Sunday, August 13, 2017

Songoftheday 8/13/17 - Tailored suits, chauffeured cars, fine hotels and big cigars...

"Moneytalks" - AC/DC
from the album The Razor's Edge (1991)
Billboard Hot 100 peak: #23 (two weeks)
Weeks in the Top-40: 5

Today's song of the day comes from the iconic blues-hard rock band AC/DC, who came together in Australia the early 70's under Scottish-born brothers Angus and Malcolm Young. Their older brother George had already had success as a part of the Easybeats, who landed a top-20 hit in the U.S. with "Friday On My Mind" in 1967. With Dave Evans as the original singer, they were a glam-style outfit at first, and had a minor hit in Australia with "Can I Sit Next To You Girl" (#50, 1974). but quickly dropped that (and Evans, BTW). Recruiting fellow Scotsman Bon Scott, they released their debut album High Voltage in Australia in 1974, and the double-sided single "Love Song"/"Baby Please Don't Go" climbed to #20 in their adopted home country. Evolved into a Aerosmith-esque blues-rock outfit based on simple guitar hooks, they followed up with their TNT album, and scored back-to-back top ten hits Down Under with "High Voltage" (#10) and "It's a Long Way To The Top" (#9). After this success, the band got signed internationally by Atlantic Records, and following a rerelease of High Voltage as a distillation of the first two albums, AC/DC would release their third studio set, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. With drummer Phil Rudd and bassist Mark Evans, the group landed a top ten hit in Australia with "Jailbreak" (later a million-selling EP in America), but the Dirty Deeds set wouldn't be released in the U.S. until 1981. In 1977 came Let There Be Rock, their first American success, which included their first minor hit in the UK, "Whole Lotta Rosie". A year later, Powerage came out with new bass player Curtis Williams, and from it the song "Rock and Roll Damnation" reached the British top-40 at #24. By then, the pattern of chunky guitar riffs and Scott's high, screeching voice drove the template of their music. The band closed the decade with the classic album Highway To Hell, which scored AC/DC their first pop hit in America with the title track, which almost made the top-40 at #47 in 1979.  Sadly, it would end up being Scott's last, dying of alcohol poisoning in 1980. In the aftermath, Atlantic finally put out the Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap album in the States, with the "Dirty Deeds" song climbing to #4 on the newly-minted Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in Billboard magazine.

Recoiling from the loss of Scott, the Youngs, Rudd, and Williams hired on another distinctive rough-voiced rocker, Brian Johnson, to assume lead vocals to finish the album they were originally working on with Scott, Back In Black. Like Highway to Hell it was one of the first big productions for Robert "Mutt" Lange, who would go on to have massive success with rock artists like Def Leppard, pop stars like Billy Ocean, and of course his now ex-wife Shania Twain. Back In Black proved to be the first big metal album of the 1980's, with two top-40 pop hits in "You Shook Me All Night Long" (#35), and "Back In Black" (#37), both becoming rock radio staples to this day. Also in Australia, both "You Shook Me" and "Rock N Roll Ain't Noise Pollution" reached the top ten. In 1982, the band released their For Those About To Rock We Salute You album, and while the title track climbed to #4 on the rock radio chart, the track "Let's Get It Up" rose to just miss the American pop top 40 at #44. The album itself was their first chart-topper in the U.S.

But after three huge albums with Lange, the band took things into their own hands, producing their next set, Flick Of The Switch, themselves. Although they landed a pair of British top-40 hits including "Guns For Hire", which also slipped on to the American chart at #84 (also #37 rock radio), the record under-performed their previous success, and with drug and alcohol problems Rudd was booted from the band, who took on Simon Wright. That was followed by Fly On The Wall, which barely made the top-40 on the albums chart and with lead single "Sink The Pink" stalling on the rock radio list at #44.
They recaptured their momentum in 1986 with some help from horror king Stephen King, who enlisted the band for his Maximum Overdrive film, and the soundtrack set, Who Made Who, which mixed AC/DC classics with new songs like the title track which climbed to #16 in the UK, #9 in Australia, and #23 on the American rock chart, resulted in the record becoming one of the top-selling albums of the year. Working upwards, the band called their brother George back along with Easybeats bandmate Harry Vanda to produce their next studio release, Blow Up Your Video. The album was a success, just missing the top ten in America at #12 and going to #2 in the UK, while single "Heatseeker" made it to #12 in Britain (they're highest charting single in original release) and #20 on the Mainstream Rock list in the U.S. However, alcohol was almost claiming another member, as Malcolm Young had to come off the booze, with nephew Stevie filling in until he got help. Also, Wright also left the band's drumkit to join Dio.

With new drummer Chris Slade from Manfred Mann, and Malcolm newly sober, the Young brothers set out to record their next album, The Razor's Edge, with Scott and Williams. They first sent "Thunderstruck" to rock radio, and it climbed to #5 on that chart and remains one of the best-loved singles (it also peaked at #4 in Australia and #13 in the UK). The second release, though, ended up being their biggest "pop" success. "Moneytalks", written by Angus and Malcolm Young and produced by Bruce Fairbairn (Bon Jovi, Aerosmith), would get mainstream pop radio on board in America, with lyrics checking off points of excess normal in the "greed is good" era of the Reagans and Bushes...

"Moneytalks" became AC/DC's third and so far most recent top-40 pop hit in February of 1991, outranking all their other singles on the chart. The single also went to #3 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock radio chart. Internationally, the song hit #9 in New Zealand, and got to the top-40 in Canada (#12), Ireland (#15), Australia (#21), the Netherlands (#24), Belgium (#26), and the UK (#36). The Razor's Edge album would be nominated for a Grammy Award in 1991 for Best Hard Rock Performance, losing to Living Colour's Time's Up, while the "Moneytalks" single was nommed a year later, with the trophy going to Van Halen's For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge record.

A third release from the Razor's Edge album, "Are You Ready?", topped the chart in New Zealand for a week, and got to #16 on the American rock tally. Another track from the set, "Rock Your Heart Out", was a minor Australian hit at #76.

After a soundtrack hit, "Big Gun" from the Schwarzenegger flick Last Action Hero topped the rock radio chart in America, AC/DC reunited with Phil Rudd on drums again for their 1995 album Ballbreaker. They returned to #1 on the rock chart with "Hard As A Rock", which also was their last original-release British top-40 hit at #33. They started the new millennium with the Stiff Upper Lip record, and the title track spent a month atop the Mainstream Rock list, their all-time best showing there. The next single "Satellite Blues" gave them their most recent Australian top-40 hit at #23.

Switching over to Columbia Records, it took eight whole years for another AC/DC studio album, and the result, Black Ice, was massive, hitting #1 although initially only being available physically in Walmart. The first single, "Rock N Roll Train", went to #1 on the rock radio chart, slipped onto the modern rock list at #25, while a dance remix (!) of the track even rolled on to the Dance Club Play chart in Billboard at #30. After another break (where they recorded a soundtrack for the film Iron Man 2 that hit the top-5), they re-emerged in 2014, though radically different. Malcolm had grown severely ill, and nephew Stevie joined again to permanently replace him, while Rudd, in even more trouble than before with drugs to the point of being arrested and convicted for plotting a murder, and bringing back Slade to the drums. Their most recent studio album, Rock Or Bust, came out that year, with both "Play Ball" (#5) and the title track (#8) becoming rock radio hits. "Rock The Blues Away" was their so-far last appearance on the American rock chart at #40. However, the tour behind the album was derailed due to Johnson's hearing loss, eventually causing the band to hire Guns N Roses frontman Axl Rose to take over lead vocals for at least the rest of the tour. As of now, the band's status and lineup is not completely clear (Williams also left in 2016), but the band remains one of the most long-standing successful rock bands in history, getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. They've been nominated for a Grammy Award seven times, winning the Best Hard Rock Performance in 2010 for "War Machine".

(Click below to see the rest of the post)

And finally, the band in concert in Donington in 1991...

Up tomorrow: Another long-standing rock band gets a revival, as long as you wish.

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