Thursday, March 24, 2005

DVD Review - AC/DC: Family Jewels


It was May 1979 at the local skating rink. Just another gathering of the junior high tribe and the skating rink was the vibrating center of our social life with speed, music, and girls combining to form a perfect swirling gestalt. I was part of the clique that thought it ran the scene when into this milieu wandered a group of strangers, older kids, and all wearing AC/DC Highway To Hell concert tee shirts. It was an intriguing assault on our hegemony, but they didn’t skate much or try to make time with our girlfriends so we quickly forgot about them as they spent most of their time playing the video games. What I couldn’t forget was those shirts. The iconographic image of Angus Young with devil horns appealed to a rebellious side I was just beginning to discover existed. I soon learned how to decode the meanings of rock and roll tee shirts. The marketing people would be so happy to know I had yet to even hear a note of AC/DC’s music and I was hooked.

Soon I bought a midline priced Let There Be Rock and my tinny little phonograph’s volume was pushed to its limits. My Kiss records were neglected as the adolescent adrenalin rush of AC/DC won supremacy of my small record collection. It was rock and roll in super electrified doses living up to their name; it just had me enthralled. Bon Scott’s vocals were so distinctive, sung with a constant leer and the Young brothers are the greatest guitar tandem ever. Listening to AC/DC saw me graduate from geek to freaky geek in a few short months. I may have got to the party late, but I was determined to see Bon Scott and the rest of the crew on their next tour.

We all know the rest of the story. I didn’t get to see AC/DC with Bon Scott on their next tour. AC/DC went from being the greatest rock and roll band in the world to being one of the best heavy metal outfits on the planet. Back In Black was an amazing record cleaved from tragedy, but it’s been an inexorable slide down ever since. The new DVD set Family Jewels is divided into a Bon Scott disc and a Brian Johnson disc and while I like both AC/DC eras (AC/DC’s slide down still results in better music than most), the Bon Scott years are by far the band’s creative peak.

Family Jewels is a chronological journey through AC/DC’s career with videos and live footage of the band’s most well known songs. Many of the material on disc one has probably never been seen by the casual fan except for bits and pieces such as when VH1’s AC/DC Behind The Music showed bits from “Baby, Please Don’t Go” which opens disc one. It’s mainly notable due to Bon Scott’s ridiculous schoolgirl outfit even down to panties he wears. Bon Scott in drag was a scary thing. There isn’t a bum note at all on disc one, it’s all highlights, but some stand out more than others:
Angus and his Chuck Berry on speed act during “T.N.T.”, the footage of the band playing “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)” in the back of a flat bed truck, “Let There Be Rock” filmed in a church with Bon Scott as the minister and Angus wearing a halo, and the horror shock end of “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It” where the front cover of that album is recreated.

Disc two begins with four videos filmed for Back In Black all during the same time frame. The songs are great, but the antiseptic nature of the performance footage all done on a soundstage is rather dull. This is remedied by the time we get to “Let’s Get It Up” which is actual live footage, but the sound is muddy. The videos from the Flick Of The Switch album are again rehearsal space videos. The only really noticeable change being the departure of Philip Rudd (am I the only one who feels the music got worse faster after he exited the band?) from the drummer’s chair. AC/DC were never too big on the idea of making videos (they did name an entire album Blow Up Your Video) so the lack of MTV style from this time frame is understandable. When they did decide to enter the video heavy rotation sweepstakes, unfortunately an entire suite of film was created for the Fly On The Wall album. I found myself wishing for the plot free performance shots from before. The disc concludes with the career rejuvenating “Thunderstruck” and “Money Talks” period.

Sony has done a nice job with this release. Family Jewels sounds great and the video footage is as shiny as new penny. The only complaint might be that there are no extras, but with over 2 and a half hours of footage and priced under $15 who needs extras. I was bouncing around the house like a lunatic after watching it; felt like I was fourteen again. In an odd twist I’ve grown up to be against letting kids wear rock and roll tee shirts to school. I favor uniforms and while some may say it’s because I’m against letting the kids express themselves, I think it’s still a case of being influenced by AC/DC. Here’s to Angus. Let there be rock!!!

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