For some weeks I have been meaning to post a blog entry about “quality” in the music of AC/DC. But it’s not ready yet.
In the meantime, I want to point to something written by Sydney musician (and 1980s Holden Commodore Station Wagon enthusiast) Dave Aston. Dave is probably best known to local music fans from his work with bands Trout Fishing in Quebec, and Dave Aston and the Spanish Authorities. He plays the drums. I seem to remember, from the few gigs I attended, that these featured sprawling funky lineups – many personnel playing at once. And no lyrics, just instrumental jamming. And they were amazingly “tight”. I mean, 11 people on stage at once and they all manage to stop or start simultaneously.
Looking at this entry on Dave’s blog, it seems this is no accident – it’s something he thinks about a lot. It’s Dave’s opinion that AC/DC are generally misunderstood. Their music is regarded as “easy”, and yet there is an ineffable “something” which makes it so crisp and compelling to listen to. It’s the timing:
It is one thing to write, and rehearse, and execute popular music. But, even when learnt, the very best transcend the note values, and move into the realm of milliseconds, where everything is executed as close as possible to where the time is, without the aid of a click track. Of course, as we are not machines, theoretically we cannot play with absolute mechanical precision. […But when it’s done right] it’s as if the execution is so good, that the listener doesn’t understand the effect that it is having on them […]
So, next time you hear someone say that AC DC’s music is easy, and it may be easy to learn the melodies, and beats, and basslines, ask why the covers band playing Highway To Hell doesn’t sound as sweet as the real thing. The difference may not be that the guitarist can’t play solos like Angus Young. It’s more likely, as with the 50,000,000,000,000 original bands that have tried to sound like them, that they just don’t have the touch, the discipline, the concentration and attention to detail, and the soul.
AC DC are the loudest funk band on earth. A door is either open or shut. But, if you close it half way, and then halve that distance, and halve it again, you’ll never actually close it. I guess having it closed is a computer, or the mechanical, and getting it as close to closed as is possible for humans is someone like AC DC, those great Australian exponents of soul music.