MuchMusic’s Michael Williams asked Angus Young about his famous “school suit”. Circa Blow Up Your Video. Much split up the interview into several pieces. When I find them all, I’ll upload them. For now, enjoy Part I.
Very few things in this world kick as much ass as vintage live AC/DC. If you need a taste, or everything you can get your hands on, then Can I Sit Next to You Girl will help. The sound quality is alright, feedback notwithstanding. The five included tracks are solid classics.
“She’s Got Balls” takes too long to get going (two whole minutes) and suffers a bit from feedback throughout. Once you tune out the noise, you can appreciate one of the greatest rock frontmen of all time in Bon Scott. “Soul Stripper” is slinky good, with Bon at his sassy best and Angus ripping it up delightfully. On with the show: a very raw “Show Business”. Angus Young has solos after every verse, the energy palpable. Moving on, next it’s “Can I Sit Next to You Girl” (the band’s first single with Dave Evans on vocals). Bon snarls and Angus shrieks.
Perhaps best of all is the extended jam of “Baby Please Don’t Go”. When AC/DC play for 10 minutes straight, it’s not like other bands. It’s the relentless AC/DC groove machine, with Angus doing his thing as no other guitarist can.
Pick it up (cheap) and rock on, baby.
GETTING MORE TALE #726: Misplaced
I lost my favourite flash drive. It’s around here somewhere. Maybe I left it in a shirt pocket that ended up in the laundry. Flash drives can survive a go in the wash, that’s no big deal. It has 32 gig of various music on it, and it’s my handy dandy go-anywhere music solution. Most recently it had the complete studio albums of Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Deep Purple, and many more. Losing it (temporarily we hope) meant putting some tunes on another flash drive instead.
This time, I loaded it up with some AC/DC, Faith No More, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Joe Satriani, Whitesnake, and more. Jen had a day of errands to run, so I decided to use a vacation day and help her out.
Our first mission, for most people, was no big deal. In the lives of Mike and Jen, it requires planning and preparation: getting your photo ID at Service Ontario. You know those lovely pictures that look like mug shots because you’re not allowed to smile or show any facial expression at all? Those are an obstacle and a half for Jen. Why? Because she’s epileptic and can’t have her photo taken with a flash. Just another day in the Mike and Jen Show.
Since this wasn’t her first rodeo, Jen knew what to do. She learned the hard way last time. I know what you’re thinking. “Why don’t they just take a photo without a flash?” They can’t. Those cameras are hooked up in such a way that they cannot turn the flash off. Last time Jen had to do this, the staff at Service Ontario were absolutely stunned. This time, we called in advance and booked an appointment. Jen told them of her condition and made sure that they were prepared for her. Then she went to Walmart and had some photos taken without a flash. We picked the most bland-faced one of the bunch, and she had it printed up in various sizes and finishes so we’d have lots of options.
“Print it?” you’re asking. “Why not just give them a card with the pictures on it?” Yeah, they can’t do that either. So what we do, and it’s quite ingenious, is take the Walmart photo and tape it where you’d normally stand to have your picture taken. Then, they take a picture of that, while Jen looks away. It took a few tries but we got her photo ID today with no hassles. That was a first for Jen! Mission accomplished.
Then we hit the road for Mission #2. I loaded Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap up on the flash drive. The mission this time was really simple. We were going to visit Jen’s best friend Lara in Brampton for lunch. It was a lovely day for a drive and AC/DC kept my pedal to the metal. We both had a chuckle at the lyrics to Big Balls, with me remembering what it was like to be 10 years old and laughing every time Bon Scott said “balls”.
When Dirty Deeds ended, I threw on Rush’s Moving Pictures. On a recent episode of Eddie Trunk’s radio show, Geddy Lee left no doubt that Rush is over. Neil Peart has not only retired from Rush, he said, but from drumming altogether. The physical toll that those 40 years took on Peart’s body means he needed a permanent vacation. Rush will never play again. That was running through my mind when I selected Moving Pictures, but soon I was immersed, rushed down “the river” like a modern day Tom Sawyer.
We picked a cheap steak place for lunch called Chuck’s roadhouse. Surf & turf for $20? Sure, I’ll try anything once. Better than a fast food burger. My steak was overdone but I haven’t had a lobster tail in years! The sweet taste of lobster and salty butter was almost too much to bear. I could have cried with joy. Lobster is the ocean’s steak. That was the easiest $20 to spend, ever. I’d go back; maybe next time the steak won’t be over cooked!
We had a great lunch. Jen broke a plate, but like a true friend, Lara took the blame. We dropped her back off at work and headed home to Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door. It’s a quirky one and that’s why I love it.
As we rocked to “Fool in the Rain”, Jen remarked on how much her musical taste had improved over the last 10 years. “I’ll always love Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots, but now I like Led Zeppelin too.” Hey, I’m glad to have been a positive influence!
I think every music fan likes to share their favourites and hope it connects with somebody else. The car is my favourite place to do that. Thanks, Zep!
GETTING MORE TALE #721: Christmas Mix 2010
Making mix CDs was a lot of fun (and work). I used to make custom Christmas discs that didn’t suck, for my family and friends every year. Why did I stop? I ran out of good Christmas songs. Let’s face it: unless you’re one of “those” people, Christmas music is nails on a chalkboard. You can only take so much. If you’ve worked retail in the past (or present), you probably can’t take any at all!
2010’s Christmas CD is a good example of what I used to make. You’ll notice there’s no Trans-Siberian Orchestra on there. I used up all their best stuff on the previous instalments. I tried to avoid duplicating songs from previous years although Hawksley Workman’s Christmas album is so good that I made exceptions for him. Hawkley’s Almost A Full Moon is the best Christmas CD that I own, and probably the best one I’ve heard. I bought it twice. He reissued the album after only a year with two extra songs! I forgave him, because Almost A Full Moon is so warm and perfect.
What do you think of the Christmas 2010 CD? Would you have wanted a copy that year?
1. Bill Ward – “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Yes, that Bill Ward! The Black Sabbath drummer did a spoken word recording of the classic Christmas poem, and I opened the CD with it. I can tell you that when we played the CD at dinner time, this track was a failure. Nobody paid attention.
2. Kathryn Ladano – “Jingle Bells”. I got their attention back by putting on a track by my sister. This instrumental version on bass clarinet is from her CD The Christmas Album. Of note, her Schnauzer Ali is credited for barks on “Jingle Bells”!
3. Lemmy, Dave Grohl, Billy F. Gibbons – “Run Rudolph Run”. This breakneck Christmas carol is done in the Motorhead style. I played it in the car for sis. “This is shit!” she proclaimed. “Why do these guys get to put out albums and not me?”
4. Marillion – “Let It Snow”. This drunken favourite is from 2007’s Somewhere Elf. The spirit is intoxicating, as I’m sure they were!
Found some booze in a flight case,
And I’m afraid that we’re all shit-faced,
So I guess that we’ll have to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
5. David Bowie and Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth”. This is the David Bowie song that your grandma likes. It’s just lovely. I didn’t own anything with this song on it, so I had to download. That’s why it didn’t appear until 2010!
6. Helix – “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”. Yes, it rocks, but not too hard! Helix covered Lennon for their Heavy Metal Christmas. Singer Brian Vollmer is trained in the Bel Canto technique and he’s more than capable of singing songs for your Christmas dinner in mind.
7. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”. My mom always liked Extreme, or “Nick Strean” as she thought they were called. This isn’t the greatest Christmas song in the world, but it doesn’t suck.
8. Hawskley Workman – “3 Generations”. Told you there would be some Hawksley. This touching song is about three generations of women in the kitchen making Christmas dinner together.
9. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas”. I must have downloaded this one too. I am a bit of a sucker for Elvis. I included Joe Perry’s instrumental version on a previous CD.
10. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”. Not one of their best songs, but it’s the Beatles so it had to be included eventually. This version comes from the 1995 CD single for “Free As a Bird”. Relatively few have heard it, and I thought that would get people’s ears perked up, but by this time, the wine was out….
11. Steve Vai – “Christmas Time is Here”. This is from the first Merry Axemas. It’s a lovely track and not too shreddy. Remember this song from the Charlie Brown Christmas special? Steve does it on guitar, of course!
12. Jethro Tull – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”. This funky flute version will get the toes tappin’. Hard to believe that this is from Tull’s final studio album in 2003, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album! It would have been nice to get one more, but Tull’s Christmas Album is a good one to have around. If you need to tolerate Christmas music, you may as well listen to Tull jamming it out.
13. Brian Vollmer – “The First Noel”. Helix’s Vollmer put out a rare charity album in 2005 called Raising the Roof on Mary Immaculate. “The First Noel” is one of the best tracks. Vollmer is the first artist to get two appearances on my CD.
14. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”. Much like “Run Rudolph Run”, this one smokes! It’s a guitar instrumental at full speed. Grandma didn’t like this one.
15. Twisted Sister – “O Come All Ye Faithful”. I really don’t like the Twisted Christmas album. This song was a hit though, and since it’s virtually identical to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, I can…errr…take it.
16. Cheap Trick – “Come On Christmas”. My sister was a huge Cheap Trick fan at one point. She had this song before I did. Essentially just a Cheap Trick pop rocker with Christmas lyrics. Sounds like classic Cheap Trick to me.
17. AC/DC – “Mistress For Christmas”. I put this song on as the joke it is. I like to remind people that AC/DC did have a Christmas song. “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the day. I can’t wait to Christmas time, when I roll you in the hay.” Hey, it counts.
18. The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)“. In my review, I said, “Even though the guitars are thicker than a good ol’ bowl of Thin Lizzy pudding, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Christmas song. It is a joyous rock re-imagining of a Christmas carol, with the unmistakable Justin Hawkins falsetto.” Plus, sis likes The Darkness.
19. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas”. I like this one. Fuck off.
20. Jimi Hendrix – “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne”. From an EP called Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Jimi and band jammed out some impressive licks but the dinner party didn’t enjoy.
21. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”. Cuddy’s solo debut All In Time is tremendous CD and comes highly recommended by this guy right here. It’s like listening to a Blue Rodeo album, but only the Jim songs. The sentimental “New Year’s Eve” is a lovely ballad that fits right in with the Christmas theme.
22. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. You gotta end with a classic. From 1981’s The Great White North comes the big Christmas hit. We used to hear this every single year on my mom’s old clock radio. We’d squeal with laughter trying to sing along. “A beer…in a tree…”
How would you rate this one? Trying to avoid overlap was previous instalments was my Achilles’ heel. I’d swap out a lot of the lesser songs for better ones, but it’s not bad. It’s listenable. It’ll do.
Beloved brother of Angus and the recently departed George, Malcolm Young has passed away at age 64. Malcolm is, of course, best known as AC/DC’s founder. This is devastating news to fans of the band, even though Malcolm was suffering from dementia for several years.
Rest in peace, Mal.
Getting More Tale #585: Days Full of Music
I might not rock and roll all night, or party every day. I do, however, sleep well at night because I rock and roll most of the day.
I play music every day. I have played music every day with only a few exceptions for the last 30+ years. A grade 8 weeklong Catholic school retreat at Mt. Mary meant a week of no music, so I listened to as much Kiss as I could beforehand. I hoped to have the tunes in my head all week. Unfortunately that’s not a substitute for the real thing, but I did survive Mt. Mary.
I have always said that listening to the radio at work is a much better fate than listening to whatever was popular at the Record Store in the later days. Better for me, anyway, rather than being force-fed Franz Ferdinand, Alicia Keys, or Big Shiny Tunes all day. I’d much rather check out what’s on the local rock airwaves. The higher-ups at the Record Store didn’t like my kind of music much, so when they were around I stuck to the stuff they wanted played. I didn’t want to get in shit for playing Kiss in store anymore.
Below you’ll find what a typical happy day at work sounds like today. I used July 5 2017 as a sample date. There are a few readers here who listen to the same radio station I do (107.5 Dave Rocks where I have done guest shots in the past) so some will know these songs well. Then there are others who loathe the radio (which is fine) and they can skip this one.
I started my daily commute that day with the second disc of Rush’s 2112, the 40th anniversary edition. The drive to work consisted of the cover tunes by Foo Fighters, Billy Talent, Steven Wilson, Jacob Moon and Alice in Chains. On this trip I was struck by how little like Alice in Chains they sounded. I was also very impressed (as usual) with Jacob Moon. I’m almost embarrassed to add that Billy Talent is gradually growing on me, and this Rush cover doesn’t hurt their case.
When I got into the office I turned on the radio to hear One Bad Son. They are a new hard rock band from Saskatoon, but they sound international. A band to keep an ear to the ground for. The day went on as you see it below. I have marked all Canadian Content songs with a red CC, since radio stations in Canada must play certain percentages of CanCon.
Here was my music for the day of July 5:
Car: Rush – 2112 40th anniversary edition (first half of disc 2)
1. One Bad Son – “Raging Bull” – Great rock reminiscent of Skid Row! CC
2. Spacehog – “In the Meantime”
3. Alice in Chains – “Check My Brain” –Killer track, it’s been a while.
4. April Wine – “Weeping Widow” – I’ve never heard this smoking track before. CC
5. Motley Crue – “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”
6. Age of Electric – “Ugly” – Vintage Canadian alternarock! CC
7. The Cars – “Just What I Needed” – I will never get tired of this.
8. The Struts – “Kiss This” – I absolutely hate this song.
9. The Tragically Hip – “Fully Completely” CC
10. Bon Jovi – “Born to Be My Baby” – Old classic back in circulation.
11. Soundgarden – “Rusty Cage”
12. U2 – “Beautiful Day”
13. The Guess Who – “American Woman” CC
14. Bryan Adams – “Kids Wanna Rock” CC
15. Foo Fighters – “All My Life”
16. Bachman-Turner Overdrive – “Hold Back the Water” CC
17. Papa Roach – “Help”
18. J. Geils Band – “Love Stinks”
19. The Trews – “So She’s Leaving” CC
20. Aerosmith – “Back in the Saddle” – I did air guitar in my office for this song.
21. Metallica – “Until it Sleeps”
22. Harlequin – “Thinking of You”— A great old tune that deserves your attention. CC
23. Monster Truck – “The Enforcer” CC
24. The Kinks – “You Really Got Me”
25. Sublime – “Santeria”
26. The Killjoys – “Today I Hate Everyone” CC
27. Led Zeppelin – “Night Flight” – Points for a more obscure song!
28. Pop Evil – “Footsteps” – Sorry Pop Evil fans. I can’t get into this band at all.
29. The Cult – “Wildflower”
30. The Wild! – “Living Free” – Tyler Generoux is into these guys. CC
31. Kaleo – “Glass House”
32. Moist – “Resurrection” CC
33. Guns N’ Roses – “You Could Be Mine”
34. Rush – “The Big Money” CC
35. The Rolling Stones – “Rocks Off”
36. Soundgarden – “Burden In My Hand”
37. The Who – “I’m Free”
38. Blink 182 – “Bored to Death – I’ve really been enjoying their new songs with Matt Skiba.
39. Nirvana – “Breed”
40. Neil Young – “When You Dance You Can Really Love” CC
41. Sloan – “She Says What She Means” CC
42. Our Lady Peace – “Supersatellite” CC
43. AC/DC – “Rock N’ Roll Train” – It’s nice to hear “newer” Black Ice material.
44. Led Zeppelin – “Four Sticks” – The second Zep of the shift.
45. Stone Sour – “Bother”
46. Scorpions – “The Zoo”
47. Jimi Hendrix – “Fire”
48. Metallica – “The Unforgiven”
49. ZZ Top – “Sharp Dressed Man”
50. Nickelback – “Feed the Machine” – First and thankfully only Nickelback of the shift. CC
51. Max Webster – “Paradise Skies” CC
52. Sam Roberts Band – “If You Want It” CC
53. Foo Fighters – “D.O.A.” – Second Foo Fighters of the shift.
54. Van Halen – “Hot For Teacher”
55. Hole – “Awful” – Ironically not awful!
56. Rush – The Analog Kid” – Second Rush of the shift. CC
57. The Guess Who – “Bus Rider” – Second Guess Who of the shift. CC
58. 311 – “Down” – I hated them then, and I hate them now.
59. The Glorious Sons – “Mama” CC
60. Big Sugar – “Dear Mr. Fantasy” CC
61. Led Zeppelin – “Rock and Roll” – Third Zep for the shift and the most typical.
62. The Offspring – “Gone Away” – A band I never ever liked.
63. Def Leppard – “Hysteria” – Their greatest ballad ever.
64. Bon Jovi – “Lay Your Hands On Me” – Second Jovi of the shift and second from New Jersey.
65. The Trews – “Lotta Work Little Love” – Second Trews of the shift. CC
66. Soundgarden – “Blow Up the Outside World” – Second Soundgarden and second from Down on the Upside.
67. Triumph – “Lay It On the Line” (remixed) CC
68. The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter” – Second and best Stones of the shift.
69. Green Day – “Revolution Radio”
70. The Clash – “Rock the Casbah” – Booooring.
71. The Standstills – “Orleans” – Great Canadian blues rock duo. Check them out. CC
72. Van Halen – “Unchained” – Second Van Halen of the shift. It’s the Craig Fee Show!
73. AC/DC – “Who Made Who” – Second AC/DC of the shift.
74. Bryan Adams – “Summer of ‘69” – Second Bryan of the shift. CC
75. Big Wreck – “You Don’t Even Know” CC
76. Foreigner – “Hot Blooded”
And that was it. That’s 7:30 to 4:30 right there, not a bad shift to work. I went home resuming the Rush, and that got me to the door.
Car: Rush – 2112 40th anniversary edition (live songs from disc 2)
How do you like that day? There were very few stinkers in that list of songs. I could leave behind the Nickelback, the “Rock the Casbah”, and the Struts among others. Those tracks aside, this was a very solid day of great rock and roll, new and old. No repeat. Only a few bands had more than one song played. A good number of songs were off the beaten track. Pretty good for a full day at the office, right? I count my blessings every day, believe me! I am very grateful I get to listen to such great music at work.
I’m the office Milton. I even have the red stapler.
The 80s were bumpy for AC/DC. Back In Black was massive. For Those About to Rock was almost as big. Flick of the Switch was a solid ball of rock, but things were uneven and some songs were filler. Fly on the Wall has its detractors for its muddy sound, and Blow Up Your Video was mostly a snooze. For their 1990 comeback, AC/DC got Canadian mega-producer Bruce Fairbairn involved.* He had a huge run of hit albums most notably by Bon Jovi and Aerosmith. Could he work his magic with AC/DC?
Bruce was one of the biggest names around, but having a hitmaker like him working with AC/DC was bound to affect their sound. Not too much of course; this was AC/DC after all. But Bruce did offer a cleaner sound, and there is no question it worked. To the tune of five million copies! Another change was bringing in ex-The Firm drummer Chris Slade after the departure of Simon Wright, who joined Dio. The bald-headed beat keeper became a fan favourite very quickly. (Slade is once again the drummer of AC/DC today after replacing Phil Rudd.)
Debut single “Thunderstruck” has deservedly become a classic in the pantheon of AC/DC classics. It was immediately obvious that AC/DC toned down the bluesy leanings of Blow Up Your Video in favour of rock and even arguably metal. “Thunderstruck” is heavy metal, especially with that fluttery Angus Young lick that dominates the song.
Chris Slade’s hyper-caffeinated drum stylings really impact “Fire Your Guns”, one of the fastest and most fun AC/DC tracks in recorded history. Any AC/DC song that involves them yelling “fire!” is guaranteed to thrill. Not to be ignored is bassist Cliff Williams who is effortlessly locked in with Slade. And sonically this is the best sounding AC/DC stuff since Back in Black. Singer Brian Johnson said at the time that Bruce Fairbairn encouraged him to scream more like the old days.
Another huge single was the plucky “Moneytalks”, bringing the groove down to a perfect mid-tempo. The main thing is the hook of the chorus. Though all songs were written solely by the Brothers Young, you can hear Bruce Fairbairn’s impact. It’s tight and focused more than AC/DC had been last time out. No doubt Bruce acted as a brutal editor in the studio when necessary, and must have had a role in shaping the songs to their final form. Listen to the layers of vocals on the chorus and tell me that’s not Bruce’s doing.
Some of the best AC/DC tracks in history have been deeper album cuts. The title track is one such song, an ominous almost-epic. “The Razors Edge” refers to a storm front on the horizon, and the song has that kind of foreboding feel. Unfortunately this friggin’ incredible construction of guitars and screams is followed by a novelty track. A seasonal novelty track. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all day the day. I can’t wait til’ Christmas time when I roll you in the hay.” This song should have been axed and saved for a compilation or single, where it actually could have had some impact. Not that it’s not fun; it is! But who wants to listen to jingle bells on track five of an AC/DC album? “Rock Your Heart Out” closed the side with the dubious distinction of being the first obvious filler song.
The third single “Are You Ready” was the opening track for side two. Good tune, nothing particularly special, but good enough for an AC/DC album. “Got You By the Balls” is an amusing title, but not a memorable song. It has a menacing bite, but not enough hooks. There’s a definite “side two slump” as none of these songs are as good as the first batch on side one. “Shot of Love” is OK. Things get back on track with “Let’s Make It” which might have made a great single itself. It has an old-timey rock and roll feel, and a slow groove. That classic rock and roll sound isn’t heard frequently on The Razors Edge. “Goodbye and Good Riddance to Bad Luck” isn’t shabby but veers close to that filler territory. Finally The Razors Edge comes to a campy end with the unusual “If You Dare”. Fortunately it’s a great, hooky little closer.
As it turns out, The Razors Edge was a one-off of sorts. It spun off a successful live album, also produced by Bruce Fairbairn, but that was the end of their partnership. A 1993 single called “Big Gun” sported a ballsier sound provided by Rick Rubin who went on to do their next album as well. The Razors Edge is also the only studio album with Chris Slade. Phil Rudd returned, reuniting the classic Back In Black lineup. No one will question that Rudd is the best fitting drummer that AC/DC have ever had, but that doesn’t negate Chris Slade’s contribution. Slade and Rudd do not sound alike, and therefore AC/DC acquires a different flavour with him in the band. His cymbal work is enviable and nobody can play “Thunderstruck” like Chris Slade, period.
*Much to the upset of the Scorpions who had tapped Bruce to do their next album Crazy World. That didn’t happen because of the AC/DC job.
AC/DC – Live (1992, 2003 Epic remastered collector’s edition)
AC/DC and their label did something very clever for their first live album with Brian Johnson in 1992. Instead of putting out a full-on and expensive double live album (well over $30 on CD in the 90’s) they allowed fans to choose a more economic option. A single “highlights” version of AC/DC Live was released simultaneously with 14 of the 23 tracks on one disc. AC/DC must have been one of the first bands to release a “collector’s edition” of an album with an extra CD at a higher price.
Of course to a real AC/DC fan, the single disc is for rookies. Sure, its firepower can’t be denied, but anybody with the dollars and a hard-on for AC/DC shelled out for the double. Their last live release was 1978’s If You Want Blood You’ve Got It with Bon Scott, a mere single disc.
Here’s the only serious flaw with AC/DC Live (either version). Like The Razors Edge, it was produced by Bruce Fairbairn. Why would AC/DC need a studio guy like Fairbairn to produce a live album? Astute fans have picked apart the release and compared it to bootleg recordings from the same shows. Like most live albums, even AC/DC succumbed to post-concert studio overdubs. This is not particularly obvious on one listen, but it was always suspected due to the clean and near-perfect sound of AC/DC Live. Where is the raunch? Mixed out and overdubbed. That’s unfortunate. More bands should just pick the version of a song they like best, suck it up and put it on the album as-is.
Since 1992, AC/DC have released a lot of live material, both current and from the Bon era. Notable is Live at River Plate (2012), another double, with Phil Rudd on drums. A valid question would be, “How badly does a fan really need AC/DC Live in 2016?” With so much to choose from, especially on DVD, AC/DC Live serves today as an historic document. The Razors Edge album was a huge comeback for a band that never stopped, the tour was massive, and the resultant album is a document of this period. With period hits like “Moneytalks” and “Heatseeker”, there are a few songs you won’t get live on some other releases. (These two are even on the single CD version.) There are also a couple nice long extended Angus jams, if you’re into the solos. Lastly, AC/DC Live is the only live album with then (and present) drummer Chris Slade. While no one will deny that Phil Rudd is “the man” when it comes to AC/DC, Chris Slade is well-liked and deserves his place in history. He’s even on the album cover.
Of note, the original (non-remastered) printing of AC/DC Live came with a neat bonus: a little Angus $1 bill, like the ones they used to drop on the crowd during “Moneytalks”. This memento was not included in the remaster, so when I traded my original copy in for a remaster I said “fuck it” and kept the $1 bill. It’s too cool to throw away, and I’m sure many of those old Angus bills have been lost or destroyed since.
Ever so lucky, the Japanese fans received a bonus track: “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be”. Fear not, everyone else. This track was included on the live 1992 “Highway to Hell” single, which is fairly common. Worth tracking down; it’s also on the Backtracks box set.
Today’s movie soundtrack comes by no coincidence. Today’s my birthday! And I got this album on this day in 1987 from my partner in crime for many years, Bob!
AC/DC – Who Made Who (1986 Epic soundtrack to Maximum Overdrive, 2003 remaster)
As a movie director, Stephen King is a great novelist.
30 years ago, Maximum Overdrive was King’s directorial debut. The movies based on his books had been box office gold so far, but King always complained about the adaptations of his original material. So why not hand the reins over to him?
King’s goal was to make “the loudest movie ever made”, and part of that was leaving the soundtrack to AC/DC. King issued the film with instructions that “this film is to be played as loud as possible.” The funny thing, according to him, was that most theaters did it.
AC/DC did the entire soundtrack, a mixture of old and new material. It was an unorthodox move and it left AC/DC with what some consider to be their first real “greatest hits” album; this coming from a band who in 2016 has yet to issue an actual greatest hits album!
The robotic pulse of “Who Made Who” commences the affair, a massive hit still a radio staple today. One of AC/DC’s most recognisable tunes, “Who Made Who” was a bigger smash than the movie that spawned it. That’s Simon Wright on drums, emulating the perfect beats of Phil Rudd before him, creating a fine facsimile. The keys to the song though are the simple and catchy guitars of Angus and Malcolm Young. Having nailed down the art of writing catchy bases for songs, the brothers Young really perfected it here.
They also perfected it on 1980’s “You Shook Me All Night Long”. Placing the biggest AC/DC hit of all time second in line is almost like nailing the coup de grâce prematurely, but there is plenty more firepower on the album. It works in the second position, cleaning up anyone left standing and getting them shakin’ on the dance floor.
AC/DC added two brand new instrumentals to this soundtrack (“Johnson was sick that day”, joked Angus). “D.T.” is the first of them, somewhat unremarkable and echoey on the drums. But this is designed as background music for movie scenes, so it really shouldn’t be measured by the same yardstick as, say, a Rush instrumental. The second on side two is the peppier “Chase the Ace”. Punctuated with some cool Angus licks, “Chase the Ace” is simple and effective like “D.T.”.
There were a few tunes from the recent Fly on the Wall album, all killers. “Sink the Pink” (oh, Brian!) is recorded so muddy that you can’t hear the words, but it does rock. Angus’ guitar break is pure fun, and the song gets your ass moving. That leads into the sole Bon Scott inclusion, “Ride On”, from a quieter moment in the film. What’s really cool is that even though these songs are from all over the place, Who Made Who sounds like a fairly cohesive trip.
Side two commences ominously with “Hells Bells”, a fine way to distribute classic tunes evenly across the sides. “Shake Your Foundations” is on its tail, hitting you with another blast of AC/DC right in the face. One of the better tunes from Fly on the Wall, “Shake Your Foundations” does its advertised job. Yet, I do believe there was only one way to properly end this album. That would have to be the cannon-fire of “For Those About to Rock”.
Who Made Who was actually my first Johnson-era AC/DC album, given to me by my buddy Bob on this day in 1987. If this review is slanted ever so slightly in the “pro” direction, so be it.
GETTING MORE TALE #481: Hang It Up
Rock fans are a fickle bunch, aren’t we? We will openly praise our rock heroes, placing them upon mighty pedestals. We will proclaim that our love for said bands trumps anyone else’s; we are truer fans than the average wannabe. Then at the drop of a hat, when our bands take an action we don’t approve of, we suddenly become the authority on what that band actually should have done. We’re the experts after all, right?
Most commonly, we are quick to judge when a band has passed its prime. We have all done it. “They need to hang it up and call it a day, go out with some dignity,” we proclaim, pretending that we actually have a clue of what goes on in their creative or financial headspaces.
Why do we think we know what’s best? Certainly, we are opinionated on what we like and what we don’t. Let’s say a certain band “jumps the shark” a little bit, to use the TV vernacular. For example, Aerosmith. A lot of fans, this one included, feel that Aerosmith’s best days are long behind them. As fans, we don’t want to see the band continue to sink further into a crapslide of mediocrity. Mediocrity, that is, defined by us.
Certainly, Aerosmith have no problems selling out arenas even after several patchy discs and gigs. Go and see them live and you will meet fans who have seen them dozens of times in their lives. They have a blast doing so, and they don’t care if Tyler can’t jump around like he used to. What makes one group of fans (the ones that cry “hang it up!”) right, but the others who will gladly go see them live again tomorrow, wrong?
Nothing. It’s all personal taste. You may fall on one side of fence with Aerosmith, but another side with the Stones, or the Who. Look, I love Kiss. I always have. I loved when they were great, and I loved when they were shit. Now that the original members are down to just Gene and Paul, and Paul’s struggling with his voice, do I think they should hang it up? Absolutely not. I still look forward to whatever Paul, Gene, Eric and Tommy have cooking next. But I don’t necessarily feel that way about Aerosmith, or even AC/DC.
I saw Gordon Lightfoot perform about 10 years ago. His voice is reduced to a quiet whisper now. Years take their toll, but Gordon and his band still played a set of unforgettable music. Was it a harsh reminder of the years gone by? Sure, but I can say I’ve seen Gordon Lightfoot now, an experience I wouldn’t trade in for a cash refund, no way.
To compare an artist to their younger selves is almost universally unfair. I can’t run the 100 meter dash like I used to. Ian Gillan can’t hit the high screams like 1969 either. That’s OK. Ageing is a part of life. It is also a part of music, even rock and roll. Rock music used to be about celebrating youth, but today it is a far more diverse field than it was in the golden years.
On the other hand, take a group like AC/DC. For all intents and purposes, they were still going very strong with the classic five members until very recently. Then Malcolm got sick – irreversibly so. Phil Rudd had his problems and was let go. Now Brian Johnson is gone and Axl Rose is in. At what point does a band become a parody of itself? More importantly, who gets to decide that? I’d prefer if AC/DC were able to continue with Brian; I don’t want to adjust to an AC/DC with yet another new singer. But I don’t get a say, do I?
But we do get to vote on this, in one way: the capitalist way. We vote democratically with our dollars. People who don’t want to see Axl Rose fronting AC/DC are offered full refunds, and by taking the refund, a fan can voice his or her displeasure. If the tour continues beyond these dates, we will still be able to vote with our wallets. There is no deception here. Surely anyone in the market for AC/DC tickets knows what’s going on now.
Speaking personally, I would go see Axl/DC. Who knows how long this aggregation will last? It’s a possible chance to see history in the making. Even if they suck absolutely (doubtful), I would still be able to say “I saw that. I was there.” So, given the chance, even if I don’t like the idea of Axl fronting AC/DC, I would still use my money to vote “yay”. Even just out of curiosity, it would be worth it.
The single instance that I feel is universally appropriate for a band to retire is the sad day they find themselves without any original members. Take Quiet Riot for example. Nobody currently in the band played on the first two Quiet Riot albums. Two of the members who did are now dead, and there is no connection at all to the earliest recordings of the group. In cases such as this, what separates a band from a mere tribute? Call it what it is, in my view.
Who do you think should hang it up? And if they do, how long before the reunion tour? Time will tell!