What turns me on this week? Rock and roll, that’s what. I started the week with AC/DC’s kickass Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (read my blog about it here), and then I transitioned to The Strypes’ fantastic anachronistic debut album Snapshot (and read my raves about it here). I finished the work week with my favorite Black Sabbath record, Paranoid (check out my third most-read blog post here).
All of this is rock and roll, and I like it.
Dirty Deeds has become my favorite Bon Scott-era AC/DC album, and it’s absolutely a killer rock and roll album. Most people think of AC/DC as hard rock or heavy metal, but when you hear this record you understand that they are just a really good rock and roll band. I have been a huge fan of theirs for many years, so I’m not trying to diminish their talents or achievements in any way. I just feel like boxing artists into these sub-genres is unnecessary. Whatever you want to call them, AC/DC can kick pretty much everyone’s ass. Who else can make you laugh and want to fuck and fight at the same time all within the space of a few inches of vinyl?
As soon as I heard The Strypes a year ago I was eager to hear as much of them as humanly possible! They had not yet released a full-length album, but I bought it the day it came out in the US. Dave Grohl turned me on to these kids—and they are kids, the oldest member being a mere 18 years of age—and I became just as excited about them as he is. Pure rock and roll artistry. I don’t even want to call their music a throwback, because though it does have the sound of the early Stones and Yardbirds these guys are doing the same thing those bands did: paying tribute to their influences by recording new versions of their songs and writing their own with the same groove. Great musicians are great musicians regardless of their age or influence.
When I wrote my 2012 blog about Sabbath’s Paranoid I had no idea how much I would learn about its lyrical content. Some of my posts are mostly about my personal experience of the music, and some are more about the music itself. Sometimes I write equally about both. I started listening to Sabbath in my 20s, long before I was really into analyzing songs like I do now. I didn’t know much about Sabbath the band or even much about their music aside from “War Pigs,” “Paranoid,” and “Iron Man.” But as I delved into the words I realized how much they were informed by the times in which they were written. That impressed me. Since Ozzy’s reality show aired in the early 2000s we have all thought of Ozzy as an incoherent but lovable old dude who used to bite the heads off bats. Listening to Paranoid’s lyrics is a strange sensation when paired with the image of Ozzy in 2014. Despite that, it is a great rock and roll record that at the time was described by Rolling Stone as “bubble-gum Satanism.”
I’ve been trying to think of a way to tie together these three distinct albums for the purpose of writing this blog. Sometimes there’s a reason for what music I choose to listen to on a particular day, and sometimes it’s just random or I choose an album just because I have not heard it for a while. With AC/DC, I started by listening to Highway to Hell just ‘cuz it had been a while, and then I switched to Dirty Deeds because I wanted more but different, and it had been a long time since I’d heard it. The day I did that it was rumored that Malcolm Young was very ill and that the band might be calling it quits. So that got me thinking about their legacy in music history and their place in my life.
I picked The Strypes after that because I hadn’t listened to them for a few months, and because they were finally starting to really get some attention in the US (Rolling Stone finally gave the band a feature story in its 24 April 2014 issue). And I just wanted some good shit to play in my car as I drove to and from pointless jobs I hate.
Sabbath. Sometimes you just want to listen to some heavy shit. And this is one of the heaviest albums I own. As I wrote before, Paranoid is the perfect soundtrack for driving around late at night. And though it actually does have some positive messages in it (it’s very anti-war and, surprisingly, has some anti-drug lyrics) it’s also great for when you just feel destructive and angry. I’ve been going through a rough patch lately because of a breakup, so I’ve been very depressed at times but then I’ll feel a tiny bit better and then I get angry and fucked up again. Sabbath works for all that.
So what brings these three very different sounds together for me this week? Is there one great theme they share? Not really. At least, not lyrically. What I think ties them together is that each band was true to themselves when they recorded these albums. They played the music they wanted to play. They sounded exactly how they wanted to sound. AC/DC songs are filled with hilarious double entendres. The Strypes are the anti-Biebers, consumed with music and not image. And Sabbath never worshiped the devil, but they sure sounded like they made a deal with the Dark One to get that heavy vibe all up in ya. As a creative person I often think about what it means to be true to myself as an artist. How much should I reveal? Will this piss someone off? Can I make money with my words? Do what you love and the money will follow is one of my mantras. So far, that has not paid off, mostly because I have to work two jobs to just barely pay the bills. If I had more time to dedicate to my writing I can only imagine how happy I would be. Success is not about money. Sure, I’d love to be wealthy and never do anything I don’t want to do again. But if I could just earn a decent living by writing whatever I want, I would feel successful.
And if I could just listen to rock and roll all day, that would be the best life possible.