Getting a full-house

By Sergio Ariza

No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith arrived at the right time, after the magnificent 3 aces Bomber, Overkill, and Ace of Spades, the most remembered lineup of Motörhead, (with Lemmy Kilmister on bass and voice, Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor on drums, and ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke on guitar) were a perfectly well-oiled machine that when they passed the grass will never grow gain. With this album they fulfill a full-house of best records in a space of two years, and left it as a reminder of one of the most explosive live shows in history.  

Lemmy had formed Motörhead after being ousted from Hawkwind in 1975. His intention was to make music “fast and vicious, like MC5”, basic, direct music, rock ‘n roll played at full speed and top volume, crowned with his voice soaked in Jack Daniel’s. After a couple of changes he found the right lineup with the arrival of Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor and ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke in ‘76. A year later they released their first record, named after the band, in which their style was already patent, a mix of punk and metal that precursed ‘thrash’. The formula was perfected with Overkill, released on March 24th, 1979, Bomber, the 27th of October that same year, and especially Ace of Spades, out in November of 1980. The latter, with its unstoppable title song made them stars in the U.K. and the promotional tour was recorded to make this live record.  


The moments in which it was recorded the trio were unstoppable, after having played together nonstop. The band seemed to be always in the studio or on the road without resting. The songs follow one another like bursts played at top speed and precision.

Lemmy is the clear star of the show with his Rickenbacker plugged into a Marshall with the trebles to a max and the lows to a minimum, while Taylor is thrown into an adrenaline race with his singer and Clarke shows that his nickname was correct with anxious solos and immortal riffs as in Overkill, Bomber, and Ace of Spades flying from his Stratocaster.  

The funny thing is that despite its title, none of the recordings come from the legendary Hammersmith Odeon in London (a place where they didn’t even play on this tour) but come mainly from 2 shows at the end of March 1981 in Newcastle and Leeds. Despite everything, the record was released in June 1981 and went to the top of the charts in the U.K. and was the peak of the trio’s career. This was the critical point of their run, unable to crack that whip again, the band fell apart bit by bit, with Clarke leaving the group a year after its release.

There were no second acts, and Lemmy continued with other members until his death in 2015. With Clarke’s death on January 10, 2018 the last living member of the legendary line up of  Motörhead that recorded this No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, the band’s best performance and one of the best live albums in history.