Thursday, December 18, 2008

AC/DC - For Those About To Rock

There’s a theory that my cousin and I share about AC/DC’s Back In Black. The idea is that most of that album’s material was already done…some even suggest they were demo’d…prior to Bon Scott dying in February, 1980. If you recall, Back and Black was released in August, 1980, which meant that the band would have found a replacement for the irreplaceable Bon Scott, composed new material, recorded it, and had it released all in the span of six months.
This is the same band that took eight years to finish their last album.
For most of us, six months isn’t even enough time to get through mourning the passing of someone, but for AC/DC, is was apparently enough time to create one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
We don’t buy it.
In fact, I’ve heard rumors that there are Bon Scott demos for Back In Black floating around among bootleggers, a rumor that I’ve never been able to substantiate. If so, I would love to hear them and it would explain a lot as to why the quality control for the band continued to diminish with each subsequent album after B-n-B.
It started with the follow up, For Those About To Rock, a rush job that hit the stores just a year after B-n-B and one that tried to follow the exact formula of its predecessor. I remember buying it the week it came out and dragging a friend over to my house so that I could listen to it intently. He wasn’t an AC/DC fan, so I sedated him with Rolling Stone magazines while I devoted 40 minutes to the new effort.
I remember thinking it was great. It wasn’t on par with B-n-B of course, but I thought it was an admirable follow up. I’ve listened to it a few times over the years and with each subsequent listen, it tends to follow my similar complaints with the rest of their output post-Bon Scott.
By taking the Scott B-n-B theory, it explains a higher level of quality control. It also puts For Those About To Rock on a higher pedestal too. Considering the time it took to release it, it could be considered a great album I suppose, but when taken as a whole, it is in fact a standard-issue release, the type of album that the band should have been able to fart out at a moments notice and it wouldn’t have disappointed fans at all.
Unfortunately, those farts did continue but they also became noticeably stinkier with each time, hinting that the band was indeed running out of ideas and that the line-up did miss the talents of Bon Scott more and more as time progressed.
It starts out with a bang…or to be more specific, a fucking cannon…with a title track that rightfully found its place among their classic catalog pieces.
But then the band, perhaps vocalist Brian Johnson, begins to rely on some of the most retarded sexual innuendos known to man, or at least until the next AC/DC album. “Let’s Get It Up” seemed embarrassing, even as a fifteen-year-old kid, and by the time you got around to “Inject The Venom,” you were so numb to the act that you thought it was about ejaculating even if it wasn’t.
Hidden in between are some songs so good that there was a moment when you felt that AC/DC would be able to transcend the baggage that they were a bunch of mouthbreathers that won the lottery with their brand of rock ‘n’ roll. Because without it, you’re almost sure that they’d be the blokes fixing your brakes at the repair shop or doing the drywall job in your living room.
“Evil Walks,” “Night Of The Long Knives” “Breaking The Rules,” “Spellbound,” they all sounded like a band on the verge of acting their age. That’s both admirable and a little frightening. Bon Scott always seemed to use his innuendo and juvenilia so masterfully that you knew he was this happy-go-lucky dude at the end of the bar with a taste for whiskey and pussy. Brian Johnson, on the other hand, occasionally came across as the dude cruising around the high school in a Chevy Van trying to pick up chicks.
So while it’s somewhat relieving to hear Johnson fine tune his chops with more mature material, it’s sad to hear the band’s obligatory immaturity turn into creepy, by-the-numbers filler.
The signs of diminishing returns begin here with For Those About To Rock, but with the good material far outnumbering the weak tracks, it’s still an album worth saluting to.

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