Motörhead was founded in the middle of The '70s by bassist/vocalist Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, after being fired from Hawkwind for, in Lemmy's words, "doing the wrong kind of drugs." Many members, with only Lemmy remaining, came and went. Along with Judas Priest, they kickstarted the New Wave of British Heavy Metal at the end of The '70s. Despite being called "the most punk band of the Heavy Metal scene", Lemmy preferred to call the music of his band by the simple name of "Rock and Roll."
On the night of December 28th, 2015, it was announced via the band's official Facebook page that Lemmy died at the age of 70 after a short battle with prostate cancer, passing away while in front of his favourite video game and surrounded by his family.
A day later it was confirmed that the band had disbanded, with their final lineup consisting of:
- Lemmy - lead vocals, bass
- Phil Campbell - guitars, backing vocals
- Mikkey Dee - drums
Their past formations had the following members:
- Lucas Fox - drums (1975)
- Larry Wallis - guitars, backing vocals (1975-1976)
- Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor - drums (1975-1984, 1987-1992) (classic lineup)
- "Fast" Eddie Clarke - guitars, backing vocals (1976-1982) (classic lineup)
- Brian "Robbo" Robertson - guitars, backing vocals (1982-1984)
- Pete "Frank" Gill - drums (1984-1987)
- Mick "Würzel" Burston - guitars, backing vocals (1984-1995)
- Tommy Aldridge - drums (1992)
- Matt Sorum - drums (live, 2009)
- Motörhead - 1977
- Overkill - 1979
- Bomber - 1979
- Ace of Spades - 1980
- Iron Fist - 1982
- Another Perfect Day - 1983
- Orgasmatron - 1986
- Rock 'n' Roll - 1987
- 1916 - 1991
- March ör Die - 1992
- Bastards - 1993
- Sacrifice - 1995
- Overnight Sensation - 1996
- Snake Bite Love - 1998
- We Are Motörhead - 2000
- Hammered - 2002
- Inferno - 2004
- Kiss of Death - 2006
- Motörizer - 2008
- The Wörld is Yours - 2010
- Aftershock - 2013
- Bad Magic - 2015
Some examples of tropes which fit with the band:
- The Alcoholic: Lemmy admitted he was an alcoholic, claiming to have consumed a bottle of Jack Daniel's on a daily basis since the late '70s, but didn't care because it didn't turn him into an asshole. He was also known to say that he couldn't quit drinking because "My insides are in an alcohol solution, and without it they'll die." He did finally cut back on his alcohol consumption after a serious health scare in 2013; he went from drinking a fifth of Jack every day, to screwdrivers (vodka & orange juice). Typically, when his manager asked him why he was drinking screwdrivers now, Lemmy replied, "Orange juice is good for you."
- Audience Participation Song: Invoked in "The Chase Is Better Than the Catch" where, during the break, Lemmy repeatedly sings "Let me hear ya".
- Awesome Mc Coolname: Lemmy Kilmister. That is his real last name.
- Axe-Crazy: "Red Raw" is about a murderous individual prowling in the night, looking for someone to kill. One verse (Monster in the gaslight, shivers in the cold, looking for a bad girl) gives an impression that the song is about Jack the Ripper.
- Badass Bookworm: Ozzy praised Lemmy on being incredibly well-read and intelligent, often packing his luggage mostly with books. When he was writing lyrics for Ozzy he'd blown through a World War II book Ozzy lent him in an hour and wrote the man three sets of lyrics for "Mama, I'm Coming Home."
- Badass Boast:
I hold a banner drenched in blood, I urge you to be brave
I lead you to your destiny, I lead you to your grave
Your bones will build my palaces, your eyes will stud my crown
For I am Mars, the god of war, and I will cut you down.
You know I'm gonna lose, and gamblin' is for fools.But that's the way I like it, baby. I don't wanna live forever!
- Also "You Better Run" from March ör Die album, as well as its title track.
- "Ace of Spades":
- Berserk Button: Lemmy hated being told his band played heavy metal. It's rock 'n' roll!
- Big Rock Ending: Subverted twice and then played straight during "Overkill." Twice the song seems to break into a Big Rock Ending, then returns to tempo and continues as normal. Only on the third Big Rock Ending does the song really end.
- Brutal Honesty: Lemmy was never one to bullshit. When he was diagnosed with cancer he demanded his manager tell the truth instead of saying Lemmy was just ill and keeping the diagnosis private.
- Catch-Phrase: "We are Motörhead. We play rock 'n' roll!", which is what Lemmy said at the beginning of every show.
- Coitus Uninterruptus: In the very early days of Motörhead (Lemmy estimates it was 1975), a groupie climbed on stage and gave Lemmy a blowjob right there while he was in the middle of performing.
- Cool Old Guy: Lemmy. Dude rocked harder than most people a third of his age until his death.
- Cool Plane: The cover of Bomber◊ shows the band flying one. It was also part of their stage shows on the subsequent tour.
- Cool Train: The cover of Orgasmatron◊, along with their songs "Riding with the Driver" and "Locomotive". It's safe to say Lemmy might have been a closet Rail Enthusiast.
- Cover Version: They've covered a lot of songs. Let's see... "The Train Kept a-Rollin'" by Tiny Bradshaw, "I'm Your Witch Doctor" by John Mayall, "Emergency" by Girlschool, "Please Don't Touch" (together with Girlschool) by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, "Louie Louie" by Richard Berry, "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man" by Muddy Waters, "Stand by Your Man" by Tammy Wynette, "Masterplan" by The Plasmatics, "Shoot 'em Down", "Enter Sandman", "Whiplash", "Cat Scratch Fever", "Jumping Jack Flash", "Sympathy for the Devil", "God Save The Queen", "Tie Your Mother Down", "Breaking the Law" and "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers".
- Crapsack World: "Brotherhood of Man" makes our world look scary...
- Dead Man's Hand: "Ace of Spades" refers to this hand.Read 'em and weep, the dead man's hand again
- Also, they recorded a song called "Dead Man's Hand" as a B-side to "The One to Sing the Blues" in 1991.
- Determinator: "Stand" from March or Die encourages the listener to be one, because "if you stand then you deserve it all".
- Also, Lemmy himself.
- Distaff Counterpart: Girlschool were marketed this way by Bronze Records when they had both bands on their repertoire.
- Drugs Are Bad: "Lost Johnny" from Motörhead and On Parole but (which was originally on Hawkwind's Hall of the Mountain Grill).
- Drunken Master: Lemmy was considered by many to be one of the greatest bassists in metal history, and as mentioned above in The Alcoholic, Lemmy was not light on the drinking.
- Eat the Rich: The song "Eat the Rich" was written as the title track for the Brit Com film of the same name about eating the rich and also featured Lemmy in a supporting role. However, the song's lyrics are actually a thinly veiled reference to a certain sex act.
- End of an Age: Lemmy's passing in December 2015 seemed to kickstart a "twilight of the rock gods", as two weeks later, David Bowie died in January 2016, followed by notable rockers like Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, and Prince later that year. And then, 2017 saw the deaths of Chuck Berry, Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and Tom Petty, raising deep concern for fans and musicians alike about an apparent lack of a "next generation" of rock music compared to previous eras.
- Epic Rocking: "Just 'Cos You Got the Power" (from the "Eat the Rich" single and Rock 'n' Roll reissue) and the extended version of "Overkill" from various compilations go for over seven minutes, which is rare for a Three Chords and the Truth-specific band like Motörhead.
- Freudian Trio: The final lineup, with Lemmy as the id, Phil as the ego, and Mikkey as the superego.
- God Is Evil:
- "God Was Never on Your Side" from Kiss of Death.
- "Orgasmatron" is pretty much a Badass Boast from a malevolent god, who also represent politicians and conquerors.
- Gender Bender: "I'll Be Your Sister" from Overkill.
- Greatest Hits Album: After been over 30 years in business, the band has amassed about 57 of them.
- Harsh Vocals: Lemmy is probably the Trope Codifier.
- Heartbroken Badass: In his autobiography White Line Fever, Lemmy reveals that his first love was a black girl he met when he was a teenager living in England. She died of a heroin overdose. To the day he died, she remained the only woman he ever loved.
- Heavy Meta: "Rock 'n' Roll" and "Rock 'n' Roll Music"
- Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: One of the first examples. If Blue Öyster Cult is the Ur-Example, then Motörhead are the Trope Codifier.
- Hetero Sexual Life Partners: Lemmy and Ozzy Osbourne. They'd known each other since Lemmy's days in Hawkwind and Ozzy entrusted him with writing lyrics to some of his songs, including his Grammy-winning "I Don't Want to Change the World." They also would geek over World War II history.
- Homage: "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." from 1916.
- "I Am" Song:
I'm a vibrator,Pleased to make a start,I'm a vibrator,And I'll never, ever break your heart
- "Vibrator" from Motörhead and On Parole:
I am the one, OrgasmatronThe outstretched grasping handMy image is of agonyMy servants rape the land
- And "Orgasmatron" from Orgasmatron
Speed don't kill and I'm the proofJust call me Snaggletooth
- And "Snaggletooth" from No Remorse:
I, I am the blade, I break the oath that you madeI, I am the mace, I am the blow in the faceI, I am the axe, to cut down heroes like ratsI, I am the sword, I do the work of the Lord
- A more literal example, "I Am the Sword" from Bastards.
I am the game, you don't wanna play meI am control, no way you can shake meI am heavy debt, no way you can pay meI am the pain, and you know you can't take me
- Then there's "The Game" from Hammered:
- I Am the Band: Lemmy, basically, WAS Motörhead. Played straight after the band's disbanding.
- I Call It "Vera": Lemmy's bass, Rickenbastard, and his amp, Murder One. Rickenbacker now even have a signature LK 4001 Bass.
- In the Back: The song "Shoot You in the Back"
- Incoming Ham: "TIME TO PLAY THE GAAAAAAAAME!!!!"
- Insistent Terminology: Lemmy used to claim they just played rock 'n roll, and hated being told otherwise. According to a quote of his, it's because at the time 'heavy metal was too slow and boring' and the band were inspired by rock and roll bands. In his later years, he seemed to be more at peace with the heavy metal label, and in his autobiography White Line Fever he actually refers to Motörhead as heavy metal several times.
- Intercourse with You:
- Many (TOO many) songs, but especially "Killed by Death".
- The band's cover of Cat Scratch Fever, which if anything is even more sexual than the original.
- Jailbait: Not only does the band have a song titled "Jailbait", but Lemmy mentions in his autobiography having sex with a groupie who was only sixteen years old. Incidentally this is perfectly legal in the UK.
- Kavorka Man: Lemmy was not privileged in looks, and yet slept with over 1,200 women (or over 2,000; accounts vary). It probably helps that he actually respected women; he took offense if anyone claimed they can't play rock as well as men.
- Kneel Before Zod: The boastful "King of Kings", one of Triple H's entrance themes.
- Lead Bassist: Lemmy was equal parts type Types A, B and C.
- Lighter and Softer: "I Got Mine" (still heavy but more melodic than usual), "Whorehouse Blues" (acoustic blues) and "1916" (probably their softest song in terms of sound, but easily one of the heaviest when it comes to subject matter).
- Local Hangout: When not on tour, Lemmy could often be found at the Rainbow Bar & Grill in Hollywood, drinking a Jack & Coke and playing the video poker machine at the bar. He stopped doing this after giving up drinking due to health issues. The owner of the place witnessed his last moments as the poker machine was brought to Lemmy's place.
- Long-Runner Line-up: Type 2. Kind of a bizarre example. While most people assume the band is basically Lemmy plus two other guys, drummer Mikkey Dee was in the band since 1992 and guitarist Phil Campbell since 1984 (which makes him by far the longest-serving band member bar Lemmy). So although these members have been together since 1992, they were still a four-piece until guitarist Würzel (a member from 1984 to 1995) quit. The most recent (and final) line-up of Lemmy, Campbell and Dee existed from 1995 to 2015.
- Loudness War: Motörhead has been called "the loudest band in the world", and has been clocked in excess of 140 decibels, a sound level roughly equivalent to that of a jet engine or the Space Shuttle. Despite this, many of their albums were mastered fairly quietly, although towards the end of their career they began to dip into this a bit.
- Mad Scientist: "I'm the Doctor" from Iron Fist.
- Made of Iron: Lemmy himself. Even in his mid-60s, he drank at least one bottle of Jack Daniel's every day (and did this for at least 35 years), he loathed vegetables and lived on a diet of mostly meat and cheese, he was a smoker since he was 11 years old, and he also did copious amounts of drugs (mainly speed). Despite all this his liver, lungs, and kidneys were fine and he maintained a touring schedule that would exhaust men half his age.
- Dented Iron: His old age and bad habits eventually caught up with him: he had Type 2 diabetes and had to get a pacemaker in 2013, after his irregular heartbeat forced him to cancel shows. In October 2013, he admitted to quitting smoking and drinking a fifth of Jack daily (he switched to screwdrivers). In 2015, he was forced to cancel several tour dates after a lung infection resulted in difficulty breathing and prevented him from singing, and sadly he passed away at the end of the year.
- Metal Band Mascot: Snaggletooth, the war pig.
- Chained by Fashion: The chains on his tusks.
- Cool Train: Orgasmatron's cover has him depicted as this.
- Made of Explodium: On the cover of Overkill.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: Artist Joe Petagno created him by merging together skulls of a gorilla, a wolf and a dog and giving him boar's tusks.
- Scaled Up: Snake Bite Love's cover.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: They usually range from 6 to 8, which is very heavy for their genre of metal and even heavier for the time they emerged. However, songs like "1916" and "Whorehouse Blues" are as low as a 1.
- The Movie: Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son of a Bitch
- NameTron: Orgasmatron, both the album and the song on it.
- Off on a Technicality: In 1975, Canadian police arrested Lemmy at the Detroit/Windsor border crossing on suspicion of cocaine possession. As it turned out, what he was actually carrying was meth, which was not illegal in Canada at the time, and he was released without charge (though his brief incarceration lead to his being fired from Hawkwind).
- Older Than They Look: Lemmy lived to be 70 years old but still looked pretty damn good, appearing to be in his mid-40's to early 50's. This is amazing considering the fact that he was an alcoholic and smoker for so many years; he was blessed considering that what he did has been proven to make people look older than they are. Lemmy liked to joke that he drank so much that his body was being preserved in an alcohol solution, which is why he didn't look as old as he was. Toward the very end of his life, this started to not be the case; many people noted that when he attended his last birthday party at The Rainbow, he looked very thin and exhausted. It was also the only year he didn't join the tribute band onstage for a song or two.
- Overly Long Gag: True to its name, "Overkill" has two false endings.
- Parental Incest: "Don't Let Daddy Kiss Me" from Bastards.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Lemmy was a collector of Nazi memorabilia, and had a very large collection. This has led some pundits to accuse him of being a Nazi sympathizer, but Lemmy denied this. He actually considered himself an anarchist who was "anti-fascism, communism, any extreme" and claimed that "government causes more problems than it solves", and he collected Nazi memorabilia because they had the coolest-looking stuff.
- Rated M for Manly
- Rock-Star Song: "Angel City" from 1916.
- Rock Trio: All of their lineups except for from 1984-1995, when both Phil Campbell and Würzel were on guitars.
- Self-Titled Album
- "Sesame Street" Cred: A re-recorded version of "You Better Run" was featured in The Spongebob Squarepants Movie and included on its soundtrack as "You Better Swim."
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Lemmy slept with at least 1,200 women (some accounts claim over 2,000), he was notorious for his love of speed and booze, and he kicked ass around the world with Motörhead for over 35 years. Really, only Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe could possibly represent this trope better than Lemmy since, well, Nikki can boast that he actually died from an overdose and came back a few minutes later.
- Skyward Scream: Not so much a scream, but Lemmy's habit of raising the microphone high and tilting it downward, so that he had to be looking up at the ceiling to sing into it. This had the effect of allowing him to sing louder and take deeper breaths quicker(because his trachea was straightened out; it's the same reason Johnny Cash tilted his head back at the end of each line), though he often joked that it began as a way for him not to have to see how few people were coming to their early shows.
- Something Blues: "Whorehouse Blues" from Inferno.
- Soprano and Gravel: Headgirl, the mashup between Girlschool and Motörhead.
- Spelling Song: "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." from 1916.
- Stage Names: Aside from Lemmy himself, many past members used them, as noticed above.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Eddie Clarke on "Step Down".
- Start My Own: Motörhead was born when Hawkwind kicked Lemmy out and he decided to start his own band.
- Strictly Formula: If it's been working pretty well for over three decades...
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: Though the songs were not recorded by the band, Lemmy wrote Ozzy Osbourne's "Mama, I'm Coming Home" and "See You On The Other Side", both gut-wrenching power ballads.
- Take That!: Lemmy said each verse of "Orgasmatron" represents one of man's substitutions for orgasms: Religion, Government and War. All three verses are from the perspective of the man in charge of each and none paint a pretty picture.
- Team Dad: Pretty much was this to anyone in the hard rock/heavy metal community; while he was very much one of the "elder statesmen" of those genres, he also never looked down on any of his contemporaries and was always gracious to the fans — some of whom grew up and started their own bands. If he met you and liked you, that was good enough for him to hang out with you anytime. After his death, Neil Gaiman recounted that he and a friend had once used Lemmy's name to get into a private bar in England, then lo and behold, Lemmy was at the bar. Neil confessed what they'd done, and Lemmy just replied "Good on ya," and kept drinking.
- Teenage Death Songs: 1916 is about a group of underage boys who join the army during a war (implied to be World War One), then meeting a messy and anonymous death in battle.
- Those Wacky Nazis: "Brotherhood of Man", again:The triumph of the will.
- Three Chords and the Truth: One of the few bands that both metalheads and punks like.
- Titled After the Song: "Motorhead" was a Hawkwind song written by Lemmy when he was there.
- Trope Maker: For Speed Metal.
- Video Full of Film Clips: The music video for "Hellraiser" features clips from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, with some additional footage of Lemmy playing poker with Pinhead.
- Villain Song:
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: "The Chase Is Better Than the Catch," from Ace of Spades.
- World War I: 1916's cover art and title song, which is based on the battle of Somme. Also a massive Tear Jerker.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Lemmy's tendency to write the lyrics in five minutes has produced lots of these.
- Word Salad Title: "Snake Bite Love" and "Stone Dead Forever."