Monday, 29 January 2018

Fast Eddie Clarke; A Legend Remembered

"I ain't no beauty, but I'm a secret fox"

Fast Eddie Clarke meant a lot to many people. Not just Motörhead fans of a certain age, but also to anyone who was moved by the fat, biting electric guitar tone that he purveyed. His meat and potatoes phrasing was a delight to behold, providing the kind of sustenance that few speed merchants could hope to offer. Simply put, the man had depth and feel in his playing.

A native Londoner, Clarke first came to public attention with Curtis Knight's outfit Zeus. Brief stints with the likes of Blue Goose and Continuous Performance followed, but before long he was reduced scuffling for work outside of music. While renovating a house boat in Battersea, he was invited to try out for a new band called Motörhead. Clarke later admitted that he initially didn't give the group's musical direction a second thought, impressed as he was with Lemmy Kilmister's already considerable reputation. Once the unhappy Larry Wallis had removed himself from the equation, a trio of like-minded souls were left to focus their energies on the future. 

In Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor, Clarke had a willing accomplice in all manner of debauchery, not to mention an occasional sparring partner. There are countless anecdotes of the pair angrily trading blows, only to swiftly settle their differences and continue drinking together unperturbed. Musically, the three characters developed a unique chemistry that remains unmatched to this day. Raw power, unbridled energy and shameless swagger, with Clarke's blues-drenched soloing at the fore. 

By 1982, relations in the band had soured and, depending on whom one believes, Fast Eddie Clarke either left or was edged out. Motörhead fans were appalled by the situation, but it seemed there was no going back. Clarke wasted no time in assembling Fastway, pursuing a noticeably different approach. Cynics anticipating a feeble Motörhead re-tread were quickly silenced as the man revealed a versatility few had imagined him capable of. With the powerful vocals of teenager Dave King and Humble Pie's Jerry Shirley handling drum duties, stylistically the group presented a fresh take on the classic hard rock music of the 1970s. They went on to be very successful in North America.

Gradually the rigours of the road and a tireless drinking schedule intervened, and Fastway endured a series of break-ups and line-up changes throughout the late eighties and early nineties. A solo album, It Ain't Over Till It's Over, appeared in 1994 but for the most part Mr Clarke withdrew from public life until the reformation of Fastway in 2007, this time with Little Angels frontman Toby Jepson. A second solo release, the self-explanatory Make My Day: Back To Blues, emerged in 2014 followed by an appearance on Evo's Warfare album three years later.

Edward Allan Clarke died of pneumonia at the age of sixty-seven on January 10th, 2018.

'Fast' Eddie Clarke: 5th October 1950 ~ 10th January 2018

Writer: George Colwan

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