There are not many people who argue against the fact that Lemmy was Motorhead, which made it impossible for the band to carry on after his passing in 2015. However, that definitely does not mean that any of the other members were simply hired guns. Accompanying Lemmy in the band’s early days was the two other members who made up what is the classic line-up- guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke and drummer Philty Animal Taylor, who have now both also sadly passed away. Not to mention the longest serving line-up with Phil Campbell on guitar and Mickey Dee on drums.
A lot of people are of the opinion that Motorhead’s classic recorded output came to an end after the first few years, with much of their later work being largely forgettable. While it is certainly true that not all of their albums have been great, with this list we take a look through various eras of the band’s long history to show that there are a fair few albums that maybe don’t quite get the recognition that they deserve. Read on to find out which…
# 10 – Overnight Sensation
Kicking off the list is an album that was notable for the removal of the band’s mascot Snaggletooth with the cover instead featuring a picture of the band (the first to do so since 1980s Ace of Spades). Released in 1996, Motorhead’s thirteenth album Overnight Sensation is definitely a notable footnote in the Motorhead story as the departure of late guitarist Wurzel saw them return to being a trio, something that they were often revered for being in the early days.
Despite having fewer members, the album has a heavier sound than several previous albums. You can hear the effect that the loss of a member has had on the band with this record. They sound very tight and the songs are an eclectic mix of fast tracks and more mid-paced numbers.
# 9 – The World is Yours
Up next is the band’s twentieth album from 2010 which was a prime example of how they could still deliver the goods over thirty years into their career. The album was dedicated to Ronnie James Dio who had died a few months earlier. This record showed that even though Motorhead don’t deviate much from their traditional formula they can still make it sound fresh when they are feeling inspired enough to do so.
Cameron Webb’s production gave the band a much-needed dose of energy and when it was released, The World is Yours received a largely positive reception.
# 8 – Another Perfect Day
This sixth album from 1983 was the first after the departure of Fast Eddie Clarke who was replaced by Brian Robertson who had previously been in Thin Lizzy. Robertson and his style reportedly did not fit in well with the band with Lemmy recounting how he would often spend very long periods of time recording his guitar parts.
Upon its release, the album received a mixed critical reception with many feeling that the band was messing around a bit too much with their established formula.
The album is notably more clean sounding than much of their other work. However, Another Perfect Day has garnered a lot more appreciation over the years with many fans and critics considering it a solid effort that has stood the test of time.
# 7 -1916
In the number seven spot is 1990’s 1916, Motorhead’s ninth album which is definitely the biggest departure from the band’s usual sound, being much more mainstream sounding to the point where they got recognized enough to be nominated for a Grammy. They lost to Metallica’s Black Album, which is a similar album in the sense that it saw the band move away from their metal sound in favor of a more accessible rock style.
The album features several slow ballads, one of which is the title track which talks about a sixteen-year-old man going to fight in the first world war. Despite its very uncharacteristic sound it works very well and is very heartfelt. Lemmy may not have ever been the most technically talented singer but hearing him using his gravelly voice to sing this sad and melancholy song works even if it does not sound like it should. On the more conventional side of things, the album also features the track “R.A.M.O.N.E.S,” a song that Lemmy penned about the New York punks who were his long-time friends and comrades.
# 6 – Overkill
Next on the list on what some might say is the rather low position of number 6 is 1979’s Overkill the band’s second album. As well as the iconic title track which features Philty Animal Taylor’s famous use of two bass drums, practically every song on the record is great, with the band having improved as musicians from their self-titled debut and truly establishing themselves as one of the leading bands of the then- flourishing New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement.
The album was produced by Jimmy Miller who had previously worked with the Rolling Stones and was a surprising commercial success reaching number 24 in the UK charts. It has received many accolades over the years, often being included in many Greatest Albums lists including reaching number 46 in Kerrang magazines 100 Greatest Metal albums of all time.
# 5 – Orgasmatron
Released in 1987, Motorhead’s seventh album Orgasmatron was produced by Bill Laswell who is known for his work with Public Image Ltd amongst many other things across a wide variety of genres and styles. It was the first album to feature both Wurzel and Phil Campbell on guitar and the only one to feature Pete Gill on drums.
Released at a time when thrash was in its glory years, the album fits well alongside releases by bands who owed a great debt to Motorhead such as Metallica and Slayer. The title track was famously covered by the Brazilian thrash band Sepultura. The album is the angriest sounding thing in the band’s back catalog which could be because it was their first after a three-year hiatus after parting with their label, Bronze Records on bad terms.
# 4 – Bomber
At number 4 is the band’s third album Bomber coming hot on the heels of Overkill, literally being released the same year (1979) a few months later. To many bands these days rushing out another album is such a short space of time would not be considered a very good idea because it would surely affect the quality of the final product. However, we are talking about Motorhead here!
As it turns out anyone doubting that the band would make a solid release had no such worries as this album proved that Motorhead were a true powerhouse during their initial years. They once again recorded with Jimmy Miller who during this time was battling a heroin addiction. One of the album’s best tracks is an anti-heroin song “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” As well as the title track, the album features many other fan favorites such as “Stone Dead Forever.” It also brought them further commercial success with this album reaching number 12 in the UK album charts, surpassing Overkill.
# 3 – Sacrifice
Although not generally regarded as one of the band’s best, this writer would argue that their twelfth album Sacrifice released in 1995 is extremely underrated and is one the best which warrants its place at number 3 on this list. It is probably Motorhead’s most out-and-out metal album, featuring less of the classic rock n’roll elements that are often an integral part of the band’s sound.
It was Wurzels’ last album with the band, making it the last one they ever did as a four-piece. It was not much of a success upon its release, failing to chart and not receiving much publicity. However, the album makes for a very intense listening experience, starting off with the title track and containing several other underrated tracks such as “Sex and Death” and “War for War.”
# 2 – Motorhead
Although this was not the first thing that Motorhead recorded, the self-titled record from 1977 was their debut release. After getting the original trio of Lemmy, Eddie and Phil together, they planned to record a farewell live album, feeling that they were not getting anywhere. However, Chiswick Records founder Ted Carroll gave the band a chance to record some music for a single and after hearing some initial tracks, he was very impressed and gave them some extra time. It was recorded in just two days.
Although it was not their breakthrough album, it at least gave the band enough enthusiasm to stay together, a choice they were no doubt glad they made in the following years. The band themselves did not think it was very good, but it is a great album. Notable tracks include “White Line Fever” and the album (and bands) title track which is a reworked version of a track by Lemmy’s previous band Hawkwind.
# 1 – Ace of Spades
At number one on our 10 Best Motorhead albums what else could it possibly be? If you ever see a list of all-time greatest rock albums and this fourth effort from 1980 is not included, then that list should not be taken seriously. Containing the title track which is the song you have heard if you have only ever heard one Motorhead song, Ace of Spades is an album that anyone who considers themselves a rock fan should own.
The album was produced by Vic Mallie who had worked with Led Zeppelin and The Who. He had previously met Lemmy when he was in Hawkwind. It reached number 4 in the UK album charts upon its release and was also critically acclaimed. Every song on it is a classic with the title track “We are the Road Crew” and “The Chase is Better than the Catch” being just some of the highlights.
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Updated June 4, 2023
10 Best Motorhead Albums article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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