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Motorhead’s No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith: one of the greatest live albums ever, now even greater

Out now: Motorhead’s No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith finds itself seriously expanded for its 40th anniversary, but there’s no reduction in the levels of destruction



No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith was the only Motorhead album to go to No.1 in the UK – which it did straight upon its release on June 27, 1981 – and deservedly so. Try naming just one live album that captures the sheer thrill and adrenalin rush of heavy rock moshin’ better (Ramones? The Who? Thin Lizzy… Nah). 

Even listening to it with the volume turned down to near zero it still feels like your speakers are exploding from the sheer overload and distortion and sweat of a thousand bodies pounding as one. It’s surprising that buildings in the nearby vicinity were still standing the day after. As Lemmy said: “I knew it’d be the live one that went best, because we’re really a live band… You’ve got to see us.” 

Most of No Sleep ’Till Hammersmith was recorded at Newcastle City Hall and Leeds Queen’s Hall during their five-date Short Sharp Pain In The Neck tour of March/ April ’81. (Hammersmith Odeon was not actually one of those dates. The title came from a mural painted on one of the tour trucks, referencing the 32 gigs being played in 34 days.) 

Eleven tracks, from the opening blitzkrieg of Ace Of Spades to the closing air raid sirens of Motorhead, that destroyed all opposition

At the time, Motorhead were untouchable, a law unto themselves, fresh from the top-five album triumph of Ace Of Spades, with songs like Overkill and Bomber performed at thunderous, breakneck speed, powered by drummer Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor’s wanton epic destruction and Lemmy’s immovable bass, charged full-throttle by speed lick after speed lick from the rightly tagged ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke. 

Damn, this is brutal stuff, you have to wonder how the hell Lemmy was able to speak afterwards.

The 40th Anniversary Edition ramps up the ante even further, if that’s possible. The hardback book packs (two CD/three-LP) feature a new remaster of the original album, bonus tracks and the entire Newcastle City Hall concert from March 13, and previously unseen photos and the story of the album.

The four-CD version goes even further: all three full live recordings (two from Newcastle and the one from Leeds), plus posters, a plectrum and shitload upon shitload of killer stuff. 

Frankly, an occasion such as this calls for total immersion. Nothing else will suffice. Rack the volume up as far as it will go, muffle your pets, wait until the thunder and lightning outside are lashing neighbours at full pelt, and rock! 

Seventy one tracks of uncaged, unthrottled and very often unheard previously Motorhead to enjoy? Fuck yeah!