Waaaay back in my college days I was chatting with a buddy of mine who was (and probably still is) a fan of the heavier side of Rock ‘n Roll. Kiss, Motley Crüe and G’NR in particular. I asked him about his stance on AC/DC and he said he liked them but they were over played. (In my head I’m like, Da faq? This was 1996 ish. They were hardly on the radio at this time. *shrugs*) I asked him if he had heard any of their underrated album Flick of the Switch. The answer was no. I told him to hold onto his hat as I grabbed my Flick CD and played it on down. He was not impressed.
He couldn’t tell me exactly why he didn’t care for it, but he did say something was missing. He is also the same friend who told me that Kiss’ version of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ on Kiss Alive III was better than Hendrix’s from Woodstock. (After he played me Kiss’ version of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ he asked me what I thought. I farted and walked out of the room. True story.)
Flick follows an awkward attempt by AC/DC’s publishing label to give the band a radio friendly sound by upping the production on their previous album, For Those About To Rock (We Salute You). This meant some songs were slowed down and a lot of emphasis was made on the more “melodic” backing vocals. Determined to show how they haven’t gone flaccid, AC/DC decided to get as far away from a commercial sound as they possibly could. With only the help of engineer Tony Platt, the band produced Flick themselves with the goal of capturing the swing of the band’s on-stage performance and bring it to the studio.
As soon as they got the sound they wanted, they quickly hammered out the tunes having done all ten within a month. According to one source*, the only bump in the road was when previous producer, George Young joined the recording session to help with the vocals. George had lead singer Brian Johnson rework some lyrics, and record all of them a second time. Otherwise, there was very little tinkering done.
As much as I disagreed with my friend about Flick, it seemed that most agreed with him considering the album wasn’t a commercial success. With AC/DC being at their commercial peak in 1983, it should have sold extremely well. Instead it became their poorest selling album since Powerage. They swung the pendulum too far away from any studio polish taking away an important ingredient that help make them relatable. I mean, out of the band’s previous albums the rougher sounding ones under-performed. So, it made little sense to commit so heavily into going back in that direction.
Now, let me be clear before we get all excited. It would be a total/complete stretch to say if Mutt Lange or a similar producer were around for Flick that it would have outsold Back In Black. The songs are not that strong. But I would bet real money on a less dramatic drop in sales. I think what did the album in the end was how the Youngs knew exactly what they didn’t want Flick to be, but overlooked having a plan for what it should be.
With THAT said….
Flick of the Switch is amaze-balls as it is. I play this one down all of the time without any urge to skip a track. Even though the album doesn’t resonate with the masses, it does with me. I love the boozy Bon years as much as the next guy, but I like Brain too. Flick is loaded with his personality making it not only the most “Brian” album ever, but also the band’s heaviest. Not in terms of sound, (it isn’t that much of a departure from the norm) but in feel. It is raw. Direct and angry. It follows the thread of an angry groove that is raising a huge middle finger to the suits who tried to change them, while nodding to their fans that they will not be watered down. I’m one of those fans. *sniff*… They are nodding to me.
‘Guns for Hire‘ is the best tune on it. I love Angus’ intro. AC/DC used it to open all of their supporting shows for the album. Too bad they don’t play it any longer. ‘Bedlam in Belgium‘ spins a yarn about a real life event that involves a scuffle between the Belgium police and their fans at a show they did in the late ’70s. It’s about a real as AC/DC can get.
‘Flick of the Switch‘ is great with its walk up riff to the chords. ‘Badlands‘ has a really nice groove and ‘Brainshake‘ may be the band’s most frantic song. It is either about taking a fast car for a joy ride or rough sex. Either way, an appropriate for AC/DC.
I love Brian’s spoken word opening for ‘Landslide‘:
I want you to hear me out there
This is for all you bad boys
This a story of the Satan rock ‘n’ roll
I want you to put your hand in your pocket
Take ten dollars out and send it to me
A big F.U. to the religious zealots who were labeling AC/DC as Satanists because some of their songs reference hell.
Flick of the Switch might not be AC/DC’s strongest, but is the “Black in Black” lineup at their most purist. I can just watch these guys rehearse these tunes, over and over again. And I have:
Don’t just take my word for it. Blogger for the Bold, Super Dekes layed it down perfectly in his review of Flick when he said: “Opener Rising Power took me all of 10 seconds to realize that this was cranky DC street rock. A no-nonsense approach to the songs…” I couldn’t agree more. And that’s why I love this album.
As an AC/DC album 3.5/5
Compared the pop music of today: 6/5
*THE SAME SOURCE CONFIRMS HOW IT WAS PHIL RUDD WHO DID ALL OF THE DRUMMING FOR FLICK BEFORE HIS SAD DECADE-ISH LONG DEPARTURE. THERE HAVE BEEN RUMORS FLOATING AROUND HOW PHIL’S REPLACEMENT SIMON WRIGHT FINISHED OFF A FEW TRACKS, BUT THIS ISN’T TRUE. REALLY, THOUGH. DID WE NEED SOMEONE TO CONFIRM THAT? JUST LISTEN TO THE DRUMMING ON FLICK AND SIMON’S ON FLY ON THE WALL, WHO MADE WHO, AND BLOW UP YOUR VIDEO. FLICK IS ALL RUDD.