Like many rock fans ‘of a certain age’ shall we say, I was shocked to hear of the passing of former Motörhead drummer Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor at just 61. He had actually parted company with the band for the second (and final) time in 1992 but remained indelibly associated with that group, as part of the classic Lemmy/’Fast’ Eddie Clarke/Philthy line-up that cut such albums as ‘Overkill’ and ‘Ace of Spades’.
Motörhead during this period were considered the heaviest of the Heavy Metal bands around at that time, despite frontman Lemmy’s repeated insistence that they were playing nothing more than ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ – albeit very loud, hard rock ‘n’ roll. Nonetheless their influence on later Metal bands is undeniable, especially those associated with the Speed/Thrash scene of the early-to-mid 1980s. The double-bass drum attack intro to ‘Overkill’ directly inspired drummers such as Metallica’s Lars Ulrich. During 1980, ‘Philthy’ suffered a neck injury when, following some post-gig shenanigans, he was dropped on his head, He actually broke his neck but – amazingly – continued to play whilst wearing a neck brace; the band even dubbed one of their tours ‘The Short Sharp Pain In The Neck Tour’!
The classic line-up lasted only until 1982 however; following their triumphant live album ‘No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith’ which topped the UK album charts in 1981 differences between the trio began to emerge. First to quit was guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie, replaced in controversial fashion by former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian ‘Robbo’ Robertson. This line-up lasted less than a year, resulting in the ‘Another Perfect Day’ album of 1983, but on the road ‘Robbo’ refused to dress the part, and the collaboration soon ended when both he and ‘Philthy’ quit, leaving Lemmy to rebuild the band.
‘Philthy’ was brought back into the fold at Lemmy’s request in 1987, replacing Pete Gill who had been part of the reconstituted, four-strong Motörhead since 1984. He appeared on the 1987 album ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’, but by the next album, ‘1916’ which saw Lemmy relocate to the United States, he was on his way out once again. Mainman Lemmy was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Taylor’s playing and made the decision to replace him with new drummer Mikkey Dee, who remains with Motörhead to this day. On the completed album, ‘Philthy’ appears on only one track, ‘I Ain’t No Nice Guy’.
He played only sporadically from then on, appearing in numerous short-lived projects including one with former W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes, but in later years suffered from health problems. Following his passing on 11 November 2015, his old bandmate ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke posted on Facebook:
“My dear friend and brother passed away last night. He had been ill for sometime but that does not make it any easier when the time finally comes. I have known Phil since he was 21 and he was one hell of a character. Fortunately we made some fantastic music together and I have many many fond memories of our time together. Rest in Peace, Phil!”
There are countless bands who were directly influenced by the proto-Thrash sound of ‘Philthy’-era Motörhead and his legacy will be that thunderous, relentless double bass drum sound he brought to the Metal scene.
Motörhead – ‘Overkill’