Reader’s Choice: Song(s) #2/250: Rock n’ Roll Train/Thunderstruck by AC/DC

The inspiration for today’s post comes from my high school pal, Allister Matheson. During the Honourable Mention phase of our previous countdown series, Allister sent me over a dozen song choices for my consideration. His songs spanned the gamut of musical genres but most could be organized into two main categories: Celtic/Cape Breton tunes and the ever popular, Play-It-Loud collection of songs. So, for today, I am plucking one of his favourite Play-It-Loud songs…and mine…Thunderstruck by AC/DC. When I did my research on this song, I discovered that Thunderstruck shared something in common with another hit song of theirs called Rock n’ Roll Train, so because of that research, you are getting both songs today. So, warm up your neck muscles and get your Devil horns ready because this post is for those about to rock!

AC/DC are Australian by birth but they are beloved the world over. Since the 1970s, AC/DC has consistently been one of the most popular, best selling, arena-rocking bands in the entire world. They have a catalogue of songs that can best be described as hard-rocking songs with a great beat and catchy choruses. They sing about music, alcohol, beautiful women and having a good time. Consequently, with their life-is-short-so-you-might-as-well-have-a-good-time mentality, AC/DC are generally acknowledged as being the number one party band in the whole world. Ironically enough, back in their native Australia, they have competed for the title of the biggest selling entertainment act in Aussie history with, of all groups, children’s performers The Wiggles! When AC/DC tour, they tend to jump into the #1 ranking, but when The Wiggles rock the pre-school crowd, AC/DC often fall to #2. Such is the competitive nature of the Australian entertainment industry, I suppose.

In any case, the classic AC/DC line-up during their heyday in the late 1970s consisted of two guitar playing brothers, Malcolm and Angus Young, bassist, Cliff Williams, drummer, Phil Rudd and lead singer Brian Johnson. Johnson joined the band after the death of previous lead singer Bon Scott. Johnson’s first album with AC/DC was the massive hit Back in Black. From that album came hits Shook Me All Night Long, Hells Bells, Shoot to Thrill and the title track, Back in Black. The album was written in tribute to their fallen mate Bon Scott. That the music from this album was so good was important to their fan base, but that it came from such a deeply personal place within their collective hearts meant even more and helped solidify the band’s reputation as not only being great rockers, but also that they were good human beings, too. AC/DC quickly followed up Back in Black with another great album called For Those About to Rock (We Salute You). From that album came two more great anthemic rock tunes called Let’s Get It Up and the title track (which was always accompanied by a series of cannon blasts, as part of the band’s 21-gun salute to their fans). Throughout the 1980s, the band toured with their greatest hits as a set list. They packed arenas with fans who came to hear their best songs played loudly and fast. Those fans never left disappointed. However, as the 1980s rolled along, the band released three albums…none of which produced a song of note. For a while, it appeared that AC/DC was set to become yet another band coasting through the latter stages of their career on the strength of music written decades earlier. Then, in 1990 they released an album called Razors Edge. The lead song from that album was Thunderstruck. It almost seemed as though Thunderstruck came out of nowhere. Almost an entire decade had passed since the band had scored a hit with a song that immediately became a classic and a staple of their live shows. Then came Thunderstruck. This song was as powerful and as potent as anything the band had ever recorded. And so, that song seemed like it would be the last truly great AC/DC song…and, for a while, it was. Then, 13 years later(!), they released a new album called Black Ice, and on that album was a song that truly was their last great song…Rock n’ Roll Train.

Argentinians know how to rock! River Plate Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2009.

When I was doing my research for this post, what stood out to me was the fact that Thunderstruck and Rock n’ Roll Train were the only songs from the entire second half of AC/DC’s career that the band regularly played live. So, while Thunderstruck was my buddy, Allister’s, actual choice, I felt it wasn’t fair to talk about that song and ignore Rock n’ Roll Train, so here we are with both songs to enjoy. And speaking of enjoying them, let’s talk about the videos you are about to see. In 2009, AC/DC did a world tour that eventually took them to Buenos Aires, Argentina. There, the band performed three consecutive sold-out shows at a stadium called River Plate. While there, the band shot a video of those concerts and released it as a live concert dvd called AC/DC: Live at River Plate. I have to tell you, for whatever this is worth, that AC/DC: Live at River Plate is the single-best live concert video I have ever seen.The crowds there were absolutely unreal! What energy! What passion! This is easily the best crowd I have ever seen at a concert. So, as you watch both videos please enjoy the music, but almost more importantly than that, watch the crowd. BEST. CROWD. EVER.

AC/DC: Live at River Plate is noteworthy for sadder reasons, too. That performance was the last live concert footage of guitarist Malcolm Young with the band. By 2009, Young was entering his 60s and had begun to show the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. A few months after the River Plate show, Young retired from the band, and a couple of years after that, he passed away. However, Young’s death wasn’t the only thing to happen to AC/DC. Drummer Phil Rudd was charged with a variety of violent and drug-related charges and was actually convicted of uttering death threats. As a result, he was fired from the band. And, as if those two things weren’t bad enough, lead singer, Brian Johnson, began to go deaf, and as a result, he was unable to sing in sync with the band any longer and had to retire, too. Not long after that, bassist Cliff Williams, perhaps sensing that a natural end had come to the band, announced that he was retiring. But, the long-time star of AC/DC, guitarist Angus Young, has not thrown in the towel just yet, and refuses to state that AC/DC is finished. Instead, the term he is using is that they are on hiatus. There are rumours that the remaining original members may reunite, but as of the summer of 2022, those are simply rumours.

Therefore, the concert video we have to watch from those Argentinian shows becomes all the more precious and poignant to those of us who call ourselves fans. So, without further delay, here is one of the greatest rock n’ roll bands of all time as they have the time of their professional lives with the most amazing audience ever. To me, these videos show the power and essence of what rock n’ roll is all about. Since the band started their show with Rock n’ Roll Train, I will, as well. Thunderstruck comes next for the encore. What a way to end this post!!! Enjoy!

The link to the video for the song Rock n’ Roll Train by AC/DC can be found here.

The link to the video for the song Thunderstruck by AC/DC can be found here.

The link to the official website for AC/DC can be found here.

PS: My buddy, Allister, sent me a link of an actual concert he was at in Moncton, New Brunswick. Here is Thunderstruck, as recorded by Allister. You can view it here.

***Just a reminder that all original content found within this post remains the sole property of the author. This post is not to be shared, re-blogged or copied in any form without the express consent of the author. ©2022

In My Hometown, There Are Two Museums

There are two museums in my hometown; one that chronicles the lives of all of those who have toiled in the coal mines of Cape Breton and one that chronicles one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time. This post touches on both, as well as, one of Englands most notorious murder cases.

I was born in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. In my hometown, there are two museums of note. The first is called The Miners Museum. It is located at the edge of a tall cliff, with the waves of the Atlantic Ocean pounding below. For a few dollars, you can don the garb of a real coal miner and go under that ocean on a tour of an actual coal mine. My wife and I were married in the Miners Village Restaurant which is the greenish building you can see in the right side of this photo. We were serenaded afterwards by a Gospel Choir in the Museum theatre room. The Miners Museum holds a special place in our hearts. But, having said that, the Miners Museum is not the most famous museum in town.

On the other side of Glace Bay, at a part of town called Table Head, sits the Marconi Museum. This museum is dedicated to celebrating one of the greatest scientific and technological achievements of this past century. For it was at Table Head that Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi sent the first Trans-Atlantic wireless message in history.

I was thinking a lot about Marconi and about Glace Bay recently because I just finished reading, Thunderstruck, by author Erik Larson. Mr. Larson has written many books; most of which involve the connection between some infamous moment in History and some famous moment, too. In the case of Thunderstruck, Mr. Larson tells a tale of one of England’s most famous murder cases and how Marconi’s invention enabled authorities from Scotland Yard to apprehend the criminal involved.

In our modern times, it seems inconceivable that anyone could move freely about the planet. We are constantly monitored by surveillance cameras and satellites, our purchases tracked on-line and our social media feeds instantly updated to include stories and advertisements tailored to our lifestyles. Everything is immediate. Real privacy or anonymity is hard to come by.

But back in the early 1900s, when Marconi was conducting his experiments, news took time to travel. So, when the mild-mannered Dr. Crippen murdered his over-bearing wife and fled England with the woman he really loved, Dr. Crippen correctly believed that it was possible to travel abroad, incognito, with his lover and avoid detection and capture. But, as Mr. Larson so expertly details in his book, Marconi had invented a means of reducing the time it took for messages to travel across the Ocean to mere seconds. Not only that but, Marconi had fine-tuned the ability of ships to communicate quickly and accurately with receiving and transmitting stations on land. Thus, by the time Crippen and his lover had boarded a ship in Antwerp, Belgium, the Captain had already received a police bulletin from Scotland Yard with photos of the suspects on it. Furthermore, because the Captain was able to confirm the identities of the two criminals, he was able to quickly rely that information to Scotland Yard authorities who, in turn, were able to dispatch officers who sailed on a speedier ship and were able to make the arrest before Crippen’s ship ever made its destination of Quebec City.

I enjoyed reading Thunderstruck because I like reading about Historical events. An added bonus, for me, was that such a large portion of the book was set in Glace Bay. The photo on the right shows the original station that Marconi and his crew erected at Table Head. Much of today’s instantaneous communication can trace its roots back to this rocky spot on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

I think that most of us take for granted the push-button world we live in. We complain if there is a delay of only a few seconds between the time we click our mouse and the arrival of our content. But, back in Marconi’s time, it took him and his team over a decade of trial and error in order to figure out how to do what he did. *That is Marconi sitting cross-legged, as his wireless operator attempts to ascertain whether or not his message has been received in England.

That Marconi’s invention helped catch a notorious criminal certainly captured the world’s attention in a tabloid kind of way. It was the first time in History that a police pursuit was reported on in, what amounted to, real time, a hundred years ago. Millions of people on both sides of the Ocean knew that Crippen and his accomplice were doomed well before the arrest was ever made. In fact, perhaps, the last person to realize the drama that had been unfolding around him as he sailed from Belgium to Canada was, Dr. Crippen, himself. Right up until the end of the voyage, as the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway came into view, Crippen thought he had escaped to a new life; first, in Canada and, eventually, in America. As Larson points out in his book, on the last evening before his arrest, Dr. Crippen stood outside the wireless office on board the ship, watching the electrical arcs colour the sky. He commented to the Captain about how magical this new wireless thing seemed to be. The Captain, to his credit, merely smiled and nodded.

As much as newspaper editors cheered the arrival of wireless communication, one of the real values of it came a few years later, when wireless communication played such a huge role in saving survivors of the Titanic sinking.

As with so much in our world, things are never simply black and white. Wireless communication started our world down a path where silence rarely exists anymore. Amid the noise comes wonderful things like tsunami warnings that save countless lives and astronauts who walk on the Moon and tell us about the giant leaps they are taking. There is wonder in all of that. But, lack of privacy is a very real concern and there are no easy answers to that. For a genius once sat on a windswept part of my hometown and let the genie out of the bottle, so to speak, with a few bits of morse code that transformed into electrical waves that sailed across the Ocean faster than any ship, obliterating national boundaries, making us all, simultaneously, citizens of the world. There is no such thing as a personal identity anymore. Thanks to Marconi, we are now all stitched together in a social-media fabric held together, not with wires and batteries but, with binary codes. Our world has become digitized.

And, that process began in my hometown of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. A town that has two museums; one that probably means more to those of us who were born there and one that we share with the world.