(Above: Hey, I think I know those guys.)
Word spread over the weekend that Malcolm Young, one of the co-founders of Australian rock mainstay AC/DC, lost his battle with dementia at the age of only 64. It was just a few weeks ago that I wrote about the passing of Malcolm’s older brother George Young of the Easybeats. It’s been a bad year for the Young family.
AC/DC was a band that I played a lot of in my days in rock radio. I got to WXLP in the Quad Cities in the fall of 1990, just as the LP The Razor’s Edge was making its way up the charts. (That’s the one with “Moneytalks” and “Thunderstruck” on it.) The band was touring in support of the LP that fall, and I lucked into a ticket to see them in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It turned out that that would be the only time I’d see the band, and the show was remarkably energized. Going into the show I figured “Well, I missed the prime of their run,” but you wouldn’t have known it from the performance that night.
This is a band where writing about their singles makes no sense. AC/DC only had three Top 40 singles in the US: “You Shook Me All Night Long,” which has now become standard wedding reception fare, peaked at #35 in 1980, while “Back in Black,” the title track from the album containing both, just barely made the list at #37 the following year. Add “Moneytalks” at #23 in 1990 and you have the entire singles canon for the band. To be honest, if I were pressed to name a song by the band, those might not be the first I’d name. Instead, I’d likely come up with “Highway to Hell” or “It’s a Long Way To the Top (If You Want to Rock and Roll.)” (Shortly after moving into my faculty office at GVSU I installed a record player, of course. High Voltage is one of the LPs I put in the box. I was cranking “Long Way” one afternoon when another professor stuck his head in and asked “Is that AC/DC?” Yep. Very little NPR plays in this office.) I’d even throw “For Those About To Rock” in there somewhere, since you can’t have enough cannon fire on your playlist. Singles aside, there’s a tremendous playlist of AC/DC that you can construct, and probably never thought to do.
Suffice to say that picking just one song for this piece was difficult. To do so, I went back into my pre-radio days. I’ve talked before about the time period from sixth grade on where I “played radio” with my late friend Dave. We’d often include music from Dave’s collection, which rocked a lot harder than mine, into our “broadcasts.” One such show from 1981 opened up with three AC/DC tracks, all from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: “Big Balls” (because what 12-year-old isn’t amused by this track), “Rocker,” which follows it on the LP, and the title track, which led into our program. Another one closed with “Let There Be Rock,” which is another song that I’d think of before the singles. There was something subversive about playing music that we probably shouldn’t on our show, and it felt pretty good. I immediately realized that “Rocker” had a fantastic sound, and ended up – years later – picking up the album for myself. I can’t say for sure that I ever played “Rocker” on the air anywhere, but I probably should have. Since this blog is my de facto radio program, I get to play it today.
Make sure you have Lurex socks and blue suede shoes. You can hear “Rocker” by clicking here.