Ace of Spades was metal and it was punk; it kicked the New Wave of British Heavy Metal into hyper-drive and it forecasted thrash; it was, in short, the be-all, end-all of rock-and-roll, and, at the same time, it blasted through to all manner of new beginnings.
Bassist and vocalist Lemmy Kilmister, guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke, and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor had previously released Motörhead (1977), Overkill (1979), and Bomber (1979) in Europe and had become stars in their native England. Ace of Spades broke the band in North America and, from there, the universe.
It’s not possible, of course, to understate the nuclear strike impact of Ace of Spades’ title track. Truly, it reigns as two-minutes, 49-seconds from which rock—and everything else—has ever recovered.
So to the celebrate the 35th anniversary of Ace of Spades and its twelve perfect tracks and Spaghetti Western cover art and before-and-after line in hard rock history (drawn in blood, booze, snortable pep powder, spilled ashtrays, and exploded adrenaline, of course), here are 35 ways in which Motörhead embody heavy metal itself.
1. First and foremost: Lemmy.
2. Secondly: Lemmy’s actual birth name is only slightly less metal than the one he took on—Ian Fraser Kilmister. Yes: Kilmister.
3. Tied for thirdly: the monikers of the original non-Lemmy members of Motörhead—“Fast Eddie” and “Philthy Animal.” Compounding the metal factor is that those two headbanging maniacs surpassed the metal potential of their mega-gnarly nicknames by delivering performances and indulging behaviors on and off stage beyond all previous (and subsequent) definition of rock-and-roll extremes.
4. The term ‘”Motörhead” is slang for an enthusiast of methamphetamine and other chemical stimulants. Lemmy cites his being one as the reason why he was given the moon-boot from playing bass for legendary space-rockers and hallucinogen-boosters, Hawkwind. “I did the wrong drugs,” he says.
5. Motörhead’s sound a combines hell-spawned biker rock with punk propulsion, metal heaviness, and the endless onward boot-stomping megalomaniacal glory that emanates directly from Lemmy’s barbarian soul.
6. Motörhead’s head aesthetic is utterly unique in all of rock. It arises from World War I and II death machinery, post-nuke desert warrior hordes, Oliver Cromwell’s supremely British military madness, Viking calls to conquest, Spaghetti Western desperado gun-slinging, and elements of every other conceivable outlaw culture—plus the XXX factor that is simply all unadulterated Motörhead.
7. “They’re pirates,” Alice Cooper once said of Motörhead, “and Lemmy’s the captain.”
8. Lemmy’s warts: metal.
9. Lemmy’s mutton chops: pure metal.
10. Lemmy’s Marlboro-gassed, Jack-Daniels-drowned dragon bark vocals: purest metal.
11. Only one visage exists that even comes close to Lemmy’s in terms of being the very face of heavy metal: that of “Snaggletooth,” aka “War-Pig,” Motörhead’s mutant-hog/ape/dog logo with its fanged jaws, spiked helmet, and epic tusks from which dangles, on a chain, a human skull.
12. Other nicknames for the Motörhead logo only up its metal factor: The Iron Boar, The Bastard, The Little Bastard.
13. Visual artist Joe Petango, who created the Motörhead logo, drew inspiration for the character by studying the skulls of boars, gorillas, and canines.
14. Motörhead’s album titles alone pummel like uncut metal poetry. Among the most lustfully lyrical: Motörhead, Bomber, On Parole, Ace of Spades, No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith, Iron Fist, No Remorse, Orgasmatron, March or Die, Bastards, Snake Bite Love, Inferno, Aftershock, and Bad Magic.
15. Again: Lemmy. Just… Lemmy.
16. Lemmy was born on Christmas Eve, beating somebody else who gets labeled a Supreme Being by an entire day.
18. Lemmy’s secondary career as a star of Heavy Metal Movies boasts an absolutely infernal filmography. Among his big-screen blowouts are Eat the Rich (1987), a savage UK society satire from the team who created both The Young Ones and the pre-Spinal Tap metal spoof group Bad News; Hardware (1990), director Richard Stanley’s viscerally violent killer robot run amok sci-fi slaughterfest; Airheads (1994), a cult classic heavy metal knucklehead farce; John Wayne Bobbit Uncut (1994), a bizarro real-life tabloid-TV/adult video hybrid; and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2000), where he plays “Good Lemmy/Bad Lemmy.”
19. Lemmy (2010) stands as one of the great rockumentaries of all time. It more than lives up to its fantastically loaded subtitle: 51% Motherf—ker, 49% Son of a Bitch).
20. Motörhead’s embrace and promotion of other artists they love is true metal nobility. Just consider “Stand by Your Man,” Lemmy’s duet with Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics; the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre EP with Girlschool; and “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.,” a self-explanatory tribute to their stateside band of brothers.
21. Try to imagine the New Wave of British Heavy Metal without Motörhead. Impossible.
22. Try to imagine speed metal without Motörhead. Inconceivable.
22. Try to imagine thrash without Motörhead. Impossible and inconceivable.
23. Try to imagine, for that matter, Metallica without Motörhead. The biggest, most popular metal group of all time can’t even do that themselves. Check out a video of Metallica paying tribute to the master during a 1995 Lemmy birthday celebration at the Whisky a Go Go. They dressed up as the Motörhead madman and cranked out a full set of his jams under the moniker, “the Lemmys.”
24. Even Lemmy’s cheeky and sometimes dismissive attitude toward heavy simply renders Motörhead more metal. He’s forever quick to point out that Motörhead is a “rock-and-roll band” and that his heart’s always titled more toward punk. That rebel streak: metal.
25. “Punk was great,” Lemmy said. “I never had time for the Clash and their pretend politics, but the Damned and the Ramones were great rock-and-roll bands. Motörhead fitted right in. We may have had long hair but the punks understood us.” Identifying with punk in that manner powered not just Motörhead, but Iron Maiden, Saxon, and the whole of NWOBHM, which was best defined as “metal played with punk attitude.” It can also be described then, as metal played in the manner invented by Motörhead.
26. Lemmy’s certainly not anti-metal though. Consider his 1991 work with Ozzy Osbourne, which yielded, among other top-tier tunes, the monster smash, “Mama, I’m Coming Home.”
27. Maxim magazine ranked Lemmy #8 on its Top 10 Living Sex Legends list, reporting that the bassist had bedded in excess of 1,200 women. Lemmy himself downgrades that total to just about a thousand.
28. Lemmy still idolizes Little Richard. “It’s Little Richard’s fault, all of it,” Lemmy says. “Little Richard is directly responsible for Motorhead. I heard ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly.’ and that was the end of it.” Lemmy even insisted that Little Richard should receive a Golden God award for his contribution to heavy metal. It’s a belief echoed by Ted Nugent, who noted: “I stop and think what they call ’punk rock’ today…give me a break! Let me know when they can walk in the vapor trail of Little Richard, which was punk. You’ve got a gay black guy with a pompadour singing about tutti frutti with your white girl? F–k you!
29. Lemmy’s other supreme idol is Jimi Hendrix, for whom he had the honor of being a roadie. “Hendrix was an original. There has never been anything like him since and certainly not before,” Lemmy recalls. “He was the best. He was the most innovative guitarist ever… I got to play with him once. I rehearsed in his rehearsal room in White City. You can’t f–king describe it. He was good best. The first time I saw him play was backstage and play and acoustic backstage. It was amazing to watch him in a small room and play.”
30. Motörhead is all about honesty. When asked if Motörhead “started” the thrash movement, Lemmy said: “A lot of bands give us credit, but I didn’t like all of them. Some of it was thrash and some of it was more like trash. There was a lot of both. It sorted itself out in the end because those bad bands are gone. But I didn’t have anything against the Sunset Strip scene or anything. Some of the more melodic stuff was great music. I didn’t give a f–k how they dressed it up, Mötley Crüe are a great band, and if it’s good rock and roll, I like it!”
31. In 1978, Motörhead delivered the first—and still best—“Louie Louie” cover to hit vinyl.
32. Motörhead’s immortal motto—“Everything Louder Than Everything Else”—is the one, flawless summation of everything that defines heavy metal. Shout it louder than everything else!
33. The song “Ace of Spades” contains the line: “I don’t want to live forever/and don’t forget the Joker!” Live, Lemmy often changes those words to, “I don’t want to live forever/but apparently I am!” He’s proven himself true to that claim, as he’s maintained his purely Lemmy-fied lifestyle and even faced from severe health issues in recent years, only to reemerge intact again and again—indestructible.
34. To date, twelve non-Lemmy rock beasts have officially played as members of Motörhead. With Meister Kilmister as the one constant, that takes the tally to the extremely metal number 13.
35. Finally: Lemmy. One more time: Lemmy. Forever. Motörhead rules.