What's Words Worth


Big Beat, 1983


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Many Motörhead records came out at some point in the band's career which one could argue were trying to capitalize on the fame of Lemmy Kilmister and crew.

Then, there's What's Words Worth, a 1978 set recorded at a benefit to preserve William Wordsworth manuscripts (no joke – hence the name of the album, and Kilmister's ending comment). It was a set where Motörhead couldn't even perform under their own name due to contractual limitations, appearing instead as “Iron Fist And The Hordes From Hell.” It was released at a time when Motörhead's stock had been dropping, due to Fast Eddie Clarke departing the band following the minor disappointment of Iron Fist and the infamous collaboration with Wendy O. Williams. (The news was still going to get worse for Motörhead, as they had yet to release their sole album with Brian Robertson, Another Perfect Day.) And, worst of all, unless you were a die-hard Motörheadbanger, this album will feature almost no music you'd be familiar with.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Yet, it is an important release in Motörhead's discography, as it is one of the earliest documents to capture the “classic” line-up of Kilmister, Clarke and “Philthy Animal” Taylor in performance, even if their set is a bit ragged. It showcases a band who was still hungry to dominate the world musically, even if they had only one album to their name (two if you count On Parole, which wouldn't see the light of day for another year at that time), and were just on the cusp of kicking the world's ass when Overkill would be released a few months later.

So, there is interest in hearing tracks like “The Watcher,” “Iron Horse / Born To Lose” (coming close to the style that people would recognize when it was featured three years later on No Sleep Till Hammersmith) and a blistering take on “White Line Fever.” The rawness of the sound almost makes you feel like you're there at the show, standing in front of the stacks of Marshall amps having your hearing sheared away.

But there is an incompleteness to this set – and it has nothing to do with “hits” not being present. If anything, Motörhead was still coming into its own musically, and hadn't quite tightened up their on-stage performance to bulletproof precision. A flubbed bass line here, a missed drum fill there, a guitar solo a little sloppier than one might have aimed for – yes, it's an accurate document of what occurred that evening in February 1978 (although one song from the set has yet to see the light of day – and I'm not aware of any bootlegs out there which might have it), and there is something to say about hearing a live recording with no in-studio polish put on it to smooth out those rough spots. But this one is perhaps a little too rough at times… though one can't blame Kilmister and crew for this, as they had no say in the release of the disc.

Their reasons for doing the show are definitely honorable, and I still listen to this disc every once in a while to remind me where Kilmister and crew were early in their career together. Is it worth owning What's Words Worth? If you're getting deep into Motörhead, the answer is yes. If you're still learning about the band, there are many other live releases from the band which you should check out first before, musically at least, going back to school with this one.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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