Macolm Young

“You Shook Me All Night Long.”

We don’t have records like this anymore, from unheralded acts that end up being ubiquitous, liked by everyone, living forever.

Well, maybe “Despacito” fits this bill, Luis Fonsi has been working in the trenches forever and a lot of people know it and maybe it’s a harbinger of what’s to come, Latin music, then again although AC/DC heralded a resurgence of hard rock, the band was singular, almost no one else sounded like them.

The average bloke didn’t think about Malcolm. He was just another short guy on stage if they knew what the band looked like at all. But they knew the music, everybody knows “You Shook Me All Night Long,” which implored you to buy the album “Back In Black,” whereupon you went through the looking glass into a sound that felt so good you could not lift the needle from the LP, unless it was to start it all over again.

It was the black cover. It was the gong at the beginning. It was the indelible riff that had you nodding your head in hypnotic rhythm, and that’s what Malcolm played, rhythm, and a minute into “Hells Bells” he started to chug, it was like a freight train leaving the station and onboard you could not think about anything else, texting a friend, you were along for the ride and you didn’t want to get off.

And then the track segued into “Shoot To Thrill.” It’s like that train turned into a roller coaster and you’d been going up the hill, slowly, pulled forward by the chain, and now you were set free, going downhill, defying gravity. Back when albums were just that, a compilation of tunes that was rarely cherry-picked.

And the second side began with the title track, “Back In Black,” just as powerful as the opener on the other side, with its sing-songy chorus that kept your head moving with the devil horns thrust in the air. This is where the tribes diverged, before we were all listening to the same sounds, but now new acts got harder and appealed to a more blue collar audience and the new metal was not for everybody, but AC/DC was, a new kind of Beatles, less comprehensive, more one note, but testing limits and pushing their way into our hearts nevertheless.

But by this time there was a different lead singer and a new producer. Mutt Lange worked his magic first with AC/DC, before he moved on to Def Leppard. But AC/DC had success before him, most prominently with “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll), which featured a bagpipe, but was built upon the aforementioned rhythm guitar, chunking along, making you feel so good, and that’s what rock music should do, elate you and make you feel powerful, that the rest of life does not matter.

The building blocks were there before Mutt, he just pushed it over the top.

Let there be rock, that’s what AC/DC declared. And like every Aussie band they were road-tested, so when you went to see them live you were not disappointed, it was an aural assault, overcoming you with pure sound, no trappings were necessary.

And the funny thing is, after the relationship with Mutt went sour, when the band was on the verge of becoming an oldies act, “Who Made Who” emerged from the speakers, and although the twitching lead is indelible, once again it’s the rhythm guitar that sets the pace, that locks you into the groove, the way bass and drums do in most bands, but in AC/DC it was Malcolm who was most essential, who was irreplaceable.

And the formula was ultimately repeated with “Thunderstruck,” proving the band was not a studio concoction, that it could do it all by its lonesome.

And when you went to see the band live it was not nostalgia, not a convention of denizens from the suburbs experiencing a nice night out, rather it was still dangerous, you didn’t see AC/DC in the tabloids, it’s almost like the members didn’t exist outside the band, there were no charity dinners, no jet-setting with models, just the music.

And that’s what we lament, the loss of this ethos. So simple, yet seemingly unattainable today, when every act is looking to the trappings and willing to do anything to achieve them. AC/DC always led with its music, it fought in the trenches, experienced the highway to hell, and then suddenly emerged the biggest band on earth. I’d call it artist development, but it was something different. The sound was always the same, it was just refined, it was like an adolescent turning into an adult. It was always the same person underneath, no matter who the band worked with, it sounded like them.

And now there’s still a band plying the boards with that name, that does boffo at the b.o., testimony to our infection with its sound, but every original member other than Angus is gone.

And you can laugh about this, talk about how the Eagles are still touring without Glenn Frey, but these are musicians, they don’t know what else to do, and the music means just that much to us, we go and are reminded of who we once were, how the tunes greased the skids of our lives, how this wasn’t entertainment, but life itself.

So now Malcolm Young is gone. Not only the player of that rhythm guitar, but the cowriter of the songs. But honestly, this is not a surprise. He had dementia, he had to retire from the road. This is not sudden like Bowie or Prince, we’d already waved goodbye to Malcolm.

But not to rock music. Not to ourselves.

Today’s rock music is not for everybody. It’s niche. To its detriment. It’s hard to get into and hard to convince others to partake of. Whereas one listen to “You Shook Me All Night Long” closed you.

And Malcolm Young was only 64.

Hey, that’s my age!

And I hope I get a couple more decades, maybe not. But now my generation is passing. Not through misadventure, but life itself, the twists and turns, one minute you’re drinking a beer and staying up all night with the music cranked, the next you’re in the doctor’s office with a pain being explained that you’ve got this ailment that could not only waylay you, but kill you.

It’s the nature of life.

But we thought we were gonna live forever. The music too.

And the thing is so much of the music has been forgotten. The younger generation knows the Beatles, but the Stones more by legend, as for their compatriots…most of today’s generation has never even heard the names.

But they know AC/DC.

The records live on in jukeboxes. They’re beloved by hipsters and hicks. Those on the coast and the heartlands. Those rich and poor. They’re so basic, sans trappings, you need to bring nothing to the party, the music provides it all.

And it still does.

Which is why Axl wants to sing with the band. Why we still play the records. We want to get closer to this glorious noise, it makes us feel so good, it makes us feel alive.

But Malcolm Young is dead.

But the sound he helped architect lives on.

You’re out on a lark. You think it’s about now. A momentary diversion. You’re not thinking about legacy, you just want to get paid, you just want to continue doing it, and then the heavens open and you’re anointed and you become a rock god.

Malcolm Young was one of them. He’s anchoring the band in heaven, strumming the strings of that Gretsch as we sit here.

Can you hear it?

Oh, maybe it’s coming from below, shaking the ground we’re standing upon.

Those are hells bells.

 

Dear Bob,
I have just read your article on Malcolm, and I must admit it moved me deeply.
I stood side by side with Malcolm on stage for 32 years, and I knew he was a genius and a special man, thank you for saying all the things I have wanted the world to know all those years ago.
Your right about Malcolm not wanting the Lime light, he hated it, but he was the spirit of the band, and every time we started a new album I couldn’t wait to hear the new riffs that had been conjured up.
Once again Bob , thank you for a beautiful piece , I was proud to have called him a friend.

Cheers Brian Johnson.

Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner

“Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner face new allegations of sexual misconduct”

Sex is not the only thing they were entitled to.

Rock stars created the paradigm. Nobodies who became somebodies who could act with impunity. Prior to this, you had to be rich to get away with it. Fame helped too, but the rock stars were both. Which is why everybody wants to be a “rock star” today. There’s the rock stars of tech, the rock stars of finance, only they’re not, rock stars that is. Rock stars drew women to them based on their art, their songs, without them they were oftentimes dullards unable to speak to the opposite sex. Check history, seemingly every legend says he got into it so he could meet girls. That’s the power of song, when done right, rock music is life itself.

But most people cannot become rock stars.

You also have to realize men are in competition. There is not the community of women, happy just to be a member of the group. No, men are constantly climbing the ladder, pushing others down, showing off, and when they get to the top, they think they’re invulnerable. Like Harvey Weinstein. Forget that he did it, the fact that David Boies kept it out of the press undercuts our entire notion of society. We thought you paid for your sins. But you don’t. If you’re rich and famous you hire the best attorneys, who are thrilled to get paid and be members of the club, and you skate. Kinda like Brett Ratner. Everybody’s entitled to a defense, but Ratner’s attorney Martin Singer keeps bloviating that the accusations are false and is on a path to put questions in the public’s brain to allow Mr. Ratner to go free. Do you think you could afford the services of Mr. Singer? Would he even want to represent you if you’re a nobody? Give Louis C.K. credit, at least he admitted it. That’s what people with good upbringings used to do, until the President himself lied. That’s right, they were after Bill Clinton but he manipulated the truth and I don’t want to make this about left and right but when you see the upper class lying, why should you tell the truth?

And who raised these guys? Maybe I’m just an outsider. Maybe I learned from my father, who was also an outsider. Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up in a female-dominated household. I never ran with the pack and was egged on by my compatriots. Oh, we’ve all been exposed to this behavior, at the frat, the trash-talking bullies, but it always made me feel uncomfortable, I wanted to extricate myself from the scene, where you want to act like a bro to be part of the group. And groupthink takes over and you do heretofore unthinkable things. Believing you’re invulnerable and the group has your back.

But if you’re rich, that too is a club, with its own markers. Do you fly first class, NetJet or have your own plane? Can you snap your fingers and get what you want? Let’s be clear, we no longer live in the sixties and seventies. Reagan legitimized greed and now there are tons of rich dudes who emulate rock stars without the portfolio other than the cash. And let’s be clear, women are attracted to money, not all, but a certain number. And when women come in contact with this cash and power oftentimes bad things happen. Not always, but in the case of Ratner and Simmons, they do.

And now I can’t say any more. This is kind of like Rodney King, we heard about police oppression for years and didn’t believe it. We’ve been hearing about rape culture for years, and here it is, the evidence. And now most men are afraid to weigh in on the topic, they don’t want to get caught in the maelstrom, and I don’t want to either. But I’m wondering where this all ends up.

We’ve got to stop venerating the rich. We’ve got to stop saying they’re the job-creators and so much better than the rest of us. That’s just patently untrue. Too many are complicit in this myth.

We’ve got to eradicate bro behavior. This is a tough one, since it goes back millennia. But men are no longer hunter-gatherers, they’re no longer killing dinner every day.

And we’ve got to hold people accountable. Wall Street blows up the country and gets off scot-free. So you’re supposed to play by the rules? Once again, culpability is turned upon the opposite party. You took the mortgage, you were in the house, you’re responsible, not them. But Wall Street skated because one of their own was in charge, Timothy Geithner not only resisted calls for criminal culpability, he paid the perps, gave their outfits money to stay in business. It’s like the deal with Meek Mill. Jay Z was right. Meek Mill might have been a bad actor, but he was in perpetual probation, in a way white people are not. You see a black rapper and believe he’s guilty. You see a rich white guy and believe he’s not.

So what happens now?

The ball is being moved downfield. Thinking men will alter their behavior. But they will still want to be rich and successful for the perks. And the number one perk is sex. It even trumps money. That’s what men want. I hate to admit it, but guys judge you based on who’s on your arm.

Do the accused ever work again? Does the punishment fit the crime?

It’s like the rest of life. Their timing was bad. You could get away with it then, but not now. Mel Gibson came back, maybe they can too. But I’m not going out of my way to see Mel’s movies, Hollywood may have forgotten, but I have not. But that’s just evidence of the cracks in the system. The rich and powerful believe they’re in control, but in many ways they are not. We are, and new communication tools have delivered this to us. Then again, the internet has allowed untruths to prosper.

But this story has been broken by the press. The supposed dying outlet of fake news. But in an era of duplicity, where no reporter can make the cash of a techie, it’s important to stick to your guns, do what you do. That’s what’s wrong with music today, it used to be an exponent of truth, now it’s just a vehicle for wealth, with the makers complicit in the system. We want to hear from people outside the system, not those inured to it.

As for Trump, he was elected because too many felt abused by the system we’ve got. Which is why Bernie got traction. They were both appealing to the disaffected. But Bernie got shafted by the DNC and Trump employed the old playbook, deny, deny, deny, to escape culpability.

But homey don’t play that game anymore.

I Drank A Coke

I know, I know, it’s illegal, but I did it! As a matter of fact I’m having a Caffeine Free Diet Coke right now! But it’s not the same thing, it’s not the real thing, not like Coke, made with sugar, in a bottle.

Soda was a staple growing up. My father owned a liquor store. He’d bring home flats of soda on a regular basis, we’d never run out, even Yoo-hoo, that’s how I found out about Gil McDougald, before that I had no idea who he was. I once brought my entire Little League team to my garage so they could have free soda. It tended to be Cott, cherry and orange, not that Coke and Pepsi were illegal, I remember the old Pepsi logo, with the swirl, but I preferred Coke, until I went to college, when the machines were Pepsi-only.

Of course I can tell the difference. Pepsi is not only sweeter, but you can drink the whole can in one fell swoop. You cannot do this with Coke, because of its effervescence. I’d drink three cans a day, for 15¢ apiece, that’s what they cost, until Vermont became the first state with a bottle law, when they went up by 5¢, but finding a place to take them back was a near impossibility. They’d always require you to have bought them there, and they knew we were college students, assuming we even had a car to get us there in the first place.

But during my senior year of college I had a car, a ’63 Chevy convertible my dad had bought for $350, overpaying because of low mileage, which my sister drove at BU and then got handed down to me. That’s when I switched to Coke, in twelve ounce bottles, I was burned out on Pepsi, I could now go to the grocery store and buy Coke, it was a relief.

And I stayed with Coke until they came out with the new one, literally New Coke, which was in ’88, right? Of course I could look it up, but sometimes you just want to rely on your memory. I remember where I bought it, when it was rare, at Jay’s, the convenience store up the street.

I got it home, chilled the bottle, broke it open and then…

Severe disappointment. A flat sensation in between Coke and Pepsi that satisfied none of my taste buds. Meanwhile, real Coke was unavailable, I switched to Pepsi and then…

I found Caffeine Free Diet Coke in the fridge in Vermont.

No, I did not partake of Diet Coke. Because of its bitter aftertaste. It wasn’t quite as bad as the dreaded Tab, but it was not for regular consumption. And now I’m confronted with a can that not only does not have sugar, but is sans caffeine to boot, it’s got NOTHING! I expected it to taste like water. But surprisingly, it tasted better than regular Diet Coke, less bitter, less aftertaste, a facsimile of real Coke, but at the time you could not buy real Coke, and the Coke that came back to market had fructose instead of sugar, so I switched allegiance.

And then everybody went to water.

I feel like an adolescent. The holier-than-thou tribe excoriate me every time they hear I consume Caffeine Free Diet Coke, like I’m putting poison in my body, like if I drink enough cans I’ll die. But I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke cigarettes and I try not to eat rice or bread and am I entitled to live? NO!

As for water, it’s just not satisfying, especially that wimpy stuff with a couple of calories that’s “flavored.” It’s got color, but to the degree it’s got taste, it’s icky. As for truly flavored water, it’s got as many calories as Coke, so I might as well drink that.

But I don’t. You see getting older certain foods become illegal. See a baby boomer eating french fries and you’re convinced they’re going to drop dead in the next couple of weeks. And as my nutritionist says, nobody gets to eat everything they want. So we’re all limited, we’re all restricted, and my problem is when I go off the rails, I go big. I eat all the chocolate chip cookies, I have a shake with my burger, so I try to keep the reins tight, but this week I’m losing my resolve.

Last night I ate chocolate pudding. Not a whole hell of a lot, but enough to satisfy. The worst thing is eating crap and finding out it doesn’t live up to your expectations. But this did! And today when I went for a drink at the bar…

Coke must be a sponsor. I was carrying around a glass of water all day, even put a lemon in it, but it was like drinking medicine, I just could not consume it. And when I went back for one more glass, I saw the bottles, Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite.

Now on a plane, I go for Diet Sierra Mist, or Diet Sprite. Hell…I’ll occasionally buy Diet 7-Up or Diet Ginger Ale at the grocery store. I’ve become so sensitive to caffeine. I don’t drink coffee, but I used to drink full-strength Coke and Pepsi, but now I don’t. As for Diet Coke, it too has caffeine, so I never partake, I don’t want to be up all night. And I must mention that zero calorie Vitamin Water is quite tasty, but it’s hard to find, so…

I’m striding across the landscape, I’m bellying up to the bar, I’m getting ready to pour some water and then I see the little Coke bottle and I say to myself…

Hell, a sip’ll be ok.

It always tastes better in the bottle. But the bottles are rare, but they’re right here. And they’ve got ice! I keep my fridge really cold, my cans of Caffeine Free Diet Coke need no ice. But now, on a hot fall day in Ojai, the thought of a real Coke over ice is irresistible.

I’ll just take a few swallows.

So I fill a glass with ice. I wondered how much to use, but the bottle was not cold.

Then I used a can opener to pop the top, reminding me of the days of yore, in my dad’s garage, using the metal Rheingold or Ballantine can openers to pop the top of soda bottles before there were screw tops.

And then I poured the caramel-colored liquid over the ice and effervescence ensued and I was getting into the mood.

I’d only planned for a little, but I filled up the glass, it looked so good with the ice.

And then I hoisted the glass to my lips and took a sip…

VOILA! My face broke out in a smile, the world went from black and white to color, I thought back to college, I reconnected with who I once was, felt good I was the same guy, and then could not stop.

I was in a good mood. I was in a commercial. My life was better with Coca-Cola.

I walked the grass with a bounce in my step, I poured the rest of the bottle in the glass. I calculated whether it was too late in the day to consume caffeine, decided it wasn’t, noted that there were only eight ounces in the bottle and downed my drink and…

It made my day, I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m not going back on a sugar water regimen, but it was like taking LSD, I saw the world in a new way.

Sometimes you’ve just go to color outside the lines.

My name is Bob Lefsetz and I’m addicted to Coke.

AND I’M PROUD OF IT!

Stream

I’m not supposed to talk about it.

Actually, I asked Martin Sorrell’s permission, actually SIR Martin Sorrell, and he said to run it by him first.

Ain’t gonna do that.

Actually, I deleted the e-mail the first time through. I’m invited to scores of conferences. I won’t go unless you pay me. Hell, you’re reading this for free, I’ve got to make a living! And usually conferences are worthless. Sponsored by the government to promote industry they’re clusterfucks with no point. You see the usual suspects spouting the usual statements and if you’re lucky, you make some new friends and hang with old ones. And then there are the bands, oh I hate this. The organizer signs up a hundred wannabes, charges them to play in the hope they get a deal, whatever that means these days. Actually, for about a decade there, music conferences were fascinating, because the business was in turmoil, but it’s in turmoil no more. You’re now either a winner or you’re a loser, and you know which one you are by whether you’re bitching or not. If you’re complaining about streaming and how you just can’t make any money you’ve been left behind, the past is never coming back. All that hogwash about musicians being fairly compensated for their work… Yeah, that’ll happen when you can force people to listen to your trash, and that’s never gonna be, you’re competing against the best music of all time, you’ve got to be just that good, and the dirty little secret which is actually hiding in plain sight is if you are that good, if you are at the top of the chart, you’re making more money in adjusted dollars than you ever made in music previously. But try to tell that to the losers. You’re not entitled to make music for a living, do you think you’re entitled to play in the NBA?

So Stream is free. I learned that when they tracked me down again. Sponsored by WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, whose majordomo is the heretofore mentioned Mr. Sorrell, and a bunch of other household name companies, it brings together agency people, media people and those like me, who wonder how we got on their list.

And believe me, these are different people, I never come across them in real life. Hell, I probably hear from as many people as anybody in Hollywood, but I don’t know advertising agencies and packaged goods consultants and it’s just stunning how many people really live in the world, and many of them are foreign, with a different perspective. The more you learn, the less you know. I’m sitting around in discussion groups today wondering to what degree I’ve got my finger on the pulse, because everybody’s got a family, everybody’s buying stuff, WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?

Well, the people at Stream are the ones who are selling it to them.

Now the difference between Stream and the music business is these people are smart. Whereas music is peopled by hustlers. With no barrier to entry and great rewards for success, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff in music, which is why you can’t get access, why you’re better off making a noise and being found than knocking on doors. People are DELUSIONAL! They’ll e-mail you files that suck which they believe are chart-toppers, it’s just that no one will tell them this, and if you do, you crush their dream and are labeled an asshole, harassed forever more, which is why it’s a club you cannot get into, no one has the time to waste with the great unwashed.

But in traditional business you’ve got to prove yourself to move up the food chain. But advertising is challenged. It’s just a decade plus behind the music industry. You see they’re being squeezed out, even though in many cases they’re necessary, but no one wants to pay, can you say NAPSTER??

Everybody hates disruption. They think their job is forever, or should be. But the world marches on and new companies emerge and many no longer have a seat at the table. But rather than deal with this, many deny it, try to prevent it, and howl when it comes to be, just like you hate the rappers who built culture online, gave their wares away for free and now dominate Spotify. You denigrate their music, the system, instead of getting on board and trying to play the game. There’s no culture in rock, which is why it’s eclipsed by even country on Spotify, one thing the social web has taught us is you need a community. But there’s no new music in rock that engenders said community. You’re bitching about streaming while Fleetwood Mac has over a hundred million streams of their hits on Spotify, because they’re GREAT, you don’t need a manual to understand them.

And today it rained. You know what it’s like to be outside in the rain in Ojai, under a teepee? It’s like being at summer camp. There’s a feeling in the air, like your life could change, like you’re living in the moment, like nothing else matters. You’re pissed when your phone rings, when you get e-mail, you want to disconnect as opposed to being plugged in.

And the truth is everybody’s friendly and most have no idea who I am and there are five discussion slots a day, you go to whichever groups you want, they’re organized by attendees, kinda like electives at the aforementioned summer camp. And you encounter certain people a number of times and create bonds. And your consciousness is heightened and your social network is increased with flesh and blood friends and the busier you are, and I haven’t had a free moment all day, the more you engage, you realize technology is just a tool, that it’s really just about us.

Stream the WPP conference

Stream USA 2017