Aug 242020

I think I emerged from reading the article relatively unscathed, but what surprised me most of all was that, of a list of 40 greatest songs by one of the biggest bands on the planet, I remember hearing only 3 of them. And that doesn’t even include “Sin City” – which is on the list – the B-side of the “Rock n Roll Damnation” single, which I bought in 1978 and still own. The last time I played it I still rather liked it.

The greatest revelation of all has to be that the 3 songs I recognise on the list I don’t actively dislike. 

Hayseed Dixie have played a couple of times at a small festival I go to whenever life is normal enough for it to go ahead. They’re a great fun band, and 3 of them have come to the sci-fi area where I work and stopped for a chat on both occasions. I bumped into their bassist while Atomic Rooster were playing and joined him for long enough to ascertain that, almost 50 years on from their heyday, they were surprisingly awesome, and in that moment all was right with the world. So I’ve heard quite a few AC/DC songs secondhand, and been clocked with a big smile on my face while doing so.

And yet… something stops me from jumping off the diving board into the pool containing the source material. A voice which, in silent moments can be heard counseling that this is the line which cannot be crossed, for that way madness lies. Starting out on Burgundy but soon hitting the harder stuff, the gateway to Saxon, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Slayer, Slipknot, Def Leppard into a land whose borders I’ve never travelled, with only siren calls from the odd song or two straying through the radio in unguarded moments. 

Having, finally in my mid-20s, allowing Zep through the barricades, aided and abetted, admittedly, by Dread Zeppelin, my subconscious pulled down the shutters to protect me from further incursions by the great metal army. 

Here I find myself, wondering if I’m at the ledge of understanding that AC/DC are the ones I fear coming for me next. I sense then banging on the door, insisting they’re harmless and that just one hearing of “Hell’s Bells” without the filter of a charming bluegrass parody band won’t hurt. 

Should I let them in, cannon, misogynist tropes and all, or should I stiffen my resolve and stand firm? I’m already humming “Black Dog” to myself; at this rate it’ll be “Iron Man,” and who knows where that might lead?

I implore all here to share the line you will not cross, and the steps you’ve taken to defend yourselves in the face of temptation.


  8 Responses to “On the Couch (or the Line We Shall Not Cross)”

  1. Your concerns are valid, Happiness Stan, although I’m not sure that AC/DC would be a gateway to metal, necessarily. I’ve been tempted to revisit the older Judas Priest albums that our old friend Mwall used to recommend, but I fear that would certainly lead me down a metal path. My fear, when it comes to being more open minded about AC/DC, is that learning how to better appreciate them will make me dumb, stuck in the most idiotic sex jokes loop that I got over when I was 13 years old. My fear is not that you or I would try a Saxon record, but that we’d lay the needle down on a Ted Nugent song entitled something like “Wang-Dang-Doodle-the-Poodle.” Our credibility as sensitive, thinking, charming guys in the 21st century would be shot.

    I never got into American hardcore punk in the early ’80s, but over the last 10 years, I’ve secretly come to realize that Black Flag was pretty good, that they had the necessary vitality and attitude and humor to overcome their terribly fast lack of swing and possibly worse guitar tones. I’ll occasionally pull down the shades and listen to a song like “Nervous Breakdown” or revisit their move into Black Sabbath territory and think that maybe I should go a bit further. But I don’t. I’m afraid that doing so will make me completely overlook how much I despise that drumming and guitar style, how much I feel they’re a bunch of metal flunkies at heart, and eventually I’ll be taking off my shirt in public and needing to walk that impossibly fine line between macho asshole and sensitive, enlightened guy who maybe secretly wanted to be a macho asshole but who is now actually making fun of macho assholes. I think I’d fail miserably. And in the process, I’d find myself revisiting Husker Du albums with even worse guitar tones.

  2. Happiness Stan, stay safely where you are. What good could possibly come from crossing that line?!

    I say that as someone who thinks AC/DC has a solid LP length set of tunes that I can listen to even as I recognize they are really only one song, aren’t they?

    About 15 years ago, as a gesture of familial goodwill, I accompanied my brother-in-law Joe to see Tesla. They were playing in Hartford, he was coming from Boston to see them and wanted some company. Joe likes himself some metal of what I’ll call the classic variety (Kiss, Sammy Hagar, Tesla, Black Sabbath). I was not prepared for just how bad this concert was. And how loud. My ears were ringing a full 24 hours later such that I was researching medical alternatives. I never did anything but in the ensuing 12 years I blamed Joe for my deteriorating hearing. I can no longer ride him about that since 3 years ago I learned the culprit was a tumor that had been growing for upwards of 20 years. Of course, I now blame Tesla for the tumor. Joe doesn’t need to know that the surgeon put no credence to that theory.

    That Tesla experience is enough to scare me away from metal, certainly of the live variety. Come to think of it, if the coronavirus is able to put an end to live metal concerts, it will be a perfect example of “every cloud has a silver lining”.

  3. cherguevara

    I’ve never not listened to anything for fear of opening up a doorway. I used to share an office with a guy who was into pretty far-out music, which worked out great. I could crank up YMO, Alice Coltrane, whatever, and he’d be happy. It was usually more awkward when I went for something mainstream. He’d been a teenage Phish-head and told me that perhaps, based on my liking of Trip Shakespeare, that I would probably like Phish too. What I heard sounded like bluesy jams, it sounded tight and like a good foundation for playing some solos, but it wasn’t for me. Seemed like competent goofball music.

    I’ve also been told that I like prog rock, which was news to me. This is a little more possible, as this was based off of my liking some of David Sylvian’s stuff, Can, along with Kevin Gilbert’s “Thud” album and aforementioned more far-out music. I listened to “Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” and it made no impression. Other things like early King Crimson are more interesting to me. A friend loaned me Gong album about a teapot or something and that was ok. Probably just a matter of time until something hits my sweet spot, but it doesn’t seem to be any of the more popular proggy bands, like Yes, ELP, Rush, Genesis. Or Zappa. I don’t get that at all.

    We heard a Black Flag song during a recent car trip, it was funny how lacking in impact it was, both from its adolescent perspective and also lo-fi recording that sapped any energy out of the band. We literally laughed at it.

  4. BigSteve

    Like a lot of people, I was blown away when Elvis’ Sun Sessions were reissued in 1976. In the next few years lots of Sun rockabilly was reissued on the Charly label, and it was a pleasure to dig into that stuff, although I never stopped following all the other kinds of music I was into. But one of my best friends, the guy who had been my closest musical partner, started borrowing those albums from me, and he basically never came back. He branched out to include old school New Orleans R&B, but he’s still pretty much stuck in the 50s. He crossed a line I didn’t know existed.

    In the early 80s when rap was still new, I bought some massive three-LP collection from the Sugarhill label, sort of a ‘the story so far’ kind of thing.. I liked it fine, but I consciously decided I probably should not go down that path. There was so much other music to listen to, and I was obviously not the target demo for rap music. Plus rap was a passing phase, and it seemed to make sense to let it play itself out. I think I made the right choice, though my crystal ball may have been a bit hazy.

  5. cherguevara

    I’m no rap expert by ANY stretch, but I can tell you that A Tribe Called Quest’s album, “Low End Theory” is well worth your time.

  6. BigSteve

    Oh I got over myself. ATCQ and the Roots I like. And RTJ4 is my Album of the Year so far.

  7. alexmagic

    I would agree that AC/DC isn’t necessarily a gateway into metal. They are – and I mean this in the kindest and most sincere possible way – too dumb to a be a gateway to metal. AC/DC is the gateway to more AC/DC.

    And with that said, I suggest you jump in, with both feet, to the deep end, so deep that you end up with those of us in the “Actually, Malcolm was the best member” end of the pool.

    Let me also say: this list is wrong. “Jailbreak” (at #30) is the best AC/DC song, and the video is great, not terrible.

  8. Happiness Stan

    There’s a whole load of good stuff to reflect on here, thanks guys. I hadn’t considered the possibility of heading down any path which might lead to Ted Nugent, someone else I’ve never knowingly heard, other than the track on Nuggets.

    I shared a house once with some guys who were into Black Flag, even though they played them a lot, together with Jane’s Addiction, Dead Kennedys, Hole and Smashing Pumpkins none of it ever seemed to go in. I was at the Reading Festival one particularly horrible wet year and had taken refuge in the car just to get some respite from the rain which had been going for about 36 hours. With the windows slightly open I heard Henry Rollins taking the stage and bellowing “Some of you are going to get raped, some of you are going to DIE!!!” and I rolled the windows up pretty sharpish, happy I was in the right place. I never really got Husker Du either, although I liked Sugar. Went to see them when they played here and felt then rather than heard them. I expected then to be loud and stuffed my ears with tissue paper, my friends’ ears rang for days after.

    I’m not familiar with Tesla, nor for that matter, Sammy Hagar, and even Kiss have passed me by. They’ve never taken off over here as they have in the States. There used to be a Friday night Rock Show in the John Peel slot when he dropped his shows from five nights to four. I’d listen to it sometimes just to fill the dead air, but apart from archive sessions by Pink Floyd, King Crimson and a few others, along with the occasional Hawkwind record, it was largely resistable.

    I didn’t realise until I woke up on Sunday that fear might have been anything to do with my avoidance of Benny Hill Metal, the realisation was a bit startling. It’s not as if I don’t enjoy dumb stuff on other genres. I always lumped AC/DC in with stuff like ZZ Top, which I likewise never got around j to hearing, but think I’d probably not run screaming if somebody put one of their albums on at a party.

    A few years ago I discovered a great classic rocknroll show on our local radio station and I usually listen to the first half while making tea on Saturdays. I can easily imagine jumping that line, though not to the exclusion of everything else.

    I know hip hop and rap and techno and house aren’t for me, that’s a line I knew was there, and where I climbed off the youth culture bus. It’s not even a case of getting over myself, it’s not made for me, it would be like trying to get my mum to listen to the Fall. There’s just no connection anywhere to be made.

    AC/DC sound like other stuff I can relate to, dumb and metal. It’s late here now, I’ll consider diving into Jailbreak tomorrow and let you know how I get on.

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