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Engleheart, Murray & Durieux, Arnaud
AC/DC Maximum Rock & Roll (Book Review)
July 2011
Released: 2008, Harper Entertainment
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: JP

There are at least a dozen books about AC/DC from big glossy photo/coffee table books to little pocket books. Of all the books of all the styles this is probably the best documentation of the career of AC/DC.

MAXIMUM ROCK & ROLL is a generous book just under 500 pages long with about 75 pictures on glossy plates and probably double that, smaller shots of flyers, posters, tickets etc. There is a fairly comprehensive discography as well.

Written by a pair of die-hard AC/DC fans with some pretty respectable credentials, this book really takes the reader back to where it all began in the late 60’s. In an easy free-flowing style the authors document the history of the band, with great enthusiasm and admiration. There are tons of detail about the hard early days in Australia and the many, many line-up changes. There is also lots of interesting insight into the various producers, managers and record people involved with the band over the years. I found those parts especially interesting and it gave a bit of insight into how these five guys, not necessarily the brightest lads, got swept along by big business in America but somehow remained grounded. Most bands who start to achieve that level of success go off the deep-end, and there were a few casualties along the way, car accident’s, Phil’s drug problem, Malcolm’s drinking and of course Bon Scott’s death. The tragic death of Bon is handled well, with more detail than I have ever read.

Like most books as the years wear on in the narrative the details starts to get thin. If these guys spent as much time and energy on the last 25 years of the band (roughly the Brian Johnson years 1981-2006, the publication date) as they did on the Bon years (1974-1980) then the book would be twice as big. Seriously. 300 pages are devoted to the origins of the band and only 150 pages to the next entire quarter century of the band. Some albums are all but skipped over. It’s not that they dislike Brian in any-way, it’s just that the focus is really on the early years of the band. The authors choose to focus specifically on the band and the music, there is very little to no detail about the band members beyond the music. There is virtually no info about wives, marriages, kids, houses and so on as the insular band have continued to maintain a shield of privacy around themselves for decades. Compare this for example to that of Ozzy whose private life is an open book practically courtesy of Sharon, MTV and his biography.

One of the flaws of this book is there is not much, journalistic neutrality. These guys are fans…big fans, which is fine but at times there is so much love for the band that the authors can’t seem to step back and look objectively at some of the situations. Some of the ‘facts’ seem to get distorted and there is not much citation or evidence to back up some of the claims.

Some of the early concert attendance figures seem distorted. I mean, the very first time AC/DC plays Jacksonville, Florida in the early 70’s and over 8000 people show up? I’m skeptical. The first time they played in Ohio for 4000 people…in a nightclub? I’d like to see what 1970’s nightclub held 4000 people…in Ohio. NYC…maybe…L.A….maybe… but Columbus? I doubt it. As for record sales some of those figures seem distorted as well. Just because the band got a Gold or Platinum award for a single for say, for example, 1000,000 copies sold, that does not mean that 100,000 individual fans bought that vinyl single. Still a sale is a sale even if it sits in a warehouse until it gets returned.

The authors also have a bit of a skewed perception of the band and it’s relation to the PMRC, and the Moral Majority uprising in the mid-80’s in the USA. The authors make it seem like the band was specifically targeted, which to a degree they were, but not to the extent the authors suggest. The AC/DC song ‘Let Me Put My Love Into You’ did make the PMRC’s original Filthy Fifteen in 1985, but generally AC/DC were the least targeted and least persecuted of the rock and Metal bands. Bands like Twisted Sister and W.A.S.P. were far more persecuted than AC/DC ever was. In the 80’s, you could still see AC/DC videos on MTV (USA) and Much Music (Canada) but trying seeing the uncensored versions of Twisted Sister and W.A.S.P. videos? Good luck!

At one point in the book the authors seem more concerned that at one point poor AC/DC could not get any sleep for whole week. The reason? A couple of kids got killed at an AC/DC concert. The fact that people got killed was almost secondary, the fact that the band couldn’t sleep, now that’s tragic! The idolization of the band continues in a story about when poor Angus couldn’t leave his hotel room in Brazil because he was so upset about the local poverty. There were certainly a few instances where the writing degenerated into gushing fan-boy praise. But I suppose the band largely deserves it.

The above few paragraphs might seem like complaints but the whole book had an underlying sense that band could do no wrong. Every night they blew everyone off the stage. Every record was a hit. Every show was a massive success. Every tour broke attendance records. The authors love for the band seemed a bit over the top at times.

Those minor complaints set side, this is the best book on AC/DC I have read. As I said in the beginning, of all of the books about AC/DC to choose from, this one is the best.
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