Released: 2017, ECW Press
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
“We are Motörhead…and we play rock and roll!”
This call to arms from vocalist/bassist Lemmy Kilmister kicked off every Motörhead show, stating simply in one phrase the manifesto of one of metal’s most enduring and influential acts. For 38 years, Motörhead stayed true to that manifesto despite lineup shuffles and a slew of changes to the musical tides. However, cut down by cancer, the sad news of Lemmy’s death came on December 28, 2015, thereby ending the reign of Motörhead as a dependable and tireless recording and touring act.
Martin Popoff’s latest book, BEER DRINKERS AND HELL RAISERS: THE RISE OF MOTÖRHEAD, chronicles the period of 1975 to 1982 which featured the “classic” lineup of Lemmy, “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor. This trio was responsible for OVERKILL, BOMBER, ACE OF SPADES, NO SLEEP ‘TIL HAMMERSMITH and IRON FIST before imploding amid escalating inter-band tensions and business decisions. Popoff has interviewed all members of the band numerous times over the years, collecting their thoughts (along with those of previous members, managers, industry folks and other musicians) along with his own insight into a comprehensive volume to celebrate the salad days of Motörhead.
Right off the bat, Popoff clears the air that this book is in no way a sleazy, sensationalized rush job hustled on to the market to capitalize on the recent deaths of Lemmy and Taylor. Due to publishing dates and production schedules that delayed its release, BEER DRINKERS AND HELL RAISERS: THE RISE OF MOTÖRHEAD was already in the can prior to their deaths, so prospective readers can rest assured that, like Popoff’s other sixty-plus books, this one has been thoroughly researched and lovingly put together for all the right reasons.
At over 260 pages, the trade paperback wastes no space and there is no filler here. The interviews are mixed with plenty of photos and the narrative keeps things moving along nicely throughout. A brief history of the formation of Motörhead after Lemmy’s ousting from space rock pioneers, Hawkwind, gets the ball rolling with the drafting of Taylor and Clarke in 1975 and 1976, respectively. Problems with record labels—an issue that dogged the band throughout its career—and difficulties in marketing such a unique (and loud) entity are given plenty of space, the frustration of the band members still seeming fresh so many years later. While Lemmy has traditionally been the spokesperson of Motörhead, it is refreshing to read at length the opinions and thoughts of Taylor and especially Clarke, who maintained a tumultuous relationship with Lemmy right up to the end. Clarke never minces words and speaks his mind freely. Kudos to Popoff for including criticism as there is always more than one side to a story and Clarke states his, warts and all (no pun intended). Of course, the highs of recording and releasing six classic albums in a little over five years are not missed, either. Tales of road mishaps, recording difficulties and drink- and drug-fueled shenanigans are always around the corner, giving the reader an amusing look at the chaos and debauchery that seemed to follow Motörhead at every turn.
There will never be another band like Motörhead. Straddling genre lines, spawning larger than life characters, relentless touring and boasting an unbelievably strong recorded output for nearly forty years, Lemmy and his cohorts defied the odds and created a musical institution. As a lifelong Motörhead fan himself, Martin Popoff channels that passion into BEER DRINKERS AND HELL RAISERS: THE RISE OF MOTÖRHEAD, crafting an unyielding look at what shaped one of music’s most respected and timeless acts.