Motorhead – Ace of Spades (1980)
It was a frigid, gray morning as I drove down a long, empty stretch of the Massachusetts Turnpike. Idle snowflakes fell down around my car as I settled into the home stretch of the drive to Boston. I needed some noise to power me through the last leg.
Looking down at the shotgun seat next to me, I caught sight of Lemmy Kilmister and his two bandmates standing in a desert landscape, bedecked in a combination of black leather and old West cowboy gear. Why not?
The next forty-five minutes flew right by with Motorhead’s patented noise: catchy, energetic three-to-four minute songs about life on tour and other classic themes. With obligatory guitar solos, Motorhead songs are informed by Lemmy’s love of old-school, 1950’s-era rock and roll, original English punk rock, and of course his hard-driving, distorted bass.
As I headbanged, smiled at Lemmy’s lyrical sense of humor, and struggled to keep from pushing my speedometer over 85 mph, I discovered a perfect way to describe Motorhead’s special niche: “road metal.”
1. Ace of Spades
2. Love Me Like A Reptile
3. Shoot You In The Back
4. Live To Win
5. Fast And Loose
6. (We Are) the Road Crew
7. Fire, Fire
10. Bite The Bullet
11. The Chase Is Better Than The Catch
12. The Hammer
I would not be the headbanger I am today without the title song “Ace of Spades.” I used to make my own 24-hour playlists for my personal imaginary radio station, and according to me that song would be played once per hour, every hour, more often than any other! It brings to mind loud, chaotic smoke-filled gambling dens lit only by fire.
“When it comes to that sort of thing, I’m more into the slot machines actually, but you can’t really sing about spinning fruit, and the wheels coming down,” Lemmy quips about this anthem in the book White Line Fever.
Motorhead’s best-known song leads off the album, and couldn’t be done any other way.
On the Lemmy documentary, a longtime fan talks about the quality of Lemmy’s lyricism on the track, especially, “But that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever!”
As wonderfully fun as it is to yell that quote at the top of your lungs, I’m personally even more of a fan of this wonderful one-liner Lemmy drops in “Fast and Loose”:
“I’ll wake you up, but stay in bed
Don’t get up, get down instead!”
Oh Lemmy, you’ve always been such a sweetheart.
He also reaches back to his days as a Jimi Hendrix roadie for “We Are The Road Crew.”
“One of our road crew cried when we first played that song for them…Bands as a rule don’t treat their crews too well. I try to,” Lemmy points out the obvious.
The barroom philosopher also engages in some sage relationship advice in “The Chase Is Better Than The Catch.” Motorhead’s live energy is brought into the studio environment here, with a breakdown for Lemmy to rally his audience. And on a side note, I have been guilty of telling friends who are romantically pursuing someone that indeed, the chase is better than the catch…so enjoy the adventure!
“‘Ace of Spades’ had set Motorhead up for what should’ve been immortal superstardom, large bundles of cash and a potential lifestyle of the rich and famous,” the liner notes lament.
But in the hearts of metalheads, this “road metal” already does all those things. And if you’re going to own only one Motorhead studio album, make sure it’s this one as it’s generally considered the best (though I’m just ever so slightly partial to Overkill). It’s a fine, fine 12-pack of songs.
But really, why stop at just one? Cowards.
Lemmy Kilmister (RIP)
Phil Taylor (RIP)
Written by Matt P