It seems that AC/DC hit rock bottom when they released their eleventh (ninth internationally) studio album titled, Fly on the Wall on June 28, 1985. At the time, MTV and 80s hair metal bands were the next big thing. As a way to stand out, AC/DC decided to make the album as raw and real as possible, and for the most part, they succeeded. But getting airplay on MTV was huge, and if bands weren’t getting airplay, then sooner or later, they’d fade in the dust.
As a result, the band filmed five horrific music videos for the singles “Fly on the Wall,” “Danger,” “Sink the Pink,” “Stand Up,” and “Shake Your Foundations.” These videos took place in a small bar in New York City called The Crystal Ballroom. Also, why the heck couldn’t Malcolm Young and Cliff Williams get microphones in the video?!?! It was so weird seeing them walk up to the front and sing with no mic.
The videos and album itself helped AC/DC gain some airplay, but trouble rose again when the band became linked to a murder case. Serial killer Richard Ramirez nicknamed the “Night Stalker,” told the press that AC/DC’s song “Night Prowler” inspired him to commit the murders. The police claimed that Ramirez was wearing an AC/DC shirt and left behind an AC/DC hat at the crime scene. So yeah, that happened! “It just sickens you, you know, it sickens you to have anything to do with that kind of thing,” Brian Johnson told VH1 on Behind the Music – AC/DC (2000).
Fly on the Wall didn’t sit well with fans, and critics claimed that it was unoriginal, lacked new ideas, and few noted that it was hard to make out what Johnson was singing. To some sense, I agree with the latter because I’ve listened to the album a few times before, and I’ve had trouble deciphering Johnson’s lyrics. But that came as an advantage at times because some of them were really bad! “Send for the Man,” for example, has the weirdest AC/DC lyrics I’ve ever heard: “You’re good enough to eat / You’re sticky hot and sweet.”
Continuing on the topic of lyrics, when I first heard “Danger,” I was like, ‘what the f**k is this?!?!’ “Danger, danger, don’t talk to strangers / Stranger, danger, don’t you talk / Danger, danger, don’t talk to strangers / Danger, danger, don’t talk, keep away.” Like are they giving a public service announcement or something?!?! Definitely the worse AC/DC chorus I’ve ever heard! Then, there was this one line in “First Blood”: “Some like it hot, some like it not so hot.” I love AC/DC, but they’ve had their fair share of awful lyrics throughout their career.
Not all of the songs had terrible lyrics, however. In “Shake Your Foundations,” the bridge contains my favorite lyrics on the album: “We had the night, we had the time / She had the sugar, and I had the wine / Took my hand shook me to the core / I told her not to touch, but she was coming back for more.” The song is also my favorite on the album, so that was a bonus! I’m not sure what was with the animal references in “Fly on the Wall,” but it worked.
Thanks to Johnson’s screeching vocals, the Young brothers’ unique riffs, and Simon Wright’s sledgehammer drums, the album contained some real bangers with “First Blood,” “Shake Your Foundations,” the title track, “Hell or High Water,” “Stand Up,” “Playing with Girls,” and “Back in Business.” I used to like “Sink the Pink,” but the video ruined it for me because that girl in the pink was a terrible dancer, or maybe she was doing it on purpose, who knows! This was probably one of the few times AC/DC should’ve stuck to their own thing instead of being sucked into doing those cheesy and nonsense music videos!
Fly on the Wall was the first AC/DC album not to feature drummer Phil Rudd, and while I enjoyed Wright’s drumming on this album, there were noticeable times where it didn’t sound the same without Rudd.
On “First Blood,” Wright does the regular hi-hat beat, playing eighth notes on the hi-hat and hitting the snare on the 2 and 4. Rudd would never do that! With the eighth notes on the hi-hat, it tends to sound a bit busy (I’ve always felt that way with Chris Slade). Rudd made the notes on the hi-hat stand out. So to me, it almost sounded like he was playing quarter notes on the hi-hat because I couldn’t hear the in-between notes. Apart from that, Rudd’s hi-hat was loose, whereas I’ve felt like Wright’s and Slade’s hi-hats were a bit tight. It’s more noticeable during live performances.
Another way to look at it is I could be going insane, and there’s no difference at all. Maybe, I’m biased because I prefer Rudd as AC/DC’s drummer. But I swear his hi-hat is different compared to most drummers!
Is Fly on the Wall my favorite AC/DC album? No. Is it a good album? I think so! It’s not their best work, but there are still some great tunes and great riffs to get the unit cranking!
Let me know what your favorite track is from AC/DC’s ‘Fly on the Wall’ in the comments below!
Take care and see ya real soon!