Archive for October, 2014


#77: “Back in Black” by AC/DC

Back in Black

To be honest, I’ve never been a huge AC/DC fan, but I’ve never disliked them either.  Their music is usually really fun, and the lyrics are the epitome of immature teen age boy humor.  I’m pretty sure my first experience with this band goes all the way back to elementary school when we worked “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” into a Batman-themed skit we wrote for the Olympics of the Mind.  I remember the Artistic One and I were dressed like the Dynamic Duo (I was Batman of course) and we had to make a vehicle out of some casters and a couple particle boards.  We then had to wheel around “Gotham City” catching criminals and doing good deeds.  At some point I was supposed to use a fishing net to catch a baby that was thrown out of a burning building (it was a Cabbage Patch doll), but I missed and it splattered on the gym floor.  Good times.  We didn’t win that year.

AC/DC was big while I was in high school.  I remember DJing dances with the boys from Maximum Overdrive (“We’ll make your nipples bleed.”) and always fielding requests for songs from this album, especially “You Shook Me All Night Long”.  But it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that AC/DC really became a part of my life…that was when I met Fernando, the Peruvian Love God.  Now the Peruvian Love God was also a freshman, and even though he didn’t live in my dorm, he pretty much spent every night crashed on the floor in somebody’s suite.  Fernando actually was Peruvian, with a thick accent and a huge white-boy afro, and even though he was a little guy, he had a big personality.  He was also a very good self-taught guitar player, and his claim to fame was that he could play virtually every AC/DC song by ear.  Occasionally, the Peruvian Love God would actually dress up like Angus Young and run around the 19th floor of Lincoln Tower (it was a circular hall) while playing the intro to “Thunderstruck” one-handed.  Another time, again while dressed as Angus Young, he kicked open the door to our suite room and yelled, in his thick Spanish accent, “Are you rrrready to rrrrock!”.  Then he dropped to the floor and started to spin on his shoulders while he played and sang “Highway to Hell”.  Good memories.  At one point, after the Artistic One got booted from school, Fernando actually moved into my dorm room and we tried to start a rock band.  We wrote a couple of decent songs together, but mostly we just sat around drinking Jack Daniels and talking about our favorite bands, and it never wound up going anywhere.  Sadly, a year or so later, the Peruvian Love God dropped out of school and moved down to Cincinnasty to work at a Taco Bell, and I lost track of him after that.  I hope he’s still playing guitar, and I hope he’s rocking out somewhere right now!

As for this album, I got it from Used Kids for $5 several years ago when AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  At the time, I was trying to teach a unit on the inductees to middle school general music students, which honestly didn’t work out too well, but at least I got this album out of it.  Some people say this album is heavy metal, but I disagree.  To my ear, this is heavy blues rock, pure and simple.  And while it may lack the sophistication of other heavy blues rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses, this album makes up for it in sheer power.  In fact, for over a decade Ohio State football has used the opening riff to “Hells Bells” to pump up the crowd on big 3rd down plays for the defense, and I can’t even come close to explaining the feeling of electricity from 106,000-plus fans cheering while that song is playing.  Other songs on this album like “Back in Black” and “Shoot to Thrill” have the same intensity, while other songs like “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Have a Drink On Me” add an element of fun to the mix.  Add in the double-entendre of “Giving the Dog a Bone” and “Let Me Put My Love Into You” and you have a teenage boy’s dream album that has aged incredibly well since it’s release back in 1980.

Other lists: The song “Back in Black” is #190 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Angus Young is ranked #24 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, and the band is ranked #72 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.  The album Back in Black is also #26 (one spot ahead of Appetite for Destruction, even though Appetite is 15 spots ahead of it on the top 500 list) on the list of the 100 Best Albums of the 1980s.

Ch-ch-changes: This album dropped 4 spots from its original position of #73 due to the addition of CCR’s Chronicle and the rise of Kid AGraceland, and Star Time.

My favourite track: “Shoot to Thrill”

Honourable mention: “You Shook Me All Night Long”

Quote: “So look at me now, I’m just makin’ my play.  Don’t try to push your luck, just get out of my way.”

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Purple Rain

Once upon a time there was a magical decade called the 80s.  Children growing up in this decade had the best toys (Transformers, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.) and got to watch the best cartoons (Smurfs, Snorks, Gummi Bears, the list goes on…).  Movies like “The Goonies” and “Back to the Future” were in the theaters, and TV shows like “Alf” and “Punky Brewster” gave us something to watch in at home in the evenings.  And most of the great video game franchises like Mario Bros., Zelda, Metroid, and Final Fantasy all had their start in the 80s on the good old Nintendo Entertainment System.  It was an amazing time to be a kid.  About the only thing that really sucked in the 80s (other than Reaganomics) was the music.  Maybe it was the debut of MTV.  Or maybe it was the development of the synthesizer.  I don’t know.  But it was a decade of total synth pop crap and hair metal.  Fortunately for all of us children of the 80s, we were able to don our flannel shirts as we came of age in the 90s (1991: the year punk broke) and the alternative rock scene was able to wash away the horror that was music in the 80s.

So this album has the 80s stamped all over it.  From the moment you see Prince on the cover with his 80s style mullet and his purple motorcycle, you know its going to be an 80s extravaganza of over the top flamboyance.  I picked this album up for $2.50 awhile ago at the Exchange in Willoughby, but I just recently go around to listening to it.  And I wanted to like it…I am almost ashamed to admit that I really did like Prince’s first two albums with the New Power Generation in the 90s (Diamonds and Pearls and the unpronounceable love-symbol album)…but yeah, I just couldn’t get into this.  Prince is an excellent musician, and actually he has quite a bit of really good guitar work on this album.  But unfortunately, he has a tendency, and it is in full effect here, to drown his music in layers of synthesizers and drum effects.  Maybe I’m being harsh…it’s not all bad.  There are some good vocal melodies, and as a singer Prince has 3 distinct registers, almost like Axl Rose (although unlike Axl’s piercing full voice upper register, Prince’s high voice is more of a controlled falsetto).  But overall this album just has too much of what I hated about most 80s music for me to actually enjoy it.

And then there is the movie.  This is the second soundtrack on the list, and like I did with Super Fly, I listened to the album and then watched the movie, and then listened to the album again.  Except this time, watching the movie didn’t help make sense of the songs at all.  Actually, it probably made me like the album a bit less, as this is possibly the worst movie ever made.  Seriously, I can’t think of a worse movie off the top of my head.  It’s the cliche musician movie formula plot: struggling musician meets girl, musician has issues with his parents, musician loses girl to rival, musician’s issues put career in jeopardy, musician gives stellar performance that wins back girl and catapults him to fame and fortune.  Yawn.  And to top it off, the acting performances are terrible (like every single actor in the movie is bad), and the non-album songs are pretty bad as well (who thought it was a good idea to write a song called “Sex Shooter” for the female lead?).  I bought the blu ray of this movie off ebay for $7.72, and I want my money back.  Yikes.

Purple Rain Blu Ray

Other lists: “When Doves Cry” is #52 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and the album Purple Rain is #2 on the list of the 100 Best Albums of the 80s (how is it that this is #2 and Joshua Tree is #3 on the 80s album list, but on the all time list Joshua Tree is #27 and this is #76?  Consistency please, Rolling Stone, consistency).   The Purple One ranks #33 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, #30 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers, and #27 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.

Ch-ch-changes: This album dropped four spots from #72 due to the addition of CCR’s Chronicle and the rise of Kid AGraceland, and Star Time.

My favorite track: “Let’s Go Crazy”

Honorable mention: “The Beautiful Ones”

A word from the Princess: “I hate Prince.”

Quote: “Hey, I ain’t got no money, but honey I’m rich on personality!”