Ace of Spades


Song Review by Tom Maginnis

A masterful hunk of raw, blistering speed metal, "Ace of Spades" would become Motörhead's signature song. This title track from the group's third album provided the prototype for countless headbangers and speed metal bands alike, responsible for creating the foundation for a new heavy metal subgenre that would be known as thrash or speed metal. "Ace of Spades" would prove to be a timely blend, combining the furious speed of hardcore that had mutated from earlier punk rock and the menacing power of early-'70s heavy metal.

"Ace of Spades" storms out of the gates, both guns blazing, as a quick buzzing riff is joined by a tight machine-gun snare roll for drummer Philthy Animal setting the pace at a break-neck gallop. "Fast" Eddie Clarke fashions the songs biggest hook, a simple descending three-note riff that gnaws its way into the brain, cutting through the din. Main Motörhead bassist and lead singer Lemmy (b. Ian Fraiser Kilmister) has described his vocal style as sounding like a "gorilla on Valium." The lyrics focus on Lemmy's admitted vice of gambling (he reportedly owns his own slot machine to help satisfy his obsession). "Ace of Spades" celebrates risk-taking in all aspects of life, as Lemmy grumbles slowly in a leathery, whiskey-soaked growl, "If you like to gamble, I tell you I'm your man/You win some, loose some, it's all the same to me/The pleasure is to play/Makes no difference what you say/I don't share your greed, the only one I need is/The ace of spades/The ace of spades." Clarke holds huge rousing chords under Lemmy's vocal, then filling the space between lines with a fantastically hooky bending guitar riff. The tempo pushes on unrelenting until reaching a middle breakdown, the band slamming to a full stop for Lemmy impart some more road-weary wisdom, growling, "You know I'm born to lose/And gambling's for fools/But that's the way I like it baby/I don't want to live for ever/And don't forget the joker." The band provides the perfect quick stomp accents before building back to the rapid-fire pace, then releasing into a scorching solo from Clarke. The song comes to an abrupt halt following the last repeated chorus, stomping firmly on the song's three basic chords with impressive power. The whole thing clocks in at less than three minutes.

The song and album would become Motörhead's most commercially successful, the album reaching number four and the single reaching number 15 on the U. K. charts, though the record was released as the band's debut in America receiving only cult status, but eventually proving to be hugely influential. If one were to search for the very roots of bands such as Metallica, "Ace of Spades" would be the most logical place to start.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Remorse 1984 Castle Music Ltd. 2:48