Powerage

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Powerage
Acdc Powerage.JPG
Studio album by AC/DC
Released 5 May 1978
Recorded January–March 1978 at Albert Studios in Sydney, Australia
Genre Hard rock, blues rock, rock and roll
Length 39:43
Label Atlantic
Producer Harry Vanda, George Young
AC/DC chronology
Let There Be Rock
(1977)
Powerage
(1978)
If You Want Blood You've Got It
(1978)
Singles from Powerage
  1. "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation"
    Released: June 1978

Powerage is an album by Australian hard rock band AC/DC. It was the band's fourth internationally released studio album and the fifth to be released in Australia. All songs were written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott. Powerage was re-released in 2003 as part of the AC/DC Remasters series.

Background[edit]

After a 12-date European tour opening for Black Sabbath in April, bassist Mark Evans was fired from AC/DC on May 3, 1977. In the AC/DC memoir AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll, former manager Michael Browning states, "I got a call one day from Malcolm and Angus. We were in London, I went to their apartment and they told me they wanted to get rid of Mark. Him and Angus didn't see eye to eye. They used to have a sort of tit-for-tat thing going, but nothing that I would have ever thought was going to be gig-threatening." According to Browning, the Young brothers were seriously considering Colin Pattenden of Manfred Mann fame until Browning, who feared Pattenden was too old and didn't fit their image, pushed Englishman Cliff Williams, who had played with Home and Bandit. Williams, who could also sing background vocals, passed the audition and would go on to record on Powerage, although Evans insists that the album also has bass by him, as the Powerage songs started being done during the recording of his last album Let There Be Rock, and producer George Young while Williams was having trouble getting his work visa.[1] In a 2011 interview with Joe Bosso that appears on MusicRadar, Evans reflected on his ousting from the group:

With Angus and Malcolm, they were put on this earth to form AC/DC. They're committed big-time. And if they feel your commitment is anything less than theirs, well, that's a problem. Angus was intense. He was AC/DC 100 percent. His work ethic was unbelievable. When I was with him, he expected everybody to be just like him, which is pretty impossible...At the time, Malcolm said something about them wanting a bass player who could sing, but I think that was a smokescreen. I don't know if there was any one reason. It's just the way it went down. I felt the distance growing between me and Angus and Malcolm. When I was fired, it wasn't so much a surprise as it was a shock. There was a lot of tension in the band at the time. We'd just been kicked off a Black Sabbath tour, and this was right when a trip to the States was cancelled because the record company rejected the Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap album. So it was a hard period.

The band finally toured America for the first time in the summer of 1977, focusing on smaller markets at first but eventually playing CBGB's in New York and the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles. In December they played a set in front of a small audience at Atlantic Recording Studios in New York City which was broadcast live over Radio WIOQ in Philadelphia and hosted by Ed Sciaky. The promotional album, Live from the Atlantic Studios would be released on the 1997 Bonfire box set. In early 1978, the band returned to Sydney to record their next album.

Recording and composition[edit]

According to the Murray Engleheart book AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll, several songs that wound up on Powerage were started in July 1977 during the band's first rehearsals with Williams at Albert Studios, including "Kicked in the Teeth Again," "Up To My Neck In You," an early version of "Touch Too Much," and possibly "Riff Raff." The Powerage sessions officially got going in January 1978 and stretched over a period of about eight weeks. Although the album features the same ferocity and live feel that had characterized the band's previous LP Let There Be Rock, Atlantic Record executives in the United States complained that the album did not contain a radio-friendly single. With the first pressings of Powerage ready to go in the U.K., the band complied and recorded the infectious "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation"; the song, which features handclaps and maracas and does not have a traditional guitar solo, was released in Britain at the end of May and went to #24, the best performance yet by an AC/DC single. However, Powerage would be the final Bon Scott-era studio album the band would record with the team of Harry Vanda and George Young, who had produced all of the bands albums up to that point (George is the older brother of Angus and Malcolm and enjoyed his own pop success with the Easybeats in the 1960s), the feeling from Atlantic being that a more commercial producer might do wonders for the band's profile in the lucrative American market.

Although Powerage might be the band's most overlooked album from the Bon Scott era, the LP is highly respected - Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has stated that Powerage is his favorite AC/DC record[2] - and remained a favorite of Malcolm Young, who is quoted in AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll: "I know a lot of people respect it. A lot of real rock and roll AC/DC fans, the real pure rock and roll guys. I think that's the most under-rated album of them all." Another often overlooked aspect of the record is the high quality of Bon Scott's lyrics, with biographer Clinton Walker writing in his 1994 Scott memoir Highway to Hell, "'Gimme a Bullet' was perhaps Bon's most accomplished piece of writing to date, in which his penchant for hardcase metaphors finds even more genuine pathos and humour than it had before." "What's Next to the Moon," with its allusions to Casey Jones and Clark Kent, as well as the elusive "Gone Shootin'" and the unapologetic "Down Payment Blues" ("I know I ain't doin' much, but doin' nothin' means a lot to me"), clearly show that Scott's writing, much like the band's sound, had evolved from the novelties of the group's early albums. “Bon was a street poet – he described it as 'toilet wall' poetry," former AC/DC manager Michael Browning explained to Peter Watts of Uncut in 2013. “That was unknown. They signed a singer and got a lyricist, as well.” "Sin City," which the band would perform frequently in concert, explores the seductive charms and dangers of Las Vegas, while "Kicked in the Teeth" addresses a two-faced woman with "two-faced lies." Musically, Powerage contains some of the band's fiercest rockers, including "Riff Raff," "Kicked in the Teeth," and "Up To My Neck in You," and, as with previous albums, the songs were recorded as live as possible (on "Up To My Neck in You," Angus Young can clearly be heard changing from rhythm to lead on his guitar solo). In an interview with Bass Frontiers, Cliff Williams recalls the sessions fondly: "The guys had already been in the studio for a while and we went in to do what turned out to be the Powerage album. Great work environment. Albert Studios there in Sydney was a great little rock and roll room...Great producers. Obviously a lot of chemistry there being brothers. Just a real fiery, energetic work environment. And we had about three weeks to do it, 'cause that's about all the money we had...It was really a tremendous experience."

Releases[edit]

Like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, many of AC/DC's early albums were altered for release in other markets, and this practice continued with Powerage, although it was the first LP to be released nearly simultaneously in both Australian and international markets and the first to use just one cover image for both. However, the first UK pressing also includes different mixes than all later versions, most noticeably on "Down Payment Blues" (which excludes the bluesy coda heard on later pressings), "Kicked In The Teeth" (the opening chord was omitted on all other pressings but is present on the UK vinyl version) and "What's Next to the Moon," (which omits solos and backing vocals heard on later pressings.) The European vinyl edition (specifically, the first UK pressing of the LP) included "Cold Hearted Man," a song that was not previously released, and would not be released on any other AC/DC album until 2009's AC/DC Backtracks boxed set. The song became more widely available through the boxed set of Bon Scott-era vinyl LP albums in 1981. The song was packaged on a single-sided 12-inch single in the 1987 boxed set. In some territories, Powerage omitted "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation" due to a rushed job in getting the LP to pressing plants in time for the release date, hence "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation" (which was not yet completed) was omitted, "Cold Hearted Man" was added, and the rushed mixes are different from the 'finished' mixes that were thereafter used.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[3]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2.5/5 stars[4]
Stylus Magazine favorable[5]

Powerage was originally released on 5 May 1978 on Atlantic Records and reached No. 133 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart in the US, eventually going platinum. Allmusic gives Powerage a rating of three and a half out of five stars, stating that while "it is the most uneven of" AC/DC's 1970s material, the album still contained a "few genuine classics", specifically mentioning "Down Payment Blues" and "Up to My Neck in You".[3] Edwin Faust of Stylus Magazine considers Powerage "AC/DC’s best album...because it isn’t simply about sex, drinking and tongue-in-cheek Satanism", but shows a band "growing up".[5] In 1994, Bon Scott biographer Clinton Walker opined in his book Highway to Hell that "altogether, Powerage just seemed to lack the uncompromising coherence and relentless body and soul that was its predecessor's greatness."

In 2005, Powerage was ranked number 325 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.[6] Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 26 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time".[7]

Covers[edit]

"Up to My Neck in You", "Riff Raff" and "What's Next to the Moon" was covered by Mark Kozelek on his solo album What's Next to the Moon, which includes radically rearranged versions of AC/DC songs from the Bon Scott era. "Riff Raff" is frequently played on Guns N' Roses/Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash's iheartradio channel, "Slash FM", who cites it as one of his favorite AC/DC songs. "Riff Raff" was also covered by the Axl Rose-led incarnation of Guns N' Roses on their Chinese Democracy World Tour and by the Canadian heavy metal band Annihilator on their 1996 album Refresh the Demon. The main riff for "Riff Raff" is often used as a soundcheck for Melvins guitar player Buzz Osbourne before live Melvins' performances, as heard on the DVD Salad of a Thousand Delights. "Sin City" was covered by the '80s heavy metal band Twisted Sister, on their album Twisted Forever, in which Dee Snider changes a lyric: "Ain't got a hope in hell, that's Bon Scott's belief". The song has also been covered by the punk rock band The Offspring, Great White, Ugly Kid Joe and Bruce Dickinson. "Down Payment Blues" was covered in 2001 by Warrant on their album "Under the Influence" and also served as the theme song for comedian Marc Maron's 'WTF' podcast in 2009. "Sin City" is Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry's favorite AC/DC song.[8] "Gone Shootin'" was featured in the movie Beavis and Butt-head Do America. In the audio commentary featured on the Beavis and Butt-head Do America Special Collector's Edition DVD, series creator Mike Judge stated that the main guitar riff from "Gone Shootin'" was the basis for the series' theme song. In 2007, a studio version of the song, with Brian Johnson on vocals, was included on the second disc of Plug Me In. The footage was taken from a recording session in 1996 at London's VH1 Studios. "Kicked in the Teeth" was covered by Nashville Pussy on their album Eat More Pussy and also available on the bonus CD of Let Them Eat Pussy.

Track listing[edit]

Australian/US and all CD releases[edit]

All songs written and composed by Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott

No. Title Length
1. "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation"   3:37
2. "Down Payment Blues"   6:03
3. "Gimme a Bullet"   3:21
4. "Riff Raff"   5:11
5. "Sin City"   4:45
6. "What's Next to the Moon"   3:31
7. "Gone Shootin'"   5:05
8. "Up to My Neck in You"   4:13
9. "Kicked in the Teeth"   3:53
  • Some cassette copies, such as the original Canadian issue, had an alternate track listing. For example, "Sin City" was the first song on side 1, while "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation" was the first song on side 2. All other tracks appear in the order of the original Australian/US release.

European LP release[edit]

All songs written and composed by Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott

No. Title Length
1. "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation"   3:06
2. "Gimme a Bullet"   3:20
3. "Down Payment Blues"   5:40
4. "Gone Shootin'"   5:22
5. "Riff Raff"   5:14
6. "Sin City"   4:45
7. "Up to My Neck in You"   4:12
8. "What's Next to the Moon"   3:42
9. "Cold Hearted Man"   3:32
10. "Kicked in the Teeth"   3:58
  • Initial editions of the European (UK) LP release featured a different mix of the album. It had a 'harder' sound than the later version, with small variations in vocals, guitar tracks, or both, and occasionally extra sections and longer or shorter fades. Some versions omitted "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation" from the track-list, but all included "Cold Hearted Man", albeit in a different sequence than on subsequent pressings. One of the most marked differences is the exclusion of the bluesy coda on "Down Payment Blues". The first cassette issue of the album also features this mix.
  • The album was later remixed for the American market, with the new mix replacing the original European mix, and becoming the global standard. This mix is still used on all AC/DC Powerage CD releases today.

Personnel[edit]

The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC book claims that George Young played bass on all tracks.[9]

Production[edit]

Charts[edit]

Album

Year Chart Peak Position
1978 Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart
22
1978 US Billboard The 200 Albums Chart[10]
133

Certification[edit]

Country Sales Certification
United States[11] 1,000,000 Platinum

References[edit]

  1. ^ Janssen, Volker (August–September 1998). "Interview with Mark Evans". Daily Dity. Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  2. ^ http://www.popmatters.com/feature/184155-the-youngs-the-brothers-who-built-ac-dc-riff-raff/
  3. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Powerage - AC/DC". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  4. ^ "AC/DC: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 September 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Faust, Edwin (12 December 2003). "AC/DC Powerage". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  6. ^ [...], Rock Hard (Hrsg.). [Red.: Michael Rensen. Mitarb.: Götz Kühnemund] (2005). Best of Rock & Metal die 500 stärksten Scheiben aller Zeiten. Königswinter: Heel. p. 80. ISBN 3-89880-517-4. 
  7. ^ Johnson, Howard (21 January 1989). "AC/DC 'Powerage'". Kerrang! 222. London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd. 
  8. ^ My favorite AC/DC song is probably "Sin City".-- Joe Perry, "30 on 30", Guitar World, March 2010, Vol. 31/No. 3
  9. ^ Fink, Jesse ((01/11/2013).). The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC. Ebury Australia. ISBN 9781742759791.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ "Powerage Billboard Albums". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  11. ^ "RIAA Database Search for Powerage". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 

External links[edit]