Mummy's dead, Daddy's dead. That's the power of Motorhead !

Steve Sparkes 1997


There are two fundamental, eternal philosophical truths that are demonstrated at every Motorhead gig. First, "It's no fun if it doesn't hurt.", second, "If it doesn't feed back, it isn't worth a fuck." (to misquote Stiff Records).

Back in the glory days in the UK Motorheads road crew had something called "PunterKill". Now a punter is slang for customer and PunterKill was a line of 12" speakers across the stage at ear level aimed directly at the kids who crowded the front of the stage. The mixer fed these speakers with the mid-upper and high frequencies (the most painful) at extremely high levels. Now, understand I'm not talking about high levels like turning your stereo up full, I'm talking about high levels in Motorhead terms, I'm talking about levels that these days would probably have to be registered with The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco as a Destructive Device. When PunterKill kicked in the headbanging hordes would reel back from the stage, holding their heads and grinning from ear to ear. Motorhead has always been about raw power, the rawer and the more powerful the better.

Irving Plaza is a very strange place indeed. One would have thought that at the historical home of Johnny Thunders it would be unlikely that a barmaid, while standing in front of a photo of the band, would refuse to serve Lemmy a drink because he didn't have a wristband and had therefore not been carded, but it happened, I was there! (nice one Allison). I'm a year older than Lemmy (self described as "52 and still no sign of life") and they carded me before they would allow me to buy cigarettes. I know things are tight, BOY do I know things are tight, having just spent a year as political prisoner of the Pataki/Guliani Lifestyle Police, but let's not be ridiculous !

Motorhead was born out of Hawkwind's hippy, trippy disillusion with the somewhat more aggressive stance of their bass player, the ex Rocking Vicar and ex Hendrix roadie, Ian "Lemmy" Kilminster (someday I'll have to tell you how he got the name Lemmy). After a few lineup fumbles Lemmy settled on the classic Motorhead lineup "Philthy Phil" on drums, "Fast Eddie" on guitar and Lemmy on bass. This trio, the original real power trio, proceeded to invent speed metal, when the speed in speed metal really meant SPEED ! After producing some of the finest metal ever heard including possibly the best live album in history "No Sleep till Hammersmith" the band broke apart in an explosion of hate and violence (not you will note "musical differences") between Phil and Eddie. And to be honest since then the ghost of that classic lineup has always hovered over the band, through the embarrassing "shorts" period of Brian "Robbo" Robertson and the multi guitar line up Motorhead were great but in the back of ones mind it was never really Motorhead.

So to Irving Plaza, home of the thinking impaired barmaid, to see the current incarnation now that Wurzel (nice boy that he was) has left. Friday the 13th felt like an appropriate day.

The show opened with a local thrash band "The Toilet Boys" with a female lead singer whose rail thin body, unzipped pants and monumental attitude clearly barred her from any future "Spice Girls" auditions. My kind of girl. Then all hell broke loose, or to put it another way Motorhead played.

It would seem obvious that if one guitar played through a wall of Marshalls is powerful then two guitars played through two walls of Marshalls would be twice as powerful. This turns out not to be the case. Real rock'n'roll is played on guitars with one, bridge position, pickup (the Spinal Tap guitar with the entire space between bridge and neck filled with pickups is a joke !!) all other pickups are pussy pickups and only used to produce "radio-friendly" AOR crap. From Mick Green's Telecaster in Johnny Kidd and the Pirates on the true rock'n'roll lineup is bass, guitar and drums.

From the initial thunder of Lemmy's bass Motorhead demonstrated this thesis, (speaking of Lemmy's bass it was not the old "Born Too Loose" bass but the new Lemmy Signature Bass (buy one)). Mickey Dee almost make's one forget the Animal, he's at least as good, just different, Phil Campbell's guitar was fast, tight and awesome and Lemmy was Lemmy. There are other writers on this paper who are considerably more capable than I in dealing with the musicological aspects of performance, all I know was the pit writhed,the feedback hurt, the volume was a physical thing and I had a wonderful time, enhanced only by having a song dedicated to me, a singular honor. The entire show was a simple demonstration of the virtues of directness, hard work, power and aggression. You got to love 'em. Old songs, new songs, loud songs, louder songs... I was honestly swept back to an earlier time, visions of Motorcycle Irene danced in my brain. Born to lose... live to win. Live fast but don't die young. Ask Lemmy or ask me old doesn't mean dead.


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