Snaggletooth, More Than Motörhead’s Mascot

Snaggletooth isn't just Motorhead's mascot; it's a visual anthem of rebellion. Born from the imagination of artist and rocker, this emblem blends a dog's ferocity with a gorilla's strength, echoing the band's gritty defiance.

A graphic image of 'Snaggletooth,' the iconic mascot of the band Motörhead, against a black background. The image features a detailed metallic skull with exaggerated fangs, large horns, and a helmet with a central spike. Chains dangle from the sides of the helmet with a hook and a skull, and the mascot exudes a fierce and menacing vibe representative of Motörhead's heavy metal essence.
Motörhead’s Snaggletooth mascot
Key Takeaways
  • Snaggletooth, Motörhead’s emblem created in 1977, blends a dog or wolf with a gorilla skull, featuring oversized boar teeth, a chain, an iron cross, and spikes, symbolizing the band’s aggressive spirit.
  • Designed by artist Joe Petagno with input from Lemmy Kilmister, Snaggletooth represents a fusion of mechanical decay and knightly valor, crafted meticulously over eight to nine days.
  • The emblem first appeared on Motörhead’s 1977 self-titled album, stirring controversy for its violent imagery but became a defining visual standard, evolving across the band’s album artworks.

The Birth of Snaggletooth, Motörhead’s Iconic Mascot

When the world first laid eyes on Snaggletooth, Motörhead’s emblem, it saw more than just a symbol; it witnessed a visual roar that encapsulated the untamed spirit of the band. Born in 1977, this distinctive mascot is a fantastical fusion – part dog or wolf, part gorilla skull – adorned with the wild charm of oversized boar teeth, a rebellious chain, an iron cross, and menacing spikes. It’s not just a mascot; it’s the fierce spirit of Motörhead in visual form.

Known as Snaggletooth, sometimes called the “Warpig” or affectionately “The Bastard”, this creation mirrors the aggressive, battle-hardened soul of the music it represents. The name itself, inspired by its uneven, striking teeth, is as unconventional as the band’s sound.

The crafting of this iconic figure was a dance of creativity and vision. The artist behind this menacing visage was Joe Petagno. It all began with a call from Motörhead’s manager, seeking a logo. Enter Lemmy Kilmister, the band’s heart and soul, who envisioned a symbol marrying the mechanical decay of a robot with the valor of a knight-errant. Petagno’s initial sketches were just the canvas; Lemmy’s vision added the colors. The defining touch, those fearsome horns jutting into the mouth, was Lemmy’s brainchild, adding a layer of menace to the already formidable creation.

Lemmy’s influence was the brushstroke that completed the picture. His dream of a symbol that embodied the band’s menacing sound and ethos was the force that shaped Snaggletooth. He envisioned it as more than a logo – a banner of rebellion, a symbol of unity among fans, akin to a biker’s patch that spoke of brotherhood and defiance.

In the creation of Snaggletooth, Joe Petagno and Lemmy didn’t just give Motörhead a logo. They gave it a soul, a visual echo of the band’s raw, unbridled energy.

From Concept to Icon

Before Snaggletooth roared to life, Joe Petagno was already a master of his craft. In the sun-soaked streets of Los Angeles, a young Petagno, just 20, began to make his mark, diving into the vibrant Southern California Underground scene. His talent soon took him across the ocean to the UK. By 1973, Petagno’s artistry found him collaborating with the likes of Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis, lending his creative genius to bands as iconic as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

The paths of Petagno and Lemmy Kilmister first crossed in 1975. Lemmy, having recently parted ways with Hawkwind, was in the midst of forging a new path with a band initially named “Bastard”. It was during this time of new beginnings that Petagno, who was working on art for Hawkwind, met Lemmy. Over a few drinks, a shared vision began to take shape, and the seed that would grow into Snaggletooth was planted.

Lemmy’s initial idea for Snaggletooth was a rough sketch in his mind – something echoing a knight, or perhaps a rusty robot, mirroring the rugged spirit of a biker patch. This vision was to adorn the back of a denim vest, symbolizing a bond of rebellion.

Petagno drew his inspiration from a myriad of sources. His affinity for outlaw biker patches influenced the aggressive, rebellious flair of Snaggletooth. A chance discovery in a Chelmsford library – a book on animal skulls – turned the tide, guiding the concept towards a more bestial, intimidating form.

The creation of Snaggletooth was a process of evolution. Petagno crafted two versions – one futuristic, the other primal. The band’s heart lay with the primal, which, after fine-tuning, took its final form. Crafted meticulously with India ink and gouache on illustration board, the process spanned eight to nine days, including the transformation of the lettering from “Bastard” to “Motörhead”.

Petagno’s vision was to forge something utterly unique – a hybrid creature like no other. His sketches were a playground of possibilities, blending different animal skulls. The final design, a novel amalgam of a dog or wolf and a gorilla cranium, emerged as a mythical entity, epitomizing Motörhead’s raw spirit.

Lemmy’s idea to move the horns from the head to the mouth became Snaggletooth’s defining trait.

Yet, it was Lemmy who added the finishing touches to Petagno’s initial design. Lemmy’s idea to move the horns from the head to the mouth became Snaggletooth’s defining trait. He also played a key role in adding the spiked helmet and chains, the iron cross necklace, and elements like the human skull and perhaps even the drool and spit, enhancing the mascot’s hellish allure.

Petagno’s creation was more than just an image; it captured the very essence of Motörhead’s music and image, setting the band apart in the rock and metal scene. His role didn’t stop with Snaggletooth; he continued to shape Motörhead’s visual identity, designing many of their album and single covers, cementing a visual legacy as enduring as their music.

Snaggletooth’s Impactful Debut on Motörhead’s First Album

On August 21, 1977, the world of rock witnessed the dawn of an era with the debut of Motörhead’s self-titled album. This wasn’t just any album release; it marked the public’s first encounter with Snaggletooth, a symbol that would soon become synonymous with the band’s fierce identity.

While the band instantly embraced this bold, new emblem, their record company balked at its violent imagery.

The unveiling of Snaggletooth stirred a potent mix of excitement and controversy. While the band instantly embraced this bold, new emblem, their record company balked at its violent imagery. In a time when such aggressive and rebellious symbols were viewed as overly extreme, fans donning Motörhead T-shirts emblazoned with Snaggletooth often found themselves facing disapproval in public venues like hotels and pubs.

Snaggletooth on the album cover wasn’t just an image; it was a statement. It set a new visual standard for Motörhead, intertwining the band’s image with the raw power and unapologetic aggression of their music.

Petagno’s journey with Motörhead spanned several decades, a collaboration that birthed the artwork for 13 of their studio albums, starting with that seminal self-titled debut. With each new album, Snaggletooth evolved, adapting its core design – the hybrid skull, the oversized teeth, the menacing gaze – to mirror the themes and spirit of each album.

Take “Overkill” (1979), for instance, where Snaggletooth took on a green hue and a more ferocious expression, mirroring the album’s aggressive, high-energy music. In “Bomber” (1979), the mascot melded into a war-themed cover, complete with a bomber aircraft, reflecting the album’s themes.

By the time “Orgasmatron” (1986) rolled around, Snaggletooth’s design became even more intricate. The tusks and chains were more pronounced, a nod to the album’s darker and more complex themes. And as Motörhead continued their musical journey, Snaggletooth adapted and transformed. On “We Are Motörhead” (2000), the mascot was reimagined in a streamlined, modern style, yet it retained the quintessential characteristics that defined it.

Through Petagno’s artistic lens, Snaggletooth wasn’t just a static image; it was a living, evolving emblem. Each variation on the album covers not only mirrored the themes and styles of the respective albums but also contributed to the ongoing evolution of Motörhead’s visual identity.

The Icon That Defined Motorhead’s Rebel Spirit

As the chapters of rock and metal history turned, Joe Petagno’s creation, Snaggletooth, evolved into something far greater than a mere band mascot. Recreated hundreds of times, Petagno infused each rendition of Snaggletooth with a freshness and dynamism, keeping the symbol alive and relevant.

But for Petagno, Snaggletooth was more than an artistic endeavor; it was a reflection of his own persona, a part of his very identity. This profound connection between the creator and the creation has played a pivotal role in cementing Snaggletooth’s enduring legacy as a symbol of Motörhead’s music and ethos.

Snaggletooth transcended its original role as a band mascot, morphing into a living emblem of Motörhead’s soul. Its fierce, intimidating visage became synonymous with the band’s unyielding, rebellious spirit. In its bold lines and aggressive form, it mirrored Motörhead’s potent sound—a raw fusion of punk and blues, genres themselves rooted in dissent and rebellion.

In the pantheon of metal music, Snaggletooth stands alongside other legendary icons like Iron Maiden’s Eddie and Megadeth’s Vic Rattlehead. Yet, it’s more than just a visual mascot for Motörhead; it embodies a broader cultural significance. Snaggletooth resonates deeply with themes of nonconformity and resilience, reflecting a spirit of defiance against adversity.