Motörhead circa 1978. From left: Guitarist Eddie
Clarke, drummer Phil Taylor and singer and bassist
Lemmy Kilmister. Fin Costello/Redferns hide caption

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Fin
Costello/Redferns

Motörhead circa 1978. From left: Guitarist Eddie Clarke,
drummer Phil Taylor and singer and bassist Lemmy
Kilmister.

Fin
Costello/Redferns

“Fast” Eddie Clarke, guitarist for the original three-piece
formation of Motörhead, died Wednesday evening after a bout
with pneumonia, the band’s manager Todd Singerman confirmed to
NPR. He was 67.

“Fast Eddie was an integral part of the Motörhead family,” a
statement from Springerman reads, “and I have to say I was
shocked and saddened when word reached me last night that he
had passed. Eddie was the last of the Three Amigos (as that
classic line-up was called) still walking, but now the trio are
reunited.”

Clarke joined Motörhead, already a known quantity in rock
circles, in 1976 through his association with drummer Phil
Taylor, who was working for Clarke as a laborer on the
restoration of a houseboat on the Thames, in the Chelsea
neighborhood of London. “What a f****** Hitler he was, let me
tell you,” was the description Taylor gave of his time working
for Clarke in the band documentary The Guts and the
Glory
. “He looked really mellow, but he was a mean son of
a b****.”

Clarke was responsible for the punk chugs and cascading,
peak-metal riffs within some of the band’s most enduring songs,
including “Ace of Spades,” “Capricorn,” “Overkill” and “Fast
and Loose.” As he said in
a 2016 interview
:

“Motörhead wasn’t Lemmy’s band; I wrote all the riffs,
mate. He might have wrote a few words, but I’ll tell you,
those riffs were good riffs. I love Phil, and it does annoy
me a tad, but he didn’t write, or have a hand in that many
of the tunes, but I always insisted that he had a third of
it, so that we were all equal. I said to Lemmy at the time;
‘Look, if we do it all equal, we won’t have us going to
work in a Rolls-Royce, and Phil coming on a push bike,
because it will destroy the band.’ I only cared about the
band. It wasn’t about money.”

The story of Clarke’s exit from the band in 1982 is a matter of
some dispute. Clarke told interviewers in more recent years he
was forced out by drummer Phil Taylor (“Phil was … the main
instigator in my being excluded from the band,” he said
in 2014
), while the official line had been that he had
resigned. While the details remain foggy, the underlying
tensions don’t: Clarke had taken issue with a series of
recording sessions for Iron Fist, Motörhead’s fifth
album, in particular the band’s cover of the country song
Stand By
Your Man
,” which featured Lemmy in a duet with Wendy O.
Williams of The Plasmatics.

Creating Motörhead’s follow-up album, recorded with new
guitarist Brian Robertson, was “f****** torture,” Lemmy said in
The Guts and the Glory. For his part, Clarke said of
his final contribution that “the songs would’ve been better had
we been working as a unit.”

After leaving Motörhead, Clarke formed Fastway with bassist
Pete Way of UFO, rehearsing with former Clash drummer Topper
Headon and subsequently recruiting the Irish singer Dave King.
(King would later form the Irish trad-incorporating,
punk-rooted band Flogging Molly.) Fastway never reached the
same heights as Motörhead, but Clarke’s guitar work for the
band retained his signature, precise menace. His final album
was Make My Day: Back to Blues, recorded with Gary
Numan keyboardist Bill Sharpe.

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