Motörhead () are an English rock band formed in 1975 by bassist, singer and songwriter Ian Fraser Kilmister, professionally known by his stage name Lemmy, who has remained the sole constant member. The band are often considered a precursor to, or one of the earliest members of, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which re-energised heavy metal in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
To date, Motörhead have released twenty studio albums, seven live recordings, five compilation albums and five EPs. Usually a power trio, they had particular success in the early 1980s with several successful singles in the UK Top 40 chart. The albums Overkill, Bomber, Ace of Spades, and particularly No Sleep 'til Hammersmith, cemented Motörhead's reputation as a rock band. As of 2012, Motörhead have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide.
Motörhead are typically classified as heavy metal, and their fusion of punk rock into the genre helped to pioneer speed metal and thrash metal. Motörhead's approach has remained the same over the band's career, preferring to play what they enjoy and do best; their appreciation of early rock and roll is reflected in some of their occasional cover songs.
Motörhead's lyrics typically cover such topics as war, good versus evil, abuse of power, promiscuous sex, substance abuse, and, most famously, gambling. The name "Motörhead" is a reference to users of the drug amphetamine. The band's distinctive fanged-face logo, with its oversized boar's tusks, chains, and spikes, was created by artist Joe Petagno in 1977 for the cover of the Motörhead album and has appeared in many variations on covers of ensuing albums. The fanged face has been referred to variously as "War-Pig" and "Snaggletooth". The band is ranked number 26 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.
Lemmy was fired from Hawkwind in May 1975 for, as he says, "doing the wrong drugs." He was arrested on suspicion of possessing cocaine at the Canadian border and spent five days in prison, causing the band to cancel some of their North America tour dates. Now on his own, Lemmy decided to form a new band called Motörhead, inspired by the final song he had written for Hawkwind.
Lemmy's stated aim was to "concentrate on very basic music: loud, fast, city, raucous, arrogant, paranoid, speedfreak rock n roll ... it will be so loud that if we move in next door to you, your lawn will die". On the recommendation of Mick Farren, he recruited Larry Wallis (ex-Pink Fairies) on electric guitar and Lucas Fox on drums. According to Lemmy, the band's first practice was in a furniture store in Chelsea, England in 1975. Kilmister has said they used to steal equipment, as the band was short on gear. Their first engagement was supporting Greenslade at The Roundhouse, London on 20 July 1975. On 19 October, having played 10 engagements, they became the supporting act to Blue í–yster Cult at the Hammersmith Odeon.
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