AC/DC– not really current anymore, you’d think, yet like an unexpected turn of phrase, they might just surprise you.
Forces aligned to make their 1980 album “Back in Black” the second best-selling album of all time after MJ’s “Thriller.” They still sell out arenas around the world despite being as old as cliched jokes about aging rock stars.
We all know about Angus Young’s blazing and brilliant guitar work, Brian Johnson’s trademark ear-splitting disaster of a vocal line, everybody else’s fist-pumpable, head-bangable rhythmic rock cred, and of course the power and simplicity of their songs’ stripped-down essentialist rock and roll bravado and badassery.
Why so big? In a word, sexism. Not really news to anyone who’s been able to discern a lyric or two (OK, that’s actually pretty hard, but we have the internet now and they used to print the words on the labels that came with the records, kids.) But no one to my knowledge has articulated the appeal to men AND women. One critic was turned off by their “boys locker-room sexuality,” but for a lot of people it’s a real turn on to dispense with the bullshit and admit you just want to fuck like an animal (Not everybody wants even one nine inch nail to come anywhere near that picture.) I joke, but there is something incredibly and deeply down-to-earth about not just the chords but everything about these guys. And I think that translates across languages and national boundaries. I heard an extended radio interview with one die-hard lifelong fan who described how their music meant so much to him in high school. At one point he gleefully described how women at live concerts tear off their shirts when the stadium cameras show them on the big screen. To me this is the perfect sexist minimalism to complement the music itself– Yeah there’s chords and stuff, maybe it’s the women who have to take off their shirts, but everyone equally agrees that this is really about having a Fucking Good Time. Together.
US comic Jim Breuer tells of worshipping various rockers as a kid in the ’80s, then having the opportunity as a successful entertainer to become friends with Brian Johnson. Breuer tells the story much better than I can, funny voices, comedic timing, the whole bit. But I hope I can effectively paraphrase his point that Johnson liked him because he’s “just a regular guy.” And I dare anyone, even the legendarily fat “Rosie” who Bon Scott undresses metaphorically with just a few bars, to speak a word against this band’s profoundly authentic humility.
No need for words, Rosie, just kick ’em in their “Big Balls.” I’ll be pumping my fist and shaking my ass the whole time.
*Originally published at https://zcomm.org/zblogs/ac-dc-is-sexist-dude-by-ira-woodward/ november 20, 2013*