After reading a few clunkers in the non-fiction music category, it was refreshing to finally find a book that delivered exactly what the title promises.
Motörhead had a historic run as a hard rock outfit that lasted for 40 years, with the band’s founder Lemmy Kilmister being its only constant member. Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers: The Rise of Motörhead is focused on the band’s relative rise in popularity in the early ’80s with the “classic lineup” consisting of Lemmy on bass, “Philthy Animal” Tailor on drums, and “Fast Eddie” Clarke on guitar.
This version of Motörhead is considered to be when the band was at their most prolific, writing three classic albums (Overkill, Bomber, Ace of Spades), two EPs (The St. Valentines Day Massacre, The Golden Years), and numerous singles with non-LP tracks in the span of two years. The accumulation of all this material lead up to the live LP No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, which reached #1 in the UK.
I appreciated how the book didn’t waste time with a long build up before getting right to the heart of the matter. Chapter one begins with Lemmy getting booted from his previous gig in Hawkwind in 1975 which became the spark that ignited Motörhead. After a false start with two other musicians, Lemmy found Phil and Eddie, and the power trio went on to create a sound that could never be repeated by any one else.
From there on, the next several chapters are dedicated to every album the classic lineup recorded with insight given by every band member. And I have to say, a lot of what I read within these pages was truly an eye opener for me. I have been a fan of Motörhead since I was teen with all of my facts and feelings about the band being filtered through Lemmy. I read his book, watched the 2010 doc on him, and watched his interviews. I don’t even know what Phil or Eddie’s voice sounded like.
Author Martin Popoff interviewed every band member, and you get all perspectives on the main events directly from the horses mouths. Reading how those “classic lineup” albums were created from Phil and Eddie’s view had me now seeing them more as a team effort than I had before. They both acknowledge how Lemmy wrote all of the lyrics and vocal melodies, but the legend stayed at the pub while the other two would come up with riffs and chords structures in the studio.
One criticism I do have is how the book tends to repeat itself. I did not get the sense that this was done to pad out its 360 pages, but comes from a desire to present each quote in full. The book is mostly interviews, and people tend to repeat themselves when speaking casually, especially when reminiscing about monumental moments in their lives. It helps to emphasize those moments in a conversation but doesn’t make for the best read. Several times while reading this book I said to myself, “Didn’t I just read this two pages ago?”
But, for the most part, Popoff stays on point. Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers: The Rise of Motörhead is about what the “classic lineup” accomplished in the short amount of time and it sticks to that. You get a little set up, major focus on the albums, a little of what each member carried on to do after, and how they became an integral part of the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” scene. A trim on some of the interviews would not have hurt, otherwise every book about a band should be like this one.