‘Back In Black’ aside, AC/DC’s batting average during the tenure of vocalist Brian Johnson is substantially lower than that of countless Fall lineups during the same period. That said, the band’s recordings with Johnson’s predecessor, original howler Bon Scott (above), have more than stood the test of time, with patrons as diverse as Chris Lombardi and Mark Kozelek (ok, perhaps that’s not the widest cross-section) singing their praises. However, with the news South Scotland MSP Christine Graham wants to officially recognize the band (in light of Scott hailing from the town of Kirriemuir, Angus), The Times’ Joan McAlpine protests, “honour the achievements of our sons and daughters by all means…but only when they have done something worth celebrating. Sonic assault by wild men in mullets just doesn’t count.”
Robert Burns has already been castigated as a poor role model for young Scots on account of his sexual promiscuity and love of a dram. He also left us poetry of incredible lyrical power, whether he was philosophising on the lot of the common man, satirising authority or expressing tenderness towards his many lovers.
Beside Bon Scott, Burns could occupy the editor’s chair at the Feminist Review. The closest AC/DC get to tenderness is Whole Lotta Rosie, in praise of the carnal expertise of a 19 stone woman known to the singer. If that’s too sentimental for your taste, what about Night Prowler, on which Scott plays the role of a sexual predator, taunting a woman lying alone in her bed, scared to turn the light off because of the noise outside her window. In the title song of the 1976 album, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, the singer offers to use neckties, TNT or concrete to dispense with the annoying people in your life — like school teachers and unfaithful partners.
It kind of makes you look again at the middle-aged, middle-class white men who regard this music as the ultimate in authenticity. Perhaps they love it because unlike them, the band never grew up.
I’m not sure if “authenticity” registers particularly high on the list of most AC/DC fans’ fave attributes, but presumably Ms. McApline knows an awful lot about why someone else’s tastes differ from hers. She’s perfectly entitled to take dead, defenseless Bon Scott to task for sexism, but even crude characters have stories worth hearing. I’m not sure what having a mullet has to do with whether or not Scott & colleagues are genuine artists, but such superficial hangups reveal a little bit about the author’s credibility.