The first AC/DC album I ever heard was Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. An old friend had handed me the CD as a birthday gift back in the mid-to-late 90s. I dare say 1997 or 1998. Before that I was very familiar with a bunch of songs and liked some o’ them, too (mostly Big Gun from the Last Action Hero soundtrack and the likes of Highway To Hell, Back In Black and Thunderstruck). I had that CD for a good while, though I’m fairly certain I could count on one hand how many times I listened to it all the way through. Aside from the odd song pick, I also never bothered to do any further listening.
About a year ago on one o’ these ‘fill social media with music’ things I was given AC/DC. Y’know, name your favourite album and such like. I relayed the tale above and some friends were wondering whether they really knew me at all. Friendships were at risk, I tell ya! Anyhoo, a couple of friends had offered to compile AC/DC mixes guaranteed to rock my socks off. In the end, it wasn’t until a few months later during another AC/DC related conversation that one friend highlighted that a rock-your-socks-off compilation already existed in the guise of an Iron Man soundtrack. He duly threw it my way and I gave it a spin. It pushed buttons and I was starting to listen. I picked up some albums and got to know them a bit. Three stuck with me – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Highway To Hell and, of course, Back In Black.
Y’see, my thing with AC/DC was always that they were a bit gimmicky – what with the blazer, lyrics (Big Balls) and the AC/DC riffs-o-meter and such. During a conversation with another friend a few months ago he brought up that he always found ZZ Top to be way more gimmicky than AC/DC due to their suits, moves, lyrics and beards. Having ignored ZZ Top for most of my music loving life as a result of their 80s output I appreciate that thought. However, as someone who has fallen hard for ZZ Top over the last few years I cannot accept that thinking. Those who truly love AC/DC may disagree with me.
Despite it all, though, I really love those three albums and for the last few months I’ve made it a priority to pick them up if I seen them for a reasonable price. I missed out on a Highway To Hell in my favourite haunt (one of those situations where the eyes spotted it just about the time the hands of someone else reached for it), but I got my hands on two of them. This one, though, I picked up for £5 from my favourite haunt. It was playing when I was browsing and as I approached the counter to pay for the records I picked up, the owner placed the empty cover in the rack. Nabbed. Held close.
It’s a damn fine album, too. Without fully knowing the AC/DC history I heard it as the successor to Highway To Hell. As I’ve grown to dig these albums and learn more about Bon Scott and Brian Johnson I start to appreciate things a bit more. For example, the significance of the ominous drone of hell’s bells ringing at the beginning. The bells that essentially bring in the Brian Johnson era. Sure, the riffs make this an unmistakable AC/DC album, but there are subtle differences in both Scott and Johnson’s vocal approaches that really allow Johnson to add something rather than just become a replacement.
… and looking over the back cover as I sit here I note that the songs that make up this one reads like a best of. The big AC/DC anthems that I was familiar with from the bits and bobs folks had shared, those I’ve heard over the years, and even some that have appeared in Marvel’s Avengers and Iron Man movies. Hell’s Bells, Shoot to Thrill, You Shook Me All Night Long, and, of course, Back In Black.