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AC/DC’s “Flick of the Switch”: A Great Album Overlooked

For fans of AC/DC in the early 1980s, the release of Flick of the Switch took plenty of people by surprise, as well as a host of radio stations.

Gone was the polished, sharp sound found on its predecessor For Those About To Rock We Salute You, which shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Charts. Instead, fans heard a very raw, dry record with minimal depth in terms of the sound (guitars and drums especially).

But this is what the band wanted in 1983 – to get back to basics.

Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Brian Johnson and Co. were tired of working with uber-producer Mutt Lange (he did Highway to HellBack in Black and For Those About to Rock) and his constant knob twitching and endless takes.

So the band congregated at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, and hammered out Flick of the Switch in a month (For Those About to Rock took about five months), producing it themselves and damn how it sounded.

“There was a genuine desire to get back to the basics with Flick of the Switch,” said engineer Tony Platt in the book AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll. “There was a general kind of consensus that we needed to find some way of moving on a little bit. You know the Johnny Winter version of Muddy Waters’ ‘Mannish Boy?’ Where they’re all shouting in the background? Basically what Mal had said was that he wanted to try and get that feeling of being in a room with it all happening. I don’t think it really worked entirely.”

The album enjoyed a lukewarm reception, barely selling a million copies upon release in the U.S. and getting to No. 15 on the chart. Radio stations largely ignored it, especially when Atlantic Records barely promoted the record in America because they felt there were no singles in site.

However there are some great songs on the record. The title track is an AC/DC standout, while “Rising Power”, “Badlands”, “Guns for Hire” and “Bedlam in Belgium” are fantastic AC/DC songs. All in all, it’s a solid album that doesn’t sound as good as it could. But after waiting two years between records, hardcore fans of the band loved the record.

Awesome Totally Awesome - AC/DC Flick Of The Switch

This Band is on Fire

But it was a time of turmoil for the Australian hard rockers.

After recording drums for the album, Phil Rudd would get kicked out of the band, a victim of drugs and alcohol.

According to AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll, Rudd had been struggling for some time; tour manager Ian Jeffrey recalls getting a phone call from a strung-out Rudd at four in the morning when the band was playing in Nebraska during the Back in Black tour and finding the drummer in his hotel room in a state of disorientated agitation. Eventually Rudd broke down crying and begged Jeffery “Don’t tell Malcolm.” Jeffery also told that Malcolm punched the drummer after he showed up two hours late for the band’s show at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum and was unable to play the last song of the encore.

Simon Wright, who is not nearly as good a drummer as Rudd, was brought in and appears in the promotional videos for the album. He stayed with the band until Chris Slade joined in the 1989. Rudd then returned to the kit for 1995’s Ballbreaker album.

The band also cleaned more house, purging manager Peter Mensch as well as de facto photographer Robert Ellis.

It really was back to basics, even down to the album cover a pencil drawn rendering of Angus pulling a switch against a stark, white background. It’s a cover concept Atlantic Records apparently hated.

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