DB HOF NO. 63
The making of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades”
released: November 1980
After 60-plus Hall of Fame inductions, one thing that stands out is that precious few of those albums contain and are best known for a single truly classic song. There are, of course, “classic” songs on most all of them, but none of the magnitude of “Ace of Spades,” a tune that transcends the metal genre and has become a part of pop culture at large. It has, in many ways, come to define Motörhead. The band—bassist/vocalist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor—put out three albums before they wrote that song, and many since (most without Taylor and Clarke), but there is no escaping the impact that one song had, and continues to have 30 years later.
We are not, however, inducting Motörhead’s fourth album just on the merits of that song alone (though there’s an argument to be made for that…). Ace of Spades, inarguably, was this lineup’s finest moment, an album released during the ascension of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal; though, ironically, the band really had no association with that movement. The five previous years spent cranking out one album after another and tirelessly slogging it out on the road, paid off in, well, spades. They may have been reviled by the press, their peers and much of the population at large at the time, but the punters loved ’em.
And why wouldn’t they? Motörhead were a people’s band, as authentic as they came. What you saw—three gnarly, long-haired, biker-lookin’ dudes with questionable hygiene habits—was what you got. And best of all, they sounded exactly like they looked. Ace of Spades finally, definitively, captured this unkempt band’s sound, a sonic force so unruly and crass that it appealed to punk and metal crowds equally. Yeah, the title track is perhaps the greatest metal anthem ever written, but there are a half dozen on here—“(We Are) the Road Crew,” “The Hammer,” “Jailbait,” “Fast and Loose,” etc.—that are just as ass-kicking and memorable. Not surprisingly, Ace debuted on the UK charts at number four and went on to be the band’s biggest-selling album, the one that would finally help them grab a foothold in the US. —Adem Tepedelen
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