50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time

Rolling Stone ranks the 50 best live albums ever, from Jimi Hendrix at Monterey to Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison

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Motörhead, 'No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith' (1981)
50
45/50

45. Motörhead, 'No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith' (1981)

If Motörhead are the "most primal expression" of heavy metal, as Rolling Stone once described them, then No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith is Lemmy Kilmister and Co. at their most primal. The British bombers' songs are generally nasty and brutish in their original studio versions, but the band played them impossibly faster and harder on their 1981 Short, Sharp Pain in the Neck tour — named for the time drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor broke his neck during some drunken horseplay — on which all but one of No Sleep's tracks were recorded. The result is Motörhead's definitive statement, the best versions of their best songs, the sound and the fury of the group's most iconic lineup at the peak of its powers. No wonder Metallica named their demo No Life 'Til Leather after it, the Beastie Boys nodded to it with "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" and, despite its raw, merciless charge, the record stands as Motörhead's most commercially successful release. "Of course, when you've peaked, there's nowhere to go but down," Kilmister quipped of the record in his autobiography White Line Fever. "But at the time we didn't know we'd peaked. We didn't know anything." Brandon Geist

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