AC/DC takes a highway to hell and makes a quick stop at Wal-Mart

By by Justin Jacobs

‘ ‘ ‘ Ah, I remember with glee the days of yore when AC/DC was downright badass. ‘ ‘ ‘ The… ‘ ‘ ‘ Ah, I remember with glee the days of yore when AC/DC was downright badass. ‘ ‘ ‘ The huge guitar riffs, the drink-’til-you-die attitude (which nearly ended when original singer Bon Scott, um, died) and, of course, Angus Young’s school-boy outfit ‘mdash; they all gloriously fused to make one of the most rock ‘n’ roll rock bands of all time. ‘ ‘ ‘ And even as they got a bit older, the members of AC/DC held tight to their rock-junkie images. The music style didn’t change (seriously, aside from a decrease in songwriting skill, AC/DC is AC/DC is AC/DC since 1974), the shows were still epic, and the fans were still head banging ‘ ‘ ‘ But then Wal-Mart, the behemoth of dunderheaded capitalism, got involved. ‘ ‘ ‘ The band’s latest album, Black Ice, you see, is being sold exclusively at Wal-Mart for the low, low price of $11.88. That means no iTunes, no Best Buy and definitely no corner record shop. Since when did this band of rocking Aussies become so … Middle America? ‘ ‘ ‘ All distaste aside, the ploy worked. Black Ice sold more than 800,000 copies in its first week on the shelves, which is nearly as much as the band’s last album, 2000’s Stiff Upper Lip sold in ‘mdash; get this ‘mdash; the eight years since it was released. ‘ ‘ ‘ AC/DC’s move is only one of several recent marketing campaigns where well-established bands decide to throw away any notion that they’re still in it for the music. The Eagles did it months ago, and its boring comeback album went triple platinum. Garth Brooks had similar success with his hits compilation. ‘ ‘ ‘ But The Eagles and Garth Brooks were already lame ‘mdash; AC/DC was actually a rock ‘n’ roll band, not a pop commodity you pick up after filling your shopping cart with dish soap, Eggo waffles and shotgun shells. ‘ ‘ ‘ So why, why I ask, would AC/DC go down this highway to hell? ‘ ‘ ‘ Well, there are many answers. Record stores are becoming increasingly scarce, while Wal-Marts sprout up unexpectedly and annoyingly and are impossible to get rid of, not unlike a bad case of herpes. The band has also cited its dislike for albums to be bought in pieces, emphasizing the importance of the record as a whole, and, hence, wouldn’t want it sold online. Lastly, the deal likely benefits the band financially, as Wal-Mart may be cutting them a higher percentage of profit than a normal sales outlet. ‘ ‘ ‘ Singer Brian Johnson told USA Today that the deal ‘came down to availability. There aren’t as many record stores these days, and Wal-Marts are all over America. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ But just because there may not be a record store in Redstateville, America is no reason to limit sales in the rest of the country. Did anyone think of selling the album in Wal-Mart and everywhere else? Bad call, Brian. ‘ ‘ ‘ As for the online sales argument, no matter what the band does, no matter how much they pray to the gods of rock, Black Ice will find its way online. Even if that means some schmuck will go to Wal-Mart, pick up a copy, scamper away and load it onto his computer, it’s going to happen. ‘ ‘ ‘ So, alas, that leaves the reason any AC/DC fan should hope wasn’t behind the Wal-Mart deal: the almighty dollar. ‘ ‘ ‘ While there are no confirmed reports on the band’s cut of albums sold at Wal-Mart, it’s safe to assume that they’ll make more dough from a Wal-Mart-sold album than they would’ve from one sold at a neighborhood record shop. ‘ ‘ ‘ And not only has ‘the Mart’ got exclusive rights to Black Ice, but the megastores are also setting up veritable ‘store within a store’ displays for AC/DC, selling clothing, souvenirs, back catalogue albums and the band’s last shred of credibility. ‘ ‘ ‘ For those about to shop, Wal-Mart salutes you. For those about to rock, do yourself a favor ‘mdash; don’t slip on this black ice. Listen to Back in Black instead ‘mdash; both records sound the same, but only one reeks of sell out.