Fastway’s “Fast” Eddie Clarke on his days with Motörhead and not wanting to be a guitar hero


By Steve Newton

Fastway, the new band put together by former Motörhead guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke and featuring original Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley, opened last Wednesday’s Iron Maiden concert at the Pacific Coliseum.

I spoke to “Fast” Eddie that afternoon and caught a few glimpses into life with Motörhead, his reasons for quitting them, and his thoughts on his former idol Eric Clapton.

What happened with Fastway’s first bassist, ex-UFO member Pete Way? Did he quit?

Pete was under a lot of pressure from his record company Chrysalis. They didn’t want to let him go. And we signed with CBS because we’d offered it to Chrysalis and they never showed up. So we figured the first one that comes in and says “deal” can have us. So CBS came down and we did a little showcase in the rehearsal room and they liked it. They said, “Okay, have it on the table in the morning.” That shows enthusiasm, which is all we wanted because that’s about all we had–enthusiasm.

Then two days later Chrysalis come in and say, “Oh yeah, we want the band.” We say, “You can’t have it. CBS have already got it.” And they’re like, “Oh no you don’t–we own Pete Way.” So they stamped it out with Pete. And Pete is a very very nice sort of guy–he likes to please everybody all the time. So this really did his head in and he was getting drunk a lot. He was just very unhappy, because I’d signed the deal on behalf of the band then, and he wasn’t allowed to sign.

So that went on a bit, and then there was this Ozzy tour in Europe and Pete just disappeared. We know that he had been hustled by Ozzy to do this tour for him. So one day we went to rehearsal and Eddie Kramer flew in from New York and there was no bass player. We never saw him again! [laughs]. He just took off to play with Ozzy, and then Ozzy gave him the fucking elbow.

And that was it. I don’t know what he’s doing now. It’s a shame because we had a lot of fun putting Fastway together in the early days. I think the pressure just got a little too much for him.

I really used to like his old band UFO.

The early stuff is nice, yeah–it got a little bit tacky towards the end. I mean that was Pete’s reason for leaving. They were putting more pianos on the record and getting away from rock. That was pissing him off. I was in Motörhead, and it was the same sort of thing. Pete couldn’t go on with his people because he felt they weren’t trying hard enough to make it a serious rock band anymore. They were getting very complacent, and I felt the same about my band. I mean Iron Fist, our last album, I ended up producing it because they fell out with the other producer. And I didn’t want to produce it. It’s just that I’d done a band called Tank and they thought it sounded pretty good.

So Phil did his drum tracks and went off home and I didn’t see him more than one or twice the whole time. And then Lemmy would be like, “Oh man the clubs are shutting, I gotta go.” So it would be me and the engineer sitting there with fuck all to do! I started to get the feeling that the enthusiasm had just gone out of it.

And then we went on to do this thing with Wendy O Williams in Toronto. They were going to play with the guys from the Plasmatics and I was going to produce it. And it just didn’t turn out. It just wasn’t happening, that’s all. So I said to Lemmy, “Let’s forget it man, let’s just do a blues EP and get something out of the effort we put into it.” But he said, “No man, it’s fantastic what we’re doing. I really love this stuff, and Wendy’s just great.” And I said, “Well man, if you’re gonna go ahead with this I’m getting out of the band because I’m not having my Motörhead associated with this.”

So I told them that I’d finish the tour but that I was leaving at the end of it. And at the last gig to New York they made me have a separate dressing room and they wouldn’t even talk to me. It was really funny. I mean, I didn’t care because I just wanted to do the gig if it was the last one. The gear was already there and the bomber was up so I just got it over with.

Do you ever miss Motorhead?

I do and I don’t. I did start playing the guitar to make serious music, really, and I was hoping that Motorhead would get classier. Because it started pretty rough and it got quite classy at one point. Then I just felt it was going back down again.

What was your favourite album you recorded with Motörhead?

There’s three really. There’s a progression. There’s the Overkill album. I loved some of the tracks on that because it was our first real album. I loved the whole concept of it. And then there was Bomber which was great too. I thought the songs were great, but the production was lacking a bit. And I think the best one was Ace of Spades, from all angles–material, production, concept and everything.

Was the band making money when you quit?

We were making a living. I mean we were getting paid. We sold probably two million albums in Europe, but we didn’t sell a lot in America. That was another thing. We spent three and a half months in America trying to break the band’s support and it cost us all the money we’d accumulated. We spent almost 200,000 pounds and only sold 30,000 albums. You start to get the impression that a lot of Americans don’t like the band.

Are you still getting royalty money from your work with Motörhead?

Oh yeah, ’cause we all wrote the songs together. And that always takes quite a while to come in. I mean I’m luckier in that respect than the rest of the guys in Fastway because I do have this other income.

Was Motörhead as rowdy and wild as they looked?

Oh yeah, we could be pretty crazy. I’m pretty sure that there’s a lot more crazy bands, though. We did it more with image than actual smashing up motel rooms and all that. 

But we had our moments, especially in the early days with things always going wrong. You know, you’d be stuck in Barcelona with just five quid and the tour manager’s supposed to be coming out with the float and when he gets there he says, “Haven’t you got the float? Well I haven’t got the float.” And you haven’t even got the price of a cup of tea. So there was a measure of animality in us, but not as much as our image would suggest. We would be up all night drinking, and we did everything to the max, but we weren’t particularly violent.

What is life in Fastway like in comparison to Motörhead?

It’s kinda strange. I mean, I haven’t known the guys that long. I miss Motorhead from that point of view. Knowing them for so long, you go onstage and you know who’s there.

But Fastway works; it’s a quiet little setup. You haven’t got any one guy throwing his weight about. Sometimes with Lenny–he wouldn’t throw his weight about, but he’d be sitting up all night in the bar and then he’d have the reporters on the bus–and the rest of us would just be trying to get some kip or something. Sometimes he wouldn’t have a lot of consideration for anybody else, whereas with this band everybody’s very considerate. We haven’t had any friction at all actually, and we used to have a lot with Motorhead. Phil and I used to fight, and he and I would usually collaborate against Lemmy and try and get him to cool out a bit.

What do you think of Motörhead’s new guitarist, Brian Robertson?

I thought that when he left Thin Lizzy they took a terrible knock. I think they threw him out, I don’t know, but he is a real loony. I knock about with him once in a while. He’s a great player, and he played some of the greatest guitar for Thin Lizzy. He was a feel player, and I felt Scott Gorham was more the precise one. When Robbo left I thought the band lost its identity.

The same thing happened to Motörhead. When a member leaves the kids get a bit confused, and I think it affects their outlook on the band.

Thin Lizzy has had some really good guitar players over the years, guys like Gary Moore.

Yeah I like Gary a lot, but he’s more your solo guitarist, like Mike Schenker. They want to go out and be guitar heroes. Personally, I don’t want to be a guitar hero.

Why not?

Well, I want to be a member of a really hot band. I don’t want to just go out and put a band around my guitar playing. I want to put a band around the songs.

I mean you can’t beat Zeppelin for that. Jimmy Page never really went too over the top. I mean, he did in the later days and live shows, but it wasn’t as if he was featured. Robert Plant was featured, and John Bonham. You’ve got to have four people.

Who were your guitar-playing idols and biggest influences when you were starting out?

Well it was Clapton without a doubt. I saw him with the Yardbirds and John Mayall and one day he just put a shiver up my back. I thought, “I’ve got to do that.” So that was it. I was on the road then.

So I owe all that to Eric really. He disappointed me a lot with his change of attitude when he joined Cream though. I thought it was very disastrous. Because I used to follow him about everywhere. I was a real Eric fan. I had a scrapbook of all original photos.

What was it about Cream that you didn’t like?

On reflection, when I listen back to it, it was Jack Bruce. He just never gave Eric any room to solo. Like the first album wasn’t bad–I thought Fresh Cream was okay–but the second one, Disraeli Gears, sucked. I saw him doing “Sunshine Of Your Love” at the Marquee and it just knocked me out, but when I got the record and put it on it was the biggest disappointment, what with the solo and the change of sound.

Eric was a master at just playing. He used to try all these different sounds and Jack Bruce was always getting in the way. Eric would be starting to cook and Jack would go “boom boom boom boom boom”. So there was nothing happening.

What do you think of Clapton’s music nowadays?

I don’t know his new stuff that well. I thought 461 Ocean Boulevard was pretty pleasant. I quite enjoyed it as background music, but it wasn’t guitar players’ music; it wasn’t what I was used to.

And take that thing “Cocaine”–the solo on that was garbage. J.J. Cale does a much tastier solo, and I know Eric could play the shit out of him. Eric could play the shit out of everybody if he wanted to, but it’s just like, “Oh no, I can’t be bothered.” That’s what I get from his records anyways. He seems to have lost it. He’s had it all beaten out of him over the years, I think. It’s just one of those things.

One thought on “Fastway’s “Fast” Eddie Clarke on his days with Motörhead and not wanting to be a guitar hero

Leave a Reply