photo & text by nacrowe
not gonna lie. FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK (WE SALUTE YOU) (ATLANTIC, 1981), the follow-up to the LEGENDARY BACK IN BLACK (ATLANTIC, 1980) album by the AUSTRALIAN ROCK N ROLL CULTURAL INSTITUTION known as AC/DC, is all about the title track. with its STEADY buildup and punctuated OPEN CHORDS that rev up the drama and its crescendo with canons blasting is pure CLASSIC ROCK IDIOCY and more than worth the price of admission.
i was LUCKY enough to see AC/DC play MADISON GARDEN back in august of 2000 and by far the highlight was seeing those canons come out and shoot off while ANGUS YOUNG was duckwalking a CRAZY GUITAR SOLO across the stage. it was as RIDICULOUS as it was UNSOPHISTICATED. you can almost imagine the discussion when writing the song about how to really take this track to the next level, with PERCUSSION that sounds like a canon. wait, lets just get the canons and include them on the track! at fifteen none of that mattered to me, all i knew was that the canon schtick was pretty BADASS and the crowd went absolutely MENTAL. fast forward 48 hours and i am back at high school on the other side of the globe for my first day of classes in KUWAIT and my ears were still ringing from those canons. and i wouldnt have it any other way.
i think at times ROCK N ROLL gets a bit PRECIOUS and INSULAR, with musicians feeling like they need to make some huge ARTISTIC STATEMENT that will last the test of time and define some HIGHFALUTIN claim of an enduring CULTURAL LEGACY. unless you are LEONARD COHEN, BOB DYLAN, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN or JOHN LENNON then that sort of thing normally falls flat on its face (see everyone from BONO, TOM DELONGE, JARED LETO, GENE SIMMONS, BILLY CORGAN, ROGER WATERS, CHRIS MARTIN, PETE TOWNSEND and that dude from THE KILLERS). there is a certain sense of earned STATURE and AUTHENTICITY that allows those aforementioned artists that sort of platform with GRAND OBSERVATIONS to resonate with large swaths of the record buying public. you either have it or you dont. with AC/DC that was never their deal or modus operandi. they just wanted to level you with their UNRELENTING FORWARD MOMENTUM and KILLER GROOVE. same with ZZ TOP and even MOTORHEAD to an extent (in addition they wanted to blow your face off with volume as well). the track "FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK (WE SALUTE YOU)" is absolutely PERFECT in that regard. you can't help listening to it and not smile and feel charged up afterward. for me that song is the STRAIGHT-UP soundtrack to the UNPRETENTIOUS spirit of CLASSIC ROCK N ROLL. a b-line straight from the lineage of CHUCK BERRY himself.
as for the rest of the album. it is pretty MEH.
photo & text by nacrowe
i really have to watch myself when driving while blasting this record from my stereo system, since it slowly creeps up and then you being to notice that you are now 20 miles an hour faster than usual.
recorded in the wake of the untimely passing of former vocalist BON SCOTT, AC/DC's BACK IN BLACK (ATLANTIC, 1980) is both an acknowledgement of his influence and one of the truly great second acts in music history. its hard to imagine what it must have been like for new vocalist / lyricist BRIAN JOHNSON when he stepped foot in that BAHAMAS studio, knowing full well how BELOVED and sorely missed his LEGENDARY predecessor had been to the global ROCK AND ROLL community. and to carve out his own legacy in the process is just so incredibly INSPIRING, with STUNNING classic tracks like "SHOOT TO THRILL," "HELL'S BELLS," "YOU SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG" and, of course, the ICONIC title track "BACK IN BLACK." the quality level was maintained and did not dip through the transfer of vocalists and remains the gold standard of such transitions to this day (i.e. PINK FLOYD, ALICE IN CHAINS, JOY DIVISION / NEW ORDER, THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, etc.). its hard not to listen to this record and not feel inspired to go out and live life no matter the obstacles.
as i mentioned before SCOTT's presence is all over this record and there are more than a few references to DEATH and the GRIEVING PROCESS, especially on "HELL'S BELLS" and "BACK IN BLACK." whats so compelling is that ultimately the concept of ROCK AND ROLL and its embedded 'take no prisoners' mantra (which SCOTT shared) is where one finds both RESOLUTION and ABSOLUTION. it is through music and the community built on it that we all TRANSCEND our individual circumstances and even DEATH itself. the music makes us IMMORTAL. the fact that BACK IN BLACK exists and is such a SLAMMING album for the ages is the biggest testament of LOVE and RESPECT for their departed friend that could ever be expressed, as it furthers his legacy and the passion he shared with his audience. it really is a SINGULAR achievement. to this day, every time AC/DC perform it is a proclamation of their brotherhood and remembrance of not only SCOTT, but more recently MALCOLM YOUNG as well.
i have to mention that sonically this record, like all AC/DC projects, does not deviate from the tried-and-true formula of previous releases as it is all very much rooted in BLUES open-chord riffs played in that pocket just behind beat. its such a simple yet REFINED sound and it has a SPARTAN appeal that endures to this day but has not been matched by generations of ROCK AND ROLL bands. like most lovers of ROCK AND ROLL, BACK IN BLACK is a SEMINAL record that is worthy of all the hype and more than a little admiration for the fact that it even exists at all.
its required listening.
parodies & text by nacrowe
with the tragic passing of TAYLOR HAWKINS and the second tribute concert set to take place in LOS ANGELES within the week, it got me thinking about how bands and creative entities in general move past the loss or death of a PROMINENT member. its a very tricky thing. HAWKINS himself was the drummer of the FOO FIGHTERS, usually a backup supporting role, but in the context of that band he was the second most visible and charismatic member next to DAVE GROHL himself.
the most recent example i could think of in which a band successfully moved on form the untimely passing of a CELEBRATED member is ALICE IN CHAINS with the ascension of WILLIAM DUVALL for the late ALTERNATIVE ROCK icon LAYNE STALEY. for me, ALICE IN CHAINS was a foundational band (along with FAITH NO MORE and JANE'S ADDICTION) that very much defined the soundtrack of my adolescence, so the idea of them reforming with a new unknown singer during my mid-twenties was... let's just say i was SKEPTICAL. that is until i heard BLACK GIVES WAY TO BLUE (VIRGIN, 2009) and was beyond moved by the proper loving send-off they gave their fallen brother. such was done in true AC/DC BACK IN BLACK (ATLANTIC, 1980) fashion, meaning they acknowledged their loss and publicly mourned such in a manner fitting that member (i.e. making music of QUALITY and INTENTION).
obviously ALICE IN CHAINS and AC/DC lost their frontmen, but in the case of LED ZEPPELIN and THE WHO, like the FOO FIGHTERS, they lost their drummer. ZEPPELIN famously called it a day after JOHN BONHAM passed and THE WHO continued with diminishing returns in the wake of KEITH MOON's death. both drummers were larger than life exemplars at their craft. my gut says that GROHL will continue FOO FIGHTERS, but only after a long period crafting a fitting tribute to his fallen brother. i dont think this is the end of their story.
with the case of ALICE IN CHAINS, DUVALL held his own as his own man and showed a long suffering fanbase that he had his own gifts to bring to the role and help resurrect a genre-defining band from cultural extinction. his MUSICALITY (STELLAR VOICE, GUITAR-PLAYING ABILITY and SONGWRITING) spoke for itself and won over skeptics, like myself, over. like DUVALL, HAWKINS was the only member of his group to be primarily recognized for his work in that band, as all others were notable members of previous groups: DAVE GROHL (NIRVANA), PAT SMEAR (THE GERMS), NATE MENDEL (SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE), CHRIS SHIFLETT (NO USE FOR A NAME) and RAMI JAFFEE (THE WALLFLOWERS). its doubly tragic since in recent years HAWKINS was on the cusp of spreading his wings on several high profile solo and side projects (NHC and THE COATTAIL RIDERS) that were beginning to gave his singing and songwriting talent its well-earned time in the spotlight. given his long association with the FOO FIGHTERS, i feel like his lasting sendoff and ultimate legacy will be on a future FOO FIGHTERS release dedicated in his honor a la BLACK GIVES WAY TO BLUE and BACK IN BLACK. that is my hunch at least, because itd be unfortunate if the group went the way of LED ZEPPELIN or even worse, THE WHO.
RIP TAYLOR HAWKINS, LAYNE STALEY, MIKE STARR, BON SCOTT, JOHN BONHAM, JOHN ENTWISTLE and KEITH MOON
enjoy this episode of DEER GOD RADIO with a playlist celebrating ALICE IN CHAINS shot from my brother's couch during the pandemic way back in march 2020.
parodies by nacrowe
i always feel like when you are listening to ROCK AND ROLL of any genre or era, inevitably all roads lead you to AC/DC. their sound is stripped of anything superfluous and just hits you over the head with the grace of a sledgehammer. to me it is the very essence of BLUES-based ROCK AND ROLL. i mean what more can you say that hasn't already been said about MALCOLM YOUNG (R.I.P) and his sublime rhythm guitar playing. it feels like he invented the notion of playing in the pocket. if you only listened to their grooves it'd be worth the price of admission alone, but on top of that you have ANGUS YOUNG and his legendary crafty lead work that never seems extraneous. BON SCOTT, BRIAN JOHNSON, i mean come on.
again, straight-up ROCK AND ROLL done absolutely right. no chaser. what more do you need on a thursday?
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.