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My Inner Angus

I must come clean. I’ve been in the closet (so to speak) since pre-high school. As difficult as it is to comprehend, a fan of Nick Drake and the Weepies can share the same brain with someone who thinks Angus Young is a genius.

It’s true. I’ve secretly devoured AD/DC for years. Even since I plucked “Let There Be Rock” and “Highway to Hell” out of the stack of my older sister’s records. I was appalled and fascinated. It was like somebody driving a screw-driver into my head. As a young teen who played a mean air-guitar, it was also irresistible. But I didn’t want anybody to know. AC/DC fans were freaks. They all looked like the members of AC/DC. I looked like an altar-boy. I was an altar-boy. My irish catholic guilt went into overdrive. I was pretty certain Jesus didn’t want me to listen to a guitarist who wore devil horns on his head.

But sorry Jesus. I heard “Whole Lotta Rosie” and I thought I could fly. That riff. I’ve never been on speed, but I suspect the feeling is somehow comparable. It just sounded so raw and nasty. If Tipper Gore could put a warning sticker on a guitar riff, this is one she’d pick (at the time I had no idea the song was about banging a fat chick).

Who were these guys? Well it turned out the singer was dead. Choked on his own vomit, which somehow seemed appropriate. The ultimate rock and roll way out. So that was that. I’d arrived late to the party. That much was clear.

And then “Back in Black”. With a new singer who sounded like his larynx was being shredded by a power-tool. Other than him, not much had changed. They still sang about hell and sex, using dick metaphors so juvenile that even I winced. But I got over that quick. Dick references were ok. After all, it’s a free country. And AC/DC never claimed to be Dylan heirs anyway. If they weren’t singing about hell or a penis, the song had “rock and roll” in the title. The guitar riffs were insanely catchy (and, as I was to discover later, insanely simple too). The drummer never ever played a fill. He just laid down a crushing beat like an crazy man banging his head against the wall in an asylum. And the band never recorded a ballad. And I mean never. These guys were scary. Led by a 5 foot 2 inch 110 pound guitar player who seemed invented purely to test a human’s reaction to different sets of drugs. His brother stood in the back covered with hair. He looked like a wild animal in a zoo. Heavy stuff this.

“Back in Black” was everywhere. I had a crush on a girl in 8th grade and needed to get her a birthday present. I bought her the cassette. I thought I was in. Turns out she already had the album. I should have known. So went my love life in those days.

I was learning that you weren’t supposed to like this band (to this day nobody who owns “Back in Black” will admit to it until you find it under the seat in their car and confront them directly with the evidence).  Critics hated (and hate) them. AC/DC were (and are….you get the tense idea) puerile. They were misogynistic. Lyrically they hadn’t progressed much beyond the stuff scrawled on bathroom walls. And every record they released sounded like the last one.

What the critics didn’t understand is that we loved the last one (AC/DC would not appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine until 2008, by the way). AC/DC had no “disco” song. No power ballad. No nod to punk in a bid for street cred. No synthesizers. No orchestra wailing behind them. And they sure as shit never did anything “unplugged”. They weren’t always great, but they were never truly bad. Not many can say that.

Still, we pretend to grow up don’t we? Our tastes “mature”. I suppose nothing but really really loud rock and roll boogie is not a completely healthy diet. Maybe like living on beer with chips and doritos. So Angus and his boys were shoved to the side to make room for more respected fare. Less singing about male organs and such. More political things (ever wonder why AC/DC weren’t invited to Live Aid or Live 8?). I don’t think Angus ever gave a shit. He always had a fresh batch of 12 year olds combing through their sister’s CD collection.

And he probably knew we’d be back.

A final thought….and I don’t know why I can’t let this go but I just can’t. I’m not big on the Armageddon thing. But a few years back I saw Celine Dion on an awards show singing “You Shook Me All Night Long” and attempting to do the Angus duck-walk. It was positively treasonous. I was afraid Angus might see it and decide to kill himself. For days I scanned the paper fearing the inevitable. Then I thought…..surely what I saw on national television was the mark of the beast. Lucifer himself. Or herself in this case. I’ve needed medication ever since. I’m not convinced totally that the end is not near. But at least I’ve got “Let There Be Rock” to keep me company until then.

In a bit…


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