Graham Mitchell, who was Motörhead’s tour manager in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, was also an avid photography enthusiast. A new large-format tabletop book, Fast & Loose: Snapshots from the Graham Mitchell Archive, 1977-1982, collects nearly 100 of his snapshots, including many that have never been published before. “I somehow knew how important it all was,” Mitchell says. “I knew I needed to capture at least some of those moments. I’d see the band to the stage and then immediately go out into the house, jostle with the punters, and get what I could.”
One of the most influential hard rock bands of all time, Motörhead mixed rock, punk, and heavy metal into an aggressive blend of pure explosive energy. During the era documented in Fast & Loose, the classic “three amigos” lineup of the band (Lemmy Kilmister, Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, and “Fast” Eddie Clarke) toured relentlessly and recorded a half dozen classic albums that continue to impact the music world today. All three of their estates participated and gave their blessing for Fast & Loose.
In the period covered in the photographs, Mitchell was not only the band’s tour manager but, in his own words, “their babysitter, their procurer of women, their procurer of drugs, procurer of everything.” Somehow, in the midst of the whirlwind, when Graham picked up his camera he snapped amazing images of the group that document the raw power of Motörhead with an unparalleled intimacy that only a trusted member of the inner circle could capture.
Rather than posed promotional images, these are gritty and off-the-cuff shots that catch the band in the studio, on stage, in rehearsals, partying in dressing rooms, clowning around in the van, and even getting into a shaving cream fight with fans. From side-stage performance shots, to up close images of band gear, to Lemmy wearing a slice of turkey as an eye patch, what’s presented in Fast & Loose is a true insider’s view.
“Most of my images,” Graham reveals, “are one-shot photos, and there’s no flash on any of them. They were done at 400 ASA to speed up the film and take advantage of whatever natural light I could get, so I was always flying by the seat of my pants whenever I clicked the shutter.” Through it all, he managed to capture the harsh realities of the road (band members washing their hair in a tiny sink), the inevitable fun (living it up with members of the band Weapon backstage in Glasgow), and even the tender moments (spending time with Phil Taylor’s dad).
Rather than cleaning and sanitizing the photos, each one is presented with the gritty immediacy of the moment. There are scratches and blemishes, but that’s the point. It preserves an era. “You know, there used to be a MOTÖRHEAD saying,” Graham reflects. “Take no fucking prisoners. It always made sense to me, and I like to think these photos capture that in all its (occasionally grotty but never boring) glory.”
Fast & Loose is an up-close-and-personal look at a one-of-a-kind group that is essential for any diehard fan. Published by BMG, it’s available now in the US, and will be released in the UK on December 30th.