“Fast” Eddie Clarke, the last surviving member of Motorhead’s classic 1976-82 lineup, died Wednesday after being hospitalized for pneumonia, according to a post on the band’s Facebook page. He was 67.
While Clarke went on to form Fastway with former UFO bassist Pete Way, he is best remembered for his work with Motorhead, which despite a blistering hard-rock sound and leader Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister’s harsh vocals had several high-charting records in the U.K., including a No. 1 with their legendary 1981 live album “No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith” — even the album’s title has become an oft-parodied catch-phrase, not least by the Beastie Boys with their 1986 song “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” Clarke left the band at the peak of its success, yet their influence has been vast and lasting: they were a prototype for many thrash and speed-metal bands and their songs have been covered by Metallica and many others.
Motorhead was formed by Kilmister in 1975 after he was ejected from the LSD-addled British psychedelic act Hawkwind — who’d had a British hit in the early ’70s with “Silver Machine,” which he sang — ironically for being arrested for possession of amphetamines. An original lineup faltered, but he united with London-born Clarke and wild-man drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor and the combination gelled: In a VH1 documentary on the band, Clarke recalls saying after Taylor’s audition, “What a ‘orrible little sh–. He’s perfect!”
The band released its debut single, also called “Motorhead,” on the British independent label Chiswick, in 1977, and even at the height of the punk-rock explosion, it’s difficult to convey how galvanizing that song sounded: A lightning-fast roar of distorted guitars and drums and throat-shredding vocals that’s over before the listener knows what’s hit them. It set the template for the band’s sound, and while the group benefitted and was lumped in with the fast-rising “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” — which also spawned bands ranging from Iron Maiden to Def Leppard — Motorhead was slightly outside of that realm, with connections in both the punk and ’60s-rock world (Kilmister was a veteran of the scene and even roadied for Jimi Hendrix before joining Hawkwind).
Their template set, the band followed with a string of similar-sounding albums — “Bomber,” “Ace of Spades,” “Overkill,” the titles say it all — and by the time “Hammersmith” topped the British charts, they were one of the biggest bands in the country. However, they lost momentum with their follow-up, “Iron Fist,” and Clarke left soon after. He formed Fastway and ultimately released seven albums with the band; Kilmister carried on with a new lineup (with Taylor rejoining from 1987-92). Clarke rejoined the band onstage for guest appearances on several occasions over the years. The three appear in several documentaries on the band.
Taylor died of liver failure in November of 2015, and Kilmister, for decades a staple at the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip (where a statue of him now stands), passed away from cancer the following month.