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I don’t remember the first time I heard “You Shook Me All Night Long.” I can’t even estimate the number of times I’ve heard it in my lifetime (let alone the times I heard it blaring from barroom speakers during my college years in Milwaukee). But I do remember the first time in high school that my old friend Brian recited the lyrics to me as if he was cluing me into some really great secret about how subversive the lyrics were. “C’mon Paul. ‘She told me to come, but I was already there.’ How great is that?” I also remember the laughter that eminated from him—half hysterical, half sinister—as he recited titles to me from the Back in Black album. “‘Givin’ the Dog a Bone!’ ‘Let Me Put My Love Into You!’ HAHAHAHA!”
More than a decade after Brian harrassed me into buying Back in Black at a time when I wanted to do no more than spend my days discussing the merits of the Kinks and Kula Shaker, I got the opportunity through my day job to spend time having a chat with the finely weathered voice of AC/DC for the past 31 years. The meat of our conversation will go into a magazine article later this year, but when one has the opportunity to have a chat with a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, well, one must think of his music blog!
This will be the inductory piece for a new series on this blog called “Give Me Five,” in which I ask musicians for five minutes of their time and pose five questions that tap into their own musical appreciation. I’ve already done two such questionnaires as addendums to my interviews with Murry Hammond of the Old 97’s and Craig Reid of the Proclaimers. There will be more interviews on this site in the future, but if I can’t get a full interview for the site, I’ll always be gunning for another addition to the “Give Me Five” series.
AC/DC last year completed their tour for the Black Ice album, and Johnson is currently talking up his induction to the literary world with Rockers and Rollers: A Full Throttle Memoir. Johnson himself admits it’s simply a few scribbles he wrote down while waiting to add vocals to Black Ice. The book is an an appreciation of automobiles and a collection of tales told as if he was telling you stories down the pub, but it’s his little asides that really make it worthwhile. Example: “You see, I don’t understand Saabs. They’re a bit like U2: you know they’re good but you just don’t get it.”
The morning after a night out with Ron White, he’s kind enough to let us in on what he wishes he could’ve written and the surprising crew with whom he’d like to collaborate. And no, Jim Breuer is not included.
Give Me Five.
Five burning questions with Brian Johnson of AC/DC
What’s your favorite Beatles song and why?
Ah, oh that’s a toughie. That is a toughie. But I’m gonna have to say, oh, “In My Life.” I think that one. (Sings) “There are places I remember …” I don’t know why. I just love it when I hear it.
Who are three songwriters—living or dead—that you wish you could sit down and write a song with?
Oh, um, gosh darn it. Cole Porter. Unbelievable. Richard Rodgers. Brilliant. And Lennon and McCartney—I’m gonna put the two of them down, ‘cos I can never make me mind up about them, they’re brilliant. And I’m sure there’s lots of others, I just can’t think of them all.
If you had to pick one song that you’ve written that you think really sums you up as a songwriter, what would that be?
Oh, one that I’ve written? I still think, and for sentimental reasons ‘cos it was the first song I wrote with AC/DC was “Shook Me All Night Long.” And you can tell the car influence in it immediately, which is just the way it came out. It was the first song I wrote with the boys and I still enjoy the song today, you know? It’s timeless. Timeless song, there.
What’s the one song you wish you could’ve written?
“Low Rider” by War.
Have you ever covered that? That’d be interesting.
No, you know, there’s very few bands to copy War. I mean, you’ve gotta remember these guys were black guys and Hispanic guys in L.A. gettin’ together and just makin’ a sound like, God dammit! It’s just brilliant stuff.
Is there anything you’re listening to right now that you’re really digging?
Oh, I just mix everything up. At the minute, I’m just filling me head with Frankie Miller, and it’s an old album, but I just dug it up again and it’s just been in me car for the last month and I just rock on to it, you know?
A big thank you to Brian for letting me technically ask six and making us all ponder what a Porter/Johnson or Rodgers/Johnson tune might sound like. Methinks it would’ve given a nice charge to “The King & I” … or at least “Oklahoma!” No matter what Hammerstein’s objections may have been.
AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long (Buy it here.)
War – Low Rider (Buy it here.)