Fast Eddie Clarke

Edward Allan Clarke (5 October 1950 – 10 January 2018), better known as “Fast” Eddie Clarke, was a British guitarist who was a member of heavy metal bands Fastway and Motörhead. Of Motörhead’s classic lineup, which consisted of Lemmy, himself and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, he was the last surviving member.

Early days

Clarke began playing guitar and, by the time he was fifteen years old, had been through many local bands, one of which was called The Bitter End. He continued playing local gigs until 1973, when he turned professional by joining Curtis Knight’s blues prog rock band, Zeus, as lead guitarist. In 1974, the band recorded an album called The Second Coming at Olympic Studios. Clarke wrote the music to Knight’s lyrics, on a track entitled “The Confession”.

Clarke recorded the album Sea of Time with Zeus. Later with guitarist friend Allan Callan, keyboard player Nicky Hogarth, and drummer Chris Perry, Clarke attended a recorded jam session at Command Studios in Piccadilly. As a result of the tracks from this session, the quartet secured a deal with Anchor Records, and called the band Blue Goose. With a recording contract secured, Clarke, Hogarth and Perry left Zeus to focus on their own project with Callan.

Clarke soon formed another band with Be-Bop Deluxe bassist, Charlie Tumahai, vocalist Ann McCluskie and Jim Thompson on drums. Called Continuous Performance, this line up lasted until early 1975, when their demo tracks failed to secure them a record deal and the band split up. Still out to secure a record deal, Clarke then formed a group with Nicky Hogarth from Blue Goose, bass player Tony Cussons and drummer Terry Slater. Their efforts to get a deal were also unsuccessful, and Clarke temporarily gave up the music industry.

Motörhead

Clarke was working on re-fitting a houseboat, when he met drummer Phil Taylor, who had recently joined Motörhead and introduced Clarke to Lemmy. Not long after, he was playing with them. In the early days Eddie rehearsed with Motörhead, before going on the road, at Snobs Rehearsal Studios, part of a converted brewery on the corner of Kings Road and Lots Road, Chelsea, known as the “Furniture Cave”. Motörhead’s popularity increased along with their UK chart successes. The threesome (Lemmy, Clarke, Taylor) are considered the classic Motörhead line-up and have the Motörhead, Overkill, Ace of Spades, Bomber, No Sleep ’til Hammersmith and Iron Fist albums plus a string of hit singles to their credit.

He performed a lead vocal on five Motörhead songs: “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” (on which he traded vocals with Lemmy), “I’m Your Witchdoctor” (on which he duets vocals with Lemmy), “Step Down” and an alternative version of “Stone Dead Forever” (which later appeared on the Bomber Deluxe Edition), and “Emergency” one of the B-side tracks on The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre EP, upon which they performed “Please Don’t Touch”, with Girlschool, under the combined band names of HeadGirl.

Departure from Motörhead

Clarke left Motörhead in 1982, whilst on tour of the United States. Becoming unhappy at the results of the Iron Fist album, the recording sessions with the Plasmatics were the final straw. For the B-side of the Stand By Your Man EP the bands took turns in covering each other’s songs, Clarke felt that this compromised the band’s principles and resigned. According to Joel McIver, Clarke himself later denied this version of events and had said: ” was the main instigator in my being excluded from the band. Notice I do not call it leaving, as it was not my choice. I had imagined dying onstage with Motörhead, so it was a blow when they didn’t want me in the band any longer.” Clarke was replaced by former Thin Lizzy and Wild Horses lead guitarist Brian Robertson after Anvil frontman Steve “Lips” Kudlow turned down the offer to play with Motörhead. Clarke’s last gig with Motörhead took place at the New York Palladium on 14 May 1982. Another cameo from Clarke on a later Motörhead album was on 2000s Live at Brixton Academy, released in 2003, on which the band featured many guest appearances from other guitarists, of which he was one, playing on the songs “No Class”, “The Chase Is Better Than the Catch” and “Overkill”.

Fastway

Hearing that UFO bassist Pete Way was keen to leave that band, the two met and decided their new band’s name would be an amalgamation of their own two names, resulting in Fastway. They advertised in the music press for a drummer and a vocalist. Meanwhile, a rehearsal was organised for which The Clash drummer, Topper Headon, filled in on drums. The ads began showing positive results, cassettes from potential band members arrived; one of these was from a young singer named Dave King.
Clarke was impressed with his voice and financed a trip to London for King and, after an audition together, King became the Fastway vocalist. Ex-Humble Pie member, Jerry Shirley, became the drummer. The band sent out demo tapes and were approached by CBS Records for a recording deal. Way announced his departure just as they were about to sign the deal, but CBS had faith in Fastway and decided to sign them despite this setback.

Touring had been strenuous for the band and, upon returning to Britain, they decided to split. Clarke stayed in London and soon received a call from King about giving Fastway another go. Clarke agreed and moved to Ireland. With another album for CBS in view, they rehearsed with three of King’s friends. The record label was happy with the sound and had them record at London’s Abbey Road Studios with Producer Terry Manning, releasing Waiting for the Roar in 1986. Clarke toured America with Fastway, supporting AC/DC, followed by a lengthy European tour, which produced 1992’s Say What You Will – Live album. Fastway were also engaged to provide music for the Trick Or Treat film soundtrack, for which they composed the title track and performed “Heft” and “If You Could See” from their albums.

Later days

After the band split up again, Clarke moved back to London and met up with Lea Hart, a solo artist in the Far East. Clarke’s record deals had now expired, so the pair took a demo tape to Douglas Smith (Clarke’s former Motörhead manager) at GWR Records, who willingly signed a deal. Still using the name Fastway, they recorded the On Target album. It featured Don Airey and Paul Airey on keyboards, Neil Murray on bass, plus Bram Tchaikovsky of The Motors and Christine Byford as backing vocalists.

Clarke’s group now consisted of Riff Raff on drums, keyboards and bass, plus assorted friends helping out; Biff Byford and Nigel Glockler of Saxon, Don Airey, and Kim McAuliffe and Cris Bonacci of Girlschool. Following the production of two albums, Clarke and Hart split up.

However, the excesses he had indulged in with Motörhead had taken their toll, and led to Clarke being admitted to hospital, spending time afterwards in recuperation. Having recovered, Clarke released a solo album, It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over, which blends Motörhead and Fastway styles. Lemmy also helped out on the album by writing and singing the track “Laugh at the Devil”. The double CD release, Fast Eddie Clarke Anthology, on Sanctuary Records showcased a collection of Clarke’s music spanning his career before and after Motörhead. It also marked a return to live performances with a re-formed Fastway, including an appearance at the UK’s Download Festival in summer 2007.

In 2014, Clarke went back to his blues roots and released a new studio album through Secret Records. Make My Day: Back To Blues was a collaboration between Clarke and the keyboardist from Shakatak, Bill Sharpe. Clarke reunited with Lemmy on 6 November 2014 at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham to play the Motörhead track, “Ace of Spades”. Clarke also played on the Warfare album by Evo released in 2017 and 2018 a single by Warfare entitled Misanthropy (The Fast Eddie Clarke Mix).

Death

Clarke died on 10 January 2018, aged 67, in a hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia.

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