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RockNotes: AC/DC's Righteous Return

1. It's tempting to say that AC/DC is back, and they are, but as the New York Times points out in a long piece in its Sunday edition, they've never really gone away.

"Over the past five years, as CD sales have cratered, AC/DC albums have sold just as well or better than ever; the band sold more than 1.3 million CDs in the United States last year, even though it hasn't put out any new music since 2000," the paper reports.

What's the secret of their success? Rocking.

The band's record sales - including a live DVD and old records re-packaged more nicely than in their original form - are on one hand an example of the long tail, and on the other of how staying true to yourself can pay off.

"AC/DC's decision to focus on selling CDs [it does not allow singles to be sold on iTunes] has put it at the center of an industry debate about whether even superstar acts can continue to dictate the way their music is sold," the Times says.

It's a silly debate. One size no longer fits all. What works best for AC/DC will not work best for, say, Mariah Carey. Or even Madonna. And thank God for it.

"AC/DC also has a reputation of being business savvy and a tendency of skipping an easy paycheck to preserve its long-term interests."

To the media, skipping the easy paycheck is savvy when it works; naive when it doesn't. Maybe AC/DC just does things the way it wants to - and how they as fans would want one of their favorite bands to act.

"They have a purist approach," the chairman of Sony Records tells the Times. "Their instinct was always to do the right thing for fans, think long term and not be influenced by financial rewards."

After all, the fans are the customers - not the record companies or radio.

And it doesn't hurt that AC/DC made one of the all-time rock classics. Back in Black, the Times notes, is the fourth-best selling album in American history.

Non-business addendum: "The band makes no pretense to art, and its lyrics contain what might be called single entendres."

2. A new blues and bluegrass festival is in the making right here in Chicago - thanks to former Beachwood sports contributor Michael Raspatello. Raspatello has put together an impressive lineup and related events that could have some staying power through the years.

On the festival's website, Raspetello describes his new venture thusly:

"The Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival is a one-day festival celebrating our city's unprecedented appreciation of roots music and culture. Hosted by the legendary Congress Theatre and the newly-minted KingTello Presents, a bevy of homegrown talent will unite with some of contemporary music's most accomplished and influential artists for a day of collaboration and cause. 12 hours, 16 bands, for only $31."

Raspatello describes KingTello as "a recently formed alliance of independent Chicago producers and promoters aimed at revitalizing the city's long-standing tradition of independent event production. Working in collaboration with the Congress Theater, KingTello Presents will fight on behalf of independent promoters large and small as long as corporate conglomerates threaten to monopolize a live music landscape rich in tradition and variety. KingTello Presents will represent the voice of choice."

A portion of the proceeds from the CBGB Festival will go to the Saving Tiny Hearts Society, which raises money to support research into congenital heart defects, which it says is America's #1 birth defect.

3. Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis featured noted author Dr. Oliver Sacks on Sound Opinions on Friday to discuss his new book, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, described on the show's website as "a collection of anecdotes illustrating the powerful effects music can have on the brain. Sacks relays his clinical experiences working with a range of patients including individuals who struggle to connect with music's melody, Parkinsonian patients who depend on music's rhythm, and Alzheimer's patients who find comfort in music's emotion. These people use music as a lifeline and a way to connect to the world - something rock fans certainly understand."

Next week's show features Calexico.

4. Is The Drive really that much more popular than everyone thought? I don't see why not!

5. Here's AC/DC's YouTube channel. As of this writing, it has 21,064 subscribers - but only 31 friends!

This video has had nearly 5.4 million views. And I'm sure tons more in other venues, though embedding has been disabled.

So I'll show you this one.


Send Steve your comments. Please use a real, full name to be considered for publication.


From Avril Lavigne and Kid Rock to the Replacements and Radiohead, we've got the best RockNotes around. Contributors welcome.


Posted on October 13, 2008

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