Loudwire.com reports that guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke, of Motörhead and Fastway fame, died on the evening of Jan.10 from complications of pneumonia. Clarke was 67.
Clarke was the third and final member of Motörhead’s original lineup to pass away. Both Lemmy Kilmister and Phil Taylor died in 2015. It is a sad day for fans of the band and marks the end of an era.
Motörhead formed in 1975, and Clarke remained with the band through its first five albums. According to loudwire.com, Clarke is credited with infusing Motörhead’s sound with punk speed.
In the early 1980s, Clarke joined forces with UFO’s bassist, Pete Way, and together, they formed Fastway. (Fastway was a play on Clarke’s nickname and Way’s last name).
In 1983, Fastway blasted onto television screens via MTV. Ironically, Way was under contract elsewhere, and couldn’t participate in Fastway. The band that partially bore his name continued under the direction of Clarke. Clarke along with former Humble Pie drummer, Jerry Shirley, and singer Dave King (now with Flogging Molly), continued Fastway after recruiting session musician Mike Feat to play bass.
While Clarke’s work with Motörhead is impressive, his contributions to the Fastway single, “Say What You Will,” are mind-blowing. The guitar riff that distinguishes Fastway and “Say What You Will” from all of hard rock and heavy metal. There is an aggressive edge to the guitar chords that adds to the track’s big sound. The strength of the instrumentation is necessary because of King’s huge voice and raw delivery. It is as if every aspect of the instrumentation, including the vocals and bass, are upfront. The approach to “Say What You Will” makes the song a literal example of in-your-face rock ‘n’ roll.
After several years, Shirley, and Feat’s replacement, Charlie McCracken of the band Taste, left Fastway. Clarke is credited with restarting the band with a different approach. The blues-based, fast-paced riffs were gone. In their place was a supposedly radio-friendly sound that made the band sound like album-oriented rock. This didn’t sit well with fans and the new version of Fastway wasn’t as popular.
But record sales and changing public taste cannot change the fact that Clarke was a stellar guitarist. I remember hearing “Say What You Will” as a child and watching the video. That guitar part stands out – – in a good way. There was something aggressive and skillful about it that hasn’t been replicated by anyone.
Clearly, Clarke made important contributions to the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll. Each band that he played in became iconic and inspired thousands of devoted fans. However, that all the original members of Motörhead are gone is shocking. Clarke was among the best of a certain generation of guitarists and his sound will never be duplicated.
Clarke was 67 years old.