ungodly physicality. 

Born To Raise Hell is a prime example of this - mid-paced rock'n'roll by any other name, Dee still manages to put his full power behind the track. In turn, it became something of a mainstay in the band's setlists going forward, generally offered out for guest spots as everyone from Ugly Kid Joe's Whitfield Crane to Lita Ford and Ice-T jumped onto the mic over the years, whether in the song's re-recording as a single for the movie Airheads or in live recordings on various releases over the years. 

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.