What Happened When Motorhead Starred in The Young Ones

Like many great British TV shows – think Fawlty Towersor the original version of OfficeThe youngs only lasted 12 episodes and two seasons, but its long-term cultural impact far outweighed its brevity.

Written by Rik Mayall, Ben Elton and Lise Mayer, the anarchic sitcom aired in 1982 and 1984 on BBC2 – again, as Fawlty Towers and Office – the broadcaster’s home for comedies in which he does not feel confident enough to present them to a mainstream audience.

It was not a surprising choice: Young people was surreal, loud, and chaotic, and featured a cast of characters that were anything but likable. Four boring students, a dirty house and a pet rat named after the controversial Metropolitan Police Patrol Task Force.

Or Young people differed from other comedies was in its use of music. Of the dozen episodes, 11 featured musical guests. They would appear in the middle of an episode and mime – and they were irrelevant to the plot – but by adding music the producers could claim a bigger budget from the BBC.

Blues band Nine Below Zero appeared in the first episode, playing Eleven Plus Eleven in the living room. Ska Icons Madness played twice. The damned ran through Bad as the vampire, played by comedian Alexis Sayle, asked for directions to the bathroom. But no group matched the anarchic atmosphere of the show quite like Motorhead.

This is the opening episode of the second series, titled Baby. The members of the household realize that no one has done laundry in four years, and a fetid sock comes to life and tries to escape. One of the housemates, Neil the hippie, recalls that the four students – including Rik the “people’s poet”, Mike the cool guy and Vyvyan the punk – were chosen to appear on the TV quiz show. College Challengerepresenting Scumbag Collage against the aristocrats of Footlights College.

The four run off to catch a train, and Lemmy and co (the short-lived line-up featuring drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor alongside new guitarists Phil Campbell and Wurzel) suddenly appear in the house, blasting through Ace of Spades in a way that’s far cooler, perhaps louder, and certainly more uncompromising than any mimed performance before or since.

The show was a success and the performance became legend. 36 years later, when Slipknot main player Corey Taylor – who would have been nine in Des Moines when Young people was first broadcast – covered Ace of Spades for WWE, he opened by mimicking Neil’s lines.

As for Lemmy, his band’s performance marked the beginning of a long relationship with Young people stars. During the filming of The comic presents… More bad news in 1986 – which featured Young people‘ Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall and Nigel Planar as hapless hard rockers Bad News – Lemmy made an appearance during a sequence shot at the Monsters of Rock Festival in Donington.

The following year, Motorhead wrote and recorded the main theme for another comic book feature, Eat the rich and Lemmy had a small role in the show. In 1990 he appeared as Rico in the Falklands War satire of the comic strip South Atlantic Raiders. And in 2010, Ade Edmondson released a surprisingly dark version of Ace of Spades with his folk band The Bad Shepherds. Lemmy must have forged a real bond with the actors, didn’t he?

“No, they were really boring.” Lemmy told the Salt Lake City Weekly in 2002. “Trust me. They were really fucking boring. The leftist university is boring.”

Nevertheless, the Bambi episode of Young people, and Motorhead’s performance within it, heralded a new era for heavy music and a new era of punk-inspired alternative comedy. Neither would be the same again.