FOR THOSE ABOUT TO READ, WELL, YOU KNOW…
There's no replacing Bon Scott - the best friend (mostly) good-hearted working ruffians ever had until the Truckers came along - so AC/DC was always going to be a different thing after his untimely passing in 1980. One doesn't envy anyone who tried to step into Bon's already-culty shoes and the fact that Brian Johnson has not only survived but thrived in his near 30 years as the Australian band's third lead singer (a bloke named Dave Evans held the job for a year in 1973) is impressive. While not immediately apparent on AC/DC's career-making Back In Black, an album originally sketched out for Scott, Johnson would quickly move them away from Bon's subtler complexities (check out Mark Kozelek's stellar interpretations of Bon-era tunes on What's Next To The Moon to see the interesting subtexts in his work exposed), belting out songs, old and new, with equal idiosyncrasy and partied-too-hearty gravel but a delightful helium-touched high end that furthers the feeling one is caught up in a Marshall stack Loony Tune adventure.
The first album with Johnson as a fully integrated creative force is 1981's For Those About To Rock (We Salute You), which established the blueprint that they've followed, to one degree or another, ever since. With perhaps a bit more Biblical weight than any other post-Bon album (there's a good many devils here), For Those About To Rock affirmed the decision guitarist-songwriter-founders Angus and Malcolm Young made to keep the group going after Bon shuffled off, understanding "hard cases up to no good" and the women who love them will always need single, double and any other sort of entendre-driven RAWK to make it through the day.
While this doesn't make one think as much as say Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap or Powerage (masterworks of hooligan philosophizing equal to anything the Stones, Pistols or Ramones ever conjured), it does offer visceral – sticky, even – pleasures galore, including early glimmers of AC/DC's facility for the sort of pop metal that would become all the rage before that decade's end in "Night of the Long Knives" and "Breaking The Rules." The whole affair seems built of very firm erectile tissue, musky stuff in need of a wash but not before a stiff drink. When he's not fending off the hellhounds on his ass, Johnson barks, "The moon is rising and so am I." Yes, obviously, sir.
The intro to the title cut is practically prog-rock by comparison to their usual brutish charge, ringing guitars suspended in ether until Phil Rudd's terrifically thick thump enters with Johnson mumbling about guitar bite as the strings sink into us with greater speed and volume. Then, one of finest encapsulations of rock 'n' roll's central ethos ever uttered:
Stand up and be counted
For what you are about to receive
We are the dealers
We'll give you everything you need
Hail hail to the good times
'Cause rock has got the right of way
We ain't no legend, ain't no cause
We're just livin' for today
In a nutshell one gets the "why" of Chuck Berry's church, an dizzying mix of intoxicants, spirituality and hedonism. It's a verse that focuses one's resolve to revel while the reveling is good.
Like most AC/DC albums, the singles – "Let's Get It Up," "For Those About To Rock" and "I Put The Finger On You" - are indestructible – loud, hooky, lean as a super model and a heck of a lot more fun in a bathroom stall (or anywhere else misdeeds and copulation commingle). But, this one contains more than its fair share of killer album tracks. Where many later albums would justifiably be accused of being filler rich, For Those About To Rock is a well-considered statement of purpose for AC/DC Mach 2. The apocalyptic closer "Spellbound" and blues howl "Evil Walks" rank amongst their all-time best cuts, and taken together this is every bit the equal of the strongest parts of the Bon Scott catalog.
There's always going to be a contingent that considers the post-Bon version of the band an inferior creature, but thanks to Johnson and the chemistry the Brothers Young found with him, an institution remains at full salute. As 2009 witnesses what is widely rumored to may be the final AC/DC world tour, it's high time to revisit the Johnson helmed releases and this is the place to start.
1. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)
2. I Put The Finger on You
3. Let's Get It Up
4. Inject the Venom
6. Evil Walks
8. Breaking the Rules
9. Night of the Long Knives
All songs composed by Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson.
AC/DC is currently shambling around the globe, and you can find tour dates here