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The History of Motorhead

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Formed in Chelsea, England in 1975, Motorhead overcame early professional problems before their debut found a spot within the UK charts. Heavy touring produced a massive fan following and the release of three albums in 1979. Soon, they had a top five album with 1980's "Ace of Spades" and were bringing their heavy metal and rock and roll sound around the world. Despite lineup changes, Motorhead continued to tour and release new music. They even found critical and commercial success in the new millennium with 2010's "The World is Yours." In this video, we take a look at the history of Motorhead.

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They were “born to raise hell.” Welcome to, and today we’re taking a look at the history of Motörhead.


Heavy metal band Motörhead formed in Chelsea, England in 1975 after frontman Ian Kilmister – better known by his stage name, Lemmy – was kicked out of the popular space-rock outfit Hawkwind due to his serious drug habit. Lemmy decided to strike out on his own with loud, fast and straightforward rock-and-roll, and Motörhead was born.

Best Worst Band

Success was not instant: early line-up changes, a record their label refused to release, and being named the “best worst band in the world” by NME magazine, left the band disheartened. Guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor intended to quit in 1977.


Things changed when they received a recording offer from Chiswick Records. This led to the band’s first true album: an eponymous effort that spent a week within the UK Albums Chart’s top fifty.

More Music and Fans

Thanks to touring and a “Top of the Pops” appearance, the trio developed a following by 1978. Motörhead was re-released later that same year and was followed by three albums in 1979: the band’s first entry into the top 40 chart Overkill, the top twenty effort Bomber and the scrapped 1976 record, On Parole. Motörhead found even more success in 1980 when The Golden Years EP reached number eight on the charts.

“Ace of Spades”

Motörhead soon settled into a groove of recording and touring that finally generated the commercial and critical success that eluded the band in its early years. Their 1980 full-length, Ace of Spades, achieved gold status and reached number four on the UK charts. Widely considered one of the best metal records of all time, it was instrumental in the creation of the thrash metal genre and its title track became an anthem for metalheads around the world.

Topping the UK Charts

The early ‘80s saw Motorhead top the UK charts with their first live album, No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith. In 1982, following the completion of Iron Fist, guitarist Fast Eddie left the band and was replaced by Thin Lizzy’s Brian Robertson.

Lineup Changes

Unfortunately, the next year’s Another Perfect Day did not meet the success of previous recordings and by 1984, both Robertson and Phil Taylor quit, leaving Lemmy as the only member of the band’s classic lineup. They were replaced by guitarists Phil “Wizzo” Campbell and Michael “Würzel” Burston and drummer Pete Gill.

10 Year Anniversary

The new lineup then recorded new tracks for the silver-certified 1984 compilation No Remorse. They supported themselves by booking dates around the world, including a ten-year anniversary show at the Hammersmith Odeon.

Music and Film

The late ‘80s saw Motörhead release the Orgasmatron and Rock ‘n’ Roll albums. They also enjoyed mainstream success after appearing in the dark comedy, “Eat the Rich,” and by playing in Finland’s Giants of Rock festival.

Music and Touring

By the 1990s, Motörhead was steadily releasing new albums, with classics like March ör Die and Bastards producing fan-favorites such as “You Better Run” and “Born to Raise Hell.” Meanwhile, Lemmy and Wizzo were joined by drummer Mikkey Dee to form a lineup that has remained stable for two decades. Further album releases were followed by worldwide tours during which Motörhead enjoyed live engagements with numerous metal acts like Metallica, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, and Black Sabbath.

25th Anniversary

2000’s We Are Motörhead coincided with a North and South American tour. Later that year, the band celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in London, and that gig was later released on DVD. Lemmy and the gang were not slowed down by the anniversary; in fact, they continued recording and touring at the same frenetic pace.

Contemporary Success

From Hammered to Kiss of Death to 2010’s widely acclaimed The Wörld is Yours, Motörhead continued garnering favorable reviews from fans and the press. They were especially praised for preserving Lemmy’s original vision of loud, fast, heavy rock-and-roll and serving it up to a whole new generation.


For over 30 years, Motörhead has been raising hell as the elder statesmen of the hard rock genre and have shown that they’re here to stay. Their heavy guitars, gravelly vocals, and sheer volume have assaulted countless eardrums and made them living legends of heavy metal.

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