Ace of Spades (album)

Ace of Spades is the fourth studio album by British rock band Motörhead, released on 8 November 1980 via Bronze Records. It is the band's most commercially successful album, peaking at number four on the UK Albums Chart and reaching gold status in the UK by March 1981. It was preceded by the release of the title track as a single on 27 October, which peaked in the UK Singles Chart at No. 15 in early November.[2]

Ace of Spades
Motörhead - Ace of Spades (1980).jpg
Studio album by
Released8 November 1980
Recorded4 August – 15 September 1980[1]
StudioJackson's Studios (Rickmansworth, England)[1]
ProducerVic Maile[1]
Motörhead chronology
The Golden Years (EP)
Ace of Spades
Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers (EP)
Cover of the 2005 CD remaster and Classic Albums DVD release
Cover of the 2005 CD remaster and Classic Albums DVD release
Singles from Ace of Spades
  1. "Ace of Spades"
    Released: 27 October 1980

It was the band's debut release in the United States, with Mercury Records handling distribution in North America. In 2020, the album was ranked at 408 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.[3]


By 1979, Motörhead had released two successful albums, Overkill and Bomber, and had gained a loyal fan following by constant touring and television appearances. Their ferocious, loud proto-thrash playing style appealed equally to punks and heavy metal fans, but in 1979 Sounds writer Geoff Barton coined the term "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" (NWOBHM) to classify a slew of newer bands such as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, and Saxon. Motörhead – a band that resented being labeled anything other than rock 'n' roll – was placed in this new genre, which would go on to influence the emerging thrash metal movement that would include bands like Metallica and Megadeth. In the 2011 book Overkill: The Untold Story of Motörhead, Joel McIver quotes vocalist and bassist Lemmy:

"I like Iron Maiden and Saxon out of the new mob, and that's about it, really... We were too late for the first metal movement and early for the next one... Motörhead don't fit into any category, really. We're not straight heavy metal, because we're a rock 'n' roll band, which no-one knows how to market anymore."

Regardless, the association with NWOBHM would be another positive element in the increasing momentum that would lead to the band's most successful commercial period at the beginning of the new decade. In fact, United Artists decided to finally release the band's "lost" first album at this time under the title On Parole, which had originally been recorded in 1976 but shelved because it was deemed commercially unviable. Next, the Big Beat label, which had taken over Chiswick's catalogue, released Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers, packaging four extra tracks that the band had laid down for their debut album. Further evidence of Motörhead's nascent mainstream success was the release of the EP The Golden Years in May 1980 on Bronze Records, which became their highest charting release to date, peaking at No. 8.


Motörhead recorded Ace of Spades with Vic Maile at Jackson's Studios in Rickmansworth in August and September 1980. Maile, who had worked with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and the Who, had crossed paths with Lemmy when he was a member of Hawkwind. The bassist recalls in his 2002 memoir White Line Fever:

"He used to own a mobile studio – Hawkwind hired it out to do Space Ritual and he came with it... Vic was a great man and a great producer, really brilliant... Those were good times; we were winning, we were younger, and we believed it."

As Steffan Chirazi observes in the liner notes to the 1996 reissue of Ace of Spades:

"Vic Maille at the production helm used an expert ear to translate the monstrous live sound and feel of the band to vinyl."

Maille, who was affectionately nicknamed "Turtle" by the band (for his resemblance to the reptile), was critical in giving Motörhead a sleeker sound on record without sacrificing its raw power. Diminutive and soft-spoken, Maille was well equipped to deal with the trio, who were notorious for in-fighting and general unmanageability. In the documentary The Guts and the Glory, drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor remembers:

"Even if he was angry, he was angry like this: (assumes soft-spoken tone) 'You're not supposed to do it like that,' or 'Stop that boys .'" Lemmy Concurs, "Vic was great. He was the first one who told us we were all cunts and work harder. He had a very dry personae: 'Is that really the best shot you've got?'"

In 2015, Clarke recalled to John Robinson of Uncut:

"He didn't drink, he didn't smoke, and he was very delicate because he was diabetic. He had to have his Ryvita at six o'clock. We couldn't get heavy with him, couldn't fucking shake him, you know what I mean? He might die! So we had to listen to him."

Whereas the band had previously had an input at the mixing stage, Maile took sole responsibility here, Clarke explaining that the result was "you can finally hear everything that's going on."[4] Of the performances, Lemmy stated "Vic got me singing instead of just shouting all the time", while Taylor added "and he got me playing more solid."[4]


The album includes some of the band's most popular songs, including "The Chase Is Better Than the Catch", "(We Are) the Road Crew", and the hit single "Ace of Spades", which rose to No. 15 on the UK Singles Chart. In his autobiography, White Line Fever, Lemmy speaks at length about the tune:

"I used gambling metaphors, mostly cards and dice – 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. Most of the song's just poker, really - 'I know you've got to see me, read 'em and weep, Dead man's hand again, aces and eights' - that was Wild Bill Hickock's hand when he got shot. To be honest, although "Ace of Spades" is a good song, I'm sick to death of it now. Two decades on, when people think of Motörhead, they think "Ace of Spades." We didn't become fossilised after that record, you know. We've had quite a few good releases since then. But the fans want to hear it so we still play it every night. For myself, I've had enough of that song."

In 2011, Lemmy admitted to James McNair of Mojo:

"I'm glad we got famous for that rather than for some turkey, but I sang 'The eight of spades' for two years and nobody noticed."

The song "(We Are) the Road Crew" was written as a tribute to the band's roadies. In the 2004 Classic Albums documentary on the making of the album, guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke declares:

"They were a good crew, and they were proud of how good they were. I would put them up against any crew in the world."

In the same film, Lemmy, who worked as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix and the Nice, recalls that he wrote the song "in ten minutes" and that when roadie Ian "Eagle" Dobbie heard the song "he had a tear in his eye". Many of the songs, such as "Love Me Like a Reptile". "The Chase Is Better Than the Catch", and "Jailbait". blatantly reference sex, which drew the ire of some critics and feminists. Clarke explained to Classic Albums in 2005:

"We only thought of ourselves as a good time rock 'n' roll band, really... But we weren't trying to get a message across, apart from have a good time, you know: get pissed, get stoned, and fuck a chick. And that'll do."


Motörhead appeared on Top of the Pops twice in October to promote the single "Ace of Spades", and were guests on the ITV children's morning show Tiswas on 8 November. The band undertook a UK tour from 22 October through to 2 December under the banner Ace Up Your Sleeve, with support from Girlschool and Vardis. After the Belfast show on 2 December, hijinks resulted in Taylor breaking his neck forcing him to wear a neck-brace and curtailing any further band activity. The other members of the band took the opportunity to collaborate with Girlschool for the St. Valentine's Day Massacre EP.


Like the song "Shoot You in the Back", the Ace of Spades artwork employs a classic wild west motif. Originally the idea for the album cover was to have it in a sepia tone and have gunfighters at a card table, but the band decided against it. They decided instead to have themselves in the desert dressed as cowboys. The 'Arizona desert-style' pictures used on the album sleeve and tour programme were taken during a photo session at a sandpit in Barnet.[5] Each of their cowboy outfits were based on different type of Western protagonist. Eddie was based on Clint Eastwood's character, The Man with No Name from the Dollars Trilogy. Phil's costume was based on Marlon Brando's character in One-Eyed Jacks. Lemmy's costume was claimed by Phil to be inspired from Bret Maverick from the TV show Maverick. Contrary to popular belief, the sky was not real and was airbrushed in due to it being very cloudy that day.[6]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [8]
Robert ChristgauB[9]
Q     [10]
Sounds     [11]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[12]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [14]

The album has been described as "one of the best metal albums by any band, ever"[15] and a significantly influential "hard rock classic".[16][failed verification]AllMusic calls it "rock-solid, boasting several superlative standouts" and insists it "rightly deserves its legacy as a classic". Sid Smith of BBC Music enthused in 2007:

"When Lemmy sings the lyrics to '(We Are) The Road Crew' it's the sound of a grizzled veteran who has been there, done that and gone back for second helpings... If ever a piece of music was a manifesto for the mad, bad and dangerous to know party then the title track is it. Unrepentant and full of hell, there's not one note out of place."

Despite the band always referring to their music as rock 'n' roll,[17] the album, and particularly its title track, have been considered amongst the most influential in the development of thrash metal.[18] The title track is, for many, the definitive Motörhead anthem.[19]

The album is listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 2020, it was ranked at 408 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.[3]

Classic Albums documentaryEdit

On 28 March 2005, the documentary about the album (a part of the Classic Albums series) was released on DVD by Eagle Vision. The in-depth look at the making of the album includes interviews with and performances by Lemmy, Phil Taylor and Eddie Clarke.[20]

Track listingEdit

International versionEdit

All tracks are written by Ian Fraser Kilmister, Eddie Clarke and Phil Taylor[1] except where noted.

Side A
1."Ace of Spades"2:48
2."Love Me Like a Reptile"3:23
3."Shoot You in the Back"2:39
4."Live to Win"3:37
5."Fast and Loose"3:23
6."(We Are) the Road Crew"3:13
Side B
7."Fire, Fire"2:44
10."Bite the Bullet"1:38
11."The Chase Is Better Than the Catch"4:18
12."The Hammer"2:48
Castle Communications 1996 CD reissue bonus tracks[1]
No.TitleWriter(s)Original releaseLength
13."Dirty Love" B-side of Ace of Spades single2:57
14."Please Don't Touch"Johnny Kidd, Guy RobinsonSt. Valentine's Day Massacre EP2:49
15."Emergency"Kim McAuliffe, Enid Williams, Kelly Johnson, Denise DufortSt. Valentine's Day Massacre EP3:00

Original US versionEdit

Side A
1."The Chase Is Better Than the Catch"4:15
2."Love Me Like a Reptile"3:21
3."Shoot You in the Back"2:37
4."Live to Win"3:34
5."Fast and Loose"3:22
6."(We Are) the Road Crew"3:10
Side B
1."Ace of Spades"2:46
2."Fire Fire"2:42
5."Bite the Bullet"1:38
6."The Hammer"2:45

Sanctuary Records 2005 2-CD deluxe editionEdit

[1] Disc one includes the original album without bonus tracks.

All tracks are written by Kilmister, Clarke, Taylor.

Disc two
No.TitleOriginal releaseLength
1."Dirty Love"B-Side of Ace of Spades single2:55
2."Ace of Spades (Rare)" (Demo)Dirty Love CD release3:03
3."Love Me Like a Reptile" (Demo)Dirty Love CD release4:16
4."Love Me Like a Reptile" (Alternative Version)Stone Dead Forever CD release3:31
5."Shoot You in the Back" (Demo)Dirty Love CD release3:11
6."Fast and Loose" (Demo)Dirty Love CD release3:06
7."(We Are) the Road Crew" (Demo)Dirty Love CD release3:24
8."Fire, Fire" (Alternative Version)Stone Dead Forever CD release2:41
9."Jailbait" (Alternative Version)Stone Dead Forever CD release3:33
10."The Hammer" (Alternative Version)Stone Dead Forever CD release3:11
11."Dirty Love" (Outtake)Dirty Love CD release1:02
12."Dirty Love" (Demo)Dirty Love CD release3:51
13."Fast and Loose" (Live - BBC Radio 1 Dave Jensen Show, Maida Vale 4 Studio, London, 1 October 1981) 4:18
14."Live to Win" (Live - BBC Radio 1 Dave Jensen Show, Maida Vale 4 Studio, London, 1 October 1981) 3:33
15."Bite the Bullet / The Chase Is Better Than the Catch" (Live - BBC Radio 1 Dave Jensen Show, Maida Vale 4 Studio, London, 1 October 1981) 6:05
  • Dirty Love is an official release by Eddie Clarke on Receiver Records Ltd. in 1989, which had various outtakes from the Ace of Spades sessions on it. It includes the tracks "Hump on your Back", "Waltz of the Vampire", "Bastard" and "Godzilla Akimbo", which are all demos that never got to be mastered at the time, but were done so in poor quality later for this release. These four tracks are also credited to Clarke solely on this release, even though it is the three members of Motörhead playing on the tracks.[21]
  • The 1996 reissue is missing Girlschool covering "Bomber", and the 2005 reissue is missing the tracks completely, from the St. Valentines Day Massacre EP the bands did in 1981 for their shared label Bronze Records.

BMG 40th anniversary deluxe editionEdit

On 30th October 2020, BMG released a deluxe box set of the album, which includes seven 12" LPs, one 10" EP and a DVD. Beside the normal album, which is presented in a special 40th Anniversary Master, the box set included the album Riders Wearing Black, which is a live recording made on 23 December 1981, at the Whitla Hall in Belfast. Another live recording, made on 5 March 1981, at Parc Expo in Orleans, is called Dead Man's Hand. The rarity collection is called The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. The set comes with a 10" EP, which includes seven instrumental demos, titles A Fistful Of Instrumentals. Pre-orders from the official shop of the band were able to receive a Dutch replica of the Ace Of Spades single, with the instrumental of the song on the b-side.

Riders Wearing Black - Live in Belfast - 1981
1."Ace Of Spades"2:51
2."Stay Clean"2:36
3."Over The Top"3:09
4."The Hammer"3:22
5."Shoot You In The Back"2:51
8."Leaving Here"3:21
10."Too Late Too Late"3:12
11."(We Are) The Road Crew"4:44
12."No Class"2:50
13."Bite The Bullet"2:11
14."The Chase Is Better Than The Catch"0:55
Dead Man's Hand - Live In Orléans
1."Ace Of Spades"2:51
2."Stay Clean"2:34
3."Over The Top"3:33
5."Shoot You In The Back"2:10
6."The Hammer"3:20
8."Leaving Here"3:35
9."Fire, Fire"4:59
10."Love Me Like A Reptile"4:19
12."Too Late, Too Late"4:53
13."(We Are) The Road Crew"3:57
14."No Class"3:23
15."Bite The Bullet"1:39
16."The Chase Is Better Than The Catch"4:24
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
No.TitleOriginal releaseLength
1."Ace Of Spades" (Alternate Version)Dirty Love CD release3:03
2."Dirty Love"B-Side of Ace of Spades single2:54
3."Love Me Like a Reptile" (Alternate Long Version)Dirty Love CD release4:15
4."Shoot You In The Back" (Alternate Version)Dirty Love CD release3:08
5."Hump On Your Back"Dirty Love CD release3:41
6."Fast and Loose" (Alternate Version)Dirty Love CD release3:05
7."(We Are) the Road Crew" (Alternate Version)Dirty Love CD release3:22
8."Fire, Fire" (Alternate Version)Stone Dead Forever CD release2:39
9."Jailbait" (Alternate Version)Stone Dead Forever CD release3:31
10."Waltz Of The Vampire"Dirty Love CD release3:38
11."The Hammer" (Alternate Version)Stone Dead Forever CD release3:10
12."Dirty Love" (Alternate Long Version)Dirty Love CD release3:50
13."Bastard"Dirty Love CD release3:02
14."Godzilla Akimbo"Dirty Love CD release2:15
15."Love Me Like A Reptile" (Alternate Version)Stone Dead Forever CD release3:29
16."Dirty Love" (Alternate Version)Dirty Love CD release1:02
17."Please Don't Touch" (Performed by HeadGirl)St. Valentines Day Massacre EP release2:47
18."Bomber" (Performed by Girlschool)St. Valentines Day Massacre EP release3:35
19."Emergency"St. Valentines Day Massacre EP release2:59
A Fistful Of Instrumentals
No.TitleOriginal releaseLength
1."Ace Of Spades" (Instrumental Demo)Previously unreleased3:08
2."Hump On Your Back" (Instrumental Demo)Previously unreleased3:34
3."Shoot You In The Back" (Instrumental Demo)Previously unreleased3:05
4."Fast And Loose" (Instrumental Demo)Previously unreleased3:08
5."Dirty Love" (Instrumental Demo)Previously unreleased4:43
6."Love Me Like A Reptile" (Instrumental Demo)Previously unreleased4:15
7."Dance" (Instrumental Demo)Previously unreleased3:44


Per the album's liner notes.[1]

  • Lemmy – vocals, bass, backing vocals on "Emergency"
  • "Fast" Eddie Clarke – lead guitar, lead vocals on "Emergency"
  • Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor – drums except on "Please Don't Touch" & "Emergency"
  • Kim McAuliffe – rhythm guitar on "Please Don't Touch"
  • Kelly Johnson – co-lead vocals & co-lead guitar on "Please Don't Touch"
  • Enid Williams – bass on "Please Don't Touch" (Note: Enid and Lemmy play bass on the track, making it a six piece for this song)
  • Denise Dufort – drums on "Please Don't Touch" & "Emergency" (Note: Dufort plays all the drums on the EP because Taylor had a broken neck at the time)


2005 deluxe edition remaster

  • Steve Hammonds – release coordination
  • Jon Richards – release coordination
  • Malcolm Dome – sleeve notes
  • Mick Stevenson – project consultant, photos and archive memorabilia


Chart Peak


Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[22] 29
French Albums (SNEP)[23] 178
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[24] 37
UK Albums (OCC)[25] 4
Chart (2020) Peak
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[26] 42
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[27] 50
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[28] 51
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[29] 40
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[30] 10
Scottish Albums (OCC)[31] 19
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[32] 36
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[33] 39


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[34] Gold 100,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Release historyEdit

Date Region Label Catalogue Format Notes
8 November 1980 United Kingdom Bronze BRON531 LP Peaked at No. 4 in the UK Albums Chart
8 November 1980 United Kingdom Bronze BRONG531 LP
8 November 1980 Italy Bronze BROL 34531 LP
8 November 1980 Germany Bronze 202 876-270 LP Some mispressed with side one on both sides
8 November 1980 United States Mercury SRM-1-4011 LP Different track running order
1986 United Kingdom GWR GWLP6 LP
1986 United Kingdom Legacy LLMCD 3013 CD
1988 United States Profile PCD-3243 CD
1988 United States Profile PRO-3243 LP
1991 United Kingdom Castle CLACD 240 CD Liner notes by Mörat from Kerrang!
1996 United Kingdom
  • Essential
  • Castle
ESM CD 312 CD Includes three bonus tracks
2003 Italy Earmark 41003 LP
28 January 2003 United Kingdom Silverline 2881339 DVD-Audio[35] Surround Sound format
2005 United States Sanctuary 06076-86408-2 2xCD
  • The labels on the 1986 GWR re-issue had the GWR logo and "A" on one side, and side two on the other. The tracks were also erroneously listed in the order of the US release.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Ace of Spades, Motörhead, Sanctuary Records, SMEDD243, 2005 liner notes, page 10 & 11
  2. ^ Burridge, Alan (April 1991). "Motörhead". Record Collector (140): 18–19.
  3. ^ a b "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 22 September 2020. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  4. ^ a b Ace of Spades official tour programme. Motörhead interviewed by Giovanni Dadomo
  5. ^ "Dr Rock VS Lemmy interview 19 July 2004". PlayLouder article. Archived from the original on 12 August 2004. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Motörhead: Ace of Spades". Classic Albums. Season 5. Episode 3. 1 March 2005. BBC.
  7. ^ Birchmeier, Jason. "Review Ace of Spades". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 August 2009.
  8. ^ "Motörhead: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. 2004.
  9. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Review Ace of Spades". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 7 August 2009.
  10. ^ Q (10/96, pp. 186–187) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...their defining moment....the title track is not so much the best song on the record as the greatest rock single ever recorded, three minutes of genuinely hair-raising rollercoasteresque Grand Prix tank racing superfast guitar-belch rock..."
  11. ^ Bushell, Garry (25 October 1980). "Motörhead: Ace of Spades (Bronze)". Sounds.
  12. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 1841955515.
  13. ^ "Discography – LEMMY: SOME OF HIS CLASSICS RECONSIDERED, ON A SCALE OF ONE TO...11". Spin. April 2009. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  14. ^ C. Strong, Martin (2002). Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Canongate. ISBN 1852279230.
  15. ^ "Motorhead". BNR Metal Pages. Archived from the original on 5 April 2007. Retrieved 11 April 2007.
  16. ^ "Classic Albums: Motörhead – Ace of Spades". AllMovie review. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  17. ^ "An Interview with Lemmy Kilmister". Classic Rock Revisited article. Archived from the original on 2 February 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  18. ^ "Reviews for Motörhead's Ace of Spades 4 December 2004". Encyclopaedia Metallum. Archived from the original on 19 February 2007. Retrieved 27 February 2007.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "Motörhead: Ace of Spades Classic Albums Series DVD". Eagle Rock Entertainment site. Archived from the original on 5 November 2006. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
  21. ^ Dirty Love, Motörhead, Receiver Records Ltd, RRLP 123, 1989 Liner Notes, page rear
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  31. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  32. ^ "Top 100 Albumes – Semana 45: del 30.10.2020 al 05.11.2020" (in Spanish). Productores de Música de España. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
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