Our weekly column "White Whale Vinyl" spotlights the most sought-after rare vinyl in the heavy-music universe. Shop for vinyl, including a selection of limited-edition Revolver-exclusive variants, via our store.
When bassist Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister was chucked out of perpetually stoned Seventies space-rock collective Hawkwind for doing the wrong kind of drugs, he started his own band — named after the speed-freak users of said drugs. Motörhead unleashed their self-titled 1977 debut as one of the first releases on the newly formed Chiswick Records, the London-based label that also put out the Damned's classic Machine Gun Etiquette, a single from Joe Strummer's pre-Clash pub-rock band the 101ers, and Skrewdriver's pre-white-power debut, All Skrewed Up.
While Motörhead is widely regarded as the legendary band's first album — not to mention the debut of the classic Lemmy–"Philthy" Phil Taylor–"Fast" Eddie Clarke lineup — it's not the first album they recorded. In fact, most of the songs are re-recordings of tracks that Lemmy, drummer Taylor and original Motörhead guitarist Larry Wallis cut shortly after the band's formation in 1975. (That album was later released — against the band's wishes — as On Parole in late 1979, after the success of twin behemoths Overkill and Bomber.)
All told, Motörhead was the band's first swaggering step into music history. Featuring speed anthem "White Line Fever," biker anthem "Iron Horse/Born to Lose" and self-mythologizing anthem "Motörhead," the album set the raucous template for the only band the punks and metalheads could agree upon back in '77 — while providing early inspiration for the likes of Venom and Metallica.
Chiswick issued four slightly different U.K. editions of Motörhead in 1977, all of which remain sought after by collectors. But the most valuable is the very first, which boasts the band's logo and now-ubiquitous Snaggletooth mascot in silver metallic ink on the front, and the song "Vibrator" misspelled as "Viborator" on the back. With only 600 copies pressed, these elusive gems currently fetch upwards of $2,000. As of this writing, there are two available on Discogs from sellers in Europe — one for about $2, 270 and the other for $2,636.
Sadly, Lemmy passed away nearly five years ago. But if he were still around, he'd probably advise you against buying one of these white whales. In 2012, he urged fans not to purchase an expensive box set of early Motörhead material that the band no longer had the rights to. "You really wanna be like me? Jesus," he once quipped. "Listen: Be an accountant. They've got all my money."