Black clad, rickenbecker-bass wielding, rock and roll enthusiast Lemmy spent much of his post-Hawkwind career fronting Motorhead, a band that could play a range of slow, medium and fast-paced numbers, as long as they were loud. No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith was a well-received live album which cast a long, often mutton-chopped shadow over the band’s studio output. Put it this way, if you ask a rock fan to name a Motorhead release, the chances are, the first things they’ll say is “Ace of Spades”, and the second is No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith.
It takes a certain level of confidence to open a live album with your widest known hit, yet “Ace of Spades” strides in and pummels any unbelievers in earshot into submission. This is Motorhead in all their leather-clad, biker-booted, and above all else, loud, glory. You may not be the biggest Motorhead fan, but as statements of intent go, it’s impossible to take No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith lightly. Actually, it’s difficult to take anything that Motorhead did lightly. Motorhead were not a band that did subtlety then, but what they did was fly the flag for loud and roaring rock and roll played at thunderous volume. This is hard rock in its purest sense, with the emphasis on a cavalier attitude to personal hygiene, grunted vocals, audible sweat, dedications to the audience, bandmates and roadies, and the sense that, even if many of their songs follow a tried and true pattern, their fans wouldn’t want it any other way.
Is it a work of art? No, but Motorhead weren’t about the art, they were about delivering their idiosyncratic brand of rock and roll to their faithful fans. The sense of passion you get from the audience is palpable, and the same goes for the band too, as they’re evidently in love with what they’re doing. No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith is the sound of a band at the top of their game and absolutely nailing it at break-neck speed. Okay, so there’s precious little in the way of sonic variation, but this is Motorhead, so how much sonic variation do you expect?
In an era when musicians are still desperate to convince us all how rock and roll they are by repeatedly telling us how rock and roll they are, it’s refreshing to put on No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith and remind yourself that the true rock and roll legends never have to tell us how rock and roll they are, we just know.