Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tuesday Tuneage
AC/DC - “Who Made Who”

For my money, one of the more enjoyable sounds of the eighties was when the Young brothers of AC/DC spent a few songs trying to get their guitars to replicate the sounds Pete Townshend of The Who made with a synthesizer on the Who’s Next album. “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”, “Sink the Pink”, “Who Made Who”, “Thunderstruck” ... these bring a smile to my face. “For Those About to Rock” was their first attempt at this —and had a very Spinal Tap-ish move of using actual cannons on the recording — but “Who Made Who” might be my favorite, it’s also their best attempt to meet the eighties halfway.* It’s a slow burn with a chanted chorus and Brian Johnson’s voice moves slightly more towards soul and less from his usual razors. The first line is: “The video game says ‘play me.’”** and the rest of the lyrics are all about data, satellites, and whether we made the machines or whether they now make us. (I think, maybe they were just taking a stab at a Cliffs Notes version of Townshend’s Lifehouse project.)

The Who Made Who album was the soundtrack the band put out for Maximum Overdrive, a movie that was supposed to be remarkable for being Stephen King’s directorial debut, but is most memorable to my friends and I for King doing a TV ad where he takes a minute and twenty seconds to declare “I’M GONNA SCARE THE HELL OUT OF YOU”, while pointing at the camera. My buds and I never saw the movie, it ended up being a big flop, and yet King was smart enough to hire AC/DC for the soundtrack so let’s call it a wash***. Not to mention that after the Flick of the Switch and Fly on the Wall albums, AC/DC seemed to be slipping off the map with the dreaded “where are they now” tag looming. Instead, they unleashed this tune and it set the stage for "Heatseeker" and their being Pillars of Hard Rock into the nineties and beyond. Every subsequent release of theirs was worth it because the singles were always great.

*One could argue that since it was AC/DC, they didn’t meet the eighties halfway as much as they won.

**I always thought the lyric was: “The video games they play me”, probably because Maximum Overdrive star Emilio Estevez played a character who got trapped in a video game in the Nightmares movie a few years earlier.

*** Think King would take a 2018 contract to take out a fictional hit on Lucinda Williams for her butchering of “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)"?