13 Of The Greatest Motörhead B-Sides
Because their big hits are so very massive, it’s easy to forget that Motörhead have 22 studio albums (think about that — 22 studio albums). And while most of the time your average listener is down to blast Ace Of Spades, Overkill, and Damage Case ad nauseum, this means that many of Lemmy and Co.’s lesser-known bangers are often overlooked by the public. Sure, Motörhead were admittedly a band focused on writing some big, memorable singles — hell, they changed their name from Bastard to make it onto Top Of The Pops — but to forget those tracks that were never featured on VH1 or covered by Metallica does a disservice to the band’s legacy, and to the listener themselves, who misses out on some incredible tunes by only scraping the surface.
The 26 of December sees us in the middle of Lemmytide, the period between Lemmy’s birthday (Christmas Eve) and the day of his death (December 28) in which all things Motörhead must be celebrated. With that in mind, here are 13 Motörhead tracks that most listeners might not know, but which should never be forgotten.
Live To Win (1980)
Though often overshadowed by the title track of 1980’s Ace Of Spades, Live To Win is as definitive a Motörhead song as they come. With its bluesy chug accented by crashes of early speed metal, the track captures both Lemmy’s more rock-oriented side and the mechanized aggression the made the band thrash’s forefathers. Most importantly, though, are the lyrics, which offer a positive message of outlaw confidence by providing the other side of the Born To Lose coin. A life-affirming track for those playing by their own rules.
(I Won’t) Pay Your Price (1979)
Opening with Lemmy haplessly whispering, “I’m so drunk…”, this less-celebrated cut from Overkill is a rallying cry for everyone feeling wasted and snotty. The track’s childish punker lyrics and bouncy, loose-jointed rhythm are somewhat aberrational for the band, but provide that mischievous side of Motörhead’s outlaw attitude that keep them from feeling too grizzled. The result is a fun, spirited soundtrack to a tipsy night out, right down to the middle finger shoved in the bouncer’s face before the lyrics’ protagonist gets tossed out of the club. More for the young and mad than old and world-worn.
Brotherhood Of Man (2010)
Not all Motörhead tracks are about whiskey and banging. Acting as a companion to the crushing Orgasmatron, Brotherhood Of Man off of 2010’s The World Is Yours is a misanthropic stomper, speaking the truth about humanity’s passion for its own demise. Unlike his usual bark, Lemmy’s voice is a low growl on this one, the sneer of contempt on his lips audible as he recites lyrics like, “We are worse than animals, we hunger for the kill/We put our faith in maniacs — the triumph of the will.” That, alongside the militant cheers peppered throughout the track, make this song as harrowing as it is compelling.
Built For Speed (1986)
While Lemmy constantly claimed that Motörhead were blues rock and not heavy metal, Built For Speed off of 1986’s Orgasmatron proves otherwise. The song’s catchy central riff is as crushing as any black or death metal axework, and its mid-paced march smacks of classics by bands like Metallica and Judas Priest. All of that is drawn together by its message of living the life of a hesher not because it seems cool, but because there is simply no other way to do it. In Lemmy’s immortal words on this incredible anthem, “Don’t you listen to a single word against rock’n’roll.” Amen.
Nightmare/The Dreamtime (1991)
1991 was a weird time for hard rock, with mainstream metal imploding under the weight of its own ass and everyone turning to outsider voices Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker for inspiration. That latter aspect seems heavily present on Nightmare/The Dreamtime, a percussion-less cut off of Motörhead’s 1916 that could easily soundtrack one of the seedier scenes in The Sandman. Though the song feels like an experiment on Lemmy’s part more than anything else, its bizarre lyrics and eerie backwards passages provide it with the frontman’s trademark honesty, giving listeners a window into his subconscious instead of his libido. Not for every day, but in those weird quiet moments of a metalhead’s life, this one’s a gem.
Go To Hell (1982)
1982’s Iron Fist is the album for Motörhead’s true metal fanbase, and Go To Hell is one of the tracks that makes it so. Gleefully brash and punchy, the song follows a theme that rules a lot of Motörhead’s music: Lemmy meets a broad, she lies to him about what she wants, and he tells her what she can do with herself. While the subject matter might sound insensitive, it’s really Lemmy’s hatred for dishonesty that makes the track righteous more than anything. And let’s be honest, if you’re worried about sensitivity, this is the wrong band to listen to.
Red Raw (2002)
Rarely have Motörhead gone as utterly thrash metal ad they do on this deep cut from 2002’s Hammered. The track takes previous mercenary anthems like The Hammer to a ferocious new level, immersing itself in the obscene mental chaos of a serial psychopath. Even more jarring to most will be the guitar and vocal tone of the track, drenched in distortion and full-on fury. The latter is especially effective, with Lemmy’s verse vocals emanating fuzz while his choruses are layered to psychological effect. It’s a shame this one came out during a time when Motörhead weren’t on everyone’s radar, as this song is begging to be covered by a band like Aura Noir or Black Anvil.
Side 1 of 1987’s Rock’N’Roll is packed with hits, but this track often slips through the cracks for most listeners. That’s a shame to be sure, as Blackheart’s unorthodox vocal rhythms and fleet-footed pace make it an unexpectedly satisfying Motörhead song. Not only that, but its themes of emotional honesty, the presence of virtue and evil in everyone, and taking the good with the bad provide sort of a powerful philosophical bent to the track. The result is fun, nasty, and smarter than your average bear — in other words, Lemmy all over.
Get Back In Line (2010)
Much of Motörhead’s later material is more descriptive and verbose than their earlier stuff, so Get Back In Line might be a little wordy for fans of their late-’70s material. But as far as straight-up hard rock songs go, it’s hard to beat this number, and it’s nice to see Lemmy getting to flex his lyrical muscles a bit. Lyrics like, “All things come to he who waits — the waiting never ends” show off the vocalist’s succinct-yet-poetic side. There are a handful of songs that prove that Lemmy was a rock-solid songwriter well into his old age, and this is most certainly one of them.
Sex And Outrage (1982)
Sometimes, a song is exactly what it says on the label. Sex And Outrage is a fast, sleazy track from the heart of Motörhead’s first glory days, with the sound of classic speed metal and subject metal of glam. While Lemmy’s drinking, smoking, and drug use often take up much of the band’s spotlight, his sexual triumphs were also the stuff of legend; he’s one of the few musicians to ever receive head onstage. This song is a complete revel in the sticky things that go on in dressing rooms and tour buses around the world. Why else be in a band, after all?
Ridin' With The Driver (1986)
Motörhead’s influence on metal often overshadows how in tune they were with punk rock. Ridin’ With The Driver is as fast, loose, and loaded on amphetamines as the band gets, with blazing punk rhythm and distortion. At the same time, the verses and choruses have singalong melodies to them that add a classic-rock jam to that sense of breakneck rage, and the lyrics about being a speed-fed trucker are furiously blue-collar. It’s a style that can be heard in the music of everyone from The Offspring to Avail, and which shows off the band’s eternal influence on the punk and hardcore scenes.
Voices From The War (2002)
While plenty of Lemmy’s songs were about the horrors of war, this one off of 2002’s Hammered channels the forlorn darkness of having died on the battlefield. The track’s sung chorus gives off a certain catchy sadness that Lemmy has proven himself capable of writing with his tracks for other artists (Ozzy’s Mama I’m Coming Home, for example), but that he rarely saves for himself. But this one is infectious even in its bleakness, with a spoken-word bridge that features Lemmy sounding haggard even in his bitterness. Sometimes, even the most battle-scarred old war machines need a moment to break down.
(Don't Let 'Em) Grind You Down (1982)
Some bands’ fan solidarity tracks are about never being alone and making the world rise to meet your standard. But Motörhead’s message is a little more realistic: life sucks, and there are assholes everywhere, but fuck ‘em. Sure, it’s tough love that’s at the heart of this mid-paced biker paean from 1982 Iron Fist, but that in and of itself is an important part of the band’s eternal message brought on by the end of the ‘60s. It’s nice to imagine everyone is here to love one another and make the world better…but since they aren’t, get ready to brush their bullshit off of your shoulders.
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