overground scene

Is this where I came from? #7 Motorhead and The Hellacopters

This series of posts is concerned with the intertextuality of popular music, or, in other words, the ways in which popular music composers borrow ideas from each other. While all music is recycled, especially in terms of the various compositional and stylistic conventions that impose their structure on creativity, there are instances where more distinctive ideas, such as a melody line or a riff, are being shared among creators that sometimes are ostensibly worlds apart. So far I have focused on slightly obscure cases of borrowing that takes place across genres, or subgenres, diachronicaly. In the present post, however, and with the sad occasion of Lemmy’s demise, I will present a more obvious case of intertextuality, namely how the Hellacopters, a heavy-rock band, was influenced by the riffs, groove and attitude of Motorhead, another heavy-rock band.

motorheadMotorhead – Die you bastard (1983)

Motorhead’s Another perfect day is an album that I loved from the very first time I listened to it. It is also an album that marked the first major line-up change in Motorhead’s career and apparently, from what I read on the internet, divided their audience. Indeed, some of the songs on it could be characterised as slightly melodic and “clean” compared to their previous albums. I personally never understood why anyone would be disappointed by this album, and I still consider it a masterpiece of high-octane heavy rock ‘n roll. The song “Die you bastard” closes the album and it is driven by an awesome bass riff, which is also the opening riff. The initial bass riff is played twice, then Philthy comes in with single strokes on the snare drum, indicating the tempo, while the lead guitar hits one note for every beat. As I demonstrate next, the resulting awesome arrangement put together beautifully by these English pioneers inspired the Hellacopters to compose one of their best songs.

hellacoptersHellacopters – A cross for Cain (2000)

“Cross for Cain” is an impressive song written by Nicke and Anders and originally published in the Toys and flavours EP. It can also be found in the Cream of the crap volume 2 (2004) collection. One might wonder why such a masterpiece did not make it in any of the proper studio albums and was instead released as a b-side on a single. I think that the reason behind this decision is that Nicke did not consider it original enough to be on a proper album, as it basically is a tribute to Motorhead. The opening riff does not resemble “Die you bastard” in any way, but the way the lead guitar and the snare drum come in is almost identical. Half-way through, right after the second chorus (at 1:17), the normal flow of the song is interrupted by an awesome riff which is almost identical to the main riff of “Die you bastard”. Still one of the best songs the Hellacopters ever wrote, and a big nod to Motorhead’s influence on them.


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