Known to produce no less than 126 decibels in its live shows England's Motörhead is easily one of the world's loudest rock & roll bands. The heavy-metal group's raunchy leather biker image underlined its fascination with violence, as did such album titles as Overkill, Bomber, and Iron Fist. Motörhead 's hard-and-fast sound prefigured the thrash and speed-metal genres of the late '80s and '90s, and the group was cited as an influence by Guns n' Roses (who had Motörhead open on their 1992 U.S. tour) and Metallica.
Bassist/vocalist Lemmy Kilmister, formerly with progressive British rockers Hawkwind, put together Motörhead in 1975, and the group released its self-titled debut album in 1977, in the middle of the punk boom. After establishing itself on the British chart with two subsequent albums, the band recorded Ace of Spades, its official American debut. Motörhead has yet to make a significant dent in the American chart, but it is a huge concert draw in the U.K. and has steadily built a cult following in the U.S.
With the balladic title track of 1916, Motörhead began breaking out of its trademark bludgeoning sound; the trend continued on Bastards (Kilmister originally intended to call the group Bastard) with "Lost in the Ozone" and "Don't Let Daddy Kiss Me," a song about incest from a little girl's point of view.
Onetime Motörhead guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke went on to form Fastway with ex-Humble Pie Jerry Shirley. He was briefly replaced in Motörhead by ex-Thin Lizzy Brian Robertson, before Wurtzel and Phil Campbell (who has also variously gone by the names Wizzo, Zoom and Wizzo von Wizzo) settled the lineup through the '80s. Wurzel left after the recording of Sacrifice, and the band's lineup settled down to a three-piece again.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).