Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” is one of the grittiest, most balls-out drinking songs in the history of music. It sounds the way dive bar bourbon tastes at 1 AM. Motörhead’s lead singer, Lemmy Kilmister (which sounds eerily close to a terrifying youth screaming “LET ME KILL, MASTER!) snarls his way through the lyrics with so much char on his vocal chords that the only reason his voice is palatable is that it’s buried under distorted, rapid-fire guitar riffs. The whole thing sounds as if the phrase “Screw off, and get me another” was turned into music. In fact, it’s so awesome that leading scientists recently called Ace of Spades the best song ever recorded.
If you haven’t heard it before, go here. Actually, you know what? If you have heard it before, go here. Then go get a back-alley tattoo of Satan smoking a cigar, because that’s the kind of awesome, wackadoo nonsense this song inspires.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the legion of YouTube uploaders (read: a large army of people with varying degrees of talent, and an insatiable need to BE SEEN BY THE WORLD!) have posted a ton of cover versions, many of which borrow from other genres. As you might imagine, these run the gamut from “surprisingly excellent!” to “…mother of God.”
We’d continue elaborating, but every word wasted here is time that you could be spending getting your face rocked off. Or, jazzed off. Or ska’ed off. You get the point.
Hayseed Dixie’s Bluegrass Cover
Okay, so you know how it sounds, but you guys: I have so many questions about this. I’d encourage you to watch that linked video (we can’t post it here), because it creates a pretty complex web of intrigue. Hayseed Dixie (apparently not a jam-making company?) is appearing on what you’d assume is some sort of talk show, based on, you know, the host and the applause and what have you. After their introduction, they jump right into the bluegrass.
BUT WAIT. If they’re rocking the bluegrass, why is the host a British guy wearing a Jam Master Jay t-shirt!? And what talk show is this that appears to be in your parents’ backyard? Adding even more spice to this stew of world-shattering confusion is the fact that all four of these guys, what with their overalls and tie-dye, look like they’re dressed as Hasbro stereotypes of what a hippie-hillbilly (…hipplebilly?) superhero team should look like.
Now, while you’re chewing on all this, that’s when the lead singer–who, so far as I can tell, is a perfect genetic blend between Jason Segel and Shawn Michaels–stares are you like “I’m gonna bluegrass your ass off, junior.”
At this point, your understanding of reality is somewhere between your understanding of The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions. Meanwhile, while you’re trying to make sense of what the hell you’re watching, it hits you:
…this is really freaking good.
I don’t know too much about the bluegrass game but I have to assume that that mandolin player is their Eddie Van Halen. Plus, all four of these guys look like they’re having the time of their life. Oh, and if you didn’t notice, their banjo player is King of the Hill’s Dale Gribble.
All that considered–wouldn’t you have an absolute blast seeing these guys perform live? I know I would.
LEMMY RATING: 4 Aces out of 4
VKGoesWild’s Piano Version
This is nonsense. There’s no way a full-throttle guitar song like Ace of Spades can be done justice by one petite-looking lady with an electric pian–
HOLY CRAP THIS IS AWESOME.
This video is a little infuriating, but not in the “I’m actually angry at her” way, so much as the jealous, “how come Joseph Gordon-Levitt get all the ladies? His name has a hyphen in it! A HYPHEN!” I mean…look at her hands. That doesn’t look like real piano playing, right? That looks like some sitcom where the director was like “Ok, Jon Cryer, we need you to ‘play’ piano. So just flail in the general direction of the piano and we’ll dub in a studio piano player later.” Put another way, she’s hammering away at the piano so haphazardly, that it makes Rowlf the Dog look surgical by comparison. (Quick aside, that Rowlf video brings me so much joy).
Meanwhile, she’s totally getting into this song. I have a friend who always says that art (be it movies, sitcoms, concerts, whatever) are always more fun when you can tell the performers are enjoying themselves . And VKGoesWild (real name: Vika Yermolyeva) looks like she’s having a blast playing this song.
And who wouldn’t? It sounds like the type of “push it to the limit!” kind of power jam that you’d hear during a miniboss battle of an old school Nintendo game. True story: when I was researching this article, I meant to only watch a few seconds of each video. But this one got my full attention. Even worse, it wasn’t until I was finished that I noticed this quote from the Viktoriya herself:
I didn’t expect it to be nice on the piano, I just played it because it sounds like fun.
Heavens. Ladies and gentlemen, set your internet crushes on “Go.”
LEMMY RATING: 4 Aces out of 4
The Wedding Cover
If you’re over the age of 25, chances are you’ve been to at least a few weddings. By now, surely gotten over the rush of “hey! Everyone I know from (high school/college/that ill-received reality show about cannibalism) is back together again! We’re going to drink in suits, and I’m going to get a (groomsman’s/bridesmaid’s/cab driver’s/busboy’s) number tonight!” has worn off. Now, it’s the same ol’ same ol’: rehearsal dinner the night before, drink too much, wedding day, reception, white people dancing, vomit vomit punch “you’re making a scene!” hangover eggs barf plane nap Monday etc etc.
Here’s where I’d normally say “thank goodness someone decided to do something different for a change!” but that’s not true, because the internet has robbed me of that joy. But what I will say, is that this wedding video is freaking adorable.
In the words of the bride and groom:
We got married. As the Bride and Groom, we decided we’d play at our own wedding reception. And we just had to play a cover of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades. Rock. Metal. Wedding. Cheese. and Lemmy.
Cynics might argue that the sound quality of the video isn’t very good, or that they spelled “Motorhead” without the trademark umlaut over the second “o.” But I’m going to overlook that, because these two crazy kids are doing it up their way. Plus, science has proven that there’s nothing prettier than a nice-looking lady playing a bass guitar. You know what, gang? I think they just might make it.
Here’s a link to their blog, just because these two are so darn adorable that i want to give them the traffic. All 12 of you.
LEMMY RATING: 3 Aces out of 4 (gets docked a point for the sound quality.)
The Paris 1940s Jazz Version
This is the whitest thing on the internet, which is a particularly startling achievement, considering that Motörhead is already a pretty white band. But this cover — well-intentioned as it is — falls a little short for me. Now, credit where credit is due — it’s clear that the entire band is truly very, very talented.
Plus, the intro is awesome. It sounds like the soundtrack to a detective movie where the narrator is all like “Dateline: Manhattan. The Jade Pilgrim has struck again! And it’s up to hardboiled, no-nonsense Private Eye Sledge Dynamo to apprehend the crook!”
Then, it sort of falls apart for me. Trying to cram Lemmy’s high-octane lyrics into a gentle, nightclub jazz just isn’t working.
Now, that’s not to say jazz and rock can’t work together. It’s been done before in some pretty cool ways. But for some reason, this one isn’t hitting the mark. And I half suspect it’s because I’m petty enough to let the lead singer’s Spider Man 3 haircut skew my opinion.And also, their saxophonist/keyboard player bears a striking resemblance to Aaron Eckhart.
Now, should I be the subject of scorn since I can’t fully embrace a cover because of a few silly haircuts?
Let’s say yes. Without a doubt.
Lemmy rating: 1 Ace out of 4
The Songsmith Version
Hang on, you need some context here.
If you’ve never heard of Songsmith before, here’s how it works: you sing notes into your computer’s microphone. Then, it creates a song around what you sang. Now, it doesn’t always create masterpieces, but it’s still a neat idea. I hum a melody. The computer writes a song. Easy.
Some genius–and I don’t say that sarcastically, I very literally mean “a person whose intellectual capacity I actively yearn to have”–decided to put Lemmy’s voice in Ace of Spades into Songsmith. And the result is better than anything any of us could have ever, ever hoped for.
From the get go, the pleasant, bobbing, dopey music with the elevator-style descending piano line is in total and complete contrast to the angry, biker-looking dudes pounding the hell out of their instruments.
What’s striking here–besides everything–is, cripes, I knew Lemmy had a rough voice but this sounds like low-grade sandpaper on a chalkboard. He can’t even hit that “me” the right way, and it’s like the tenth word he sings!
I do have a confession to make, however. I’ve never made it all the way through this video. But, I have a good reason. Two, in fact:
1) The awkward drum fill at the 50-second mark breaks something in my brain every time I hear it.
2) 1:22. “And don’t forget the JO-kahh!”
I can’t, you guys. I just can’t.
Lemmy Rating: 52 Aces out of 4
Now, this is absolutely a non-exhaustive list of Ace of Spades covers. People have done rockabilly covers, a ska version (of course), and everything in between. So go on and try your own search. Fair warning, though: these vary in quality from “sublime” to “WTF?” so be prepared for anything. After all, you win some, lose some–it’s all the same to me.
Brian Cullen has previously written about rock’s best and worst tributes. He also writes about beer a lot, which is absolutely something you should be drinking while listening to “Ace of Spades.” Follow him on twitter @bucketcullen.