Motown to Motorhead: 10 of the Best Covers by Motorhead

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Motown to Motorhead: 10 of the Best Covers by Motorhead

  • Eddie Holland

    Leaving Here

    Leaving Here (Single) 1963

    "Leaving Here" is an early Holland-Dozier-Holland number first recorded by Eddie Holland for Motown Records in 1963.

    Eddie Holland - Leaving Here (1963)

    Within a year or two it was being covered by English bands including THE WHO, but the version most relevant was recorded by THE BIRDS in 1965 with a lineup featuring Ronnie Wood, later of the ROLLING STONES.

    The Birds - Leaving Here (1965)

    The Birds were magic, fucking excellent, far ahead of their time. They only had three singles and they were gone. I used to follow them all over the place, even slept in their van. The band I was in at the time - the Motown Sect - had the honour of doing a gig with them.

    excerpt from White Line Fever, Lemmy Kilmister

    MOTÖRHEAD first recorded "Leaving Here" during the On Parole sessions in late 1975 - early 1976. With United Artists refusing to release On Parole the band pushed forward, re-recorded and in 1977 released Leaving Here through Stiff Records. Their first single! UA's legal department put the kibosh on that and forced Stiff to withdraw distribution. Some European pressings, on other labels, made their way over here. A difficult start, but they were on their way.

    Motörhead - Leaving Here (1977)

    "Leaving Here" was not recorded for the 1977 eponymous album unlike the single B-side, "White Line Fever", but in 1980 the live Golden Years EP - which opened with "Leaving Here" - reached #8 in the singles chart and gave MOTÖRHEAD a chance to perform the song on Top of the Pops. Which they did in May 1980. Hot chocolate, and no doubt about it!

    Motörhead - Leaving Here (Top of the Pops, 1 May 1980)
    Motörhead - Leaving Here (The Golden Years, 1980)
  • John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers

    I'm Your Witchdoctor

    I'm Your Witchdoctor (Single) 1965

    "I'm Your Witchdoctor" is a blues rock number written by John Mayall, produced by Jimmy Page (LED ZEPPELIN) and performed with his BLUESBREAKERS. This particular incarnation of the Bluesbreakers featured Eric Clapton on guitar. The single was recorded mid-1965, in the brief period between Clapton leaving THE YARDBIRDS and later forming CREAM.

    John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers - I'm Your Witchdoctor (1965)

    MOTÖRHEAD stripped it down, sped it up, and recorded their version in April 1977 for the Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers EP. This is one of the few songs with "Fast" Eddie Clarke on lead vocals!

    Motörhead - I'm Your Witchdoctor (1977)
  • Richard Berry

    Louie Louie

    You Are My Sunshine (Single) 1957

    "Louie Louie" was written by Richard Berry in 1955, but it's worth mentioning the central melody is essentially lifted from "El Loco Cha Cha", arranged by René Touzet.

    René Touzet - El Loco Cha Cha (1957)

    Richard Berry released "Louie Louie" in 1957 as the B-side of "You Are My Sunshine". Due to the popularity of "Louie Louie" it was quickly reissued later in the year with "Rock, Rock, Rock" on the B-side.

    Richard Berry - Louie Louie (1957)

    "Louie Louie" has gone on to be one of the most recorded songs in rock. Perhaps the best known version was released in 1963 by THE KINGSMEN.

    The Kingsmen - Louie Louie (Shindig, 1965)

    I'm not entirely sure how big of a hit this was for MOTÖRHEAD, but it was probably the first song of theirs I heard and most associated with them before really knowing their music.
    Released in September 1978 as their third single, it was also the first on Bronze Records. A few weeks later they appeared on Top of the Pops.

    We weren't anywhere near reaching the Top 30 at the time, but this friend of ours who worked at Bronze, Roger Bolton, used to work for the BBC, so he had a lot of handy influence. Roger wound up getting us on the show about five times before we really had a hit!

    excerpt from White Line Fever, Lemmy Kilmister
    Motörhead - Louie Louie (Top of the Pops, 25 October 1978)

    Covering 'Louie Louie' was an idea Phil had come up with some months back, when we were still with Tony Secunda. We'd been sifting through some old songs, and I wanted to cover a Chuck Berry song, 'Bye Bye Johnny', or something like that, but 'Louie Louie' was the better choice, really. I think we did a very good version of it...

    excerpt from White Line Fever, Lemmy Kilmister
  • Johnny Kidd & the Pirates

    Please Don't Touch

    Please Don't Touch (Single) 1959

    Johnny Kidd & the Pirates recorded "Please Don't Touch", their first single, at Abbey Road in 1959. Released by HMV a few weeks later, it reached #25 on the singles chart.

    Johnny Kidd & the Pirates - Please Don't Touch

    Johnny Kidd used to wear an eyepatch and a striped shirt and pirate boots. Sometimes he'd wear a white shirt with bouffant sleeves - great get-up. The Pirates had the first strobe light I ever saw, created by the simple expedient of the roadie getting his hands on the club's main switches and turning them all on and off very fast. Their guitar player was Mick Green, who was excellent - I used to carry his guitars to get into their shows for free.

    excerpt from White Line Fever, Lemmy Kilmister

    Performed by two great and inextricably linked bands, the faithful MOTÖRHEAD & GIRLSCHOOL (Motor HEADGIRL School) rendition was recorded for the collaborative St. Valentine's Day Massacre EP in December 1980. The video below was recorded in 1981 for West German TV programme der Musikladen (The Music Shop) which was the successor to Beat-Club.

    Headgirl (Motörhead & Girlschool) - Please Don't Touch (Musikladen, 1981)
  • Tiny Bradshaw

    The Train Kept A-Rollin'

    The Train Kept A-Rollin' (Single) 1951

    This R&B jumper was written and originally recorded by Tiny Bradshaw for Syd Nathan's King Records in 1951.

    Tiny Bradshaw - The Train Kept A-Rollin' (1951)

    Five years later Johnny Burnette and his Rock and Roll Trio recorded their version which brought it firmly into rock and roll territory and introduced Paul Burlison's gritty, distorted guitar sound.

    Johnny Burnette - The Train Kept A-Rollin' (1956)

    The version most relevant to MOTÖRHEAD's cover was recorded in 1968 by THE YARDBIRDS. The English group continued to evolve the song with Johnny Burnette's rendition at its root, accented with two great Jeff Beck solos. Dig that tone!

    The Yardbirds - The Train Kept A-Rollin' (1966)
    The Yardbirds - The Train Kept A-Rollin' (Live, 1966)

    AEROSMITH recorded a popular version in 1974. Not my cup of tea.

    MOTÖRHEAD recorded their cover, very much in the Burnette/YARDBIRDS mould, for the 1977 self-titled album. You can also hear a faster & harder take on No Sleep 'til Hammersmith.

    Motörhead - The Train Kept A-Rollin' (1977)
    Motörhead - The Train Kept A-Rollin' (Live, 1981)
  • Muddy Waters

    I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man

    I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man (Single) 1954

    "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man" was written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Muddy Waters "and his Guitar" in 1954.

    Muddy Waters - I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man (1954)

    Recorded live in 1983, MOTÖRHEAD's version was released as the B-side of their 1983 single Shine.

    Motörhead - I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man (Live, 1983)
  • Sex Pistols

    God Save the Queen

    Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols 1977

    Originally recorded by the SEX PISTOLS in 1976-1977, one of the most iconic English recordings of the last half decade. It was recorded for A&M records who cancelled the contract before release and destroyed the 20-25,000 copies pressed. It was eventually released by Virgin.

    Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen (1977)

    MOTÖRHEAD released their cover version as a single in 2000 with an accompanying video. It also appears on We Are Motörhead.

    Motörhead - God Save the Queen (2000)

    The Pistols were a great rock 'n' roll band, but really that's all they were. I actually gave Sid Vicious some bass lessons - he came up to me and said, 'Hey, Lemmy, teach me how to play bass,' and I said, 'All right, Sid.' But after three days I had to tell him, 'Sid, you can't play bass.'

    excerpt from White Line Fever, Lemmy Kilmister
  • ZZ Top

    Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

    Tres Hombres 1973

    "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers" is the third song on ZZ TOP's 1973 LP Tres Hombres.

    ZZ Top - Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers (1973)

    MOTÖRHEAD covered "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers" on an EP of the same name in 1980.

    Motörhead - Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers (1980)
  • Hawkwind


    Kings of Speed (Single) 1975

    Lemmy wrote "Motorhead" (no umlaut) while still a member of HAWKWIND. It was recorded in January 1975 and released on the B-side of "Kings of Speed". Neither song were part of HAWKWIND's live set and only "Kings of Speed" made it on to Warrior on the Edge of Time, HAWKWIND's fifth LP.

    Hawkwind - Motorhead (1975)

    In June 1975 Lemmy formed MOTÖRHEAD and that September, with Phil Taylor and Larry Wallis, began recording material for On Parole, including their new version of Lemmy's "Motörhead".

    Motörhead - Motörhead (1975)
  • Pink Fairies

    City Kids

    Kings of Oblivion 1973

    PINK FAIRIES recorded "City Kids" in 1973 for their third album, Kings of Oblivion. The song was written by Larry Wallis and Duncan Sanderson.

    Pink Fairies - City Kids (1973)

    PINK FAIRIES disbanded after Kings of Oblivion. In 1975 Wallis joined Lemmy and Lucas Fox to form the first incarnation of MOTÖRHEAD. This lineup recorded "City Kids" for the intended debut LP On Parole. Fox's drums were later overdubbed by Phil Taylor.

    Motörhead - City Kids (1975)

    My favourite version was recorded a year and a bit later - with "Fast" Eddie Clarke now on guitar - for MOTÖRHEAD's eponymous second single. Great Clarke solo and Phil is killer on drums, much improved. Sharpest version.

    Motörhead - City Kids (1977)
  • Tammy Wynette

    Stand by Your Man

    Stand by Your Man 1968

    Number 11? This is *not* included because it's one of their best covers. It's really not. But it is one of the most significant, perhaps only behind "Louie Louie", in the story of MOTÖRHEAD because, by most accounts, the recording of Stand by Your Man was the tipping point that resulted in "Fast" Eddie Clarke leaving the band.

    The session was problematic to say the least. Wendy took a long time to get in tune, and it wound Eddie up. She tried her parts a few times and sounded terrible, I will say that. You'd think she was never going to get it, but I knew she would if I just worked with her. In addition to this, Eddie wasn't playing guitar — he was only working as producer. We were using Wendy's guitarist's from the Plasmatics, with me and Phil on bass and drums. Eddie wasn't acting terribly thrilled with the whole scenario and finally he said he was going out to eat, but we found him in the other room, sulking with Evil Red.

    excerpt from White Line Fever, Lemmy Kilmister

    I had not decided to quit. I was forced out by the other guys who for different reasons felt the need for a change. This kind of happened around the Iron Fist album. We had stopped working well together so the demise was inevitable.

    Eddie Clarke interview


In 2017 Under Cöver was released, a collection of some - but not all - covers recorded by MOTÖRHEAD. It did include two previously unreleased songs: David Bowie's "Heroes" and "Rockaway Beach" by THE RAMONES. Some of the rarer covers are from tribute records, including: "Breaking the Law" (JUDAS PRIEST), "Starstruck" with SAXON's Biff Byford on vocals (RAINBOW) and "Shoot 'Em Down" (TWISTED SISTER).

There are other MOTÖRHEAD-related covers you can find. In 1978 Eddie Clark and Phil Taylor played a few gigs as THE MUGGERS, their sets included covers of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" and "Summertime Blues" by Eddie Cochran. Lemmy covered Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run" with Billy Gibbons (ZZ TOP), joined THE PIRATES to cover Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes", and sang "Stand By Me" with SLAYER's Dave Lombardo on drums.

You can find most of the above selection on our Motown to Motörhead Spotify playlist.