Motorhead Guitarist 'Fast' Eddie Clarke Dead at 67
Member on classic albums succumbs to pneumonia while hospitalized.
Fast" Eddie Clarke, the Motörhead guitarist featured on many of the band's classic albums and a founding member of Fastway, died Wednesday. He was 67.
"We are devastated to pass on the news we only just heard ourselves earlier tonight. Edward Allan Clarke - or as we all know and love him Fast Eddie Clarke - passed away peacefully yesterday," the group wrote. "Fast Eddie...keep roaring, rockin' and rollin' up there as goddamit man, your Motörfamily would expect nothing less!!!"
Clarke, who was born in London in 1950 and started playing guitar seriously at age 15, was the last surviving member of Motörhead's classic trio, with Kilmister and drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor dying in 2015. Prior to joining the group, he'd played in a band called the Bitter End and another called Curtis Knight and Zeus, among others. He joined Motörhead in 1976, one year after the band's formation, to augment original guitarist Larry Wallis' sound after meeting Taylor when the drummer applied for a job on a houseboat Clarke was working on. After Wallis quit, the group released its self-titled debut in 1977. Clarke earned the nickname "Fast" Eddie at an early Manchester gig ("It was logical," Kilmister wrote in his autobiography, "Eddie was a fast guitar player"). He would serve as Motörhead's guitarist, and occasional singer, for the next five years as the band's popularity grew.
The guitarist's snarling rock & roll riffing complemented Kilmister's stuttering bass line on "Ace of Spades," wailing in agony as the frontman sang about holding a "dead man's hand" – the song became Motörhead's signature. Similarly, he added bluesy textures to the pummeling "Overkill" – a tune later covered by Metallica – and funky, John Lee Hooker–like riffage to fan favorite "No Class." A live version of the band's eponymous song, Kilmister's revved-up ode to amphetamines, taken from No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith was the band's highest-charting single in the UK.
It was during Clarke's tenure with the band that Motörhead got the reputation of being one of the loudest bands in rock. "Man, it wasn't our fault," he recalled in the band's biography Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers. "I was forever trying ... to hear myself, so I was forever adding fucking amps over my side, and Lemmy was just adding more and more on his side, and then Phil [Taylor] had bigger monitors. It was ... each one of us, because we never interfered with each other's stuff."
Clarke's last album with Motörhead was 1982's Iron Fist, after which Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson took his spot. Band tensions played a role in Clarke's departure and the final straw for the guitarist was reportedly Motörhead's decision to partner with the Plasmatics for an EP featuring a cover of Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man." "I thought Motörhead was in danger of becoming a laughingstock," Clarke said in Beer Drinkers. "But they were already thinking like it wasn't my band [too] anymore. The bastards."
Beyond playing guitar, Clarke also worked as an recording producer, working with the heavy-metal band Tank on their "Don't Walk Away" single (later covered by Sodom) and other Tank releases. He would go on to produce Assassin and Miss Daisy alongside co-producing Motörhead's On Parole album and much of the Fastway discography.
Clarke released a solo album, It Ain't Over Till It's Over, in 1994, which notably found him reuniting with Kilmister on "Laugh at the Devil." Clarke would continue to record and perform over the next few decades, releasing solo records and reuniting with Fastway. His last LP, Make My Day – Back to Blues, arrived in 2014.