90’s was a strange decade that the new status in politics and society described by huge changes that couldn’t leave extreme sound unaffected. Metal wasn’t the music of cools guys anymore (of course you can be one those who think that burning churches is a cool thing…). Neither had the strength to be the voice of the underdogs. Thankfully Death and Black metal could gather the problem children under their dark wings and the spirit of underground as well kept as in terms of artistic view 90’s turned to be experimental, brave and progressive with a plethora of sub genres giving birth to hundreds of worth exploring bands around the globe.
But what about big names? Iron Maiden after the big success of Fear of the Dark in 1992 in two years finally in mid-90’s were playing in small venues, Slayer were never so popular or better saying their sales were always by far lower than the other big names while they were in the hardcore years and only short haired Metallica could make sold out tours in arenas despite the Load album release. Priest couldn’t capitalize Painkiller’s aura, Manowar were fighting to sound louder than hell, AC/DC were turning from teenagers favorites into teenagers father’s favorite band and Sabbath were releasing gems that concerned only die-hards before Ice T jammed in the studio with them and just before the disaster, Ozzy saved the day for them.
As far as for Motörhead, Lemmy was a resident of Los Angeles since 1989 and the contract with Sony made them less edgy for many of their fans even though 1916, March or Die and especially Bastards were really good albums. The band was of course popular and the only complaining voices were talking about over trying to sound modern as the guitars on Sacrifice were annoying some of their old school fanatics.
Bollocks! For all those who we were there in 1995, “Sacrifice” was a blast! And all who disagree with it can taste in their asses Snaggletooth’s cocky tongue as it is painted in Sacrifice’s artwork cover. Speaking of Snaggletooth for my generation Overnight Sensation was the album that hadn’t the bands mascot on the cover. Please notice that it was the first album since 1980’s “Ace of Spades” with Snaggletooth missing from its cover and featuring a picture of Lemmy without his trademark mutton chops. (He regrew them in 2001 and would retain them until his death.)
It is also the album that Motörhead return as a power trio, after the departure of Würzel (Michael Burston) in 1995. Lemmy talked about the return to being a three piece: «It went the same as a four-piece except one guy wasn’t there! Or the same as the Everly Brothers plus one. It was a bit more fraught, but that was just because Phil, being the only guitarist, felt that there was a lot riding on his shoulders (which there was). So he was under added pressure, but he proved himself well. Overnight Sensation is a great album for him. Mikkey was his usual perfect self – he always finishes his drums tracks well ahead of schedule. This time around he did them in one day.»
It took Lemmy about four weeks to write new songs and four weeks for the band to record in the studio. The album was Motörhead’s third album with producer Howard Benson. Rock solid, dirty but not muddy the production was one of the highlights of this release.
“Overnight Sensation” is the thirteenth studio album by Motörhead. It was released on 15 October 1996 via Steamhammer, their second on the label and probably the album with the best distribution for years.
The album starts with the pedal to the metal stomper “Civil War” that had an outsider help on composing it Swedish Erotica guitarist Magnus Axx and that has a similar aggressive attitude with 1995’s album opener Sacrifice. The follower “Crazy Like a Fox” is pure rock ‘n roller (you can hear even a brief Lemmy’s harmonica solo here) with a playful mood that makes you want to dance to its groove. Then comes one of the finest moments of Motörhead. The mid tempo megatherium “I Don’t Believe A Word”. Excellent slow rhythm and personal lyrics. An essential instant classic with the characteristic haunting vocals and simple but brilliant chorus. “Eat the Gun” turn things again fast, filthy (musically speaking) and radical as the lyrics rant against idiot American gun laws. A really strong composition that is a hidden gem among so many great songs in the band’s catalogue. “Overnight Sensation” that closes the A’ side of the album is considered to be now a classic and it was also a big success back in its day. B’ side starts with “ Love Can’t Buy You Money” where Lemmy creates street poetry once again upon some Campell’s excellent riffs. “Broken” that follows is probably one of the best songs of the album and fans favorites in live set lists. What a groove, what a hymn of Rock n roll! “Them not me” has pummeling drums that makes you want to smash everything around you. Again this song could have been written in the Sacrifice sessions. “Murder Show” is pure boogying rock ‘n’ roll metal song and it is a kind of a glance from the future as Motörhead have written later many songs with this certain formula (boogy rhythm – melodic riff – catchy chorus), songs that will appear from 2000 and onwards in their albums until the end of the band. “Shake the World” has a tremendous intro before the double bass madness was unleashed creating a successful combination of Motörhead’s classic sound with a slightly modern touch bringing in mind “Orgasmatron”, while the closer “Listen To Your Heart” features some acoustic guitars and has a soft approaching yet is an interesting (and surprising) song.
The bands members’ performance is brilliant. The flawless and technical drumming by Mikkey Dee enriched the dynamic that Phil Campbell’s riffs impulses, while Campbell’s role was after Wurzel’s departure definitely upgraded and he managed to response 100% to this weight upon his shoulders. This certain line up was together for almost 20 years before Lemmy’s death end its story, making it a classic lineup pt2 standing equal to the bands legendary Lemmy-Fast Eddie-Philthy trio. This makes even more important the release of “Overnight Sensation”. The album that nearly broke up them for being too «Pop».
According to Mickey Dee in an interview with Drum for the Song hosted by Campbell’s son Dane, he and Campbell thought Overnight Sensation was «fairly soft» sounding and had «fucking pop melodies.» Dee later said he quit the band a few times during the Overnight Sensation sessions and told Lemmy he’d just have to finish the album himself.
“I believe I left the band two, three times on that period. And I think your dad (Phil Campell’s) did the same thing. We said, ‘Fuck it, Lemmy, you can do this fucking record yourself. We don’t give a shit anymore.’ It was a tough time.”
In the end, as we all expected Campell and Dee just shut their fuckin’ mouths and did the right thing…”obey your leader” kind of situation that after all created (another) special and unique gem in Motörhead’s discotheque. 25 years and a couple of months later “Overnight Sensation” still stands proud in every metalhead’s record collection.