As one of the seminal purveyors of the 70s and 80s heavy metal movement, Motörhead definitely knew how to make a gamble on life pay off. The album Ace of Spades was the fourth studio effort for the band, meaning they had outlasted 99% of their contemporaries by a country mile. Golden Years, their live EP, had made household names of the band, but it was the album Ace of Spades, led by its eponymous title track, that would cement the band’s name into rock n’ roll history.
The Ace of Spades’ squealing guitar intro from Fast Eddie Clarke signalled an instant classic even before lead singer Lemmy intoned the immortal first lyric “If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man/You win some, lose some, all the same to me.” Within the first 15 seconds of the song, Motörhead had gamblers from across the world hooked. It felt as though they finally had an anthem that captured their exciting rush of adrenaline while playing, a feeling that comes through in the atmosphere of today’s elite online gambling sites like Casumo.
Creating a Classic from Chaos
The frenetic energy that the band captured in Ace of Spades was no accident. This was not a band that took the conventional route to creating or recording songs. They had recorded their first two albums, Overkill and Bomber, within months of each other on what they described as a “distracted drinking and [sex] binge.” Lemmy was especially bad, consistently missing rehearsals because he was spending time with a woman he had met in South Wales.
From a central guitar riff that the band upgraded to electric steel guitar on a whim, the song began to take shape. The sounds in the song’s breakdown came from a cardboard box of random items that producer Vic Maile kept in the studio – rattlesnake tails, woodblocks and maracas, among other things. The band was admittedly drunk when they began to record with the woodblocks in the studio, but they decided to leave it because it sounded better offbeat.
Lemmy the Gambler
With the instrumental complete, Lemmy began to try to cement lyrics to the theme he had chosen for the new song, gambling. The band knew they had a special song, so they took special care of the lyrics – in their own way. By the band’s own admittance, the more important the song was, the less care they took to perfect it.
The song Ace of Spades flew up the charts in the United Kingdom, peaking at number 15 in November of 1980. It had another peak after Lemmy’s death in 2015 and actually outperformed its original high with a number 13 finish.
Rock n’ Roll’s True Ace of Spades
The legacy of Motörhead goes far beyond a single song or album. The band is named as a top influence in heavy metal, and their addition of elements like punk rock was a precursor to platinum-selling bands like Green Day and The Offspring, major label bands that came along decades later.
Motörhead themselves have sold over 15 million albums across the world. They are respected to this day, earning a number 26 position on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock presentation. They released a total of 22 studio albums throughout their 40 years of live recording and touring, on top of 12 compilation albums and 10 live records. The band continued its activity until the death of Lemmy in 2015 from congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia. All three members had passed away by 2018, but they left behind a legacy of music awards, classic performances and an indomitable attitude as godfathers of the metal lifestyle.