Flunk Punks “Guitar Tech” Paul Shields, with THE INFAMOUS YAMAHA DT 175 IN THE BACKGROUND!
Happy holidays, Rock Town Hall members and hangers-on!
As has become a bit of a tradition ’round these parts, on this festive day of the year, I present you with the annual telling of my greatest moment of rock embarrassment — namely, the story of The Day I Rode My Motorcycle On-stage at School Assembly and Proceeded to Suck Mightily. This year, however…there’s more!
First of all, there are pictures to share, culled from dusty old photo albums–including, as you’ll see above, a picture of the actual motorcycle! I wish I had pictures of all the members of the “band,” but there seem to be just a few in my possession. Perhaps more illuminating, I’ve managed to gather a few recollections of the event from other members of the Flunk Punks! This year, I managed to track down two: David “Bertie” Bertram and Peter Horn. Peter was characteristically taciturn about the whole affair, but Bertie remembered something I’d long since forgotten: the Flunk Punks “groupies!”
Anyway, the story proceeds below, followed by our star witnesses’ commentary. Enjoy, and–best wishes for the season, RTH!
Recently, I decided to answer a question on Faceblearrgh that nobody had actually asked me — namely: “hey, HVB. Can you name 10 albums that are absolutely perfect?” Like a gladiator, I rose to my own challenge, and, facing myself as disdainful Caesar in the stands, recited my list, boldly, proudly, flawless disc by flawless disc, as the hungry lions circled. I was thoroughly pleased as I watched myself lift my royal thumb towards the sky in approval of my own bold opinions.
But, no, I’m not here to tell you which albums made my list — nor am I asking you for yours. We’re supposed to be above that kind of shit here in the Halls of Rocke Towne.
I will, however, spend a few moments explaining why one album from my list — an album you’ve probably never heard, called “Powerage” — is not just the best album in AC/DC’s career; it may also be one of the best albums ever made.
Howzabout we *not* start with a discussion of Angus Young’s “manic”/“slashing”/“angry”/whatever guitar playing. That is a thing, for sure, but yawn. Ditto for the overall quality of the songs, musically speaking. Those are givens here. No, I want to talk about the lyrics.
Lord knows, Bon Scott has a well deserved reputation for writing leering single-entendres about big butts, crabs, booze, and the general, universe-wide, triumphant reality of feeling good (as opposed to the pointless pursuit of being good, or things that actually are good). But there’s a strong current of Bon’s songwriting that speaks to ordinary losers, and about the stacked decks, con artists, and rich dickheads that keep them down.
To be clear, “Powerage” features a few fine songs about sexual frustration (“Gimme a Bullet”), romantic rejection/betrayal (“Kicked In the Teeth”), actually-scary S&M perversion (“What’s Next To the Moon”) and so forth, and they’re all surprisingly compelling — no, really — but most of the record is about (are you ready for this?) the class war, and whether or not Bon thinks it’s worth your time to fight in it.
Most of the time, he doesn’t seem to think there’s any point. His characters revel in the freedom their lack of status grants them (“Riff Raff”), find humor in their own materialism and harmless hypocrisies (“Down Payment Blues”) — or he sings from his own heart about the perpetual unfairness of capitalism (and his cynical wish to be the top dog), as in “Sin City.”
But, meta-analysis aside, here’s the last point I want to make: Bon’s words *sound* great. Any student of Chuck Berry (as Bon was) knows that’s the really important thing. Do the words sound good? Do they make your reptile brain happy? Are they good to your earhole? Do they make you want to sing along? All across this working man’s hard rock album, the answer to those questions is a full-on, beer-drenched “yes.”
“Powerage” by AC/DC is flawless, and Bon Scott’s lyrics are a big part of the reason why. I have spoken.
Last night, I plowed through a whole shit-ton of extremely unfunny sketch comedy from the SNL rip-off “Fridays,” in order to catch some fine performances by the likes of the Clash (fantastic; their first US TV performance), Graham Parker (good), Pat Benatar (don’t laugh — why is “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” not held in the same esteem as Blondie’s hits from the era?), and others.
But the performance that really made me sit up, notice, and newly appreciate was this one, by a guy I’ve always relegated to the second tier of 1980s/90s rock-for-dudes-who-eventually-traded-their-jeans-in-for-pleated-khakis.
I began to wonder if I’d gotten early Petty all wrong. Was he — at least at one point — the American Lowe/Parker/Costello? Can you show me what I should listen to in order to figure Tom Petty out? Who was this guy?
… but it’s not. More confirmation in my mind that Paul McCartney has actually gone insane, and a surprise gold star for the Eric Clapton page in my book. Eric’s reactions to PM’s weirdnesses are priceless.
In related news, I recently made myself read May Pang’s memoir of her years with John Lennon (found in a thrift store for a buck or two), and it contained a couple — just a couple, mind you — of nuggets. Number one: evidently, Paul McCartney has the irritating habit, if there’s a musical instrument of any kind in the room, of drifting away from whatever conversation he’s having and sneaking over to play something — anything — whether he’s asked to or not.
Number two: John Lennon’s favorite song in 1978 was… “Reminiscing,” by the Little River Band. Yes, nine years after recording this:
I’m raising the RTH “choose sides” battle flag high with this one. There is no way any self-respecting lover of rock and roll music could possibly prefer Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs’ turgid, plodding, bongwater-soaked “Mama” to The Atlantics and their tight, focused, garage punk colossus “Come On.” I present it to you here. Who’s with me? Should Mod just return to his seat quietly and try to forget this ever happened? Who’s on Team Atlantics?
I mean, come ON. The lead singer’s hair alone wins this one!
I had originally intended to solicit new comments from participants in The Greatest Rock Story Ever Told for this holiday season, but, you know, life got in the way. Toddlers.
Anyhow, I didn’t want this day to pass without a gift from me to you of some sort, so I present you with this piece of found Rock art, entitled “Rock and Roll Eruption.” I’m hoping it can spark some discussion. In fact, I’m hoping it will become the new, official Rock Town Hall Theme. It is clearly superior to the current one.
“Rock, I cannot understand you” — truer words have never been spoken.