"Ace of Spades" is a song by the English band Motörhead, released in 1980 as a single and the title track to the album Ace of Spades. The song spent 12 weeks in the United KingdomSingles Chart, peaking at No. 15.

Overview[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Initially issued as a 7" vinyl single on 27 October 1980 as a preview to the album Ace of Spades and autumn tour, Bronze Records also released a 12" vinyl pressing in special Christmas picture sleeves, limited to 50,000 copies. The picture of the band in Santa outfits used on the cover was taken at the Aylesbury Fair, while the band were on tour.[1]

Bronze also issued German and Spanish 7" vinyl versions which had a different sleeves, as well as a Japanese release, with a colour picture insert with song lyrics in English and Japanese. One sided test pressings (not mis-presses, but used in the trade) escaped the pressing plant and are on the market.[2]

The song opens with an overdriven bass solo played by Lemmy. For the lyrics, he said he "used gambling metaphors, mostly cards and dice – when it comes to that sort of thing, I'm more into the one-arm bandits actually, but you can't really sing about spinning fruit, and the wheels coming down".[3]

On 6 September 1980 Lemmy was interviewed by Graham Neale on BBC Radio 1's Rock On Saturday show, "Bomber", "Ace of Spades" and "Love Me Like a Reptile" were played. The following month, on 6 and 20 October, the band played the song on BBC TV show Top of the Pops.[4]

In the studio version, the last lines of the bridge are "I don't want to live forever/And don't forget the Joker". In the live versions and the Rock Band 2 remake, the last lines are "I don't want to live forever/But, apparently I am".

Critical reception[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song is considered to be the definitive Motörhead anthem,[5] and "put a choke on the English music charts and proved to all that a band could succeed without sacrificing its blunt power and speed".[6]

In March 2005, Q magazine placed it at No. 27 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks, stating "This song has an intro which wouldn't be out of place ushering in the end of the world". In 2009, it was named the 10th greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.[7]

Track listing[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  1. "Ace of Spades" (Ian KilmisterEddie ClarkePhil Taylor) – 2:49
  2. "Dirty Love" (Kilmister, Clarke, Taylor) – 2:57

Personnel[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Live version[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Ace of Spades (live)"
Single by Motörhead
from the album No Sleep at All
B-side Dogs/Traitor
Released 1988
Format 7"
Recorded 2 July 1988

Hämeenlinna "Giants of Rock" Festival, Finland

Length 2:51
Label GWR
Writer(s) Eddie Clarke

Lemmy Phil Taylor

Producer Motörhead

Guy Bidmead

Motörhead singles chronology
"Eat the Rich"


"Ace of Spades (live)"


"The One to Sing the Blues"


"Ace of Spades (live)" is a 1988 7-inch vinyl release of the song by Motörhead. The single has no picture sleeve; it was issued (and withdrawn) in a plain white paper cover. All three songs on the single appeared on the band's No Sleep at All live album, which was recorded at the Giants of Rock Festival in Hämeenlinna, Finland on 2 July 1988.

The band had wanted "Traitor" as the A-side, but "Ace of Spades" was chosen instead, when the band noticed the change, they refused to allow the single to be distributed to the shops. So despite the popularity the song had achieved, this single was not as successful as the original version, which reached No. 15 in the UK Singles Chart in 1980, as it became only available at gigs and through the Motörheadbangers fan club.[8]

The song became a staple of the band's live set, with Lemmy acknowledging that despite becoming "sick" of performing it, they "can't ditch Ace of Spades, it wouldn't be right. If I go to seeLittle Richard, I expect to hear Good Golly Miss Molly, or I'd be pissed off".[9] Live versions have appeared on the albums No Sleep 'til Hammersmith (1981), Nö Sleep at All (1988), Everything Louder than Everyone Else (1999), Live at Brixton Academy (2003) and Better Motörhead than Dead: Live at Hammersmith (2007).

It was the first song that Phil Campbell and Wurzel played with the band – on the Bambi episode of The Young Ones. The lineup is particularly rare until 1987: Lemmy, Campbell, Wurzel and Taylor. Taylor had already left the band by the time the filming started, but kept to his promise of making the performance.[4]

In September 1993, WGAF Records re-released the original 1980s track on CD-single, cassette single, 12" vinyl picture sleeve and picture disc versions, the song was coupled with "Louie Louie", "Dirty Love", and "Ace of Spades (The CCN Remix)", and although the band were not too pleased with the CCN Remix version, this single peaked at No. 23 in the UK charts.[4]

Single track listing[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  1. "Ace of Spades" (LemmyEddie ClarkePhil Taylor)
  2. "Dogs" (Lemmy, WürzelPhil Campbell, Taylor)
  3. "Traitor" (Lemmy, Würzel, Campbell, Taylor)

Cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Studio (or Studio and Live)[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • The American hardcore punk band Battalion of Saints also covered the song on their 1984 LP The Second Coming.
  • The Shop Assistants recorded a version for a John Peel session in 1986.[10]
  • Dutch psychobilly band Batmobile covered the song on their 1988 album Bail Was Set at $6,000,000
  • Finnish one-man a cappella rock band Paska covered song on his 1989 EP Superdouplemegamaxihits!
  • The song has been covered by Polish thrash band Acid Drinkers on their 1994 album Fishdick.
  • The Canadian motorgrass band Jughead covered the song on Uncorked in 1994. They claim that Lemmy said that theirs is the only cover version that he ever liked.[11]
  • Swedish metal band Drain STH released a 5:02 cover version as a bonus track on the 1998 reissue of the album Horror Wrestling.
  • An acid techno cover was produced in the summer of 1998 by the "DDR & The Geezer" (Dave Lalouche & Guy McAffer) for the AA side of the 2nd release from C.O.S.H.H.
  • The American hardcore punk band Blood for Blood covered the song as a hidden track on their album Livin' in Exile, 1999, and has been featured on several Motörhead tribute albums.
  • The song was played live by the Scottish pop rock band Del Amitri and a live 1999 recording featured on the bonus live disc in the two disc CD set of Hatful of Rain.
  • A Dutch version of "Ace of Spades" (called "Schoppen Aas") is covered by the Dutch hard rock band Peter Pan Speedrock, on a 2001 EP. Dikke Dennis performs the vocals on this version.
  • German thrash metal band Sodom did a cover on their 2003 live album One Night in Bangkok, with the same bass/vocal, guitar, drums setup as Motörhead.
  • Satirical bluegrass band Hayseed Dixie has covered the song, on their 2004 "Let There Be Rockgrass" release.
  • The Southern American punk metal band The Cooters covered "Ace of Spades" on their 2005 album Chaos or Bust.
  • The song has been covered by The Frank on their album Blackfalds Revisited in 2005.
  • The Swedish Viking metal band Bathory covered it with a much slower pace than the original on the "In Memory Of Quorthon" compilation, released, 2006.
  • Russian metalcore band Amatory covered the song on their covers EP Discovery, releaseed in 2006.
  • Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart covered "Ace of Spades" in 2008 for "Sheep in Wolves' Clothing - The Best Motörhead Tribute CD Ever!" (released by the Motörhead fan club Motörheadbangers).
  • The band Radio Cult released a cover of the song on their album Grooves from the Grave in 2008.
  • Anglo-French band The Barking Dogs made a folk/ska punk version which became their traditional concert finale. It is featured on The Barking Dogs Live, 2008, on Woof Trade Records and several versions can be seen on YouTube.
  • Eli "Paperboy" Reed & The True Loves has covered this song on his EP Ace of Spades (2009).
  • The song was covered by Welsh glam metal band Tigertailz on their live 2011 album Berzerk Live Burnin' Fuel from dates in Cardiff, Newcastle and Stockholm in 2010.

Live Only[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • This song has been covered by The Reverend Horton Heat during live performances.
  • Southern metal band He Is Legend has covered the song live.
  • The song has been covered by the band Ween at live concerts.
  • The German metal band J.B.O. covered the Song in an unplugged version called "Ace of Spades umgepflügt" (Ace of Spades plowed up).
  • British rock band Stereophonics often briefly incorporate the chorus of the song into live performances of their single The Bartender and the Thief.
  • British house music duo Basement Jaxx often mashup "Ace of Spades" with Lil Louis Chicago house track "Blackout" as part of their live performances.
  • The song was covered by Tokyo Yankees with hide and Pata at Extasy Summit 1991.
  • The Northern Irish punk rock band Stiff Little Fingers have been known to cover it live. Stating before hand that "it's one of those songs that you either love or hate, and we f**king love it". Lead singer, Jake Burns, usually finishes playing it by promising to "learn the one day".
  • It has been covered by Macedonian ska-funk band Superhiks on live performances.
  • The song was covered by Ukrainian kozak-rock band Haydamaky on several live performances.
  • The song is covered by the American band Crowbar.
  • The song is covered by the metal band Kills and Thrills

In popular culture[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • The song was featured in the popular skateboarding game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3.[12]
  • The character Mordekaiser from the game League of Legends has an ability called "Mace of Spaces", a play on the song's title.
  • A cover version of "Ace of Spades", containing an extended guitar solo in the climax of the song, was featured in the 2005 music video game Guitar Hero for PlayStation 2. It was included in a downloadable 3-song pack for the Xbox 360 version of its successor, Guitar Hero II, as well.
  • A re-recording of the song, "Ace of Spades '08", is in the setlist of Rock Band 2Rock Band UnpluggedRock Band for iPhone, and Guitar Hero: Metallica.
  • "Ace of Spades" also appears in the PlayStation 2 karaoke game SingStar Amped.
  • A mixed version appears in the 2009 music video game DJ Hero.
  • In an episode of the Men Behaving Badly television sitcom, Gary and Tony play air guitar to the track.
  • In the Black Books episode Party (the last of series 3) the three main characters have a very drunken dancing competition to a portion of this song
  • The song was chosen to appear in the documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey.
  • The song was used in Episode 1 of the fourth series of BBC's motoring show, Top Gear, that featured the Lotus Exige attempting to avoid missile lock from an AgustaWestland Apache helicopter.
  • The song was used at the beginning and end of the series 3 Skins episode, "Cook" (302), and Cook's younger brother is seen playing the song on Rock Band 2 towards the beginning of the series 4 Skins episode, "Cook" (403).
  • In the HBO series Entourage, the song can be heard in the episode "The Dream Team".
  • The band performed the song on episode 7 of The Young Ones.
  • The song was used in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank, during a gunfight in a convenience store between hitman Martin Blank (John Cusack) and another hitman sent after him, a teenager is playing an arcade game to the sound ofAce of Spades at maximum volume in his headphones and escapes unharmed, completely oblivious to the destruction unfolding around him.
  • The song is featured in the opening credits of Zombie Nightmare which was featured in the movie-mocking television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1994.
  • The song appears in the 2007 film Shoot 'Em Up during the shootout in Mr. Smith's hideout. It appears on the film's soundtrack as well.
  • Between 8 pm and 2 am on 9 November 2005 at The Boat nightclub in Toronto, the song was played 128 times consecutively.[13]
  • In the play "The Lieutenant of Inishmore", the character Davey sings the song to drown out his sister Mairead's Irish rebellion song.
  • In the Achewood strip for 4 February 2009, Lyle Gabriel parodies the song with the phrase, "ACE OF GRADES!".[14]
  • The song is used in the twentieth episode of the final season of House, during a scene in which Dr Wilson overtakes a funeral procession in a fast car.
  • The song is played on the stereo in Le Petit Chou during the second episode of Hungry!.
  • It was the final song played by Simon Mayo on Radio 1 when he left the station in February 2001.
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