The audience for heavy music didn’t overtake MTV immediately, but one of the key moments in pushing for more heavy presence on the network came when Motorhead made a guest turn playing “Ace of Spades” in the living room of the British cult comedy hit The Young Ones.
The show centered on four undergrads living in squalor in a house while they attend the fictional Scumbag University. It ran for two seasons on the BBC and MTV picked it up to run late nights on the weekend where it gained traction as a cult hit for the still on the rise network that was still a couple of years away from showcasing metal on Headbanger’s Ball.
In the 1984 episode Bambi, the first of the second season, Motorhead turn up in the boys’ living room, shoehorned into the episode playing “Ace of Spades” as the guys frantically, but distractedly, attempt to get to the set of University Challenge where they could potentially win some money.
The performance, seen below, features a rare lineup of Motorhead, with Lemmy Kilmister and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor flanked by new guitarists Phil Campbell and Wurzel. This actually was one of the last appearances of Taylor within Motorhead as he would exit shortly after this guest turn was made.
Performance pieces of Motorhead are interspersed with footage of the four roommates trying to catch a train, but in typical slapstick style, they get delayed by a variety of distractions while Motorhead just keep rocking the living room.
While it seems like a very MTV move to have a band play in the middle of the comedy, the trope was actually part of the initial pitch to the BBC, with the alt-comedy performers realizing that they’d have a larger budget to shoot if they qualified as a variety series and included music in the episodes. Nearly every installment featured a musical guest, with The Damned, Madness and Dexy’s Midnight Runners among the ’80s acts taking a turn on the show, but most point to the “Ace of Spades” performance as the most memorable musical moment from the series.
Though Motorhead had issued “Ace of Spades” in 1980 and the song had been around for four years at that point, the Young Ones appearance exposed the group to a whole new fanbase and the full throttle performance of “Ace of Spades” helped it become the band’s signature song. Revisit this slab of ’80s TV culture below.