This is undeniably one of the best metal songs of all time. If you walk past a bar or club playing it anywhere in the world, it makes you want to go in. It’s a useful shorthand for this is my kind of place. It’s a raucous celebration in your ears. It’s a holiday from the grey and mundane. It’s a call to grab life by the pink, round and squishies and really give it all you’ve got, with not a thought for failure.
It’s a clever song, because on first glance it’s just about gambling, but if you listen a little deeper you’ll see it’s also about life and death.
“You win some, lose some, it’s all the same to me” is basically the same idea as Kipling’s “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same…you'll be a man, my son”.
“The pleasure is to play” is a line that makes perfect sense on a visceral level and recalls Ralph Waldo Emerson’s (and Aerosmith’s) “Life is a journey, not a destination”.
The theme of making the decision to take risks, explored in the lyric “Double up or quit, double stake or split” is reminiscent of Einstein’s “A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is built for”.
And finally, the biggie, the inevitability of death, the thing we humans are always trying to distract ourselves from, is referenced in the lyric “The only thing you see, you know it's gonna be, the ace of spades”.
My reviewing of this song is of course due to the recent loss of Lemmy and I’ve bought an mp3 copy (despite having a seven inch single and CD versions of the song) in the hope of Motörhead getting to number one in the charts on Friday 8th January.
We asked too much of Lemmy, expecting him to be immortal. I last saw Motörhead live at Wacken in 2014. They played as the sun set. The crowd response to this song was huge. Ace Of Spades is a song that will always make me thankful for the Lemmories.