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MOTÖRHEAD Iron Fist 40th Anniversary Edition

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Tuesday, September 27, 2022 @ 7:59 AM


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MOTÖRHEAD
Iron Fist 40th Anniversary Edition

BMG




As the saying goes, once you reach the top, the only way to go is down. And after the meteoric rise that saw MOTÖRHEAD rally from last legs to top of the charts in four years, things took a turn downhill pretty quickly for the band and just snowballed from there. Two years after the triumph of 1981’s live album No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, mainman Lemmy Kilmister would be the last man standing from the classic lineup with guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke and drummer Philthy Animal Taylor. Together, the “Three Amigos” cranked out the back-to-back-to-back classics Overkill, Bomber and Ace Of Spades in quick succession before Hammersmith debuted at No. 1 on the British charts.

But there was little if any sort of victory lap for MOTÖRHEAD, and the band rushed back into the studio after Hammersmith to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak. And as the unenviable follow-up, Iron Fist, unfortunately, seemed doomed from the get-go. The band began recording with a handful of tunes still incomplete and then had Spades/Hammersmith producer Vic Maile drop out when conflicts emerged early on in the process, leaving Clarke to take over “behind the board”, with a hand from Will Reid Dick.

The results were divisive, to say the least – more on that below – even if the album performed admirably on the charts. Iron Fist’s release was then followed by a series of almost comical cock-ups and curious decisions – from dodgy promo videos that you may have seen of late on YouTube and SPINAL TAP-ish stage props like a King Kong-sized “iron fist” dogged by mechanical failures that was soon jettisoned to Lemmy’s desire to record a cover of “Stand By Your Man” with PLASMATICS frontwoman Wendy O Williams – that culminated in Clarke leaving the band a month after the album dropped, and two days into a North American tour.

MOTÖRHEAD would soldier on in an uneasy partnership with ex-THIN LIZZY guitarist Brian Robertson that yielded one album, 1983’s brilliant Another Perfect Day, before he too would leave, with Taylor following him out the door, though he would return for a stretch later. Turbulence would end up being a constant companion for Lemmy and ensuing MOTÖRHEAD lineups almost to the end.

But Iron Fist, like its predecessors, has now reached the age of 40. And perhaps more so than any of the other albums, Iron Fist deserves a fresh look now that it has officially hit middle age and its anniversary edition is upon us. While Lemmy’s disdain for the album has been well documented – like this recollection from his White Line Fever autobiography: “bad, inferior to anything else we've ever done. Having Eddie produce it was a mistake that even he would now probably admit to... we weren't ready to do another album, I don't care what anybody says” - it has aged rather well for a lot of folks.

As a young buck, I quite liked Iron Fist upon its release and have grown ever fonder of it today as I approach geezerdom. Sure, there are some workmanlike tunes – “Loser”, “Go To Hell”, “America” – but much of the album features MOTÖRHEAD at its loosest and feistiest best. The title track is a stone-cold classic worthy of mention in the same breath as “Ace Of Spades”, “Overkill”, “Killed By Death”, etc. The largely autobiographical “Heart Of Stone”, “Sex And Outrage”, “Speedfreak” and “(Don’t Need) Religion” are all rough-and-tumble gems. “I’m The Doctor”, “Shut It Down” and “Bang To Rights” are no slouches either.

If there is one legit gripe to be made about the album, is that much of the material is rather simple – even by MOTÖRHEAD standards - and more than some of the tunes have an already familiar ring, either in structure or cadence, which perhaps speaks to the hurried effort to get Iron Fist in the can. That said, the band obviously didn’t just throw the tunes together – at least most of them.

As with the other anniversary editions, the Iron Fist 40th Anniversary set offers demo versions and alternate takes of what became the finished product in many instances, so you can hear how the material was honed. The band nipped some of Clarke’s “duh, duh, dun” power chords from the mighty title track and made it even mightier, allowing Lemmy’s locomotive bass lines to propel the song. “Loser” and “The Doctor” were longer and jammier in their early stages, but tightened up considerably in the end, and the lascivious “Sex And Outrage” began life as the tamer sounding “Young & Crazy”.

Much has been said, and not much of it good, about Clarke’s production on Iron Fist. Yet, while it is certainly cleaner and less cacophonous than Ace Of Spaces or No Sleep, it certainly didn’t emasculate the band as some have argued. Less buzzsaw in Lemmy’s bass actually gives it more bounce here – the bulldozing title track excepting – which brings more catchiness to the songs without really sacrificing balls, and there is certainly plenty of beefiness in Clarke’s slashing riffs throughout, even with some additional polish.

And if its rawness you crave, the Anniversary edition tacks on a bootleg-sounding Live at Glasgow Apollo 18/3/82 set from the second date of the Iron Fist tour that lacks any polish whatsoever. As with the other anniversary editions, this one comes festooned with extras depending on how much you want to pony up – the $253 “Ultimate Edition” features a hoodie, two T-shirts, a long-sleeve tour shirt, one colored vinyl and two media book editions (vinyl and CD) of the album, etc. The music alone on the promo download featured 44 tracks, which isn’t quite the 70-plus of the No Sleep or Ace Of Spades reissues but offers less repetition. And the Stand By Your Man EP that effectively prompted Clarke’s exit is omitted. Which is perhaps for the best.

3.5 Out Of 5.0


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