RIP Malcolm Young: Tom’s list of AC/DC’s greatest guitar songs

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If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that my favorite band is AC/DC, and has been since I first heard “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” on the radio when I was seven years old. Their rhythm guitarist and founder Malcolm Young died this week from complications of dementia. Rockers from all over paid tribute to him after his death. You don’t see a lot of rhythm guitar these days. It was seen as indulgent, but it build a foundation that gave AC/DC their iconic onslaught of sound.

I’ve expounded on the original lineup’s raw power and outlaw heart. In the States they debuted at CBGB and were as revolutionary at the time as the Ramones, blistering through sets and bringing rock ‘n roll back to its animal roots. They took a lot of ribbing over the years for sophomoric lyrics (which veered into parody after Bon Scott’s death) but Angus Young wore a schoolboy outfit, so that was what they were meant to be. Anyone who says “they made the same album over and over” never listened to the first five, when they developed a rough style that referred to down & out living as much as sex, which is what rock ‘n roll literally means. Over at Andrew Nette’s crime fiction site Pulp Curry, I chose my favorite crime-themed AC/DC songs. Today I’ll share a few overall favorites.

I was less a fan of the Brian Johnson era. Back in Black is their biggest selling album, and it has a handful of great songs- “You Shook Me,” the title track. “Hells Bells” (sic), “Shoot to Thrill,” and “Shake a Leg”, and “Have a Drink on Me,” while the rest of the album tries for Bon’s sly humor but derails into misogyny, with “Given the Dog a Bone” (sic), “What Do You Do For Money Honey.” and “Let Me Put My Love Into You,” which explicitly says “don’t you struggle, don’t you fight, it’s your turn tonight” when Bon never compared women to dogs when he expounded on his love of fellatio, in “Go Down”. My favorite song of his is a love tribute to a big woman, a Tasmanian named Rosie, who he became obsessed with after a one night stand:

Now, I give Bon a lot of credit but every song is written by Young/Young/Scott, and their method was to have the Young brothers jam up a riff and then Bon would alter lyrics from his notebooks to fit the beat. Listen to the guitar solo in this song. Hear Bon’s raw need. I wish someone had interviewed Rosie or tracked her down.

They didn’t exactly turn to frat boy garbage after Johnson came aboard, but they lost their way and never got it back. My favorite underrated album is Flick of the Switch, with songs inspired by westerns, arrests, and cops raiding the stage in Belgium after the crowd refused to leave (based on a concert when Bon was singer). This gives the tiniest bit of credence to the fan conspiracy theory that they cribbed from Bon’s lyric notebooks after he died, and started to go downhill when they ran out of songs. My next book, tentatively titled Death to Hipsters, uses this as a subplot. The main character was told by his cult rockstar mother than he is Bon’s son, and he doesn’t believe her, so I have a lot of fun with my love of the band in that one. I hope you’ll get to read it soon!

“Guns for Hire” off Flick of the Switch got a revival in Iron Man 2, the soundtrack of which serves as a great AC/DC “best of” album. Jon Favreau even dug up the lost Bon single “Cold Hearted Man,” about Leroy Kincaid, an ice cold killer from Bon’s youth. Astute readers will remember the real name of “Okie”, Jay Desmarteaux’s convict mentor, is Leroy Kincaid. A little nod to a great song:

A lesser known great song off Flick of the Switch is “Badlands” which reminds me of Mad Max out in the wastelands:

As for pure guitar work, these are my favorites:

“Shake a Leg,” from Back in Black

“Kicked in the Teeth” from Powerage, one of their best albums.

“Hail Caesar” from Ballbreaker

“Heatseeker” from Blow Up Your Video

This is the tour I saw them on, high school 1989. I was disheartened that Angus no longer mooned the crowd, bowing to censors. He kept boxers on. And the band started going our of their way to not use foul language. I think “Thunderstruck” off The Razor’s Edge was the final nail in the coffin, a nonsensical song written for arenas that made them giants again. Johnson’s voice was gone and the songs did indeed begin to sound all the same.

The less said about “For Those About to Rock” the better. The title track is boring and the rest of the album only gets worse. They did create an amazing rock anthem that pays tribute to the black R&B artists who invented rock ‘n roll, and that song is called “Let There Be Rock.” I’ll leave you with it. It’s light-hearted and fun and still blisters the paint off the walls. Friends who love hardcore and speed metal and act “harder than thou” … sorry, to me that’s like hot sauces made in a lab to have high scoville units but no flavor. There are harder rock tunes (“Brain Shake” off Flick of the Switch is AC/DC’s nod to thrash) but at some point you’re just showing off.

This one’s got heart.

A book signing that will live in infamy…

That time has come when the year is in its last throes and lashes out with its most terrible weapons:
The holidays.
Joy, stress, grief, elation, blessed rest, anxious busyness… they all take a swing at you.
Roll with the punches, my friends. A new year is not far off.

But before it’s over, one more book event. Perhaps the biggest one I’ve ever been part of:

Lawrence Block, SJ Rozan, Lee Child, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Santlofer, Sarah Weinman, Jill Block, and Gail Levin will attend. And somehow I crashed that party. The Mysterious Bookshop has suggests you RSVP, and if you can’t make it, you can reserve a copy signed by the attendees here.

My story is based on “Truth Comes Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind” by Jean-Léon Gérôme, a painting that has haunted me for years. It’s a slight departure for me in that it’s not a crime story, but a creepy tale that plumbs “man”kind’s deepest nightmares. I hope you enjoy it. If you don’t, there are stories by Joe Lansdale, David Morrell, Michael Connelly, Nicholas Christopher, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch to tide you over….

So I wish you a wonderful holiday season. If you like a good scare or thrill, I always recommend Cruel Yule, the ThugLit holiday anthology, which is the only place to read my Krampus tale “Letters to Santa” until LIFE DURING WARTIME comes out in January.

Watch out for snowballs! and stay out off the naughty list.

Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee Postmortem

I had a wonderful time at Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee, and I write all about at Do Some Damage this week.

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Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee!

I’m honored to be a guest at Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee this year. Thanks to the Jordans and everyone involved. I was planning on attending anyway–I’ve heard so much about this great convention/party–but this makes it extra sweet. I’ll be on a panel moderated by Shaun Harris, author of The Hemingway Thief, which is a great fun read whether you love or hate Ernest, so check it out.

The Malmons will be there as will by publisher, Eric Campbell of Down & Out Books, with copies of Killing Malmon, where 30 writers (including myself) killed Dan in amusing ways, to raise money for the MS society. If you can’t make it for a signed copy, get yours here.

Of course I’ll have Bad Boy Boogie and I’ll be writing Born on the Bayou, so if you want to influence a scene that I’ll write hungover on Saturday or Sunday morning, or late in my motel Friday night, now is the time. I can’t incorporate the Bronze Fonz, as it is all set in Louisiana, but I may have Jay meet the statue of Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces… I’m 17,500 words in and having a blast. Which I hope means you will too, when you get to read it next year.

There will be a lot of beer. I’m going to the Lakefront Brewery to see the Schlitz bottling line filmed in the opening credits of Laverne & Shirley and I will only answer to the name The Big Ragu during this trip. I do not care if Milwaukee is “trying to shed the L&S image” as I read on one website… embrace it. You are so much more, I am sure, and I will see that, but come on. Hassenpfeffer Incorporated! Bah. It’s like Jersey trying to shed The Sopranos. It’s not like Laverne and Shirl were the cast of Jersey Shore.

And I’m jealous that your city has such a great song named after it. Written in 1903 by Dan Quinn before Jerry Lee Lewis made it (more) famous… I like this version:

What Made Milwaukee Famous Made a Loser Out of Me

And in case you missed it, I went as Bluto for Halloween. S.W. Lauden went as a California Highway Patrolman, mirror shades and all. If he brings his costume, we may walk around the con looking like half of The Village People.

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Shot as a mark of affection from his brother

This is a somewhat famous tombstone, because if you read it quickly, it reads “accidentlly shot as a mark of affection from his brother.” I took this photo in the nineties on Madeline Island in Wisconsin, hunting this grave marker down after hearing about it.

I was also lucky enough to see the island’s secret replica village in the woods, tiny concrete buildings made to look like the town at the tip of the island. I took photographs (real ones!) and they are in a box somewhere. I kept my secret for twenty years. I don’t know how to get there. There’s a fine story called The End of the Season by Trent Kollodge in the Autumn Cthulhu anthology that is set in this little fake village. If I dig up my photos, I’ll share them. They do nothing to reveal the location.

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Sunday in Asbury Park with George, and Life During Wartime

This Sunday I’m reading in Asbury Park with a gaggle of great writers:

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Yeah that’s Dennis Tafoya AND Wallace Stroby. Life goals.

All the details are above. Come join us, and then wait at the Stone Pony for Bruce to show up. I hear if you say “Jersey Freeze” three times he appears.

Also, my story collection LIFE DURING WARTIME from Down & Out Books has an official release date: January 29th! It collects stories from best-ofs and anthologies and defunct periodicals, and stories I’ve only read at Noirs at the Bar, new ones, and “The Last Detail,” which begins right after Bad Boy Boogie ends. And check out that snazzy cover:

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Killing Malmon: 30 Authors Kill Dan to Fight MS, now available

Killing Malmon is now available!

Crime fiction fans and Crimespree Magazine reviewers Dan and Kate Malmon approached 30 writers including myself, to KILL DAN MALMON. My story is called “Russian Roulette,” and not only pits Dan against a bigmouth Jersey goombah in some of my favorite Twin Cities haunts, it’s also based on a humiliatingly funny and true story involving myself, a snazzy leather jacket, and rogue feminine hygiene products.

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Dan and Kate are great people, and Down & Out Books will publish this handsome volume and donate the proceeds to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Maybe you’ve bought Kate’s delicious cookies to help fight MS. Or sponsored a bicycle ride. Now you can read stories from myself and Dana Cameron, Hector Acosta, Eric Beetner, Sarah M. Chen, Matthew Clemens, Angel Colón, Hilary Davidson, Cory Funk, Danny Gardner, Paul J. Garth, Rob Hart, Ed Kurtz, S.W. Lauden, Russel D. McLean, Jeff Macfee, Erin Mitchell, Erica Ruth Neubauer, Brad Parks, Bryon Quertermous, Todd Robinson, Alex Segura, Jeff Shelby, Nathan Singer, Josh Stallings, Jay Stringer, R.D. Sullivan, Bryan VanMeter, Holly West, and Dave White.

I wrote my story with Josh Stallings at his mountain retreat, while he pecked away at his hilarious superhero tale, and Erika delivered life-saving medication: her delicious chili and sips of fine whisky. I got to hear several of these at the secret Noir at the Bar we held for Dan & Kate, and they are gut-busting wallops of hard-boiled crime from some of the best writers in the genre (and me). You can order it here:

KILLING MALMON edited by Dan and Kate Malmon

*note: killing Dan Malmon will NOT cure Multiple Sclerosis.

**Eating ketchup on a hot dog does not cause “tongue psychosis.”