The Ace of Spades will fuck you up. Here’s why.
In history, the Ace of Spades was known as the ‘death card’ in gambling. The story goes back a long time, and became a common message and myth during prohibition, and then later in ww2. It has almost always meant very bad juju. But there are also some PSYOP success stories. In Vietnam, US planes sprinkled enemy territory with playing cards, but prior to carpet bombing, they dropped only the ace of spades. Before long, the Pavlovian technique took hold, and just the dropping of aces was sufficient to clear an entire area. It was not unheard of for US soldiers and Marines to stick this card in their helmet band as a sort of anti-peace sign. This isn’t why I am writing, though. Nor is it why you are reading. I want to talk about what the Ace of Spades (let’s just call it the Ace going forward, for brevity. Each time I use the term ‘Ace’ in this piece, I am referring specifically to the Ace of Spades. I want to talk about something even weirder; how the Ace was chosen twice by the winners. In 1959, Buddy Holly was on a tour across America with the latest hit makers. Think of a super quick version of Lollapalooza.
These were the biggest artists in America, but they only did a set of 4 or 5 songs. Seems like an awful lot of trouble, driving 10 hours between cities just to play a few songs. That was the business model back then, though. This was LONG before the days of prevost coaches and comfy driving. This also shows you how dumb and greedy the promoters were. The whole tour was given a school bus to cross the country. No beds, no tvs, not even seat belts. On top of that, this tour was through the Winter and the bus had no heat. It was so goddamn cold going from town to town that Buddy Holly’s drummer got hospitalized for frostbite. The terrible night Buddy died, he had had enough. They were facing an 8 hour drive on a school bus to the next gig in a winter storm (with no heat, remember). Buddy opted to charter a plane to get to the next city. This makes a TON of sense, and was pretty wise thinking. His ambition was simple, he just wanted to get to the next city early so he could do some laundry.
As you can imagine, the plane that night was a hot commodity. Drive 8 hours in freezing school bus through blizzard, or 2 hours in a heated plane. So, the other guys understandably fought for the available other seats. The last seat came down to Waylon Jennings (the Dukes of Hazard guy) and Richie Valens. Both wanted a seat, and neither was going to do that fucking drive again. So, how do we decide who gets the plane? We gotta be fair. No sense getting in a fight here, we are all still stuck on tour together. So, they agreed to draw cards and high card wins the spot on the plane. Richie pulls the Ace and wins. WINS!!!!
He gets a 2 hour heated plane flight and a day of hotel rest while the other sucks schlep across the country in a busted old school bus. We all know how that ends, as tragically the plane crashed killing everyone. To me, that isn’t the crazy or creepy part. It is that they fought for that seat, and it was the winner who got the seat on the plane. Geesh, some prize, huh?
In 1986, Metallica was touring Europe on their ‘Master of Puppets’ tour. Unlike the Holley/Valens tour, they had a really nice bus. The day before Cliff Burton (their bassist) died, he told a reporter that touring was way better now that they had their own bus. After a gig in Sweden, the band was off to another gig and an all night drive. The bus only had a couple of bunks. The best bed was in back, and they often fought for it. You see where this is going, right? Cliff and Kirk (their guitarist) drew cards to see who would get the good bunk. Cliff won. How? You know already… he drew the Ace of Spades.
That night, the bus hit a patch of ice and rolled. The collision threw Cliff out of the bus through the window, and then the bus rolled over on him and killed him. Yes, Cliff ‘won’ the high card competition.
In 1980, Motorhead record the ‘Ace of Spades’. It is a horrible 3 minutes of racket and mumbling, like every other one of their songs. See, Motorhead’s music is absolutely fucking horrible. Seriously, here is a link to the song. It’s just bad. The worst part is, this is their best song and their biggest hit.
Lemmy, their singer, is a legend, though. Everyone loves Lemmy. I love Lemmy. He is funny, crazy, charming, and unkillable. In the 60’s Lemmy served as Jimi Hendrix’ guitar tech. He was also the guy in charge of procuring acid for himself and Hendrix. That is just one of the stories in Lemmy’s bad ass life. There is a parable that goes “if Lemmy and God were to fight, who would win?” The correct answer is “trick question, Lemmy is god!”
So, among their horrible collection of ear blood, he wrote ‘Ace of Spades’. Bad idea, Lemmy. Very bad idea. Dear reader, you are thinking ‘but wait, Lemmy is alive’. Is he? Let’s take a look at what that song did to him. Here is a photo of Lemmy before recorded his 1980 ‘hit’. This photo was shot on his way into the studio that morning.
What is my connection? Well, I have an Ace of Spades story myself. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about it. Anyhow, watch out of the Ace of Spades. You have been warned.
“winning” with the Ace of Spades isn’t ‘winning’, unless you are Charlie Sheen.