Book review: MOTORHEAD (Duncan Harris), BLACK SABBATH (Chris Sutton)

MOTORHEAD – On Track, every album, every song

MOTORHEAD – On Track … every album, every song by Duncan Harris
Sonic Bond Publishing [Publication date 15.04.22]

Two more books that give an insight into these legendary classic rock bands, and like others in the series they act as a useful source of information on the bands’ respective discographies.

The Motorhead book is a career spanning walk and talk through every album with some (limited) additional information; it does what it says on the tin.

Here we get a brief intro to the band and their formation; the fact that Lemmy’s last song written for Hawkwind was ‘Motorhead’, and that Lemmy was a rhythm guitarist by trade and didn’t pick up a bass until he joined Hawkwind are mentioned, but could (should) have been expanded on.

There are also a couple of paragraphs on each member throughout the band’s history, a nice bit of background. Then onto each album in turn, each getting an intro then a walk through each track.

In some cases this is a good roundup, there are many stories that are well known and some more that aren’t so well known. There’s clearly been some thought and research gone into the work.

The first two issues that are glaring early on; firstly the band’s United Artists debut that was issued third (On Parole) is not included, although there is a passing reference, and second the writer falls into the trap of believing Lemmy’s continual reference of rock’n’roll.

Heavy Metal, for that is what Motorhead are, has many roots, of which rock’n’roll is only one. Maybe I’m the only one who found the continued “We Play Rock’n’Roll” tiresome, but there is SO much more to Motorhead than that.

There’s much more than just the albums in this book; what does make good reading and adds an extra dimension is the non album tracks, whether singles or b-sides.

The two EPs (the Girlschool and Wendy O’Williams collaborations) make interesting reading, the latter detailing guitarist Fast Eddie Clark’s disillusionment with the band.

The new tracks on ‘No Remorse’ are covered (some good points there), and the author has done well to find so much to write for the post 2000 material which (for me, personally) the new material became less interesting or distinguishable.

This is a good handbook to the band’s discography that ironically lacks a discography. Some of Lemmy’s solo rock’n’roll material with Slim Jim is covered, although tracks like ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ are mentioned in relation to an album, not the original 7″ release. And a chapter on live albums and how tracks compare to the studio versions would have been nice. A few minor issues (I know I’m being picky) but a good and informative read.  ****

BLACK SABBATH – In The 1970s

Decades BLACK SABBATH – In The 1970s by Chris Sutton Sonic Bond Publishing
[Publication date 24.03.22]

From the same publisher, the Black Sabbath book follows a similar format, but as it restricted to the 1970s, it adds so much more, thus becomes much more a biography of the decade.

There have been biographies that cover this era, but what’s nice here is that, as per the Motorhead book, it combines a track by track album appraisal. The extra dimension is that the bonus tracks on the expanded album editions (the live and demo tracks) are also covered.

Black Sabbath’s early history up to 1969 is summarised, through their Earth and Polka Tulk Blues Band days (or is that ‘daze’?), and the band’s formation in Aston, Birmingham.

Many of the stories here are well known, and in the absence of new interviews there is plenty of solid research of previously published work (including the Iron Man biography).

But whether you’ve heard the stories or not, having them all together and in chronological order makes this book all the more important. The wide range or sources (US edition notes, for example) make this an excellent summary, rounding up what may already be out there but few will have comprehensively.

The final chapter focusses on live recordings, whether officially released or notable soundboard and audience recordings. What’s good here is the comparison of setlists and also arrangements and tunings.

The band’s ups and downs (as a band, on stage, personally) are mentioned, the track walk throughs well researched.

The 1970s (especially the 1969-1971 period) saw Sabbath famously develop and define heavy metal, so this book is a good read for rock fans in general. I would love to see a similar look at the post Ozzy period, as sadly there is a wealth of excellent Black Sabbath material that gets too easily overlook.  ****1/2

Reviews by Joe Geesin

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