I’ve been looking at two Motörhead albums very closely this week: Overkill (1979) and Ace of Spades (1980). Motörhead is a unique band with a unique relationship to genre. Many metal critics relate them to the British punk explosion (and implosion) of 1977,1 but Motörhead outlived the career of virtually any 70s punk band and remained relevant thanks in part to a close relationship with a metal scene that they were never really entirely within. Motörhead served as an influence and even a kind of godfather to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) that took off in the early 80s; Lemmy Kilmeister (RIP, Dec. 2015) was from an older generation than most of the British teenagers that formed bands like Saxon and Diamond Head at the end of the seventies, but despite steering clear of all of the musical tendencies and lyrical trappings of the kind of heavy metal these bands began producing, Motörhead frequently shared venues with the NWOBHM bands and even developed close working relationships with some of them (especially Girlschool, who released a split EP with Motörhead in 1981). The two Motörhead albums I’ve been looking at are from the year or so in which they first became successful on the British charts.2
One of Motörhead’s most famous singles is “Overkill,” and though most people say it is important because it introduced the use of two bass drums to heavy metal, I think another reason it’s significant is that it really creatively plays with the conventions of ending a song.
- For example, Ian Christe introduces Motörhead at the end of a section about the ’77 punk moment. See Christe’s 2003 book Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, p. 29. [↩]
- Only a few of Motörhead’s most recent albums sold well enough in the United States to make it in the top half of the Billboard 200. [↩]