Inside Motörhead's 'Under Cöver': Track by Track With Mikkey Dee | Revolver

Inside Motörhead's 'Under Cöver': Track by Track With Mikkey Dee

Drummer breaks down Lemmy and Co.'s renditions of songs by Metallica, Ramones, Bowie and more
Motorhead Press 17, Motörhead Music
courtesy of Motörhead Music

On September 1st, Motörhead will unveil Under Cöver, a collection of cover songs the band recorded for various tribute albums and bonus tracks over the last 25 years. The compilation's centerpiece is a previously unreleased cover of David Bowie's "Heroes," which was the last song Motörhead ever recorded. Coincidentally, Motörhead mastermind Lemmy Kilmister and the Thin White Duke would pass away within two weeks of each other on December 28th, 2015, and January 10th, 2016, respectively. Other Under Cöver cuts include the band's raucous and leathery takes on Judas Priest, Metallica, Twisted Sister and the Ramones. We recently asked former Motörhead/current Scorpions drummer Mikkey Dee to give us a track-by-track breakdown. "We recorded a lot of these so long ago that I barely remember them," he tells Revolver with a laugh. "But we'd never record a song we didn't like. No fucking way."

Judas Priest, "Breaking the Law"
This cover of Priest's classic banger originally appeared on the 2008 Judas Priest tribute album Hell Bent Forever. "Our good friend [former WASP guitarist and brother of former KISS guitarist Bruce] Bob Kulick used to record a lot of tribute compilations," Dee explains. "He did a Metallica, a Ramones, an Iron Maiden and this was for a Judas Priest one. Of course, we all love Judas Priest. Lemmy used to really dig their guitar riffs — he thought they were really heavy. We toured with them and they're good friends, so it was just a natural thing to say yes to. I think Bob suggested three or four songs, and this was one of them. It was a pretty easy choice."

Sex Pistols, "God Save the Queen"
Motörhead's version of the Sex Pistols' two-finger salute to the British monarchy originally appeared on the band's 2000 album, We Are Motörhead. "We were just jamming on that song one day and we all thought it was great so we decided to record it," Dee says. "Most of these cover songs are like that — there's not really a lot of planning behind it. It turned out to be a great version, so we did a video for it where we were playing on top of a double-decker bus going around London. We have this actress who looks like the queen, and she's driving the bus. No one from the Sex Pistols has mentioned it, but I'm sure they think it's half-decent. [Laughs] Not that we really care!"

David Bowie, "Heroes"
This previously unreleased cover was recorded during the sessions for 2015's Bad Magic, which would end up being Motörhead's final album. "This song was the last thing we ever recorded together," Dee laments. "We've always talked about doing a covers album with each of us picking four songs that we'd like to record — pretty much exactly what we're putting out now, but with 12 new covers. When we finished Bad Magic, we started fooling around with the idea again. Me and Phil [Campbell, Motörhead guitarist] got together and decided to play a joke on Lemmy by putting songs like 'Living on a Prayer' and 'Run to the Hills' on our list — all these fucking songs with super high vocals, just to give Lem some shit. One of my serious choices was 'Strange Kind of Woman' by Deep Purple, but 'Heroes' was Phil's choice. Lem didn't want to do it at first because he didn't think it would work. But we did it, and it turned out to be his favorite song from the recording session for that album!"

Rainbow, "Starstruck"
This cover of the Rainbow favorite from 1976's Rainbow Rising appeared on the 2014 Ronnie James Dio tribute album, This Is Your Life — and features Saxon's Biff Byford on lead vocals. "We wanted to do the song, but I think Lemmy didn't feel he could sing it like Ronnie did. When you're doing a cover song, you don't want to copy the original artist, but you want to get the same feel somehow. We're never gonna sound like Rainbow, you know, but we'll always sound like Motörhead. Biff is a great friend of ours, so it was very natural that he came in and sang it with us."

Ted Nugent, "Cat Scratch Fever"  
Motörhead's take on the Nuge's thinly veiled sex jam originally appeared on 1992's March ör Die. "I didn't play on this one, because they recorded it just before I joined," Dee explains. "They wanted me to re-do every track on that record but there was no time. I did a few things on the album, but I was never keen on that song to tell you the truth. They used to tease me about it, because I didn't like it at all. Some of Ted Nugent's stuff is magic, but I never liked that song and I definitely didn't like what we did with it!"

Rolling Stones, "Jumpin' Jack Flash"
Lemmy and Co.'s cover of the Stones' 1968 hit appeared as a bonus track on the 2001 reissue of Motörhead's 1993 album, Bastards — which was the first full Motörhead album that Dee played on. "That's one we used to jam at soundcheck," Dee ventures. " I think we even played it live before we recorded it, but we used to jam a lot of Stones songs for soundcheck. That was a song that all of us liked, and I think we did that one well."

Rolling Stones, "Sympathy for the Devil"
Motörhead recorded yet another Stones song from '68 and included it as the closing track on their final album, Bad Magic, which also happens to include an original called "The Devil" featuring a guitar solo from Queen's Brian May. "That's more of a coincidence," Dee says of the double Devil references. "Lemmy used to change song titles all the time. An album would almost be at the printer, and he'd suddenly change a song title. It could be really confusing, but I think that's what happened here."

Ozzy Osbourne, "Hellraiser"
Motörhead's version of this 1991 cut from Ozzy's No More Tears album isn't technically a cover: Lemmy co-wrote it with Zakk Wylde and the Prince of Darkness himself. Motörhead's version appeared on March ör Die and the Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth soundtrack. "It's really not a cover — it's our own song," Dee agrees. "But I guess because Ozzy did it first, you can look at it that way. Our version is a lot heavier, that's for sure. It's more brutal somehow, and I think it fits the movie better. But I like Ozzy's version, as well."

Ramones, "Rockaway Beach"
Lemmy never made a secret of being a Ramones fan. In the early Nineties, he wrote a song called "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." that appeared on the Motörhead album, 1916. Dee says the band recorded a version of the Ramones' 1977 single "Rockaway Beach" sometime in the mid-Nineties. "We did a fantastic show with them down in Buenos Aires in '94, I believe, so I think we must've done this in '95 or '96," the drummer ventures. "But the Ramones [were] one of Lem's favorite bands. He thought they were so real and so true. I'm sure we would've done more of their songs if he had stayed around."

Twisted Sister, "Shoot 'Em Down"
A longtime Twisted Sister booster, Lemmy famously saved the band's necks from an unsympathetic crowd on their first visit to the U.K. Motörhead covered this song for the 2001 Twisted Sister tribute album, Twisted Forever. "Lemmy helped Twisted Sister when they came over to England looking like a circus," Dee says. "They were ready to be killed, and he stood up and told the audience, 'Listen up. These guys are great.' So I know Dee Snider and the boys are thankful for what he did. It was a pleasure doing that song — to me, it almost sounds like a Motörhead song."

Metallica, "Whiplash"
In a classic case of Grammy logic, Motörhead actually won the award for Best Metal Performance in 2005 with this Metallica cover, which first appeared on the 2004 Metallica tribute album, Metallic Attack. "We were all surprised," Dee recalls with a laugh. "We'd been nominated before for our own songs, and then suddenly we actually win a Grammy for a cover tune. It's a great song and I think we did an OK job with it, but was it the Best Metal Performance that year? I don't think so. It was very weird, but what can you do? You just accept it and move on. I know the Metallica guys liked it, though. They're big Motörhead fans. Lars actually started a Motörhead fan club in America many years ago."