Gary Steel is slowly compiling all his album reviews in one place. This is a work in progress, or what we call a “live document”. Today is the letter ‘M’.
McFadden & Whitehead – McFadden & Whitehead (PDR)
Distinguished soul duo churns out an album full of substandard disco and ballads. Hit single: ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’. 5/10
Everybody’s gotta have a hero, and to me, Lemmy fits the credentials more than most. Way back when in England’s green and pleasant past, Lemmy was a minor-league rebel hanging out with before-their-time punkies The Rockin’ Vicars, acid-heads The Pink Fairies and Mick Farren’s Deviants. His major appearance in the rock’n’roll history books to date is his five-year sojourn in squiggly heavy-metal space-rock one-riff bread-brains Hawkwind.
When this whacked-out straggle-haired and acknowledged speed-freak bassist got the push from those silver machines in ’75, he went right ahead and formed his own brand of heavy metal heaven – Motorhead. The three-piece would go on to create three or even four more riffs as songs than that previous group could never quite rise to.
Motorhead was the monster riff, the total lack of subtlety in any shape, form or size. And if you didn’t like the sound of that, chum, you might as well have cleared off before these destructive louts shaved every hair from your poor tortured ear-drum without so much as a “sorry”.
Where they differ from every other so-called metal act is that they do not try to refine or define their sound. Where they differ from the status quo (or Status Quo for that matter) of heavy bands is that they don’t just tell us to get “down, down”, or “bang your head against another brick in the wall”. They don’t preach phallic worship or stuff things down their pants to make their knobs seem super-sized. Although you don’t hear the words (necessarily), they’re preaching rebellion, however misguided their wrath may be. At least they’re fighting something, not doing the Judas Priest misogynist glorification bit.
We need heavy metal rebels to wipe away the snail trails left by whorey old Led Bombast. Motorhead has more in common with early Sex Pistols than with early Purple. Don’t believe me and it’s nobody’s funeral, but in attitude at least, that’s fact.
Motorhead was formed early on in the punk piece, and while dime-a-dozen renta-punk combos were signing to ludicrous sell-your-soul deals, Motorhead was suffering record company diffidence. They cut an album at Dave Edmund’s Rockfield studios in Wales which was assigned to the vaults. Their second, Motorhead, was the victim of a terrible sound mix that reduced all the venom to a blurred whirr. Their third, Bomber, is by all accounts the classic nobody’s been waiting for.
So they’re now quite big in Britain, and UA’s Rockfile department has dug out the earliest material and put it out, demo-like sound quality and all, as On Parole. And that’s where we come in. On Parole is now on general release at a budget price.
Real Motorhead can be sampled on ‘Motorhead’, ‘Iron Horse – Born To Lose’, ‘Fools’ and ‘Lost Johnny’. At their best, they’re an aural equivalent to monster sonic toothache or, in Lemmy’s head, the rush of speed and a big British bike.
The more ponderous tracks are the most successful, as they can build on the threatening atmosphere. As the edges of the sound are fuzz, thanks to the dismal sound quality, and the band are hardly virtuosi, the faster songs tend to lack punch, tightness and distinction. This is true of ‘City Kids’ and ‘Leaving Here’, a tribute to the first and best 1965 heavy metal, The Birds’ (no, not The Byrds).
On Parole is generally for those fools enough (me included) to be addicted to their real albums. Here they still have the basic Motorhead barrage of sound, but with Larry Wallis’s guitar, the all-out assault of later outings is slightly depleted.
If you want to try ’em out, get one of the later records, but this is recommended to fans. Lemmy, your raw-throated Burl Ives on mentholated spirits vocals have gotta be the most! 6/10