In the United States, Motörhead is better known for T-shirts than for music, but in their native Britain the band has been a beloved cultural treasure for decades. Yes, “beloved cultural treasure” is a strange way to refer to one of the filthiest-sounding and scariest-looking bands ever to slither across a stage. But in Motörhead’s case, it works.
Bassist and vocalist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister formed the band in 1975 after being kicked out of the psych/prog/biker-rock band Hawkwind. (“Motorhead” was the name of a song he wrote for Hawkwind.) The band’s sound has always had as much in common with old-school punk as it has heavy metal, the category where it usually gets dumped, but it also has strong elements of ’50s rock ’n’ roll and ’70s boogie rock. (Lemmy himself avoids such terms, preferring to call his music simply “rock ’n’ roll.”) After 1980’s classic Ace of Spades album, Lemmy and company were bona fide pop stars in Britain. Check out the YouTube footage of their 1981 appearance on Top of the Pops to see them lip-synching their collaboration with the band Girlschool — a great cover of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates’ 1959 hit “Please Don’t Touch” — and wonder how they let such seedy-looking people on TV. Soon, Lemmy was recording other humorous duets with the likes of pin-up Samantha Fox and Plasmatics screecher Wendy O. Williams. He’s also appeared in numerous movie cameos and even sold potato chips in a TV commercial.
Lemmy is the only remaining original member of the band, but Motörhead keeps on ripping up stages and releasing new albums every couple of years. I half expect to see him knighted one day.
Clutch and Valient Thorr also perform.
Motörhead: House of Blues, Monday, January 31, 7 p.m. 619-299-2583. $27, $47.