Not being one to shirk a challenge I thought I’d write about a nadir today, one for my favourite band no less. Before you read on know this, AC/DC are my favourite band ever (I have detailed my love for them before) they soundtracked my teenage years better than anyone and then just carried on soundtracking all my other years too. Okay so I haven’t been strictly faithful in this relationship, occasionally I’ll go off and have a fling with trip-hop, or my eye will be taken by skate punk over in the corner, or Hungarian dubcore, but AC/DC don’t mind they’re above all that, they know I’ll be back again when the novelty wears off and I realise that my infatuation with hardcore grot-ambient was just a chemical thing. It always does and I always did.
I got into AC/DC in about 1985, when I was 13. I was busy still discovering all their back catalogue for a couple of years when they released Who Made Who, which I really liked but by 1988 I was ready and waiting for them to do something new. I can still remember my friend Jamo telling me in Geography on a bright, sunny morning in January 1988 that he’d heard AC/DC were going to release a single and as he was off to Swansea (our nearest city, growing up) he’d get it for me if I gave him the cash, this tore my attention away from the ox-bow Lakes and flood plains I was meant to be concentrating on and so the following Monday he presented me with the 12″ of Heatseeker. No ordinary 12″, but a ‘limited edition gatefold collector’s package, includes unique video stills’ – extra cardboard basically, but it pleased me at the time. What shocks me now is how young Angus Young still looks on the cover. I loved the track ‘Heatseeker’ itself and it still isn’t bad today, the B-sides did both sound like B-sides though, with ‘Snake Eye’ ominously sounding a lot better than ‘Go Zone’ which was on the forthcoming LP.
Best of all though was the information on the inside cover that AC/DC were touring! I duly applied some parental pressure and I was off to my first ever gig* at Wembley Arena on 13 March 1988. I’ll tell that tale elsewhere, if anyone’s interested, another time; let me know if you are.
On 28 March 1988 I bought Blow Up Your Video and the 12″ That’s The Way I Wanna Rock N Roll in Woolworths, Carmarthen – after saving up a bit more. I was probably still wearing my Heatseeker tour T-shirt at that point, in fact I doubt whether I took it off for weeks (I can still remember the hollow feeling when the last dates on the back of the shirt had been played and it was no longer ‘live’) and my ears had probably just finished ringing from the cannons. I remember the total puzzlement when I got the LP home after the first two tracks finished, ‘Heatseeker’ and ‘That’s The Way…’, waiting to find another good one. It’s a horrible thing to have to say but there aren’t any other good ones and even those two tracks are only good in the context of Blow Up Your Video, put them on Fly on The Wall, or Flick of the Switch and they’d just be an annoyance. I get the feeling Brian Johnson really enjoys singing ‘That’s the way…’ as it stayed in their set lists for a long time.
I really cannot fathom what happened here, okay I know Malcolm Young was battling alcoholism at the time (his cousin replaced him on the date I saw them on) but it’s just all so half-baked. The song writing is off and production is poor, and this from Vanda and Young! I can hear the germs of some songs which could have been better, ‘Some Sin For Nuthin” and ‘Meanstreak’ but that’s it. In fact when I was listening to it for a second time just now I found myself thinking about how I need to oil the garden furniture and clean out the garage at the weekend. I daren’t spin it again in case I find myself spontaneously doing the ironing; maybe it’s a backwards message thing? I just haven’t got anything good to say about Blow Up Your Video at all, even the cover is pants – my redesign fingers are twitching here.
The 12″ of That’s The Way I Wanna Rock N Roll is exactly as you’d expect, more of the same. This time around the non-LP B-side was called ‘Borrowed Time’ and, unlike ‘Snake Eye’, it would not have improved the LP.
This has happened to me a couple of times now, you discover a band, groove on their back catalogue for a while and then they let you down with a stinker of a release – stand up Primal Scream (amongst others). Still I wasn’t too distraught, my friend Colin had just started obsessing about a cassette called Night Songs, some bunch of poofy-haired Americans – could be worth a go…
*I’d seen stuff with my parents before, but that didn’t count – this was my band and I was paying.
**near enough of a tenth of my way through – freedom is within sight!