JUST OCCASIONALLY Robert Wyatt gets elbowed off my turntable in favour of something a little more…lycanthropic. Something to transport me away from the pristine confines of my ivory tower towards the wheel of a sleek, black, killing-machine. I throb. I snarl. I terrorise the neighbours.
So what sort of stuff, you ask, grows hair on the palms of my hands? What manner of primal beat stirs the caveman in my bones? Pray, whose horrid spell summons forth the very devil?
AC/DC, that’s who. The biggest, baddest nightmare you ever had about Heavy Metal.
Yes, since 1975 they have sold over 30 million albums and triumphed as a global crowd-puller on a formula based on two mercilessly unyielding principles –
“WHEN WE first started what was goin’ down the clubs was any band that bashed out a good rock’n’roll tune. These people were interested in ‘Johnny B Goode’ at a 100 miles an hour so they could all get on the dance floor and yell and scream. They didn’t give a shit what colour make-up the guy had on!
“In one way Australia’s (AC/DC’s country of origin) a little bit more honest. They love no frills: they see something on TV and think it’s hype. They like to see it in the flesh…”
Angus Young (for it is he) drinks his fourteenth mug of tea, and I recall how the only other time I’d seen him in the flesh, as it were, was when he dropped his schoolboy shorts and presented his best aspect to 70,000 metal-crazed fans whilst simultaneously making a hell of a racket on the good old Gibson SG Standard. Three years on he’ll be back at Castle Donington trying to beat off Van Halen’s challenge to the hard rock throne.
“Van Halen competition? Naaah…one guy makes a car, another makes a car. You’ve got a Rolls Royce, you gotta Jaguar. I don’t see that as competition – people just go out and buy ’em.”
Angus is a wickedly debauched cherub, a 28-year-old millionaire with a mental age half that (he plans imaginary bank robberies down to the last detail using scale models), he is a friendly bloke, an infectious gag-man, a great guitarist, and seems hardly at all given to self-analysis. Yet he’s the most articulate of the five, with the bonus of the most mutated Aussie drawl ever to corkscrew my ear.
AC/DC typify how HM became ghettoised throughout the ’70s, to end up as the complete antithesis, at least in theory, of the “progressive” rock from which it originally sprang. Despite personnel changes, the most well-known being Brian Johnson’s recruitment as singer following Bon Scott’s death in 1980, AC/DC have for years looked and sounded exactly the same…unlike your Deffards and Maidens who, as they hint but are too fraternal to say, are somewhat poppy, pretentious even…
“Aaaaah naaaah, we never even think in those terms. Bands come and go, y’know? The difference with someone like us is we’ve always had same attitude. If we didn’t like somethin’ we didn’t do it. If we liked it, we done it. I think the worst thing we ever done was Top Of The Pops. That was enough and we didn’t do it again…As for any other bands, they’re not even in our tax-bracket! Heugh heugh!!!
“I don’t even like the word, but the established acts, that goes for nothin’ these days. Especially in our case it’s always been the same. When we get on we always have to prove it, y’know? We come on knowing we’ve gotta prove it – you’ve seen our audience! Heaugh heugh!”
Yes indeedy. Combining Quo’s loyalty to lumpen-repetition with Led Zep’s triple-decker sonic sandwich (bass drum thuds just behind the beat like a steaming great pile of horseshit; turgidly bursting guitars strum vigorously; screeching harpies rake venom-tipped talons through neanderthal brute’s private parts – you know the score), AC/DC’s cheerily self-satisfied troupers will continue to clean up just as long as there are heads to be banged. They stand resolutely opposed to the pop ethic. Which I suppose is why they remain so popular.
“Goes on down to her knees…/She’s using her head again/I’m just giving the dog a bone…”
– ‘Giving The Dog A Bone’
YES, WHEN they’re not banging on about how rock’n’roll ain’t noise pollution, AC/DC promise to shag you till your ears bleed – and there’s plenty more queueing outside for the same treatment. Sounds to me like these guys are a bunch of scumbags, but that’s a tricky charge to level against a megabashing metal act, even if most of them are on the midget side.
So who can we thank for the, er, lyrical input?
“All the lads together,” beams ancient cloth-capped Geordie Brian Johnson.
“You need inspiration first,” chortles Angus. “Brian takes his sock off and says, what can you think of about that? I wanna shape!”
So it’s sock-rock, beg pardon, cock-rock then?
“Naaaah, I don’t think it’s that blatant,” demurs Angus. “A lot of people have said we’re out and out – er, the Americans have a word for it – macho. Anti-feminist. That’s a load of shit – we love women, we always have!”
‘Giving The Dog A Bone’?
“When the wife heard it she said we’re the best animal-lovers in the world!” guffaws Brian. “She thought it was lovely. She still loves it. Thinks we love dogs – she’s right! Ha ha ha!!!”
“Naaaah, we’re not trying to play the sexual thing,” explains Angus. “When we first started we used to go out and play in a club, and I remember Bon pointing out all the women in the audience who gave him clap! He had all these doctors’ bills! To him that was inspiration for a song!”
Any trouble from women’s groups?
“We ignore it, y’know? I think you always get those people; they come out of the woodwork. If they’re not saving the whale they’re onto something else. Those people have narrow minds.”
So you neither degrade nor corrupt?
“Naaaah. If anything, they just get out a bit of steam. We’re not responsible for what the world does, y’know? We don’t make any moral judgements. It’s only what we know we sing sing about. If they could show us a better way…Heugh heugh!!!
“Any song that was ever written is about those subjects – they may have hidden it, y’know. I’d rather be singing about the size of a bird’s tits than the hubcaps of a motorbike! I mean, if there’s a pretty girl in the audience, you’re going to wink, attract her eye, y’know!
“I remember once at the Reading Festival I saw the whole audience, 40-50,000 people, stand up and go like this (goggles eyes, slacks jaw, lolls tongue) when this bird walks across the front with these huge knockers!!! Heugh heugh!!! I think that said it all – the size of them! Jayne Mansfield!”
Yeah, I think that said it all too. But being a bit retarded myself I occasionally like to wallow in the cross-eyed, mind-boggling whirlpool wank of it all. But then again, I’ve got a self-exculpatingly sophisticated sense of humour.
So see you at Donington, lads. Heugh heugh!!!
© Mat Snow, New Musical Express, 25 August 1984