Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

HEAVY Rotation: Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades”

Posted in Heavy Metal, HEAVY Rotation, Music by Jacob Zinn on August 30, 2011

Every band wants that smash hit that propels them to the top of the charts, but sometimes they get that hit and realize they’ll have to play it over and over again for the rest of their lives.

In 1980, Motörhead released “Ace of Spades,” the title track of their fourth album, as a single, not foreseeing that they would have to perform it every night for the next 30 years.

While the album gained critical acclaim and was influential in the creation of thrash metal, the single became Motörhead’s signature song: going to a Motörhead show and not hearing “Ace of Spades” is like going to McDonald’s and finding out they’ve discontinued the Big Mac.

Lemmy has said in interviews that he’s gotten sick of the song, but he promises not to remove it from the setlist.

[We] can’t ditch ‘Ace of Spades,’ it wouldn’t be right. If I go to see Little Richard, I expect to hear ‘Good Golly Miss Molly,’ or I’d be pissed off.

Testing the popularity of the song, Motörhead released a live version in 1988. However, the band wanted “Ace of Spades” to be the B-Side, but the record company made it the A-Side.

The band then prohibited the single from being distributed through record shops, making it available only at concerts and through the Motörheadbangers fan club, so sales of the live single were considerably less than the original.

Live versions of “Ace of Spades” have appeared on the following albums:

  • No Sleep ’til Hammersmith (1981)
  • Nö Sleep at All (1988)
  • Everything Louder than Everyone Else (1999)
  • Live at Brixton Academy (2003)
  • Better Motörhead than Dead: Live at Hammersmith (2007)

The song has been included in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band video game franchises, the 2007 comedy Superbad, and the band even performed a slowed down, acoustic version for a Kronenbourg 1664 beer commercial.

The song has lasted three decades, and the lyrics still ring true: the only card they need is the ace of spades.


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