Motorhead’s best record? It’s a tricky one. Many people would say Ace of Spades – but I’m not so sure. Orgasmatron is the one for me.
There are lots of opinions in rock n roll but few facts. It’s probably a Fact that The Beatles were the greatest creative force of the 20th century. Radiohead‘s greatest album? A matter of opinion. Other Facts are that Paul Weller’s haircut is past it’s sell-by date and that Rod Stewart’s beefy legs don’t suit tight trousers. Also that Motorhead‘s Ace of Spades is one of Rock’s Greatest Statements.
I now associate the song most fondly with the classic Bambi episode of The Young Ones...
..but I wrote in my second ever post on this blog about the first time I heard Motörhead – which was also the first time I heard heavy metal and saw headbangers in action at a holiday camp disco. They were rare beings dressed like Neil from The Young Ones in denim jackets with band names on the back, big flares, long greasy hair and a fanatical
devotion to the pope aversion to soap.
It was a Rule in any disco in the UK in the late seventies and early eighties that the DJ would play all sorts of crowd-pleasing records to get people on the dance floor (Dancing Queen, Don’t You Want Me Baby, Temptation, er, This Old House) only to kill the party instantly by inexplicably dropping an AC/DC or (worse) Saxon record in a quest to play “something for everybody”. As a result, dancers on the dance floor would magically evaporate and everyone would stand to one side whilst a couple of hitherto invisible hairy bikers (who had presumably been hired for the occasion) ghosted onto the dance floor to shake their heads to whichever vaguely heavy song was playing. Sweeping litter and other dancers to one side with their magnificent mops, they whirled around like hairy windmills.
It’s the sort of image that sticks in the mind of an impressionable ten year old more used to church bring-and-buy sales and The Smurfs. I was with my family and an older cousin who knew a bit about heavy metal. He told us we had heard AC/DC and Motörhead. So when, the following day, I saw a Motörhead record in a jukebox I immediately played the song – much, I suspect, to the annoyance of everyone else in the pool room. I thought it was funny. Loud and funny. I liked it.
Life moved on. I went to school whilst Motörhead had a number one album (No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith) and continued to make records whilst simultaneously struggling with record companies.
Orgasmatron was released in 1986 and became the first Motörhead album I owned. Whether it was because it was the first I don’t know, but it remains my favourite Motörhead album to this day, and I include the classic Ace of Spades in that list.
Doctor Rock is rock n roll with a quintessentially British sense of humour: “You again / you again / I know you’ve got the mental age of ten / Keep still / Take your pill / Or I’m going to make you really ill…”
The chorus continues… “I’ll find out how to stop your clock / We sure ain’t talking Doctor Spock / Hear me talking / Doctor Rock”
Anyone who can make jokes, throw in a Star Trek reference and play bass at a hundred miles an hour is surely a genius, right?
Nothing Up My Sleeve manages to get a Tommy Cooper reference in (“Just Like That”), a feat only bettered when Jarvis Cocker got Paul Daniels’ catchphrase into This is Hardcore’s The Fear (“You’re Gonna Like It / But Not A Lot”).
The title track manages to be a menacing rant against some of the more unpleasant effects of War, Politics and Organised Religion whilst rocking thunderously. It’s one of Lemmy’s finest songs.
Motörhead went on a decent run of form after this album, with the only slightly shambolic Rock n Roll and far slicker 1916 album. Their mid-to-late eighties output may not be as well known as the early songs (see the No Remorse collection for a rare case of a Greatest Hits record that actually really works) but in my view Orgasmatron, plus songs such as Eat The Rich, Deaf Forever, R.A.M.O.N.E.S. and The One To Sing The Blues stand shoulder to shoulder with Overkill, Stay Clean, Metropolis etc…
So the next time you hear a tune that you can’t decide if you like or not, remember this: There’s a school (headmaster: Every Record Tells A Story) of thought that says you can judge whether any record is good or not by asking this simple question: Does it sound like Motörhead?
Record #106: Motorhead – Doctor Rock