The Cult Comedy That Introduced Metal To MTV

Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr, CC BY-SA 2.0 FR , via Wikimedia Commons
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The world of heavy metal didn’t take MTV by storm right away. It might have taken a minute to get things going, but good things happen for those who wait.

A turning point in creating space for a harder presence on the fledgling network came in the form of Motörhead’s legendary guest appearance on the British comedy sitcom, The Young Ones.

The program followed the misadventures of four eccentric young men cohabitating in squalor as they do their time among the fictional halls of higher education at Scumbag University. The Young Ones enjoyed a relatively successful two-series run on the BBC and gained significant traction in North America when MTV picked up the hit show to run late at night on the weekends, becoming a cult hit in the process.

Although it was still a few years away, this would inadvertently prove to be a test run for the outsider music that would later be featured on Headbangers Ball.

During Bambi, the premiere of the show’s 1984 second series, Motörhead appears in the boys’ living room, raging through their signature hit “Ace of Spades” as our heroes frantically attempt to find their way to the set of University Challenge where they could potentially win money to do their laundry. The performance features a rare Motörhead lineup of Lemmy Kilmister and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor along with new guitarists Phil Campbell and Würzel. This would wind up becoming one of Taylor’s last appearances within the Motörhead ranks, as he would leave the band shortly after the episode ran.

In the now-iconic scene, footage of Motörhead is interspersed within a montage of the four roommates desperately trying to catch a train as they inevitably become delayed by a variety of distractions. Antics ensue while Motörhead just keeps on playing in the living room.

While having a band play in the middle of a comedy show might sound like something straight out of the MTV playbook, the soon-to-be trope was actually part of The Young Ones’ initial pitch to the BBC. As the alt-comedy troop realized that they’d have a larger budget to shoot if they qualified as a variety series, they endeavored to include musical performances in the episodes.

While bands such as The Damned, Madness and Dexy’s Midnight Runners rank among the show’s overall roster, most fans cite the Motörhead performance as the musical highlight of the series.

Although Motörhead’s Ace Of Spades album had come out four years earlier in 1980, the band’s appearance on The Young Ones exposed them to a whole new audience and helped turn their loyal fanbase into a ravaging legion. Check out the performance below and relive one of the most important moments in heavy metal television history!