8 Motörhead Songs that Represent a Departure from Their Usual Sound

British rock ‘n’ roll legends Motörhead had an unmistakable sound—Lemmy’s raspy voice, his hard driving bass sounds, and in their final and longest incarnation, the skilled guitar stylings of Phil Campbell and thunderous drums of Mikkey Dee. Like AC/DC, Motörhead established a patented sound that would carry over from album to album. But once in a while they would throw in different elements for musical variety. While many people categorized them as metal, Lemmy just considered them to be rock ‘n’ roll, and they pulled in fans from both the metal and punk scenes, a rarity back in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

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The following Motörhead songs are predominantly deep cuts from their 22-album catalog that spanned 40 years. They represent different musical approaches than what they were known for. From somber ballads to a prog thrasher, these eight songs offer deeper insight into their musical chemistry. Oftentimes it’s tracks like these that reveal interesting things about the artists. Plus they’re great nuggets to add your streaming playlist.

“Dancing on Your Grave,” from Another Perfect Day (1983)

To be fair, the entire Another Perfect Day album was unorthodox for Motörhead. Guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clark was ousted from the band—or quit, depending upon which side one believes—and in came Thin Lizzy axeman Brian “Robbo” Robertson. For one album, anyway. He tended to play in shorts and not look very rock ‘n’ roll and offered a much more melodic guitar style that many fans didn’t appreciate. Piano was even surreptitiously snuck into a couple of tracks. That being said, Another Perfect Day is one of the best Motörhead albums because of how diverse and interesting it is. Despite its title, or perhaps in light of it, “Dancing on Your Grave” has a brighter guitar sound and is more insistently melodic than typical Motörhead, like many of the tracks on this album.

“1916,” from 1916 (1991)

There have been a few ballads in the Motörhead catalog, and this one is the title track to their ninth album. But it’s not about a girl or romance—it’s about the sacrifices soldiers make when they go off to fight in combat. This mournful ballad features synths, cellos, and a slow military beat as it tells of young soldiers eager to join World War I only to learn how horrific and tragic war can be. Interestingly enough, no specific nation is mentioned in the song.

I heard my friend cry, and he sank to his knees
Coughing blood as he screamed for his mother
And I fell by his side, and that’s how we died
Clinging like kids to each other

“March or Die,” from March or Die (1992)

While there have been plenty of folk singers and rock artists who have crafted their own anti-war ballads, a really kick-ass metal tune can be equally if not more effective in expressing both the sadness and outrage senseless armed conflict can bring. This track sounds sinister all the way through, and it feels like the next logical step after the almost equally dark “Orgasmatron” from 1986. The sounds of marching feet and gunfire intermingle as Campbell’s guitar chords, and keyboards and cellos, drone ominously. Lemmy’s sinister intonations sound downright Satanic.

Children weep and widows wail
Our education systems fail
To hide our guilt we build more jails, and we shall build still more

Our forests die, the stranglehold
That we put on the Earth for gold
Will yet increase ten thousand fold and no one knows what for

March and die, march and die
Defecate, despoil and lie
Cheat, dissemble, preach and spy
Build your house of straw

The whole song is not just an anti-war treatise. It condemns the greed and folly of man and how so many people march to a drum of existential madness. One could imagine this being performed with an orchestra, and it would still sound evil.

“Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me,” from Bastards (1993)

No one expected Lemmy (or any another metal frontman) to craft an acoustic ballad about a little girl terrified of her father’s sexual abuse. But that’s what he did, and there’s a strong sense of sorrow to the first half of the song before shame and anger erupts in the electric midsection. In his memoir, Lemmy wrote he offered the song to female artists like Joan Jett and Lita Ford, but ultimately no one else would record it. So he did it himself, and it has emotionally impacted many fans.

“Assassin,” from Snake Bite Love (1998)

This album was released in the late ‘90s when metal wasn’t cool with the American mainstream, but was just on the cusp of having a comeback in the new century. While not as classic-sounding as some other albums, Snake Bite Love had its moments—most notably, “Assassin” with its very herky-jerky feel thanks to heavy syncopation and odd meter changes. The tribal drumming near the end is fun too. The song is impressive because of how tricky it is to play. Points to Lemmy, Campbell, and Dee for going off-kilter here.

“Whorehouse Blues,” from Inferno (2004)

We don’t remember who, but one critic many moons ago said what the world really needed to hear was a Motörhead unplugged album. That was a great idea, but Lemmy was never going to deliver that to us. However, the closing track for the metallic Inferno album is an entirely acoustic blues number, with all three members playing guitar, and the frontman tossing in harmonica for good measure. Naturally, we’re not going to get a forlorn love song here. Instead, we get the cheeky “Whorehouse Blues.” Good enough.

“God Was Never on Your Side,” from Kiss of Death (2006)

What opens as a somber acoustic guitar ballad soon breaks into a bombastic song, then alternates between the two. Lemmy was never a fan of religion and made no bones about it in this song. But what’s revealing in a number like this is how, away from his distorted bass and amplified vocals, Lemmy could sing very gently (and even sound vulnerable). It’s a metal anthem for the atheists and agnostics.

See ten thousand ministries
See the holy, righteous dogs
They claim to heal, but all they do is steal
Abuse your faith, cheat, and rob
If God is wise, why is He still
When these false prophets call Him friend?
Why is He silent? Is He blind?
Are we abandoned in the end? 

“Dust and Glass,” from Aftershock (2013)

This hazy, slightly trippy track channels a late ‘60s vibe—there’s even a touch of surf guitar in the middle—which is no surprise given that Lemmy first made his name in the psychedelic band Hawkwind. He was also Jimi Hendrix’s roadie for a time. The sound of “Dust and Glass” is different from other selections in Motörhead’s catalog, even the mellower ones. Near the end of their career the British power trio could still offer a surprise here and there, including this song with a somber world view.

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