5 Reasons Motorhead Should Be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
On Dec. 28, 2015, the 40-year-old juggernaut that was Motorhead came to a sudden and final halt with the death of its leader, Lemmy Kilmister. Nobody in the rock world seriously considered the possibility of the band continuing without him; instead, thoughts turned to the concept of enshrining his memory for posterity.
Many fans are surprised Motorhead aren't already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, since they have been eligible since 2002 (25 years after the release of their self-titled debut album in 1977). And yet, that remains the case – perhaps because of a falling out that took place after Lemmy lent the Rock Hall a tour jacket that was reportedly lost in its care. “A likely story,” he said in 2012. “One of their girlfriends is wearing it, no doubt.”
Even when Motorhead finally appeared on the nomination list for 2020, the Hall of Fame generated controversy by naming only “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor alongside Lemmy. After an outcry, later members Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee – who were in the band longer than anyone except its leader and was named by Lemmy as his “favorite” lineup – were added to the nomination.
In truth, Lemmy is the only reason anyone should need for inducting Motorhead. But, for the sake of form, fun and respect, here are 5 Reasons Motorhead Should Be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone who’s represented the image of rock ’n’ roll larger and better than Lemmy, at least over his last 20 years. He was celebrated for his personality, wisdom and humor, and because he went out and lived it while the rest of us only read or wrote about it. The cowboy hat, the open shirt, the tall leather boots and the military adornments all became as iconic as the man himself. Despite the excess, he retained a dignity and sense of self that was a lesson to anyone in any walk of life.
“Apparently people don’t like the truth, but I do like it. I like it because it upsets a lot of people,” he once said. “If you show them enough times that their arguments are bullshit, then maybe just once, one of them will say, ‘Oh! Wait a minute — I was wrong.’ I live for that happening. Rare, I assure you. ... Another piece of wisdom: As you go through life’s rich tapestry, you realize that most people you meet aren’t fit to shine your shoes. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true. A good friend is someone who’d hide you if you were on the run for murder. How many of them do you know?”
Then there's this: “If you didn’t do anything that wasn’t good for you, it would be a very dull life. What are you gonna do? Everything that is pleasant in life is dangerous. ... If you think you are too old to rock ’n’ roll, then you are.”
2. The Band Was Underrated
Perhaps as a result of their strong image, a lot of people overlooked the power and energy of Motorhead’s music. A playlist of “Ace of Spades,” “Overkill,” “Killed by Death,” “Bomber” and “Iron Fist” alone should dispel the idea that they weren’t a creative powerhouse. At its best, the band was an intimidating powerhouse onstage; at its worst, it remained loud and brash.
“Many people didn’t understand us, but then many people don’t understand what the Ministry of Fisheries is about,” Lemmy once said. “Even if you know every fucking detail, you don’t know why things happen. You know when and how but you don’t know why. … We have heavy-metal hair, so you can see why so people put us in there with that. They got no brains, these people who categorize you – that’s why they categorize you!”
3. They Were Always Consistent
It’s one of the most difficult things to secure, but Motorhead remained consistent throughout their various lineups, even as fashion changed around them. The fact that UCR’s list of the Top 10 Motorhead Songs includes material from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s proves the point.
“We wanna be like Status Quo and go on forever,” Lemmy said. “Chuck Berry never changed. Little Richard never changed. I’d rather be like that and stick to a formula we’re happy with.” Elsewhere, he argued that "we do what we do and no one else does it. If no one buys an album, we put out another one and then another one till they do."
Regardless of who played alongside him, he always made sure Motorhead's music was exactly what the audience signed up for: aggressive, unrelenting, sarcastic, unifying and fun."All those people who said that we wouldn’t last six months were proved wrong,” he once said. “They said that we would be down and out on heroin. The success was a fuck you. There’s a lot of fuck you-ness about me, and my basic fuck you-ness has survived.”
4. They Were Inclusive
Loud, brash bands often set out to be polarizing, to split opinions and to avoid acceptance. Not Motorhead. Sticking to his lifelong argument that the band simply played rock ’n’ roll music, Lemmy found friends in all genres and often became the “one band” that people who didn’t like heavy music would admit to enjoying.
He was inspired by Jimi Hendrix, become successful with Hawkwind and went on to inspire thrash metal bands by the dozen – but to Lemmy it was all rock ’n’ roll. “If you can give the kids a good time, then that’s all it’s for,” he stated. “If you can send that shiver down a kid’s back, then that’s what it’s all about. All else is bullshit. That’s what rock’n’roll was for in the first place, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s what it’s still about. I’m trying to give them that feeling I felt the first time I heard ‘All Shook Up’ or ‘Good Golly Miss Molly.'” And more often than not, he did.
5. Motorhead’s Peers Agree
A list of rock musicians who don’t cite Motorhead as an influence would be much more manageable than the list of everyone else. Some of the biggest artists in the world have spoken up in favor of the band’s induction. Take Metallica’s James Hetfield, for one. “There’s no more rock 'n' roll person on this planet than Lemmy and Motorhead,” he commented. “He was just such an icon, such an inspiration to us as a band. There’s certainly no way we’d be around if there was no Motorhead.”
Kerry King of Slayer once said that "the career speaks for itself. … I don’t understand the process, but yes, they motherfucking should be in the Hall of Fame.” Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl didn’t hold back in the 2010 movie Lemmy, saying, “If anyone deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s Lemmy.” Those examples are just the start; there's countless more where they came from.