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MOTORHEAD 1979 Box Set

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, October 14, 2019 @ 1:59 PM

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Box Set

If this first of what seems like many box sets planned to celebrate MOTÖRHEAD’s long, illustrious career is any indication, hardcore fans, collectors and archivists better start hoarding cash and clearing shelf space, because it’s going to be a costly, space-hogging endeavor for anyone who wants to go all-in on the super deluxe. The MOTÖRHEAD ‘79 set, which marks the 40th anniversary of a pivotal year for the band, comes in a variety of CD/vinyl packages, each more lavish and extensive than the next. All, however, include the benchmark albums Overkill and Bomber, two full live shows from the band’s ’79 tours and a batch of rarities – totaling up to nearly 70 tracks – along with special packaging and what not.

The “ultimate fan/collectors” edition, though, is a veritable treasure trove: the original Overkill and Bomber albums half-speed mastered and pressed on 180-gram vinyl created from the original master tapes; the two double-live albums; a 40-page period-accurate “music magazine” with unseen photos and fresh interviews; The Rest of ’79 Vinyl, featuring B-sides, outtakes and rare tracks; a “No Class” 7” single with gatefold art; the Bomber tour program; Overkill sheet music book and a ’79 badge set. And it all comes encased in black biker jacket box, because why the fuck not?

Of course, gone are the days when reviewers might actually get one of these box sets in the mail and be able to sift through all the goodies. Indeed, for promo purposes this time around most of us – save for a privileged few – just got streaming versions of all the tunes and a press release promising pretty much everything else. So we’ll just be focusing on the music here.

Yet even that can be a time-consuming effort since, as I mentioned, there is a half-dozen or so albums’ worth of material to digest. But it captures a moment in time when the MOTÖRHEAD lineup of “the three amigos” - Lemmy Kilmister, “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor - was really coming into its own, yielding two classic albums just seven months apart and delivering bigger, badder live shows each time out. And the momentum it built just kept snowballing, with the subsequent release of Ace Of Spaces in 1980 and No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, which went straight to No. 1 in the U.K. in 1981.

Overkill is where MOTÖRHEAD arguably became “MOTÖRHEAD”, with its signature rough-and-tumble sound fully formed and more ably captured than on the band’s self-titled 1977 debut, which was essentially recorded in a weekend. The title track – which opens both of the live sets here - became a show-closing staple up through the band’s final performances in 2015, just prior to Lemmy’s death at age 70. Indeed, half of the songs – “Overkill”, “Metropolis”, “Stay Clean”, “Capricorn” and “No Class” - are featured both on No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith and MOTÖRHEAD’s last live album, Clean Your Clock, some 35 years later. Talk about standing the test of time!

Bomber wasn’t nearly as brimming with “hits,” with the title track being its one enduring classic – though feisty tunes like “Dead Mean Tell No Tales”, “All The Aces” and “Stone Dead Forever” are certainly no slouches. But the album helped launch the “Bomber” lighting rig that was an integral part of the MOTÖRHEAD stage show off and on for decades – at least in Europe – and became legend just the same.

The live albums capture gigs from March and November of 1979, just as Overkill and Bomber were being respectively released. MOTÖRHEAD was already a formidable touring act by this point, and the band’s raw energy and power is there in spades, even as the set lists shuffle to accommodate the rapidly expanding library of material. No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith may benefit from more robust production and a larger audience, but the shows chronicled here kick ass nonetheless and certainly get that point across. The wise-cracking banter between Lemmy, Fast Eddie and the more intimate crowds is often priceless, as well.

The B-sides and rarities offer a few nuggets as well, like the instrumental outtake from Bomber “Fun On The Farm” that formed the basis for “Back At The Funny Farm” on 1983’s Another Perfect Day. “Treat Me Nice” and “You Ain't Gonna Live Forever”, two more Bomber outtakes, bring the massive package to a close with a pair of bluesy romps, something MOTÖRHEAD was fond of over much of its career as it tried to maintain its distanced from the “metal” crowd that Lemmy insisted it was never a part of anyway. “We are MOTÖRHEAD and we play rock and roll,” he would often say in introducing the band during shows.

Sadly, none of the three amigos are still around to revel in this or any other hoohah that might be on its way – and the MOTÖRHEAD ‘79 set is being advertised as “the start of an exciting, extensive and detailed ultra-fan-friendly release program spanning the band’s career from the '70s, '80s, '90s, and beyond!” Philthy and Lemmy died but a month apart in 2015, and Fast Eddie passed away two years later – the band’s original guitarist Larry Wallis died as well in September, leaving original drummer Lucas Fox as the lone survivor from the early days.

But the always prolific MOTÖRHEAD appears to have left a vast archive from which to cull material and artifacts. And whoever is doing the culling has set the bar pretty high with this first box set. If subsequent sets are to follow chronologically, the Ace Of Spaces/No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith era would be next, and promises to be an even bigger humdinger.

4.0 Out Of 5.0

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