That’s When We Started To Fuck Up: Tales from Lemmy
In May 1980, Bronze Records released a live four-track EP, The Golden Years, comprising cheaply recorded live versions of ‘Leaving Here’, ‘Stone Dead Forever’, Dead Men Tell No Tales’ and ‘Too Late, Too Late’. It immediately leapt into the charts at Number 8 and the band were back again on Top Of The Pops, miming along convincingly to ‘Leaving Here’. Radio 1 refused to play any of the EP’s tracks, though. Complaining Lemmy’s vocal was mixed too low. So Bronze hurriedly remixed ‘Leaving Here’, bringing up the vocal track, and reissued it to the station as a special seven-inch single. They still refused to play it.
Recording at producer Vic Maile’s Jackson’s Studios in Rickmansworth, a few miles outside London, this next album would, for many long-term fans at least, be the last of the true Motörhead masterpieces. The sound was better than on Bomber or Overkill — Maile had worked in the past with such giants as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Who and knew exactly how to get a great live band to replicate their best work in a studio — and the 12-tracks, again, were built around three truly colossal Motörhead moments: the title track, ‘Ace Of Spades’, ‘(We Are) The Road Crew’, and ‘The Chase Is Better Than The Catch’.
The former, of course, would go on to become the band’s signature song, like ‘Satisfaction’ for the Stones or ‘All Right Now’ for Free, by the time of Lemmy’s death 35 years later, ‘Ace Of Spades’ was still the one song everybody knew him by. The one song no Motörhead show would ever be complete without. With its rumbling thunder bass, lightning fast drums and speedy, corner-hugging guitar riff, overlaid by a thrilling lyric in which gambling metaphors become code for how to live your life to the full, Lemmy outdid himself this time — although, as he was always quick to point out, he was never much of a poker player in real life, always preferring the swinging arm of the fruit machines (one of which he now had installed in the dressing room on tour each night). Thus we hear about ‘snake eyes’ — double one on a gambling dice — and the ‘dead man’s hand, aces and eights’, “Wild Bill Hickcock’s hand when he got shot,” he explained.
And of course, it’s immortal pay-off line, about being born to lose, and how gambling’s for fools, ‘But that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever!’ One of the greatest kiss-offs in rock history, followed by the final twist of the absurdist knife, ‘And don’t forget the joker!’ Cue: that fearfully cackling, gloriously insane solo. How true was it, though, I asked him. Wouldn’t it come back to haunt him? The way Pete Townshend’s famous line in ‘My Generation’ — ‘Hope I die before I get old’ — eventually did? “Of course!” he laughed. “See, I cover a lot more ground than Townshend. ‘I don’t want to live forever is a long time. You could be 294 and not reach ‘forever’. But I think you’d be sick of it by then. I think anybody would be sick of it by then. Even me. And I like to stay up late, you know? Actually, I’d like to die the year before forever. To avoid the rush…”
The other major cornerstones of the album, also embraced tenets of Lemmy’s personal philosophy. The most affecting, ‘(We Are) The Road Crew’. Having once been a roadie himself, Lemmy always felt an affinity for the hard-working roadies and crew that gave their all on tour for Motörhead. Lemmy recalls in his memoir how when one of roadies, Ian ‘Eagle’ Dobbie heard the song, “he had a tear in his eye.” More rowdy and to the point was ‘The Chase Is Better Than the Catch’, which drew bile from several female rock writers, but Eddie couldn’t see what the fuss was about. “It’s about the true life experience of what it’s like being in a band like this,” he says now. Cos when you haven’t got a pot to piss in and slogging around the country and having a fucking laugh, you haven’t got time for thinking. If you got a drink and a joint and toot you figure your fucking life’s sweet, man, and a bird’s fucking sucking you off, what more do I ever want?”
When ‘Ace Of Spades’ was released as the lead-off single from the album in October, despite little or no airplay again, it rocketed into the charts at Number 15, triggering yet another Top Of The Pops appearance and yet more front covers on Sounds and Melody Maker. What really hit home for Lemmy, though, was when the Ace Of Spades album went straight into the charts at Number 4!
“That was it, really, “ Lemmy would tell me years later. “We thought we’d made it, and actually we had. And that’s when we started to fuck up. Not all at once, but that was probably the start.”