A compilation album may not often make it onto a “best of” list, but I’ll always be biased when it comes to AC/DC’s Who Made Who. It was a Christmas present in 1986 and my gateway album into the world of heavy metal. Once I’d heard it, I never looked back.
Purists (read: snobs) will scoff at the choice. It’s only got a few new songs; it was a cobbled-together soundtrack to the Stephen King movie Maximum Overdrive; and it’s not even close to the best of the Brian Johnson albums.
But as an introduction to what made them great in the ’80s, you’d be hard-pressed to beat it. It’s got the massive, overpowering sound of the era in “Sink the Pink.” It’s got the randy-but-friendly indestructibility of “You Shook Me All Night Long,” which has gotten overplayed so much it’s become AC/DC’s “Stairway to Heaven.” And it even had something to shock the delicate sensibilities of North America at the time, “Hells Bells,” (the direct references to Satan never offended me, but the missing apostrophe in the title still does).
It’s also a pretty good survey of what you’d hear AC/DC play live in the ’80s — right up to the earth-shattering “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).”
As a nod to the fact this was a soundtrack, two of the new songs are instrumentals (“D.T.” and “Chase the Ace”). The music is actually one of the only good things about the laughably bad movie — unless you find the prospect of Emilio Estevez squaring off against suddenly malevolent electrical appliances and semis at a truck stop the stuff of compelling drama.
And for those who think “Who Made Who” is a boring song — for a band whose nearly every song is about sex, drinking and/or rock n’ roll, it’s a surprisingly thoughtful meditation on the semiotics of divinity and belief. Nope, I’m not kidding. Too much.
As a greatest-hits album it fails, since the only Bon Scott song on it is “Ride On” — a great, melancholy tune, but hardly representative of his era with the band.
But as an AC/DC album it stands up better today than most of the albums it cherry-picks from (with the exception of Back in Black).
If you’ve been thinking of getting into AC/DC and have somehow escaped hearing a rock radio station over the last 30 years, you could do a lot worse than starting with Who Made Who.
Who Made Who
- Albert, 1986
- 4.5 stars out of 5 (Come on, give me a break — I said I was biased.)