'Motorizing' the classics
By Paul Rigg
a covers compilation album by Motörhead, released on 1
Lemmy Kilmister, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee have collected together 11 tracks stretching from 1992’s March ör Die through to 2015’s Bad Magic sessions. The album includes songs by the Rolling Stones, Judas Priest, Ted Nugent, Metallica and the Ramones, among many others.
The previously unreleased cover of David Bowie's 'Heroes' has perhaps been the most-awaited of the bunch, as it was one of the last Lemmy cut before his death in December 2015. Recorded during the Bad Magic sessions by Cameron Webb, Heroes was one of the last songs the band recorded together.
"It's such a great Bowie song, one of his best, and I could only see great things coming out of it from us, and so it proved to be. Lemmy ended up loving our version," guitarist Phil Campbell said.
Perhaps, but cover versions really need to add something to the original if they are not going to disappoint, and on that criteria Motörhead's treatment of the Bowie classic does not quite get there.
However the Sex Pistols' classic 'God save the Queen', the second track on the album, does hit the mark. Lemmy's familiar gravelly growl, which sounds like it has been dragged through a river of dirt, cigarette butts and Jack Daniels whisky, is perfect to express the menace and venom of the song. The accompanying video also adds the wry humour evident in a number of other Motörhead works (see, for example, the slowed down acoustic version of Ace of Spades).
Judas Priest's 'Breaking the Law', the album's opener, also works for the same reason. In contrast the covers of the Rolling Stones classics Jumping Jack Flash will seem a stretch too far except perhaps for the most die-hard Motörhead devotees. Sympathy for the Devil (originally released on 'Bad Magic') is considerably better, with Phil Campbell letting rip to great effect on what is believed to be his LAG Explorer Signature model guitar.
Perhaps Lemmy's humour is evident again in the inclusion of "Hellraiser" from 1992s 'March or Die' as he co-wrote this himself with Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde. The song was originally released on Ozzy's album, No More Tears - and in that sense Lemmy is here covering his own track.
"We were happy with [these cover versions] at the time and we're happy with them now!" states Campbell. Dee on the other hand says: "We should remember that it's about having some fun with songs that we all loved."
If you love Motörhead then there is no question that this album will form an essential part of your collection. For those who see a few stones among the gems, however, it is unlikely to be on repeat after the first play. But who can complain about a well-loved band 'having fun'? And who will not feel some pathos hearing Lemmy - nearing the end of his days - singing triumphantly 'we are nothing, and nothing will help us' ... 'we can be heroes just for one day'.