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Motorhead - Overkill: Album Of The Week Club Review

Lemmy thought it was too slow, but Motorhead's Overkill is clearly a fan favourite... as proved by our fan reviews

Motorhead - Overkill
Motorhead - Overkill

1. Overkill
2. Stay Clean
3. Pay The Price (I Won't)
4. I'll Be Your Sister
5. Capricorn
6. No Class
7. Damage Case
8. Tear Ya Down
9. Metropolis
10. Limb From Limb

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Motorhead's Overkill was released in March 1979. It reached number 24 in the UK charts, which, at the time, was a major breakthrough for the band. This was helped by the label’s cunning decision to release a green vinyl edition of the record just three weeks after it had first been issued in normal black vinyl, thereby ensuring that diehards would buy two copies. 

However, marketing tricks weren’t needed to convince people that Motörhead had come of age. If its eponymous predecessor had been hastily, spontaneously concocted, then Overkill showcased a band growing on every level. This wasn’t just a rabble trying to play louder than anyone else, but three fine musicians proud of their craft. Now, it’s rightly regarded as a classic.

“Is it? I really don’t know!” Lemmy told Metal Hammer, genuinely puzzled by the record’s undeniable stature. “What I hear is a record that’s… well, too slow! We play those songs much faster now. For us, it was a stepping stone, which led to Bomber – although I think Overkill’s a better record – and then on to Ace Of Spades. But what it did was prove we were a real band.”

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

Motörhead spent a six-week period from December 1978 to January 1979 in two studios, these being Roundhouse (where much of the recording was done) and Sound Development, both in London.

“We probably did about a six-week stint,” Lemmy told Metal Hammer. “I suppose when you consider that we’d done the whole of the previous record in three days that’s a massive period of time. But what you also have to bear in mind is that this wasn’t a block of time in which we just concentrated on the album. We were also doing gigs. That’s the way things happened back then – it was far less regimented. However, we were all aware that studios cost a fuck load of money, so we weren’t about to waste our time.”

It was also an advantage that much of the material for the record had already been tested on the road; they’d been playing some of the songs for a while.

“Yeah, that helped to develop them. You’d be amazed the way songs change when you take them out on stage, so I suppose what we’d done – although not deliberately – was allow them to mature in a way that could never happen in the studio. But that’s an ongoing process. If you listen to the way we did Metropolis, for instance, on the record, it barely has any connection with what we now do live.”

Other albums released in March 1979

  • Roxy Music - Manifesto
  • Frank Zappa - Sheik Yerbouti
  • Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Angel Station
  • The Only Ones - Even Serpents Shine
  • Eddie and the Hot Rods - Thriller
  • Chrome - Half Machine Lip Moves
  • Bad Company - Desolation Angels
  • The Beach Boys - L.A.
  • Van Halen - Van Halen II
  • Ian Hunter - You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic 
  • Supertramp - Breakfast in America
  • Triumph - Just a Game
  • Magazine - Secondhand Daylight
  • Badfinger - Airwaves
  • U.K. - Danger Money
  • The Tubes - Remote Control
  • Bachman–Turner Overdrive - Rock n' Roll Nights

What they said...

"It's a ferocious album, for sure, perfectly showcasing Motörhead's trademark style of no holds barred proto-thrash -- a kind of punk-inflected heavy metal style that is sloppy and raw yet forceful and in your face. Motörhead, the band's self-titled debut from 1977, had been rush-recorded, and its stripped-down, super-raw sound wasn't all that impressive, at least not relative to what would follow." (AllMusic)

"I’d never heard anybody sing like Lemmy, and it was this fusion of, like, punk and rock and metal, and it was crazy. It just added to an energy to it and was completely over the top with these almost exaggerated, cartoon-like lyrics. And the consistency from Overkill to Stay Clean – I mean Stay Clean was a live staple for years – I Won’t Pay Your Price, No Class, which was almost straight out of a ZZ Top playbook, Damage Case which [Metallica] covered, and longer, deeper tracks like Metropolis and Limb From Limb. It’s just insane. Motörhead was the one band, where no matter whether you were into rock, prog, pop, punk, fucking, I don’t know, ska … you could agree that Motörhead was just the coolest. And, to me, the definitive Motörhead album is Overkill." (Lars Ulrich, Rolling Stone)

"Like their spiritual-music brethren the Ramones & AC/DC, Motorhead essentially never changed their sound, which leads to the same accusation/opinion that ‘all the album’s are the same’.  Of course that’s a sweeping statement, but for a casual listener there’s more than an element of truth. It doesn’t mean no album is worth investigating & all you need to know for now is - this is it. It is the bona fide classic album with classic line up and perhaps most important of all, a classic producer in Jimmy Miller, the guy at the desk for just about all the Stones most crucial albums. Although essentially metal and essentially of it’s time approaching the 80’s, Overkill ends up sounding timeless to these lugs, largely because every single fucking bit of production sounds just right." (Julian Cope)

What you said...

David Clague: Great album. Hearing the track Overkill was the transformation from the Sabbath/Purple to a bit faster and heavier that we were looking for! 

Jacob Tannehill: I knew a few Motörhead tunes, but this was my first full album exposure to them. Lemmy’s lead bass on stay clean kills. Probably their finest moment...

Alexander Taylor: What an album! Phil's drums still sound amazing, fantastic songs (especially Capricorn) , Lem's unique bass and the rock'n'roll of fast Eddie. Hard to believe these demons were on mainstream TV and in the charts. Long live Motorhead!

Maxwell Martello: This gets 11 on a 10 scale. From the machine gun double bass attack of the opening number all the way to the grinding slow blues of Limb From Limb (an unashamed rip-off of Montrose’s Rock Candy) this albums shows absolutely no remorse.

People tend to dismiss Motörhead as some some sort of speed freaks (pun intended), but truth be told their early albums had an impressive amount of variety.

This was a power trio unlike any other. This was the (un)holy trinity of badass rock'n'roll: Lemmy, Philty, Fast Eddie.

I can’t believe they’re all gone now... but never forgotten!

This record IS their best. No two numbers sound alike, yet the whole album is extremely consistent and uncompromising.

I think Jimmy Miller made his presence felt. It stands up against his deservedly praised late 60’s early 70’s legendary albums with the likes of the Stones, Traffic and my beloved Spooky Tooth (it shall be noted that Motörhead did feature Spooky’s one time slinger Luther Grosvenor aka Mott the Hoople’s Ariel Bender for about 15 minutes before settling on Fast Eddie).

Every single tune on this one is so good it brings a tear to my eye (just like cherry pie).

Gerry Ranson: When I first heard this album, on its release, I found it unlistenable. Very quickly, though it became my favourite Motorhead album, although their debut and Bomber run it pretty close. Certainly the best production. The reverb on Capricorn says everything to me about Motorhead. Total game changer.

James Litchfield: Lemmy used to hate the Kilmister/Clarke/Taylor line-up being referred to as the 'classic' one, but it was difficult not to, as they were responsible for this brilliant album. Impressive throughout (with cover artwork to match), Overkill is, for me, the ultimate 'Head album. Considering there were many great ones that followed (from all line-ups), it shows how highly I rate it. It's the most represented album on the original No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith, and Lemmy retained many of its tracks in the live set for the next 35 years. Says it all really.

Mark Patrick: Still to this day I listen to Overkill every month. It has been the most influential record in my life. Bought it when it came out, still love it. Right to the end, Motorhead's set was built around Overkill songs, and it still hurts that I won’t see them again.

IJnze Kalsbeek: My favourite from the old Motorhead. The song Overkill, of course, but also Damage Case and Limb From Limb, my favourite. My all-time favourite album is Killers from many, many years later.

Alistair McIntösh: It's often said that Motörhead's debut release on Chiswick, rather than their earlier shelved effort of On Parole on United Artists, was their make-or-break record. Broke, with no one believing in them, they went into the studio to record what they believed to be their obituary single. But they recorded enough material for their eponymous first album, the success of which threw them a lifeline and kept them on the road for a while longer.

But the 20 months between Motörhead and Overkill was a time of struggle. They nearly went under and a dismal cover version of Louie Louie wasn't likely to save them, despite gigging intensively. Given the chance to record another album, it was make or break for Motörhead.

That they absolutely nailed Overkill. The quantum leap in songwriting and production compared to their debut is spectacular. And that is why it is the best Motörhead album, because it embodies the spirit of Born To Lose, Live To Win in its triumph over adversity, more so than Bomber which could trade punches with Overkill song for song but was built on the former's success, and more so than Ace of Spades which, great though it is, became the perfect refinement of the sonic foundations first laid on Overkill.

Motörhead are many things to many people. Speed metal fans love the seminal title track with its double bass drum attack and double false ending. Stay Clean stuck it to the man in a way that perhaps many might not have expected from a bunch of longhairs.

I Won't Pay Your Price's staccato rhythm shook your teeth out before I'll Be Your Sister wrapped itself around your ears with a bass riff so simple you wondered why you hadn't heard it before. Capricorn wrong-footed those expecting more of the same, becoming an almost omnipresent staple of Motörhead's set. No Class used a more aggressive reimagining of ZZ Top's Tush riff and it's rock'n'roll attack was quickly followed by the knock-out punch of Damage Case. Tear You Down was designed to finish off the survivors and preceded Metropolis, which was Motörhead music to hold a funeral to. Lulled into a false sense of security by Limb from Limb's loping bass line, the last song accelerated to a gallop to end the album as breathlessly as it started.

Overkill: a thrill-seeker's rollercoaster ride. They were Motörhead and they played rock'n'roll.

Troy Geitman: Their first classic release from this iconic band. Although not perfect as some of the songs could have been a little more raw (Capricorn), but still guaranteed to melt your speakers. Crank this to eleven and become deaf forever.

Blake Johnston: I have always liked Motorhead, but the older I get the more I love them. Hard to believe everyone from this lineup is gone. RIP, rockers.

Lewis Griffiths: So, we're making our way through my vinyl collection, are we?  ;-) Not that I'm complaining!

I saw Motörhead live about half a dozen times, and I think Overkill (the song) would always get the biggest reaction of the night from fans - more so even than Ace Of Spades. It is fitting that this was the last song the band ever performed live.

That song kicks off an album where the classic Motörhead sound really comes together for the first time. And - with its double bass drums, Lemmy's extraordinary (and underrated) riffing, and the multiple fake outs - that opener sounded like nothing else at the time.

Over the years I have come to like this album more than Ace Of Spades, it's now definitely my favourite of Motörhead's studio albums.

I still miss hearing Lemmy gruffly introduce the band with "We are Motörhead, and we play rock'n'roll!". So, thank you for picking Overkill this week, and giving me an excuse to have it blasting out in my living room at top volume this morning!

Nick Potter: This record is pure rock'n;roll. When released in 1979 at the height of punk this still stood out as a classic. With Lemmy at the helm, and the great Fast Eddie Clark ripping through each song, what more could you want. A classic record in every sense of the word.

Still sounds fresh now, my original vinyl worn out.

Lemmy, you'll always be in our hearts.

Craig Nisbet: Song after song is just brilliant. Got it on now. Definitely my favourite album by the band just cos of the sheer quality of the songs. Bought at Boots The Chemist in Fort William in 1979 (remember when they used to sell LPs?) after loving the single, even though we were on holiday for another fortnight and didn't have a record player in the caravan. So I sat and stared at the vinyl and sleeve every night and imagined what it would sound like. I was right.

Iain Macaulay: No need to say anything about this really. It’s a great raw album contained within one of the best covers ever made, and it has three of my favourite Motorhead songs on it. Overkill, Damage Case and No Class. Pure class!

Takoda Bostwick: Overkill is another great album from Motorhead. They have awesome songs like Overkill, No Class, Damage Case, Stay Clean, and Metropolis. Metallica would later cover Overkill, Damage Case, and Too Late Too Late on their covers album Garage Inc. Without Motorhead, there would be no Big Four of Thrash.

Jim Linning: Motorhead managed to apply punk attitude to British rock/metal that gave them a relevance to both sides of the "argument" and they probably influenced more bands than they are given credit for. Their excitement, wit, and sheer bravado was never better epitomised (in the studio at least) by this album. Still sounds fresh today.

Uli Hassinger: With this album the calendar of hard rock was set to zero and Heavy Metal really kicked off. Never ever before there has been music so rude, brutal and loud. The album belongs to the all time highlights of HM. The intro of Overkill is a blast, songs like Metropolis, No Class, Damage Case or Stay Clean are real classics. But the album was topped by the later Ace of Spades, which remains unrivalled. 9/10

Paul Nadin-Salter: This is an awesome classic album. The feel and tone seems to be the gateway between Hawkwind and Motorhead before they truly honed the Motorhead sound on Bomber etc. It still can't be matched, all these years later. I went to see them on this tour and had ringing ears for a week afterwards, much to the annoyance of my teachers. One abiding memory of this gig at Sheffield City Hall was seeing a Hells Angel come up to Biff Byford and say "I know who are and you're s**t, probably the only time Biff was stumped for words.

David Alejandro Cepeda Benavides: Overkill is maybe Motorhead's finest album, even above Ace Of Spades, Bomber or Iron Fist. There they've got their signature sound, and a lot of classics which include the title track, No Class, Capricorn, Damage Case, Metropolis, etc. Also a lot of musicians where inspired by this record, which was an important advance in the evolution of heavy metal (although Lemmy disliked that label, cause they were "rock'n'roll"). It's also one of my favourite album covers, that Snaggletooth is awesome. 

Kaine Smith: 100% mega! This is my favourite Motörhead album. It's just so good. I first heard the song Overkill from No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith, and dare I say it, it is the better version, but the studio version is just mindblowing too... the whole album is just mindblowing! The title track, along with Stay Clean, No Class, Damage Case, Tear Ya Down and Metropolis are all fantastic, and should be on any 'very best of' compilation, but the issue I find is that all these classic Motörhead albums (up to Iron Fist) are all so good and consistent, that any 'very best of' is simply not enough! I'm putting the full albums in the car, because they really are that good. 10/10. 

On a personal note, I'm just glad I got to see the later iteration live before Lemmy died, it felt like it was a religious experience seeing Lemmy up there on stage. Love Motörhead, really are one of my favourite bands along with Saxon, Zep and the Stones, and Overkill is my favourite album by them.

Carl Black: Just like Lemmy's Marshall stacks, this album is an 11. Why would it not be? A song that kick started a whole musical scene, two songs that have been in every live set since 1979, couple of punk classics, a Metallica favourite, a Lemmy bass solo and a Lemmy guitar solo. I love this album and band. This is the classic line. Bon voyage, where ever you are, and thank you gents, thank you so much for all you have given.

Gary Claydon: Overkill was a massive step up from their very early stuff. It's Motorhead's best album, features their best album sleeve and each of the trio turn in their best work imo. Collectively that all adds up to a stone cold classic. Heavy Metal and then some. It all comes together here, Phil Taylor's frenetic, trip-hammer double bass drums, Lemmy's 'rhythm' bass and Fast Eddie's best guitar work. The title track is a monster but then there really isn't a duff track here. No Class remains one of my favourite Motorhead tracks, in spite of the obvious Tush riff rip-off. And the rest, well , like I said, not a duff track here. 

Richard Taylor: Comes at you like a freight train careering off the rails, becomes a giant snarling, pus-ridden cock thrust in your face... yet it rocks and rolls and never loses sight of that primary function, unlike much of the later thrash that it opened the door for. Lemmy was a one-off, and at his best he wrote some of the greatest albums in all rock'n'roll - like Overkill.

Roland Bearne: Just superb. The quantum leap from the (admittedly shelved) plodding debut to this was stunning. Suddenly high octane petrol replaced the blood in your veins and your ears felt like they had been cleaned out with cotton buds wrapped in rusty barbed wire. Bloody. Marvellous. By Uncle Jack but we miss them.

Glenn Bannister: As an opening track Overkill is the ultimate statement of intent and attention grabber. By comparison Capricorn and Metropolis may be more laid back but remain two of my all time favourite tracks. I would be happy to see seven of the ten on any 'best of' compilation, which would only be bettered by Ace, which still trumps it as their best album.

Dominic Grierson: What a record, I've had this on heavy rotation all week. If Overkill doesn't get you then you should stay away from rock. Can't think of a standout weak track - even Louie Louie, which I can otherwise take or leave, sounds superb.

Final Score: 8.89 ⁄10 (241 votes cast, with a total score of 2144)

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