You know, it doesn’t happen often but once in a while, social media will throw me a freakin’ bone. Like this morning, Facebook alerted me how Motörhead’s Orgasmatron is now in its 34th year of existence starting today. To celebrate, I grabbed my vinyl copy to play down. I bought it two summers ago on a trip to Montreal and discovered it was still sealed. Oof!
Anyway, that is not to say I haven’t heard the album before. My Orgasmatron CD got plenty of time in my five-disc changer in the ’90s.
Without getting too much into the whirlwind of band member changes, this is the first and only time we got the lineup of Phil Campbell on rhythm guitar, Michael Burston on lead guitar, drummer Pete Gill, and founding member Lemmy Kilmister to record a complete album.*
This lineup had a little more hard rock chunk to them than the classic’s lineup’s punk vibe, but the change is subtle. Lemmy was still the primary songwriter, and his signature bass and lead vocals are too great of an anchor to shift too far away from that Motörhead sound.
What does stick out like a sore thumb is the quality of the album’s mix. Bill Laswell, who had recently produced Mick Jagger’s successful solo album She’s The Boss and Peter Gabriel’s monster hit “In Your Eyes” among other things, was hired to give the studio recordings a proper mix for Orgasmatron.
In Lemmy’s autobiography, White Line Fever, he does admit to being laissez-faire with the process as he sent the recordings off to New York so he could live it up on a beach:
“..As it turned out, Bill was good for getting sounds, but he fucked everything up in the mix. It was a much better album when he took it to New York than when he brought it back… It was dreadful. Orgasmatron was mud..” – Lemmy, White Line Fever
One of the album’s better-known tunes, Deaf Forever suffers the most from this in my view. The big guitar riff that drives the tune should be more crunchy with some Muddy Water’s style pauses. It sounds that way when they play it live. Here, Laswell uses a layering technique that gives the song a floaty vibe. And it kind of sucks.
But it is not all bad.
The slow riff title track Orgasmatron benefits from his style. It gives the guitars a driving/droning feel. The same can be said for Doctor Rock, just at a faster tempo. And he does a bang-up job on Built For Speed. It’s big, chugging style riff is a solid match. It is probably why these tunes are the album’s best-known ones and had remained as live show staples.
Outside of those tunes though, the rest of the album does feel a little bit off. Laswell treated every song the same instead of giving each individual attention.
Lemmy was right. The album does need a better mix. But even without any improvements, Orgamastron is still a collection of nine unapologetic Motörhead tracks. Straight up, stick to your roots, record in 11 days, rock ‘n roll. Even if all we had were the lyrics carved into a potato, they would still be #MarsApproved.
*This lineup recorded four new tracks for the 1984 compilation album, No Remorse.