For the week of 9/10/2012…

“Limb from Limb” by Motörhead

When Motörhead was bursting onto the scene for the first time in the late ’70s, some listeners may well have been unsure of which genre the British band pledged allegiance to.  Punk rock?  “We came up along with the whole punk thing,” singer/bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister has said, but his band’s music was far heavier than that of the Sex Pistols & co., and their personal style wasn’t a good fit for the punk aesthetic either.  Heavy metal?  Closer, perhaps, but no one else was routinely playing such hard-charging, revved-up metal at the time, and even songs like Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” were given to endless prog-style soloing.  Disco?  Just kidding, I’m pretty sure no one has ever seriously suggested that Motörhead played disco.

Writer Steffan Chirazi puts it well:  “Never metal, never punk, never antyhing except themselves, Motörhead transcended genres, styles, fads and trends with ease.”  The best label for them isn’t “punk” or “metal” but simply “rock ‘n’ roll.”

“Limb from Limb,” the closing track on Motörhead’s 1979 breakthrough album, Overkill, is a good example of how the band melded the two aforementioned genres.  It begins as a prototypical heavy metal affair:  Lead guitarist Fast Eddie Clark lays down a sleazy riff, which becomes the basis of the ensuing electric blues.  Then, around the 2:10 mark, the band kicks it into a higher gear and starts playing a revved-up version of the song that, with its grungy power chords, is more akin to punk than metal.  All the while, Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor powers through a dirty performance on the drums, replete with fills, while Lemmy barks and ultimately howls the song’s sexually charged lyrics.  As he promises his “long-legged lover” that he will “rip [her] limb from limb” and “sink [his] claws into [her] velvet skin,” it’s not hard to see why the girl in “Damage Case” was kind of alarmed by this guy!

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