Ace of Spades (song)

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"Ace of Spades"
Single by Motörhead
from the album Ace of Spades
B-side "Dirty Love"
Released 27 October 1980
Recorded 4 August – 15 September 1980
Jackson's Studios, Rickmansworth, England
Length 2:48
Label Bronze
Producer(s) Vic Maile
Motörhead singles chronology
"Ace of Spades"
"Motorhead (live)"
Alternative cover
Christmas picture sleeve edition

"Ace of Spades" is a song by British rock band Motörhead, released in 1980 as a single and the title track to the album Ace of Spades.


Initially issued as a 7" vinyl single on 27 October 1980 as a preview to the album Ace of Spades and autumn tour, the song was also released by Bronze Records as 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 intro 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]

Commercial success[edit]

The song spent 13 weeks in the UK Singles Chart, and originally peaked at number 15 upon its initial release. At the midweek point in January 2016 it reached No. 9 and in the official Friday charts they reached number 13, following the death of frontman Lemmy in December 2015 and subsequent dissolution of the band. It has sold 208,830 digital copies as of January 2016.[5] It reached the summit of the UK rock singles chart on 9 January 2016.

Critical reception[edit]

The song is considered to be the definitive Motörhead anthem,[6] which "put a choke on the English music charts and proved to all that a band could succeed without sacrificing its blunt power and speed".[7]

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.[8]

In 2014, NME ranked it number 155 in their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[9]

Track listing[edit]

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


Live version[edit]

"Ace of Spades (live)"
Single by Motörhead
from the album No Sleep at All
  • "Dogs"
  • "Traitor"
Released 1988
Format 7"
Recorded 2 July 1988
Hämeenlinna "Giants of Rock" Festival, Finland
Length 2:51
Label GWR
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.[10]

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 see Little Richard, I expect to hear Good Golly Miss Molly, or I'd be pissed off".[11] 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 Würzel played with the band – on the Bambi episode of The Young Ones. The lineup is particularly rare until 1987: Lemmy, Campbell, Würzel 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]

  1. "Ace of Spades" (Lemmy, Eddie Clarke, Phil Taylor)
  2. "Dogs" (Lemmy, Würzel, Phil Campbell, Taylor)
  3. "Traitor" (Lemmy, Würzel, Campbell, Taylor)

Cover versions[edit]

Studio (or studio and live)[edit]

  • 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.[12]
  • New Zealand alternative rock band Shihad paid tribute to Lemmy Kilmister's death by covering the song at the Rhythm and Alps festival in 2015.
  • British metal band Bullet for my Valentine covered the song for a special edition or their album Venom.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Burridge, Alan (April 1991). "Motörhead". Record Collector (140): 18–19. 
  2. ^ Burridge, Alan; Mick Stevenson (July 1993). "Motörhead". Record Collector (167): 72. 
  3. ^ Kilmister, Lemmy & Garza, Janiss. White Line Fever. Published: 2002, Simon & Schuster (Trade Division). ISBN 0-684-85868-1.
  4. ^ a b c Burridge, Alan. Illustrated Collector's Guide to Motörhead. Published: 1995, Collector's Guide Publishing. ISBN 0-9695736-2-6.
  5. ^ Jones, Alan (1 January 2016). "Official Charts Analysis: Bieber returns to singles summit". Music Week. Intent Media. Retrieved 1 January 2016. (subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ Konow, David (2002). Bang Your Head. Three Rivers Press, c2002. p. 226 has "Motorhead's signature song, Ace of Spades". ISBN 0-609-80732-3. 
  7. ^ Christe, Ian (2004). Sound of the Beast. Allison & Busby. ISBN 0-7490-8351-4. 
  8. ^ " music". Archived from the original on 12 February 2009. Retrieved 7 February 2009. 
  9. ^ " The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.. 2014". 
  10. ^ Burridge, Alan; Mick Stevenson (July 1993). "Motörhead". Record Collector (167): 72–73. 
  11. ^ Shaw, Harry (2002). Lemmy... In his own words. Omnibus Press (c) 2002. p. 39. ISBN 0-7119-9109-X. 
  12. ^ "Jughead Official Website". Archived from the original on 28 April 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 

External links[edit]