Beer drinkers, and hell raisers, yeah.
Uh-huh-huh, baby, don’t you want to come with me?
The crowd gets loud when the band gets right.
ZZ Top, Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers (1973)
Motörhead’s cover of the ZZ Top song – Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers – marked the vocal debut of guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, and one of the few occasions he sang lead in the band. The song appeared on an EP of the same name, from which author Martin Popoff takes his book title, of previously unreleased outtakes from their eponymous first album.
Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers: The Rise of Motörhead – released tomorrow – is a biography of the band in its early years. There have been several band biographies so far (and a fair few on Lemmy) but Popoff’s is the first to focus on what is widely regarded as the ‘classic’ line up – Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, ‘Fast Eddie’ Clarke, and Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor.
Even if, like me, you don’t know anything about heavy metal you’ve almost certainly heard of Motörhead, and you will (most likely) have ‘danced’ to Ace of Spades more than once in your life. The band’s early years make an intriguing tale of a group of outsiders – “born on the dole, born in the land of misfit rockers and always – always – born to lose” – determined to succeed, which will appeal to any music fan, not just fans of Motörhead.
Lemmy started Motörhead after being fired from his previous band, Hawkwind (over a drug possession arrest at the US/Canadian border), with Larry Wallis and Lucas Fox in 1975. Originally called Bastard, their then-manager convinced Lemmy to change the name to something more radio-friendly. He went for Motörhead, an alternative term for a speed freak and also the title of last song he wrote for Hawkwind (no strangers themselves to gratuitously added umlauts).
Full of interview materials and band ephemera (much of it from the author’s own collection), the book allows the personalities of the three to shine. But, in addition to this, Popoff is an exceptional writer – sharp, bold and funny – and the genuine love he has for the band is clear from every page.
Popoff will be known to many for his music writing, especially on metal and prog rock, which include Black Sabbath (2006), Judas Priest (2007), Top 500 Metal Albums (2004) and Top 500 Metal Songs of All Time (2002), Rush biography Contents Under Pressure (2004; all ECW Press); Sail Away: Whitesnake’s Fantastic Voyage (2015) and Time and A Word: The Yes Story (2016; both Soundcheck Books).
Covering only six years – 1976-1982 – yet six albums (five studio, one live), Popoff devotes the opening two chapters to band members’ origins, kicking off with Lemmy; how they met and how they worked together in the beginning: “gigging, poverty, more poverty, and then some gigging.” Chapters three to nine each look at an album – Motörhead (1977), Overkill (1979), Bomber (1979), Ace of Spades (1980), No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith (their live album, 1981) and Iron Fist (1982) – with anecdotes about the band members’ lives at the time, musical influences, and the people they met on the scene adding an extra dimension to Popoff’s history, breakdown and lively discussion of the six albums.
And then, just like that, the end of the classic line up approaches. Due mostly to “arguments for integrity on one side – Eddie’s – and arguments for maintaining a sense of humor on the other side – Lemmy’s” – Eddie left the band. Popoff leaves no loose ends as he neatly sums up the rest of Motörhead’s sensational career, right up to the deaths of Phil and Lemmy, just seven weeks apart – both at the end of 2015, and incidentally only a few weeks after he signed the original contract for this book.
- Post by Rachel
Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers: The Rise of Motörhead by Martin Popoff is published on 22 June by ECW Press (9781770413474, p/b, 260pp)