Browsing through the Blog recently, The Hawk realized that it’s been a fair while since we had a new song blog, and resolved to put things right on that score.
But how to choose a song to blog about when there are so many great ones out there? As often is the case, social media came to the rescue on the inspiration front, and this is the result – a song blog on Motorhead’s Orgasmatron – an iconic album closer and also a Lemmy number that’s NOT about sex in spite of the name!
So, as regular readers will know, The Hawk now has an active Twitter account as well as this blog. (And if you didn’t know, why not head over to the Contact Page, and click on the Twitter link so that you can follow me? You’ll get tweet alerts for every new post, and plenty of random opinions vomited out as well – what’s not to like?)
Anyway, one common feature of heavy metal Twitter is that people are always tweeting their favourite songs or albums or artists or guitar brands…. With that in mind, The Hawk set himself the following challenge. He’d log on to Twitter the next day, and the first Tweet he saw referring to a song by a Classic Heavy Metal band would get its own blog post on here. Picking up his phone with trepidation, the winner turned out to be this tweet from @paulguitarist.
Now, The Hawk can’t pretend not to have been a bit relieved, having a choice of 6 songs to go at. But that having been said, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors had to be excluded, since according to the rules of this site, they sure ain’t Classic Heavy Metal.
But any of the others would be fine. There are already articles on here covering Motorhead, The Scorpions and KISS, and you’d better believe that UFO are on the list as well, and sure to feature on here before very long. So the winning pick was Orgasmatron, chosen more or less at random because it’s a great song, great album closer as per the tweet, so why not?
In the next part of the Twitter thread, we’d also have had the choice of Van Halen’s ‘House of Pain’, or (at a push), pre-heavy metal numbers by Deep Purple (‘Hard Lovin’ Man’) and Led Zeppelin (‘When The Levee Breaks’). Even Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath made it into the honourable mentions. But no shortcuts – a challenge is a challenge, and Orgasmatron is the choice.
Still, even though we’re not going to write about those others, it doesn’t stop anyone from listening to them. So here’s ‘Holiday’ by The Scorpions, one of the unlucky losers.
Orgasmatron the album came about after an ‘interesting’ period in Motorhead’s history, where they’d effectively gone almost 2 years without a recording deal. There had been a certain degree of tension between the band and their long-time record label Bronze since about 1982 when guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke left the band. Bronze weren’t thrilled with the choice of replacement guitarist Brian Robertson, but put their misgivings to one side.
But then, when Robertson himself left after the tour for ‘Another Perfect Day’ (along with drummer Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor), they were even less impressed with the calibre of proposed replacements Phil Campbell and Michael Burston (guitars) and Pete Gill (drums).
Bronze decided that if the new line-up wasn’t up to scratch, the best course of action would be to throw out a compilation album and cash in on the asset before things went too far downhill. Maybe they would have called it ‘The Best of Motorhead’, who knows? Lemmy in turn was less than thrilled with the compilation album suggestion, at any rate, and insisted that if there was going to be one he’d be the one to choose the tracks, AND ensure there was at least a handful of new songs included.
The result was ‘No Remorse’, which came out in 1894, and is, if nothing else, a nice run down of the Motorhead / Bronze era. All the classics are on there – ‘Ace Of Spades‘, ‘Overkill’, ‘Iron Fist’, ‘No Class’, you name it. And in the end, there were 4 newly written songs, of which ‘Killed by Death’ is the best.
See you in court!
‘No Remorse’ had decent reviews (at the time and since) and was well received by the fans. But if anyone thought that this would cause the tensions with Bronze to ease, they could think again. Things worsened to the point where legal proceedings were instigated, with Motorhead claiming that Bronze were not putting enough heft into promoting the band’s material. This charge was denied, naturally, and in retaliation, Bronze refused to back any new Motorhead recordings and banned them from the studio.
As said, this left the band effectively label-less – unable to record with Bronze, and struggling to sign a new deal until the case was resolved. In this hiatus, they threw themselves into touring, basically to continue making a living. Maybe they also had a few bucks put by from their side-line TV career, such as performing on the British hit comedy at the time, The Young Ones? We don’t know, but they weren’t ready to give up the ghost as a recording band, and so carried on with their shows whilst the legal case dragged on.
Long story short – the case was settled in Motorhead’s favour, leaving them flush, AND free to pursue a new deal with someone else. But that first (flush) part turned out to be more important – because for reasons that seem inexplicable to fans, especially in hindsight, nobody else wanted to sign them. Here’s a quote from Lemmy in an interview for ‘Overkill; The Untold Story of Motorhead.’
Elektra passed. MCA passed. CBS passed. Epic passed. Chrysalis passed. Everyone passed. Hell, I wish we sold as many albums as we do T-shirts. In England, it’s pretty well over for us as far as selling a lot of albums is concerned.Lemmy
Fortunately, the gloom wasn’t to last. Despairing of ever getting a deal from an established label, Motorhead took the next best step and set up their own: Great Western Road (GWR) was born, and the first record to emerge from the new label was ‘Orgasmatron.’
Save us from the Mavericks
Settled lawsuit. Settled line-up. New record label. New material to record. Not that this marked the end of the band’s problems, because (for reasons that aren’t entirely clear), they hired the ‘maverick’ Bill Laswell to produce. It turned out badly.
Laswell has been said by some to be a fan of ‘collision music’ – combining massively different styles of music in a way that (in theory) ADDS to the sum of the parts. Obviously, this is never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and for Motorhead, the wacky fusion concept involved trying to blend a bit of early hip-hop into their trademark rock n roll sound. Nobody really liked the result, although it’s arguably not too obvious unless someone tells you it’s there.
But worse than that was the sound at the end. Here’s Lemmy in his autobiography, ‘White Line Fever’:
As it turned out, Bill was good for getting sounds, but he f***ed everything up in the mix. It was a much better album when he took it to New York than when he brought it back… It was dreadful. Orgasmatron was mud.Lemmy
Orgasmatron At Last
So yeah, bad choice of producer on top of everything else. But what about that title track, the one The Hawk is meant to be writing about in this post? A lot of people thought it might be about the Orgasmatron in the Woody Allen movie ‘Sleeper’ from the 1970s – an electronic device that induces orgasms in an otherwise impotent population. And why not? Lemmy’s love of casual sex throughout his career has been well documented after all, and he’s never been backward in writing about that kind of thing.
But it appears that this is a blind alley, and indeed, when asked about it, Lemmy claimed never to have seen the movie in question anyway. Back to that interview from ‘Overkill; The Untold Story of Motorhead.’
It refers to the three things that I hate most in life – organized religion, politics and war. Things like people that go to church and cum in their pants while communicating with Jesus Christ. It’s all a bunch of bullshit. If you’re really into that, you don’t need to go to church or talk to God, you can talk to him everywhere, you know? Or if you join a political party and get your jollies off that, when your party wins and all that. It’s the herd instinct. The same thing with war. They give you a nice new uniform and march you off to die.Lemmy
So in fact it covers serious material, and serves as a useful reminder that not all Motorhead songs are about frivolous subjects like sex and gambling. The Hawk, as a convert to heavy metal only I the late 80s recalls that his own first Motorhead album, 1916, had a similarly weighty song on it.
(Though, for the sake of completeness, we should also state for the record that it also featured ‘I’m so Bad Baby I don’t care.’ Sample lyrics:
‘I make love to mountain lions / Sleep on red-hot branding irons.’
Always the light and shade with Lemmy)
The band commissioned an ‘Orgasmatron Machine’ to be built as the centrepiece to their stage set for the album tour. A bit like the Iron Fist prop from their tour of that album. But disaster struck yet again when the finished device was too big to fit into many of the tour venues. Distinct shades of Black Sabbath’s Stonehenge fiasco right there. Honourable mention must also go to the Orgasmatron Train which adorned the album cover – Lemmy got the idea from staring at his own model train collection.
Of course, the song was written and released by Motorhead, but let’s not forget the cover of ‘Orgasmatron’ performed by none other than thrash legends Sepultura, which first appeared as a bonus track on their classic album ‘Arise’. (An album that certainly warrants a blog post in its own right, so watch this space for that.)
Sepultura even went on a brief tour with Motorhead after ‘Arise’ came out, doing a few German gigs with Morbid Angel also on the bill. The Hawk hasn’t been able to find out if either Sepultura or Motorhead played their versions of ‘Orgasmatron’ during any of the shows, so get in touch if you know.
The Orgasmatron album didn’t actually sell all that well, maybe because of the weird hip-hop fusion, or the dodgy sound quality. But Motorhead continued to do their thing on the tour, and the fans couldn’t get enough of that. One of the highlights was no doubt an appearance on the bill of the 1986 version of Monsters of Rock at Donnington, where ‘Orgasmatron’ took its place on their setlist. But c’mon we all want to hear their performance of ‘Ace of Spades’ at Donnington, right? So here it is.
These days, the Orgasmatron also refers to a brand of head massager – The Hawk has no idea if the creators of this device were / are Motorhead fans, but suspects that Lemmy would probably have been a fan.
But, that’s the last bit a trivia, and as always with The Hawk’s song blogs, we finish with the actual song in question, so here is ‘Orgasmatron’ in all its glory. Thanks again to @paulguitarist on Twitter for the inspiration.
What’s your view on ‘Orgasmatron’ – great album closer as per the tweet? Or should The Hawk have picked one of the other songs from the Twitter thread? And Lemmy – the world’s ultimate poet, no?
Let us know what you think in the comments below.