Thursday, April 23, 2009
Motorhead - No Sleep Til Hammersmith - Deluxe Edition
Music’s biggest middle finger is now double fisted and right in your grill. That’s right, the 2CD deluxe version of Motorhead’s No Sleep Til Hammersmith has FINALLY been released in America. This thing came out a few years ago in Europe but was impossible to find anywhere in the US at a reasonable price. All the deluxe reissues of Motorhead’s “golden era” (Overkill, Bomber, Ace of Spades, Iron Fist, Another Perfect Day) are essential purchases, but if you can only afford one, this is the one to get. Why? Because IT RULES! Ask any Motorhead fan to pick their favorite album and this is usually it. It’s faster, ruder, dirtier and LOUDER than any of their other records.
I remember reading a review in Creem magazine when this first came out in 1981. It said something to the effect that when Lemmy says “thank you” in between songs it’s kinda like when a mass murderer says “I’m sorry” after blasting innocent bystanders with a machine gun. I don’t even think I finished reading the rest of it before I was on my Schwinn 10-speed bike in search of this thing. Recorded on the notorious “Ace Up Your Sleeve” ‘81 tour (with Girlschool as support), Motorhead’s popularity in the UK had reached a peak. No Sleep Til Hammersmith entered the British charts at #1. And the band was famously against the release of this thing! I don’t know what they were thinking because this is by far the best live document of Motorhead, no matter what era. Oh yeah, none of the songs were actually recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, but in Leeds and Newcastle in March 1981.
If you’ve never heard this record I feel sorry for you. But I also envy you because you’re about to get your brains turned to oatmeal. Kicking off with “Ace of Spades” (a song they usually put at the end of the set now) you can hear the unruly mob lose their shit. You can practically smell the beer and body odor of the crowd and the band. Anytime I think I’m tired of this song, hearing the live version reminds me that I’m not and it’s time to turn up the volume. “Stay Clean” is next. Is there any other band that always features the same song 2nd in their set list? This has always been one of my favorites and it would be weird for them to put it anywhere else in the set list. The tempo dips just a hair for the awesome “Metropolis.” At some point in the early 80’s they re-released the film Metropolis in theaters. I went to go see it because of this song. The movie’s cool, but the song is way better. Believe me “The Hammer” is gonna bring you down! This violent musical outburst always makes me want to hurt people, preferably with a hammer.
They played “Iron Horse” on the 1981 tour but weren’t happy with the results so they used a version from the 1980 tour. That’s the only song from a different era. Back in the vinyl days “No Class” finished off side one in complete raucous fashion. These days, Motorhead ends their show with “Overkill” but back then it was in the middle of the set. The studio version is great, but the live version is a headbangers delight. Phil Taylor’s double bass drumming is totally pummeling. Fast Eddie’s guitar tone is rude and Lemmy’s bass gives posers an instant headache. This song could go on for half an hour and it still wouldn’t be enough.
Only a band that featured a former roadie (Lemmy worked for Jimi Hendrix and The Nice) could write a song called “(We Are) The Road Crew.” True tales from the road are shouted over a descending blues riff and everyone lifts their beer can to shout along on the chorus. Anyone who’s ever moved an amplifier loves this song. “Capricorn” is the slow one “so’s you can get mellowed out” says Lemmy. This is the closest Motorhead ever gets to Hawkwind territory as Lemmy testifies to the powers of his astrological sign. This song gives you a breather before the double whammy of “Bomber” and “Motorhead” force your brains through your nose.
That’s the main course. Here’s what you get for desert on this muther. “Over The Top” was the b-side on the live “Motorhead” single from No Sleep. This has been on most of the CD reissues. There’s nothing you can say about “Over the Top” except that it’s over the top. A frenzied Nugent style boogie blast that makes you want to throw chairs against the wall. Disc 1 wraps up with SIX bonus tracks recorded at the same shows but not on the original album – “Shoot You In the Back,” “Jailbait,” “Leaving Here,” “Fire Fire,” “Too Late Too Late” and “Bite The Bullet/The Chase Is Better Than the Catch.” If you’re a Motorhead fan just reading those song titles should make you wet your pants if you haven’t already from drinking too much Carlsberg Special Brew. (Fast Eddie says Special Brew helped take the edge off all the speed they were taking. I still order it whenever I can find it).
Disc 2 is basically all the songs on the original album from other shows on the tour. Are the duplicates an improvement on the master takes – not at all. Is it really necessary – HELL YES! It’s Motorhead on the 1981 tour! And it kicks fucking ass!!! The only song that’s missing is their version of “Train Kept A Rollin” that was on a 7” flexidisc given away with Flexipop Magazine in 1981. I have a couple of copies of it, but it would have been nice to finally have it on CD with all these other gems.
This 2CD version of No Sleep Til Hammersmith is the 5th time I’ve bought this damn thing. First was the US LP. Then I had to buy the UK pressing because it had the inner sleeve photos in color and the US one was in black and white. I bought it on CD as soon as it came out. Then bought it again on CD when it was reissued with The Golden Years EP on it. Now this, but I don’t care. I’ll buy it again if it comes out with something else on it. So should you. Don’t download it or burn a copy from your friend. Don’t play it through crappy little computer speakers. Treat it as the gem that it is and do it right. Play it really fucking loud on your home or car stereo or don’t bother at all.
Buy here: No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith