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Reading AC/DC and some thoughts on the meaning of music in the 2010s… January 7, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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And speaking of Australian groups, not sure if I’ve mentioned this already, a book on AC/DC – The Youngs: The brothers who built AC/DC by Jesse Fink. It’s interesting because it’s so critical of its subject, not the music so much which it regards – at least in the period up to 1982 as generally excellent, but rather the business and personal approaches of the group.

It is hugely refreshing to read a book about a group by someone who likes them that doesn’t hold back on saying that people aren’t living saints, or that their interpersonal and management relations have been grim, or – as crucially – that their output was of variable quality and sometimes abysmal.

Bon Scott emerges well from it. An incredibly charismatic and self-aware person whose lyrics often transcended the genre. Brian Johnson too – though Fink doesn’t conceal the opinion that only two of the albums he sang on were any good. The Youngs themselves are a curious crew. Hugely controlling, utterly wedded to a view of themselves as working class, unostentatious. And there’s some truth in that latter perception, though it’s not the whole story.

Yet it is to their credit their single minded approach in keeping the show on the road for so many years. It’s perhaps no great surprise that the wheels have only begun to come off the wagon as age rather than anything else has impacted upon them. First Malcolm Young, clearly the de facto leader of the group, became seriously ill. Then Phil Rudd had some…er… issues. And Brian Johnson had a peculiar un/forced retirement. Cliff Williams has announced he’s out of the group at the end of the current tour and meantime one A. Rose has taken over vocal duties providing a weird hybrid between Scott and Johnson which is good but not AC/DC.

And it is telling that the story effectively ends in 1982 after the release of ‘For Those About to Rock’. The point is made, and it’s a good one, that subsequent to that album they never released anything much of any great substance (though I have to admit to a real liking for Stiff Upper Lip from the early 2000s which has a very bluesy feel to it). There’s a lot of groups I’d like to see, but with AC/DC the impulse has never been there. At least not since the death of Scott, but with Johnson, diamond geezer that he is, not so much.

And this from one of their early engineers, Mark Opitz who worked on Let There Be Rock and their (to my ears) finest work, Power Age, is worth considering. It’s obvious but nicely put and far from incorrect both about them and a broader cultural context:

‘It’s okay’ says Opitz of 21st century AC/DC. ‘Mike Fraser is very good. But it’s not fresh for me any more, like it used to be. But that’s coming from someone who was there listening to it 24 hours a day when I was working with them. And it was the vibe of the ‘70s and early ‘80s that was somewhat akin, not to Beatlemania, but to the pointy end of the cultural revolution. Music was the pointy end of that revolution in those days. Music’s not the pointy end any more. The cultural revolution is multifaceted: technology, sports, fashion.

But not music. At least not so much.

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