Fast Eddie Clarke Back to the Blues

By Jeb Wright

Fast Eddie Clark is the man behind the iconic metal guitar riff “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead.  After being ousted by that band, he formed Fastway and had his most commercial success with that band.  Since then… well… there have been albums here and there, but nothing of note that compares with his past.  Still, he’s Fast Eddie Clarke!  He is the man that was next to Lemmy when Motorhead mattered most.

Now, in 2014, Eddie has gone back to basics and released a well done and accomplished album of rocking blues.  This is the music that this guitarist was weaned on.  It’s a fun album and a unique look into what makes this guitar player tick. 

In the interview that follows, Eddie talks in depth about what blues mean to him, why he went this direction with his music, how he ended up singing on the album and what his future holds.

We also talk about the problem with lead singers, his days with Motorhead and Fastway, and how he garnered the moniker Fast Eddie in the first place. 

Jeb:  Fast Eddie Clarke the Bluesman!  How does it feel to be back to the Blues?

Fast Eddie: I have really enjoyed making this record, remembering all the things you thought you had forgotten. The great thing was how easy it was to feel comfortable playing with Bill Sharpe, playing stuff I cut my teeth on. So it is great to be doing it again.

Jeb:  This album got put-off and put-off and put-off, and finally you got it done.  Tell me about how Bill was instrumental in getting this off the ground.

Fast Eddie: Bill is a real gentleman and very patient. I am one of those people that get really excited about something and then, if it does not happen at once, I am on to the next thing.

But, I have to say, this project kept nagging me to finish it. Bill was great, as he was always up for carrying on.

Jeb:  You played Blues way back with Curtis Knight.  Was it fun to explore this genre again?

Fast Eddie: I was amazed! It was a bit like riding a bike; it was all sitting in my head waiting to be accessed. There were a few things that took a while to come back, but as I said, I really enjoyed the relaxed vibe you get with keyboards.

Jeb:  “Walking Too Slow” is my favorite song on the album.  Talk about that one.

Fast Eddie:  I had the idea some time back, but when I started doing it, it just got hotter and hotter. The guitar was done in one sweep. I was really in the groove that day. I can honestly say it ranks among my finest moments. I just love the fuck-off-ness of the guitar.  The vocals flowed well too, but hey, after guitar like that the singing was a breeze. I love this track. It was just one of those moments that happen rarely.

Jeb:  “Haven’t Got Time” shows Bill can tinkle the keys.  Talk about him as a musician.

Fast Eddie: Bill is a very serious musician. I was a little intimidated at first, as I am a kind of a hit and hope kind of player, whereas Bill is your real musician type, reads music, practices on a grand piano he has at his house... He just is a very fine accomplished musician and very easy to get along with. The other great thing with Bill was if I came up with an idea or a riff, he was right there to make the most of it.

Jeb:  How do you approach an album like this compared to a Fastway, or even an old Motorhead album?

Fast Eddie:  After our initial introduction from Colin, our mutual friend, Bill was quick to send me over a couple of ideas, “Nothing Left” and “Fast Train,” so I got in the studio and that’s when I realized how the whole thing suited my playing. I became really excited, laid down some guitars, followed by some vocals, which let me tell you, is unusual.

Jeb:  “Mountains to the Sea” has a Hendrix reference, kind of sort of.  What is intentional? 

Fast Eddie: Not really, but Hendrix has always been one of my top guitar players so I guess something could be lurking in my head.

Jeb:  Who are your biggest Blues influences, and did you lean on them for this album?

Fast Eddie: Well, My first hero was Eric Clapton with the Yardbirds. They used to play down the road so I was able to see them regularly. Five Live Yardbirds was like my bible and I played the whole album with my first band, The Bitter End, mostly in my dad’s garage. Then, Eric went with John Mayall and I played all of that album with my next band, Umble Blues. Then, along came Hendrix, The Cream and Jeff Beck Truth, and that was kind of the foundation of my music.  I always thought of myself as third generation blues, as I followed the above. They, of course, followed the original American Blues players. I guess these were the influences that helped shape the album and also a lot of my life experience.

Jeb: Tell me about the title of the album.

Fast Eddie: Well it was just one of those things. Bill and I were jamming on that riff and I just started singing and “make my day” just came out and it stuck.

Jeb:  Would you like to do a Blues tour?  Get a Blues band…do some dates? 

Fast Eddie: I would love to. I am hoping the album creates enough interest that I could do some shows. We will have to wait and see. I have my fingers crossed.

Jeb:  With Motorhead and Fastway the ‘Blues’ have an influence.  It’s not so easy to hear, but the Blues is in your playing. 

Fast Eddie: Yeah, my roots are definitely in the Blues, but, as I said, I am third generation.  I think that’s why Lemmy and I got on so well when we were writing, we both had similar musical roots. We wrote some great songs together and there are definitely some of our early influences in there.

Jeb:  You sing on this album.  Were you nervous?  Did you think you could pull it off?

Fast Eddie:  One of the reasons the album stalled was that I had no intention of singing, which meant we had to come with some guest vocalists. Easier said than done! Then I had a real bad experience with the Fastway Eat Dog Eat album with the vocalist bailing out before we could do any shows.

I decided I could take no more, so I would do it myself. I was not really nervous, as I learned from my first solo album that if you commit to the task there is no room for nerves. I do not think I get along with vocalists, judging by my history.

Jeb:  What is up with Fastway?  Has it fastly gone by the wayside? 

Fast Eddie: I really love the Fastway stuff, but as I said, a good vocalist is hard to find and Fastway needs a good vocalist. But I am always ready to do more Fastway, if the right situation arises. Fastway has some great songs and has always cooked as a live outfit.

Jeb:  Does Fastway ever bother you…I mean Pete [Way] kinda fucked that band up from the start and it never got off the ground.  You had some success, but man it should have been much greater. 

Fast Eddie: Pete was a real disappointment for me. I still do not really know what happened, but I am sure someone does? Maybe Ozzy?

The first album was great and exactly as I planned it. Then, the Suits got involved and fucked everything up and that was that. It recovered briefly with Trick or Treat but Dave [King] had already decided to leave. He did not want to do heavy rock anymore. That’s the trouble with singers; they always think they are better than the rest. Bands are a team effort in my opinion.

Jeb:  Who was Blue Goose and why did Curtis Night threaten to beat you up for joining that band?  Or is that just a legend?

Fast Eddie: I had already left Curtis and gone to Blue Goose; it was a loose arrangement. Nick and Chris then wanted to come to Blue Goose and it was them who were threatened by Curtis.

Jeb: Were you in a band with a guy from Be-Bop Deluxe called Continuous Performance?

Fast Eddie:  You are full of surprises! After Blue Goose, who I never recorded with, I was jamming with Charlie, I cannot pronounce his surname. He was a Maori from New Zealand and a great guy and bass player. We had an Aussie called Jim on drums and the singer was an American girl called Annie. 

I nearly secured a deal with Anchor Records but they said they were not sure about the girl singer. Charlie had an offer from Be-Bop Deluxe, which he could not turn down and things just dissolved sadly. I do have a few old recordings somewhere. It was not called Continuous Performance; that came next. This outfit had no name.

Jeb:  You had given up on music and the music industry and were working on a houseboat when you met drummer Phil Taylor.  Looking back, was it just a coincidence or was it fate?

Fast Eddie: I had not given up on the music biz. I was working on the boat to raise money to pay for my solo project called Continuous Performance. I had already laid down the four tracks for the album, once again, I found myself singing. Two of the songs are on my album called Anthology.

It was shortly after that I was introduced to Phil. He needed a job and I gave him one on the boat where I was, by then, a foreman. This was a long project and I was the only one still standing. The boat is still there today on the river Thames in Chelsea. I pass it quite often and always have a brief reminisce. Phil was crazy, but a really good guy and we got along. Fate…I definitely think so!

Jeb:  Tell me about The Furniture Cave?

Fast Eddie: This was a rehearsal room in New Kings Road Chelsea I first used with Curtis Knight. In fact, we rehearsed down there a lot. It was in the basement of a big warehouse type building and had three rooms, small, medium and medium. I also used it for odd Jam sessions using my wages from the boat, and my first session with Lemmy and Phil was down there in the small room. I am surprised we are not all deaf... the sort of place we could not do without.

Jeb:  What was your first impression of Lemmy?

Fast Eddie: I was surprised how friendly he was and keen to have the rehearsal for my audition. I have to say I liked him from the start and was looking forward to a jam together. Having been with Hawkwind, he had toured the States and had all that experience to pass on to Phil and myself. I think I always thought of him as a big brother.

Jeb:  Early on, did Lemmy’s thirst for booze and drugs ever scare you?  Did you ever wonder what in the hell you were getting yourself into?

Fast Eddie: Certainly not… we were all like that in those days. It’s kind of what made the world go round back then. I was not particularly into speed but I soon got the hang of it.  I wasn’t a big drinker, but after six months with Motorhead it seemed a natural progression. Of course when we started we did not have a pot to piss in.  That always keeps you pretty healthy.

Jeb:  Are you surprised that Motorhead, the era you were in, is so loved? 

Fast Eddie: A little, but for me they were great years and we made some great music. It was a good time to be in a band I think we were really lucky. But if you told me then we would still be an item, I probably would have laughed.

Jeb:  What made Motorhead so special?

Fast Eddie: The Fans. Right place, right time. We really had nothing to lose and a lot of our fans could identify with that as they were in the same boat. We never sold out and we rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, but were honest about it. I miss those times… things were much simpler. I think life is more fun when it is a bit of a struggle.

Jeb:  Did you write the riff to “Ace of Spades?”

Fast Eddie: Yeah, the first version was slightly different and there is a recording of the original on an album called Dirty Love. We put that out in 1990. When we came to record it the second time, we adjusted the riff a little bit to make it… I’m not sure what, but it worked.

Jeb:  How did you get the nickname Fast Eddie?

Fast Eddie: We were playing a gig at the Electric Ballroom in Manchester and much to my surprise Lemmy introduced Philthy Animal, and I guess for something to say, introduced me as ‘Fast Eddie.’ I was not too keen at first, but from then on it stuck like glue. I think it made life easier for Lem when he introduced the band.

Jeb:  I want to know what the Ozzy tour for Blizzard of Ozz was like. 

Fast Eddie: We owe Ozzy a big one for that. His office got in touch and said Ozzy wants you to support him in the USA. Without that, we might never have got there. My memory is a little faulty now, but I can say it was a lot of fun and we were really excited at being in the USA for the first time.

I have to say we did not go down well everywhere, which was a big change from Europe. I think we came back a bit damaged by the experience and should have taken a little longer before our next album Iron Fist.

Jeb:  You once told me the story of how you quit the band.  You were just finished, and Lemmy was kind of a dick to you.  How long did you hold resentment toward him? 

Fast Eddie: I am not one to hold grudges. I had to pick myself up and was fortunate to run into Pete Way. We had such a blast putting Fastway together, when I was asked by my new accountant what to do about the Motorhead money etc. I said “I am doing OK. I do not want give them any trouble, we had some good years.”

Lemmy buried the hatchet at the Reading Festival in 1982 when Pete and I did a guest spot with Twisted Sister. We got on stage and suddenly Lemmy appeared! So, it was all good from then on. Phil was a different story as he was the main instigator in my being excluded from the band. Notice I do not call it leaving, as it was not my choice. Everyone else says I left, NOT ME!

It is funny how I am still a little raw about the whole thing of not being in Motorhead anymore. Some things you just don’t get over. I had imagined dying onstage with Motorhead, so it was a blow when they did not want me in the band any longer.

Jeb:  What is up with Fastway? Will there be any more Fastway?

Fast Eddie: Well at present I am working on the Blues stuff, but I am hoping Fastway will return in the not-too-distant future. Fastway has such great material for live shows.

We will have to wait and see. I was very disappointed with the last singer. He did the album and then went off and reformed his old band. Had I been aware of this, I would not have done Eat Dog Eat, with him. But that’s singers for you; the ‘grass is always greener’ kind of guys. But I guess if I did Fast Eddie shows, I could do Fastway and Motorhead material. Now there is a thought!

Jeb:  Everyone always talks Fastway history with Pete and you.  But you played with Topper Headon of the Clash.  How did he even get into the mix?  Seems like an odd choice.

Fast Eddie: Pete and I were looking for somewhere to rehearse and I went to a place Motorhead rehearsed for many years. It was in Notting Hill, and while we were there talking to the owner, Topper appeared. He stored his drums there and practiced there when The Clash were not working. We got talking, and he said he would love to do some jamming with us as he was quitting The Clash, so that’s how it came about.

When we started to get serious, he bowed out and we got the great Jerry Shirley. Rockin’ the Filmore was, and still is, an all-time favorite of mine.

Jeb:  Do you still know him or stay in touch?

Fast Eddie: No, I have not seen Topper since just after our sessions together.

Jeb:  Have you ever thought of doing like an all-star album where you perform the best of your Blues, the best of Motorhead, the best of Fastway and have guest from your past or new guys appear on an album?

Fast Eddie: That sounds like a good idea. I have not really thought about it as I have lost touch with a lot of the guys. But it would be a good reason to visit some of the old stuff that I love so dearly.

Jeb:  Where are you at with the music business?  Are you going to keep pushing, or kind of kick back at this stage of your life?

Fast Eddie: Well, I have not been very active over the last 20 years, so I guess I am kind of having a final run at it. I think there is more in the tank, so I will keep going for the foreseeable future.

Jeb:  What is your biggest regret in the music business?

Fast Eddie: I have too many regrets to go into now, but overall I think I have been very fortunate to have met and played with all the people I have. I do not think I would change a thing, as I would not risk losing the music and the memories I have. Whatever happens, I have no complaints. There is always gonna be things you would have done different, but who knows, it could have turned out worse!

Jeb:  What is your favorite memory of the music business? 

Fast Eddie: Motorhead playing the Hammersmith Odeon for the first time. I can still remember being on the side of the stage with Lem saying “Fuck, we are here!”  Also, Fastway being courted by a couple of record companies and us having a choice. It was new to me, as we struggled a long while to get a deal for Motorhead.

I did not have any preconceived ideas about the music business. The business is the same as all businesses, run by greedy people, many wearing suits. There was little to warm the heart. It also grinds you down…the back stabbing and the ripping-off. Managers are not great, either. I think they think “You have the fame. I will have your fortune.”   I still think the best thing was the fans and their dedication to the cause. Without them, none of us would be here. They made it all worth while.