I hear a rock’n’roll guitar,
screamin’ wild on the radio
Well, I know what I like,
know and it’s right
Gotta take me through the night
There is a term in German, dampf schnell, which literally translates as ‘steamfast’ in English, but that’s only half the job. Linguistic historians say it arose when the rise of the railways transformed, mechanised and essentially sped-up the whole of society. Today it tends to be a bit of an esoteric term for excessive and reckless speed, usually mechanical in nature. I think it fits Best of Accept perfectly.
Dating from 1983 Best of culls 10 tracks from 4 LPs, strangely omitting 1983’s proto thrash metal ‘Fast as a Shark’ but still includes plenty of dampf schnell. The only band that come before AC/DC in my collection* I had Accept pegged as screechy German metallers of limited interest only for years and never explored them properly. As a teenager I was also scared off by the rather homoerotic cover of their Balls to the Wall album** which as a far more secure 45 year-old, amuses me hugely. I have been really taken by this LP over the last few years though.
A lot of that is down to just how much dampf schnell the fantastic opening track ‘Burning’ packs into its’ 5:15. It just explodes into action along with some totally fake audience noise and the reason I like it so much, apart from a chorus that is repeated roughly 8000 times^ is the fact that for all its’ absolute good-time ferocity it is built squarely on a hard blues rock chassis. Dare I say it, ‘Burning’ gives anything AC/DC did in 1981 a real kick in the (short) trousers. The riffing is brilliantly simple and lightning fast, the rhythm section make it swing and Udo Dirkschneider, a man whose middle names should surely be dampf schnell, sings it brilliantly, selling it totally. I genuinely can’t think of more than 2 or 3 better hard rock tracks.
As is only human, the quality on Best of is a touch more variable. ‘Restless and Wild’ for all its’ widescreen riffage, sounds strangely like Udo sang it whilst his voice was breaking as a teenager, he sounds muffled and too low at times and then unpleasantly shrill at others, seemingly at random – a bit like Rob Halford with the vertical hold on the blink. The guitar solo by Wolf Hoffman is undeniably great though. Whilst I’m here I’ll also put the boot into the unfinished sounding ‘Lady Lou’ as well.
It has to be said that rarely has any artist so successfully articulated the very essence of what it is to be a human, with all the fallibility, vulnerability and insight that necessitates, as Accept do on ‘Son of a Bitch’; like a less indulgent version of ‘Imagine’:
Son of a bitch, kiss my ass
Son of a bitch, son of a bitch, you asshole, son of a bitch
Cock suckin’ motherfucker I was right – take this
There is nothing else to add here that would not detract from the poetry of these lyrics.
The track ‘Breaker’^* is possibly my second fave cut here, it is another fast track that sounds an awful lot like Rainbow’s ‘A Light in the Black’ played on 45RPM by mistake, or like Judas Priest would the year after this came out. Plenty more, you guessed it, dampf schnell.
The three tracks that sequenced next from 1980’s I’m a Rebel are interesting, Accept hit upon a blue-collar hard rock sound that brings to mind the mighty Rose Tattoo; hard-drinking, steel toecapped working man’s rock. ‘I’m a Rebel’ was written by the ‘other’ Young Brother, Alex Young – recorded by AC/DC as a demo but never released, I can easily imagine it being played to soundtrack the fist fights at a particularly fearsome watering hole.
To round off the Best of we get a full-on ballad, ‘No Time to Lose’ which I was going to wrinkle my, exquisitely formed, nose up at for being a bit clichéd – except it came out in 1980, so it probably set a few of those clichés in motion. It’s good, if you like that sort of thing. ‘Princess of the Dawn’ is something else entirely, a mid-paced 6-minute hoarsely sung full-on broads and broadswords*^ epic. I think it’s great, indicative of the sort of unself-conscious daftness that metal bands used to strive for all the time, before everything in the world got too arch and knowing. It has skyscraping guitar solos, a mandolin hoe-down and lyrics that don’t make too much sense written down. All great fun, apart from a totally rubbish sudden ending, that the band now regret.
So there you have it, Accept before their best two albums, in absolutely no expense spent packaging, no sleevenotes, no photographs of the band^^. Despite the limitations here some moments of real hard rocking quality absolutely shine through, plenty enough dampf schnell to go around.
PS: Altogether now:
In the war of the dragons
Young blood ran its course
They fell to his blade
The knight on the Iron Horse
PPS: I invented the whole ‘dampf schnell’ thing. Although please feel free to use it as you will and make it a real thing.
*no Aaron and the Aardvarks LPs in my collection. Which is a bit of the shame as Aaron and the Aardvarks’ If You Want Aardvarks, You’ve Got it and The Aardvarks they are a-Changin’ are just classics.
**’London Leatherboys’ anyone? you wouldn’t catch a more macho crew like, say, Judas Priest getting up to that sort of high jinks, no sirree!
^I tend to love songs which do that, maybe I just give in easily.
^*title track of the next LP I will buy.
*^Broads and Broadswords is hereby totally, like, patented and shit as the title of a role-playing game I will bring out one day.
^^I expected a bit better from the legendary Brain Records label.