MARTIN POPOFF - Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers: The Rise Of MOTÖRHEAD
July 11, 2017, a year ago
By his own admission, this is somewhere near 60 books now for our prolific friend. He also takes great pains to initially distance himself from charges of ambulance chasing, trying to cash in on the deaths of drummer Phil Talyor and mainstay Lemmy Kilmister. Even if that were the case (which it ain't, according to the timeline Popoff lays out in the forward, commissioned to do the book while everyone was still alive), this tome finds its way onto shelves at the same time as numerous other 'Head titles and all in arrears of the fantastic Lemmy autobiography/documentary, that summed up 90% of the Motorhead history. Thus, wisely, much of the conversation is left to guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke and “Philthy”, almost exclusively limited to the period up to Clarke's departure from the band, during the US tour for Iron Fist. With his usual diligence for completeness, Popoff briefly details the formation of the band (minus those two, pre-On Parole), tracking down old managers, record company execs, even Lem's old Hawkwind “pals”. Elsewhere, the odd Mikkey Dee and Phil Campbell reference surface, albeit kind words from Eddie Clarke.
As with all his offerings, the writer re-arranges old interviews into an easy-to-read narrative, some courtesy of other sources, but the vast majority his own (often from different decades). Each chapter is devoted to a specific album (genesis, recording, touring) and as such exposes the one issue I have with his books. In weaving together multiple sources, I surmise he writes a chapter at a time (would make sense). However, some stories/quotes are repeated (and I know, from my own interviews with musicians, album to album, some give the same responses, year in and year out). Must be difficult to keep all the info straight, but how many references from Clarke and Taylor do we need about the five year difference in their age leading to varied musical influences: Lemmy ‘50s American rockers, Eddie the first generation of Brit guitarists (Cream, Yardbirds, etc) and Taylor's lack of musical affinity, apart from a specific Motown jazz drummer!
While short on visuals, apart from old b&w adverts, the strongest asset is Clarke's recollection, especially with regards to the nuts & bolts of recording. Sure he was more than happy to indulge, after decades of self-imposed obscurity and hearing Lemmy's side of the story. All the warts (pun intended) are on display, including the frequent use of recreational substances in their daily lives, spats & squabbles (especially late in to the relationship). Although they threaten (“Enough about that”, or “Not gonna go any further”) no one really airs any dirty laundry that a follow-up question or two might have unleashed. Popoff maintains these 230 pages are like sitting in a bar with the guys. The text is keenly scripted as such. To that end, the author adds his two cents about each song and hopes the title will jog one of the members to recount a fascinating tidbit. More often than not, it works.
Most interesting chapter concerns in and around Iron Fist. As far as I know, the most in-depth account of the break-up (albeit predominately from Eddie Clarke's perspective). Amazing how much vitriol is still evident, surrounding the infamous collaboration with Plasmatics' Wendy O. Williams. The guitarist also dumps a little dirt on Lemmy's legacy, framing him as the lazy, drunken rock star he railed against, unmotivated to do anything beyond sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll, even to promote/better his career, including rehearsals and/or songwriting. The final chapter puts a bow on the present, dealing with each one's life after Clarke's ouster/departure (take your pick), including Taylor's ultimate annexation and (in more ways than one), Lemmy's final words of wisdom. Good read.