Who knew that I would do a book review for this blog? I used to hate reading back in elementary school, but I started to enjoy reading in high school, and then sometime in college, I got sick of reading again. But since I have a huge YouTube addiction, I thought that reading would be a great way for me to spend some time away from my laptop. Also, not to get too dramatic, but I had a ringing in my ear from January 6 to January 11, and because of that incident, I’ve decided to find other things for me to do that don’t require much noise.
Since I discovered Sea of Tranquility over a year ago on YouTube, I grew very curious about Martin Popoff’s books. Luckily, Pete Pardo did a video in mid-January with Craig Kaminski, where they ranked their top 10 Martin Popoff books. And it was that video, where I discovered that Popoff wrote a book dedicated to AC/DC. Ding, ding, ding! I was sold! The book was called, AC/DC: Album by Album.
This book took a very long time to get here. I ordered it from Amazon on January 18, 2022 and it was supposed to arrive between January 25 and February 1. But it didn’t arrive until February 8, a week after the expected arrival date. The wait was worth it, though, and I ended up reading the whole thing in less than three weeks. The reason why I got this book on Amazon was because it was sold out on Popoff’s website.
Before I go on, I just wanted to say that the AC/DC: Album by Album book covers all of the band’s studio albums (including the Australian-only High Voltage and T.N.T. albums), except for their most recent album Power Up (2020).
So, the book was written in a question and answer-like format, where Popoff conducted a panel discussion about the history of every AC/DC studio album (again, except for Power Up). The panelists consist of music journalists, musicians, and a couple of familiar faces like Simon Wright and Phil Rudd! That’s right, people! My man, Phil Rudd is featured in this book and that makes this book worth every penny. Unfortunately, he’s only featured in the Let There Be Rock (1977) section, but it’s better than nothing. It’s a shame though, because I would’ve loved to hear his thoughts on recording the Ballbreaker (1995) album, since it’s my favorite in the band’s catalog.
That’s actually a good segway into the next portion of this book review because it was a bit frustrating reading the panelists’ negative thoughts about albums that I love such as For Those About the Rock (1981) and the previously mentioned, Ballbreaker. It was also annoying reading everyone praising Bon Scott for his poetry, character, showmanship, and blah, blah, blah! I’ll admit that his lyrics are pretty clever, but I’m not a fan of the guy. He slurred too much when he sang, his smile creeped me out, and I hate that he performed shirtless most of the time! Unlike the tough guy, fighter persona he had going on, Scott just looked like a guy that would run around happily in a meadow with his shirt off.
Now that I got that rant off my chest, let’s get back to the review! Popoff’s writing was interesting. His sentences were very long and in-depth. There were times when I had to re-read a sentence to make sure I understood what he was trying to say. Popoff asked the panelists great questions relating to the band such as how Malcolm and Angus Young got their signature guitar sounds, the punk rock scene that was happening in the 70s and how the band got associated with that, the recording process for each album, and how the production can make or break an album. He even asked Wright about how he became the drummer for AC/DC, which was pretty cool.
Popoff brought up the fact that Blow Up Your Video (1988) was the last album where Brian Johnson got songwriting credits. It’s been said that Johnson was preoccupied with his divorce during the recording process for The Razors Edge (1990), but from that point on, Angus and Mal were the main songwriters. The panelists concluded that maybe it was the brothers’ way of diminishing Johnson’s role in the band. It’s something I never thought about before until I read this book. That is quite a shame though, because Johnson wrote some great lyrics. Unfortunately, even on tour, the band ignores those 80s Brian Johnson albums, except for Back in Black (1980) and the title track from For Those About to Rock.
Another thing that I enjoyed about this book was the humor. For example, when Wright was asked about why he got the job as AC/DC’s new drummer, his response was, “I don’t know [laughs]. I mean, I’m not the tallest guy in the world–that might’ve helped [laughs].” Then, for the Fly on the Wall (1985) portion, Popoff did not hold back his dislike for the album and made fun of the album cover art, where the title was spelt “Flo on the Wall” instead of “Fly on the Wall.”
Oh and when Mike Fraser recalled producer Bruce Fairbairn telling Mal and Angus not to smoke in the control room, those two didn’t give a f*ck, haha! Even though Fairbairn said the boys could smoke anywhere else, they didn’t care. According to Fraser, both Mal and Angus lit a cigarette around the exact same time and went, “Yeah, well, we smoke in here too!” I mean, that’s the type of guys they were. They rock hard and they smoke a lot. What I love about Mal and Angus is that they’re not going to be puppets for someone else and be told what to do; they’re smarter than that.
I think I’ll end the review here by saying this book surprised me in a good way and it was an enjoyable read. The pictures in the book are really nice; some I’ve seen before and some I haven’t seen before. I really respect Popoff as a writer and the research he puts into his books.
It’s hard to rate a book, especially this one because it’s not a fiction book about some kind of high school romance. It’s a book about a real band that’s been around for a long time and it features quotes from real people in the music world. I’m guessing it was not an easy process putting this book together and because of that, I’m giving AC/DC: Album by Album a rating of 5 out of 5 stars. If you love AC/DC and want the lowdown on all of the band’s studio albums (except for Power Up), go get this book!
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