Meaning of Ace of Spades by Motörhead & The Story Behind

Motorhead’s most famous song is the unforgettable Ace of Spades from the album of the same name, released in 1980. Over the next thirty plus years, the guys recorded a lot of great tracks, but none of them managed to surpass this classy composition, which is often called the band’s anthem.

Let’s remember how the legendary track was written.

The story of creation and the meaning of Ace of Spades by Motörhead

Lemmy Kilmister recalled that the story of the song Ace of Spades began in a cargo van, where it was violently thrown from side to side at crazy speed.

In his autobiography, he talked about what the song Ace of Spades is about:

I used gambling metaphors. Mostly from cards and craps, as far as those things are concerned. Actually, I’m more into slot machines, but you can’t sing about spinning fruit and generous reels. In fact, almost the entire song is about poker: “I know you’re definitely watching me. Look at them and cry. Dead man’s hand again,” these were the cards of “Wild” Bill Hickok when he was shot.

Indeed, there are many interesting references to gambling in the lyrics of Ace of Spades. A dead man’s hand is a pair of black aces with a pair of eights of the same color.

According to legend, the famous Wild West hero Bill Hickok, who was killed right at the poker table, died with these cards in his hands.

A deck of Bicycle cards consisting of Aces of Spades

And there are many dark stories connected with the ace of spades in English-speaking countries. It is considered a “card of death”, which was greatly facilitated by American soldiers. During the Vietnam War, they left this card on the bodies of dead enemies, thus trying to intimidate the enemy. Bicycle, one of the largest card manufacturers, even supplied special decks to the front that consisted only of aces of spades. Later, the Americans practiced something similar in the war in Iraq.

Release and achievements

But back to Motorhead and the song Ace of Spades. It was released as a single at the end of October 1980, anticipating the release of the album, although the public heard the composition a little earlier. In September Lemmy sang Ace of Spades on BBC Radio 1 and in October he performed it a couple of times on BBC TV.

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Motorhead fans enthusiastically accepted the track, and music critics were generous with laudatory reviews. On the UK Singles Chart, Ace of Spades climbed to number fifteen.

Since then, Motorhead has played Ace of Spades at every gig. Lemmy has repeatedly said that she bored him, but he continues to sing it so as not to disappoint the fans. In the same autobiography he said:

To be honest, although Ace of Spades is a good song, I’m tired of it to death. For over twenty years, when people think of Motorhead, they think of Ace of Spades. You know, after that recording, we didn’t become a fossil. Since then we have had some good releases. But the fans want to hear it, so we play it every show. Speaking of me, I’ve had enough of this song.

Q magazine ranked Ace of Spades #27 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. Channel VH1 gave her the tenth line in the ranking of the best hard rock songs of all time.

Ace of Spades by Motörhead Video

The music video for Ace of Spades by Lemmy Kilmister is now available to watch.

Interesting Facts

  • Lemmy has an Ace of Spades tattoo on his left arm.
  • The text mentions “snake eyes” (a pair of units in craps), as well as terms from video slots (double up), blackjack (double, split) and poker (ante).
  • Some versions of Ace of Spades do not have a line about the joker.

Ace of Spades Lyrics by Motörhead

If you like to gamble
I tell you I’m your man
You win some, lose some
All the same to me
The pleasure is to play
Makes no difference what you say
I don’t share your welcome
The only card I need is

The ace of spades

Playing for the high one
Dancing with the devil
Going with the flow
It’s all a game to me
seven or eleven
Snake eyes watching you
Double up or quit
Double stake or split

The ace of spades

You know I’m born to lose
And gambling’s for fools
But that’s the way I like it baby
I don’t wanna live forever
And don’t forget the joker

Pushing up the ante
I know you’ve got to see me
Read ’em and weep
The dead man’s hand again
I see it in your eyes
Take one look and die
The only thing you see
You know it’s gonna be

The ace of spades

Ace of Spades Lyrics by Motörhead Altenate

If you love to play
I tell you I’m at your service
You win something, you lose something
I do not care
The pleasure lies in the game
It doesn’t matter what you say
Your greed doesn’t excite me
The only card I need is…

Ace of Spades

Play big
Dance with the devil
To go with the flow –
All this is a game for me
Seven or eleven
The eyes of the snake are watching you
Play by chance or take money
Do a double or split

Ace of Spades

You know I’m destined to lose
And gambling is for fools
But I like this way, baby
I don’t want to live forever
And don’t forget the joker

Raising the stake
I know you’re definitely watching me
Look at them and cry
Dead man’s hand again
I see it in your eyes
Take a look and die
The only thing you will see is…

Ace of Spades

Song quote

Undoubtedly, Ace of Spades is the best, but I could not imagine that this is such a good song. When I wrote it, it was like an exercise in gambling terms – all clichés. I’m glad we became famous for this and not some bullshit, but I sang “the eight of spades” for two years and no one noticed.

Lemmy Kilmister, Mojo, 2011

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