They were Motörhead. And they played rock and roll.
One of the most important rock bands in history, a big influence on heavy metal, everything louder than everything else: that was Motörhead. Founded in 1975 in London, they went on to release 22 (23 with On Parole) studio albums until Lemmy’s death in 2015.
Following an attempt to give an overview of their vast discography (only considering full-length studio albums):
The debut album featuring the classic trio: Lemmy, Fast Eddie, and Philthy Animal Taylor. The album is basically a re-recording of an unreleased album the band wrote for a different record label, with exception of two new tracks + a John Mayall cover.
Right from the start you can tell this is a Motörhead record, although you can definitely hear some of Hawkwind’s influences, especially because some of the songs were written by Lemmy for his old band. The vocals are slightly buried in the mix, but that just adds to the rawness of the record. The hi-hats are a bit too sharp and not very pleasant on the right ear. Overall a promising sign of what’s to come.
Highlights: Motörhead, The Watcher
Wasted forever, on speed bikes and booze,
Yeah tramp and the brothers, all born to lose,
On Iron Horse he flies, on Iron Horse he gladly dies,
Iron Horse his wife, Iron Horse his life
New record label, better production, double bass. The album was surprisingly successful. Nowadays it is considered one of Motörhead’s very best.
While the previous album still had some psychedelic elements, this one has more blues and punk elements. Great guitar work that shines especially during the slower moments (Capricorn, Metropolis). Solid vocal performance from Lemmy.
Highlights: Overkill, Damage Case
Only way to feel the noise is when it’s good and loud,
So good you can’t believe it’s screaming with the crowd,
Don’t sweat it, get it back to you,
Another very successful album. Unlike the previous album the songs have not been played live before recording them. Lemmy felt they were too slick. The critical reception was good overall, even though it couldn’t reach Overkill’s level.
The album feels like a natural continuation of Overkill. Some of the songs are a bit slower than on the previous album, but it’s the fast songs that Motörhead does best. One track features Clarke on vocals.
Highlights: Stone Dead Forever, Bomber
The only thing I know, is playing rock ‘n’ roll,
I’m not a business man, I’m just in a good time band
Ace of Spades
The band’s most successful album. The new producer Vic Maile had a positive influence in the recording process. The result is a sleek yet raw record.
Arguably one of the most influential records in Rock and Metal history. And that’s pretty much all that needs to be said about it. All 12 songs are awesome, no fillers.
Highlights: Ace of Spades, Fast and Loose, The Chase is Better than the Catch
Live it up it’s their time to fall,
Anarchy is coming in,
Cause you know we’re living to win
Released after their successful live album “No Sleep ’til Hammersmith”, produced by Clarke himself before leaving the band.
Not as consistent as the previous album, but there are definitely some great standout tracks on it. The riff on (Don’t Need) Religion reminds me a lot of Cat Scratch Fever. The lyrics overall are pretty angry.
Highlights: Iron Fist, (Don’t Need) Religion
I don’t need Jesus Christ Superstar
Don’t need Sunday Television
Ya bet your life I don’t need religion
Another Perfect Day
The first record without Eddie Clarke. Brian Robertson (ex-Thin Lizzy) takes his place. Robertson never was a good fit for Motörhead and it shows on this record.
The production and the guitars are very clean. As you may imagine that does not fit Motörhead’s sound. None of the songs are memorable, all of them sound like they’re trying too hard. No more Fast and Loose.
Let me hear it ’til the end of time,
It’s the only way,
It’ll stop you on a dime,
You can’t stop it
New label, two guitarists (among them Phil Campbell) instead of one, new drummer. Produced by Bill Laswell. The album marked a return to form, but sales numbers were relatively low.
This album sounds bad, really muddy. Nonetheless, the songs sound like Motörhead songs, Lemmy’s vocals are better than ever before. A very enjoyable rock and roll record.
Highlights: Ain’t My Crime, Built for Speed
I don’t give a good goddamn
My life’s been alright
I’m going crazy out of my mind
Every single night.
Rock ‘n’ Roll
Philthy Animal is back. Much better production than on the previous record. Not a commercial success either.
Most of the songs on here are mediocre apart from the two standout tracks All for You and the title track. Maybe they should’ve put more effort into songwriting. Even the intro for Stone Deaf in the USA by Monty Python’s Michael Palin can’t save this record.
Highlights: Rock ‘n’ Roll, All for You
Tried to fly and we climbed too high
We saw it all, we had to fall
But I swear it’s true, was all for you
I swear it’s true, was all for you
Lemmy moved from the UK to LA. The band and the producer Ed Stasium didn’t get along so he was fired and replaced by Pete Solley. The record was released on a different label (WTG Records) than the previous records.
1916 was released four years after the previous record. It was definitely the right decision to take some time before releasing a new record. This album is solid throughout all 39 minutes. It maintains Motörhead’s style, but there are a few ballads on it (Love Me Forever, 1916). It also contains the song Ramones dedicated to the famous punk band.
Highlights: Going To Brazil, Make My Day, 1916
Politicians kissing babies for good luck,
T.V. preachers sell salvation for a buck,
You don’t need no golden cross, to tell you wrong from right,
The world’s worst murderers were those who saw the light.
March ör Die
Taylor was fired early during the recording process, Tommy Aldridge replaced him for most of the songs. The record features guest appearances from Ozzy and Slash.
This record is different, really different. It feels like an attempt at commercial success. Many ballads, not a lot of speed. Two covers: Cat Scratch Fever, Hellraiser (written by Lemmy for Ozzy’s No More Tears). The record itself is not bad, but it’s not Motörhead.
Highlights: Stand, Bad Religion
Laugh and cry, laugh and cry
Bloody sunset drowns the sky
For earth to heal then we must die
No-one deserves it more
New label, new producer. The first and last Motörhead record on ZYX music, as the album was not pushed enough by the label. This record marked a return to the roots.
That’s what a Motörhead record is supposed to sound like. Fast, loud and loose. As far as technicality and proficiency go, this is their best album yet. Also, they have rediscovered their aggressive side on this one.
Highlights: Death or Glory, Born To Raise Hell
Born to raise hell, Born to raise hell
We know how to do it and we do it real well
Born to raise hell, Born to raise hell
Voodoo medicine cast my spell
First record on Steamhammer, same producer as on Bastards. After the album’s recording Würzel left the band. Overall, this album feels a bit underrated.
Nothing groundbreakingly new here, just solid Motörhead. Maybe not as good as the previous record, it still contains some bangers. No ballads on this one. “Don’t Waste Your Time” stands out with its piano, saxophone and old school rock and roll sound.
Highlights: Don’t Waste Your Time, In Another Time
Wide Wake, wide awake, hear the silence hiss,
Will you break, will you break, iron binds your wrist,
In your face, in your face, see the others flinch,
Iron law, Iron claw, don´t you move an inch.
After Würzel’s departure, they’re back to a three-man line up. Apart from the weird album cover, this was a pretty good record with decent chart success.
The album sounds very good. This is how a Motörhead record should be produced and mixed. Also, it’s a well-balanced record. No really big hits, though.
Highlights: I Don’t Believe a Word, Overnight Sensation
Children learn to kill
Bet your ass you’ll pay the bill
Season of the dog
The dollar takes the place of God
Snake Bite Love
This record was created in a rush. They didn’t have a lot of time and they claim they wish they had at least three more weeks for recording it.
More of the same, Motörhead as you know it. Maybe not consistently good throughout the whole record, but overall not a bad record at all. As Joel McIver put it: “solid, reliable, and not hugely memorable.”
Highlights: Don’t Lie to Me, Joy of Labour
The tales they tell, of what we do this day
We that guard the door
Will last a thousand years
Let go the dogs of war
We Are Motörhead
15th studio album, released in 2000. The reception was good.
Nothing groundbreakingly new, just the classic Motörhead sound. It’s consistent throughout, but not as catchy as some previous efforts. The album also contains a cover of the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen.
Highlights: Slow Dance, We Are Motörhead
We are the ones you love, or we’re the ones you hate
We are the ones always too early or too late
We are the first and we just still might be the last
We are Motörhead – born to kick your ass
Recorded in the Hollywood Hills, produced by Thom Pannunzio. Not much else to say. It was released in 2002.
Less aggressive than the previous record, but songwriting-wise very very good. Some of the vocal melodies even have a melancholic feeling to them. Great production, this record sounds really good. Overall a great record.
Highlights: Walk a Crooked Mile, Brave New World
Smoking dope will get you more than murder one,
And even worse than statutory rape,
Don’t understand your children, so you send them all to jail,
Believe me, you will never make a worse mistake.
Together with the new producer Cameron Webb they created one of their heaviest record in years. The critics praised this record. It’s the longest record, clocking in at 48:26.
It’s definitely heavy, but not as varied as some of the previous records. Apart from the last track, “Whorehouse Blues” all songs have the same approach. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does get a bit stale after repeated listens.
Highlights: Killers, In the Name of Tragedy
The sun beats down like thunder
We ride to meet the foe
The clash of steel and leather
The only song we know
Kiss of Death
Released in 2006, this is the band’s 18th studio album. It is the 2nd with producer Cameron Webb and the 9th on Steamhammer.
Solid record, more variation than on the previous record. The album sounds good, the songs are well written and performed. A great mix between fast heavy hitters, mid tempo songs and even a ballad. I especially enjoyed the two stand-out tracks listed below.
Highlights: Trigger, God Was Never on Your Side
Let the sword of reason shine,
Let us be free of prayer & shrine
God’s face is hidden, turned away
He never has a word to say
19th studio album, last one on the Steamhammer label. It was recorded in LA. Reception was positive.
After listening to this one quite a few times I can’t really remember any songs that really stick out, nor do I have a certain riff or hook that comes to mind. However, there are no bad tracks on the record. Nothing groundbreaking, just solid Motörhead.
Highlights: Rock Out, English Rose
All there is is one short life,
Far as we can find,
And if you don’t know how to live,
You’re gonna lose your mind.
The Wörld Is Yours
20th studio album, released in 2010 on the band’s own label, dedicated to Ronnie James Dio. The album received mainly positive reviews.
What to say, it’s a solid Motörhead record. Nothing fancy, nothing new. A bit stronger than Motörizer if you ask me, the standout tracks are the rock ‘n’ roll songs.
Highlights: Rock ‘N’ Roll Music, Bye Bye Bitch Bye Bye
Rock n roll music is my religion; I don’t need no miracle vision.
I don’t need no indecision, look me right in the eye.
Rock n roll music gonna set you free?
Know it’s gonna knock you outta your tree,
Gonna get you right to where you wanna be, do it till the day I die.
This is the penultimate Motörhead studio record. It was released in 2013. Again, review scores were quite high.
The production on this record is on point, it really sounds the way it should. They didn’t reinvent the wheel with this record, but it’s what you’d expect from Motörhead by now.
Highlights: Lost Woman Blues, Going To Mexico
You must do what you desire
You must save your soul entire
You must figure out what works
And don’t you be a liar
Last one, released in 2015 on Motörhead Music/UDR. It was recorded at the NRG studios in Hollywood and produced by Cameron Webb.
This album shows how consistently they delivered album after album, never trying to reinvent the wheel but staying true to themselves. Another solid record, stronger than the previous one.
Highlights: Thunder & Lightning, Till the End
Don’t tell me who I am, I don’t give a damn
Your dreams are nothing, you’re a nowhere man
Think you’re really smart, think you’re pure in heart
Go ahead and tear yourself in half
A short summary/overview containing my rating for each album:
And here’s a Spotify playlist with the highlight songs:
That’s it, this is the discography of one of the most important bands in rock and metal history. Concluding this article, here’s a Lemmy quote:
“I don’t do regrets. Regrets are pointless. It’s too late for regrets. You’ve already done it, haven’t you? You’ve lived your life. No point wishing you could change it.”
They were Motörhead. And they played rock and roll.