[Book Review] Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers: The Rise of Motörhead | Martin PopOff

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.

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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.

4/5

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14 comments

  1. There’s a new contender to the throne for the Title of MR. BOOKS! I love Popoff’s stuff as the interviews are usually conducted by him so for that it seems legit to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not a huge Motorhead fan but I am a huge fan of Lemmy. He is one of the most entertaining and honest rock stars I’ve ever heard. Just his opinion on the Beatles and Stones was great. I love bios and this one does sound good…I would like to know more about them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am curious. Does Popoff consider Motorhead a NWOBHM band? I do not, but maybe some do.
    I bet this was a good read. Now I need to snag me a copy.
    I bet it will be ace. Ace of spades even.

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    1. I really don’t know. His opinions were not abundant in the book. It was mostly what the band members thought. They all hated being called a heavy metal band since they felt they were a rock ‘n roll that was close to punk. But I do consider them a NWOBHM band. They came to the US in the early ’80s supporting Ozzy and influenced every thrash band that mattered. Phil’s work on the double bass drums became a foundation of metal and plenty of their riffs like Too Late, Too Late were proto thrash.

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      1. Imo NWOBHM bands were formed just after the demise of punk. Low budget, snot nosed kids that pressed their own albums and most had a distinctive “sound”. Not sure how to describe the sound, but I know it when I hear it. These bands were mostly formed during the 78ish to 81ish timeframe, hence the New Wave part of the name related to the era of the beginning of New Wave music. Motorhead was just before NWOBHM imo.
        Yes Motorhead did influence thrash bands, however, they also influenced NWOBHM bands. They were more of an influencer to me. Similar to Budgie, Judas Priest and even Thin Lizzy (who we know were Irish, not specifically British). Imo they were more of a heavy rock band than metal. But maybe I’m splitting hairs and being Canadian I am perhaps not the biggest expert to define exactly where Motorhead’s genre can be defined.

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  4. I need a good book to read as the last two have been kind of clunkers for me. I am enjoying Ted Templemen’s book, but haven’t finished it yet. I always keep an eye out for Martin’s books when I hit a book store.

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    1. He does say that he made more money off of the songs he wrote on No More Tears than anything else. I discovered Motorhead on the Airheads soundtrack so I can’t say how popular he was before then.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Awesome! Your post makes me wanna read this (which I gather was the point).

    I envision a day when I have all of Popoff’s book on a shelf, in chronological order, so that I can grab and read them at whim. Right now I own… one book of his, so… it’ll be a while lol.

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