Motorhead ‘On Parole’ – 4 stars

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These were the first recordings made by the trio to soon emerge as Motorhead.  They are not however what you might imagine from the group if you only know them from the album ‘Overkill’ onwards.

mott-the-dog

They were at this stage a band in the embryonic stage and consisted of Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, formerly of Hawkwind who had lost his place as bass guitarist of the space rockers for his extreme rock’n’roll lifestyle and becoming the most famous member of the band; Larry Wallis, who was at the time in two bands, Motorhead and The Pink Fairies (soon to raise loyalty issues); and Lucas Fox who did not even make it past the recording of this album as his studio drumming was considered not good enough and was over-dubbed by Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor before the album even got handed into United Artists Records in 1976.

Early Motorhead (from left) Larry Wallis, Lucas Fox and Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister.
Early Motorhead (from left) Larry Wallis, Lucas Fox and Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister.

Two producers were used during the recording of the sessions – Dave Edmunds had a go first but was really more interested in getting his own solo career off the ground and so production duties were taken over by Fritz Fryer.

The results are excellent, as Dave Thompson of Allmusic put it: “The music is devastating, steeped in Blues, drenched in booze, the highest octane pub rock of all.  No matter how well you think you know Motorhead, this is still nothing like you would be expecting.  A true rocker’s sonic symphony, this is Wagner with whiplash.”

Although it’s still Lemmy’s band, the songwriting and singing is shared out between the individual group members.  There are also three tracks brought over from Lemmy’s Hawkwind days: “Motorhead”, the last song written by Lemmy in his old band (although on this version there are no sonic Hawkwind keyboards, electronics or violin solos), and straight ahead rocked up versions of “The Watcher” and “Lost Johnny”.

The Pink Fairies’ “City Kids” was dragged out and given a good kicking too, as was the 1963 Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown single “Leaving Here” which is rocked up so much as to be almost unrecognizable from the original.  Larry Wallis had a few good tracks up his sleeve and combined with the stunning axe work he displays here who knows what could have been if he had decided to stay with the band.  The classic Motorhead track “Iron Horse/Born to Lose” is also given its first airing on this album as a slow heavy rock song.

mott-dog

Of course United Recording Artists took one listen to the album and were so horrified they buried it deep in their vaults, dug a bunker for themselves and basically hid from the band until they could sell their contract on to Chiswick Records, who then allowed the band (with ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke on lead guitar) to virtually re-record the album and put it out under the band’s own name.

Motorhead then moved onto Bronze Records and fame and fortune with a new, heavier rock’n’roll sound, at which time United Artists put their collective heads back above the parapets and realized they may have missed something, resulting in them releasing this album as “On Parole”.  Of course it’s still a great album, but by 1979 things had moved on and the band had disowned it.  So next time United Artists, stick to your guns.

Note: On the re-released album you get four of the tracks produced by Dave Edmunds tagged on at the end.  Seems like the swap to Fritz Fryer was a good one!

Track Listing:

Motorhead

On Parole

Vibrator

Iron Horse/Born to Lose

City Kids

The Watcher

Leaving Here

Lost Johnny

Fools

Bonus Tracks:

(Produced by Dave Edmunds)

On Parole

City Kids

Motorhead

Leaving Here

Motorhead:

Ian (Lemmy) Kilmister, bass guitar and vocals

Larry Wallis, guitar and vocals

Phil (Philthy Animal) Taylor, drums

Lucas Fox, drums on ‘Lost Johnny’