Alan Burridge of the Motorheadbangers Fan Club investigates the recordings of guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke outside of his time with Motorhead.
Inspired, firstly by Eric Clapton, then later by Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Clarke began a guitar-playing career around his hometown of Twickenham in Middlesex. By the time he was 15, Eddie had been through many local bands, one of whom went under the name of The Bitter End.
Eddie continued gigging around locally until 1973, when he turned professional by joining Curtis Knight’s band, Zeus, as lead guitarist. This was an incredible turn of coincidence for Eddie, as most rock fans will probably know that Jimi Hendrix played with Curtis Knight’s band, The Squires, during his pre-Experience days, so for Eddie, this was a particularly poignant step to take. Other personnel in the Zeus line-up at the time were Chris Perry (drums), Nicky Hogarth (keyboards) and John Weir (bass).
During his 18-month stint with Curtis Knight and Zeus, Eddie and the band recorded an album titled The Second Coming at Olympic Studios during March 1974. The Clarke guitar style is indelibly stamped within the songs on this album, and Eddie also wrote the music to Curtis’ lyrics on the track titled The Confession. Eddie also appeared on the single, Devil Made Me Do It, which had an album track, Oh Rainbow, as the flip side. A further album titled Sea Of Time was also recorded and released, but only in Europe where the band was very popular.
Whilst still with Zeus, a guitarist friend, Allan Callan, invited keyboard player, Nicky Hogarth, and drummer, Chris Perry, to a jam session at Command Studios in Piccadilly. Four tracks came out of this session, three of which were complete except for the addition of bass and vocals. In fact, the tracks were that good that the quartet managed to secure a deal with Anchor Records, and called the band Blue Goose.
With the Anchor contract in their pocket, Eddie, Nicky and Chris left Zeus to concentrate on their own project with Allan Callan. Curtis Knight was outraged at this mutiny, so much so that he put the word around that if he ever met up with them again he would beat them up for leaving him in the lurch.
Allan Callan had no amps of his own, so Eddie allowed him to share his during rehearsals. This later flared into an argument as Eddie found it impossible to hear his solos as Callan was drowning him out. The upshot of this ended in Eddie being sacked. However, within a few days, the band had asked him to re-join them, but he refused as he felt that they, as a band, were doing Anchor an injustice in that they had been paid an advance for the recording of an album, but at the time they had made no moves towards doing so.
The self titled Blue Goose album was released by Anchor in 1974. The only reminder of Eddie’s time with the band was an instrumental track titled Over The Top, credited to Clarke-Hogarth-Perry, and is nothing like the Motorhead track sharing the same title.
Almost immediately after the high noon with Blue Goose, Eddie formed another band with Be Bop Deluxe bassist, Charlie Tumalhi, Ann McCluskie on vocals and Jim Thompson on drums, under the name of Continuous Performance. This liaison lasted through to early 1975 when their demo tracks failed to secure a suitable record deal. The band, as such, then folded, but Eddie enlisted Nicky Hogarth from Blue Goose to try again with Tony Cussons (bass) and Terry Slater (drums). Sadly, the line-up suffered the same fate that led to Continuous Performance disbanding and Eddie giving up the music business for a short while.
During that time, Eddie worked on re-fitting a houseboat, where he met a drummer by the name of Phil Taylor. This led on to Eddie joining Motorhead, with whom he recorded the Motorhead, Overkill, Ace Of Spades, Bomber, No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith and Iron Fist albums plus a string of hit singles. He left the band some six and a half years later midst an American tour after being unhappy with the results of the Iron Fist album and also the recording sessions with Punk Priestess, Wendy O Williams, and her band, The Plasmatics. Eddie’s Motorhead recordings are well documented in Record Collector issues #140 and #167.
During November 1993, a recording was released from mid-1978 featuring Fast Eddie Clarke (guitar), Phil Taylor (drums), Speedy Keen (guitar / vocals) and Billy Wrath (bass). Besides the fact that Eddie and Phil were two thirds of Motorhead, Speedy had a monstrous #1 hit with the Thunderclap Newman band titled Something In The Air, and Billy had played with both Iggy Pop and The Heartbreakers.
At the time, Motorhead were having management problems and were, in effect, ‘on ice;’ unable to do anything. The four musicians rehearsed a bunch of songs together at The Rainbow in London, then played a few gigs supporting Wilko Johnson’s Solid Senders. One such gig, at a birthday party for Lady Alexandra Reading, took place in Oxford and was recorded on the Manor Mobile Studio.
The tapes, containing 5 of Speedy’s original songs plus covers of the rock standards Summertime Blues and Something Else, plus Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl, lay gathering dust in the vaults for 15 years. When it was unearthed and investigations pointed to how rare the tape actually was, steps were taken to ensure its release.
The quartet of musicians had performed under the dubious name of The Muggers at the few gigs they’d played. The tape, released as a ‘Strictly Limited Edition Free CD – The Legendary Mugger’s Tapes’ was released as part of a double ‘The Best of Motorhead – All The Aces’ CD package. The Motorhead connection had to be made, had it not, then few would have known who The Muggers were. The CD is not only for fans of Fast Eddie, Philthy and Motorhead, but also all rock fans in general as the recording is a great timepiece of a long, lost rock ‘n’ roll era.
Fast Eddie Clarke’s last gig with Motorhead took place at the New York Palladium on May 14th, 1982. (The gig before that has been recorded and released on video as Live In Toronto). After flying back to England, Eddie had no idea which avenue his career would take. For a while, whenever he picked up his guitar, all he could play were riffs which sounded as if they belonged to Motorhead.
However, after keeping his ear to the ground, Eddie heard that UFO bassist, Pete way, was keen to leave the band after some 13 years. The two musicians got together and decided that an amalgamation of their two names their new band would be called Fastway.
Advertisements were placed in the music press to find both a drummer and vocalist. Meanwhile, a rehearsal was organised for which Clash drummer, Topper Headon, deputised on drums. Topper did this as no more than a favour so that Eddie and Pete could rehearse. The music paper adverts began showing positive response and produced a deluge of cassettes from hopeful musicians. But Pete Way had heard through the grapevine that ex-Humble Pie drummer, Jerry Shirley, was on the lookout to find a new band, so he became signed up immediately.
The audition tapes were checked through and brought a young, Dublin based singer by the name of Dave King to the band’s attention. Eddie financed a trip to London for Dave and, after an audition together, he became the Fastway vocalist.
The band were, at last, complete. After hearing their demo tape, Fastway were approached by CBS with a view to a recording deal. As the band were about to put pen to paper to sign the contract, Pete Way announced that he was leaving the band in favour of playing bass for Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Oz. This really threw the cat among the pigeons at such a crucial time, but CBS had the faith in Fastway to sign them despite this setback.
To enable the band to complete their recording sessions, the talents of Mickey Feat, a session bassist who Jerry Shirley knew, were enlisted whilst they continued looking for a replacement bass player.
The Easy Livin’ single was released during March 1983 in a limited edition, poster sleeve along with another album track, Say What You Will, on the flip side. A 12” pressing was also released with a non-album bonus cut, Far, Far From Home, which has remained unavailable in any other form.
The Fastway album reflected Eddie’s playing still with the cutting edge, which had been his Motorhead trademark. But he surprised many fans with slower numbers such as Heft, a blues-laden beast of a track; quite the reverse to the speed of playing in his Motorhead days.
With Dave King, Eddie found himself the mirror of his favourite vocalist, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. Due to this remarkable similarity, Fastway were often accused of being Led Zeppelin copyists, but like Robert Plant, Dave’s voice had a unique quality and appeal which became a trademark for a few more albums.
The Fastway album achieved success in America where the band toured for 3 months or so with Iron Maiden and Saxon, playing medium sized venues; followed by a further 3 month stint around the stadiums with AC/DC.
However, the problems with finding a permanent bass player had still not been resolved for these tours, so Fastway temporarily recruited the services of Alfie Agius, who had been bassist with Teardrop explodes. Eventually, when a second album was on the cards, the band found themselves a reliable and excellent bassist in ex-Taste mainstay, Charlie McCracken.
All Fired Up was recorded with this line-up at the Townhouse Studios and, like its predecessor, was produced by Eddie Kramer. The album proved a good step forward for the band, making excellent headway in the American charts.
Naturally, Fastway picked up on this and toured the States again with Rush, The Scorpions, Ratt, and Billy Squier, which also included a prestigious show at New York’s Madison Square Gardens. However, luck was not with Eddie again. The extremely long and arduous touring had taken its toll on the band, and, upon their return to Great Britain, Fastway, as it was, had had enough and called it a day. Dave King returned to Dublin and Eddie stayed in London; they needed a break to sit and look at what they wanted to do and to find out where they wanted to go.
After a short time, Eddie received a call from Dave suggesting they give Fastway another shot. Eddie had the same idea in mind and, at Dave’s suggestion, decided to temporarily move to Ireland to use it as a base for the band. CBS still had the option for another Fastway album, and Eddie and Dave had rehearsed with three of Dave’s old friends: Shane Carroll (guitar and keyboards), Paul Reid (bass) and Alan Connor (drums). Upon hearing a rough demo of some of the proposed new compositions, CBS took up their option for a third album, which was recorded at London’s Abbey Road studios. The sessions resulted in the 1986 release, Waiting For The Roar.
The album was far more keyboard orientated than Fastway’s previous works, coupled with the use of a 58 piece orchestra, it veered too far away from the original, solid, guitar based sound and failed to achieve the same success. However, the band toured America once more with AC/DC, then followed it up with a lengthy European excursion.
From this tour came the 1992 Receiver Records release of the Say What You Will – Live album, which, although taken from a mixing desk tape, highlights exactly the true excitement of a Fastway gig. The release contains an excellent cross-section of the band’s most classic tracks, including: Say What You Will, Easy Livin’ All Fired Up, Waiting For The Roar and also the powerful and atmospheric The World Waits For You, amongst others.
Whilst this Fastway line-up stood intact, the band were asked to provide music for the Trick Or Treat movie soundtrack. The film starred Mark price and Tony Fields and also featured special guest appearances by Gene Simmons of Kiss, and Ozzy Osbourne. Fastway compositions included the Trick Or Treat title track, plus Heft from the Fastway album, and If You Could See from All Fired Up.
Unfortunately and inevitably, Fastway split for the final time. Eddie moved back to London to consider any options he had left with the Fastway name.
But luck was with him, and he met up with a musician by the name of Lea Hart, who had achieved considerable success as a solo artiste in the Far East.
He deal with CBS had now expired, so Eddie and Lea took a demo tape to the then newly formed GWR Record label, which had Douglas Smith, Eddie’s former Motorhead manager, at the helm.
Douglas was impressed with what he heard, and had naturally kept tabs on Eddie’s Fastway work since his days with Motorhead. A deal was secured and led to the recording of the impressive On Target album. Eddie’s guitar work and the album as a whole was a return to pre-Waiting For The Roar Fastway. Lea’s vocals were just as high as Dave King’s, but lacked the rich texture. However, this was by no means detrimental to the album, which contained ten superb tracks.
The album also boasted an impressive list of guest musicians; among them, Don and Paul Airey on keyboards, Neil Murray on bass, Bram Tchaikovsky of The Motors on backing vocals, and Christine Byford, wife of Saxon’s Biff, taking backing vocals on the She Is Danger track.
On Target achieved a fair degree of success, enough to encourage GWR to secure Fastway for a further album. Bad, Bad Girls was released by GWR subsidiary label, Legacy, and was equally as fine an album as its predecessor.
Besides Eddie and Lea, the band consisted of Riff Raff on drums, keyboards and bass, plus an assortment of friends helping out; Biff Byford and Nigel Glockner from Saxon, the return of Don Airey, and also Kim McAuliffe and Kris Bonacci from Girlschool.
After this pair of albums, Eddie and Lea were to part company, albeit on good terms. Regrettably, Eddie’s Motorhead days of drinking caught up with him and led to some time both in hospital and recuperation. But, tenacious as ever, Eddie decided that he would put Fastway on ice for a while to record a solo album.
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over is a knockout album of self-penned tracks, blending both Motorhead and Fastway styles into a heady melting pot of Eddie Clarke style rock. One of the tracks, Laugh At The Devil, heals some old wounds as it features Lemmy as guest vocalist; he also wrote the lyrics.
All in all, Fast Eddie Clarke’s recording career has had its fair share of twists and turns, highs and disappointments. Fortunately, his tenacity has seen him through it, and I feel sure that the solo album will bring his name to the attention of the rock devotees.
FAST EDDIE CLARKE DISCOGRAPHY
Singles: With Curtis Knight and Zeus.
Dawn DNS 1049. Devil Made Me Do It / Oh Rainbow – 1974.
Dawn DNS 1065. People, Places and Things / Mysterious Lady – 1974.
Singles: With Fastway.
CBS A3196. Easy Livin’ / Say What You Will – poster bag – 3/83.
CBS A13-3196. Easy Livin’ / Say What You Will / Far, Far From Home – 3/83.
Albums: With Curtis Knight and Zeus.
Dawn DNLS 3060. The Second Coming – 1974.
Philips 6305 208. Sea Of Time – 1974, Europe only.
Albums with The Muggers.
Castle CTVCD 125/1. The Muggers Tapes – November 1993.
Albums with Fastway.
CBS 25359. Fastway – with Limited edition patch – 4/83.
CBS 25958. All Fired Up – 1984.
CBS 26654. Waiting For The Roar – 1986.
CBS 450444-1. Trick Or Treat soundtrack album – 1986.
GWRCD 22. On Target – 1988.
Legacy LLCD 130. Bad, Bad Girls – 1990.
Dojo LOMACD 6. On Target / Bad, Bad Girls (2 for 1 CD re-issue) – 1992.
Fast Eddie Clarke Solo Album.
Chequered Flag CHFCD 100. It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over – October 1993.