Skill or sentimentality?

No time to live-blog VH1 Classic this morning — deadline looming for Friday’s MLS Cup preview, and there’s some serious shit going down career-wise (more on that when appropriate) — but something caught my eyes and ears while working in front of the TV …

AC/DC’s original drummer was a guy named Phil Rudd. He’s beloved by the fans and surely by the band.

But he was fired in 1983, a couple of years after vocalist Bon Scott died. The band went through a couple of drummers that only nerds like me would recognize.

One of those guys is Chris Slade, whom I recognized from the short-lived Page-Rodgers supergroup The Firm. He’s an old pro — hard-hitting but technically sound. It’s easy to spot him in a crowd — he’s a big, bald guy like Peter Garrett.

AC/DC called him in for The Razor’s Edge, which you’d have to say in retrospect was sort of a last hurrah in terms of getting any songs — in this case, Thunderstruck — into the public consciousness. Slade’s booming drums didn’t hurt.

A couple of years later, the band reconciled and reunited with Rudd. In the link to Slade’s name above, the Wikipedians attribute this to Angus Young: “Chris was probably the best musician in the band. We hate to lose him, but getting Phil back is worth asking him to leave.”

Maybe so, particularly if you’ve hit the stage at which you don’t really need to push any musical barriers. At their age, they’ve earned the right to tour with their best buddies. The hard-core fans will still show up and pay top dollar, and perhaps they’d rather see the old guys.

It’s only natural. At some point, nostalgia takes over. That’s why some of us are happy to see the original members of Berlin on Bands Reunited even though the session pros Terri Nunn recruits for her tours are surely more technically proficient than a bunch of guys dragging their keyboards from the attic.

What brought on this rant? I saw AC/DC, with Slade, playing Highway to Hell. And it was roughly 3,232,798 times better than it ever was with Rudd. Slade’s subtle but powerful fills give the song an energy you’re not going to hear on the studio version. He’s not playing with cold precision. He’s skillfully revving up the song.

So it’s a pity in a way that the band let him go. But AC/DC fans are surely happy to see Rudd. And Slade hasn’t been hurting for work.


2 thoughts on “Skill or sentimentality?

  1. I loved “Moneytalks” off of “The Razor’s Edge, incoherent bicycling video and all.

    AC/DC: The Chevy truck of bands. Do one thing. Do it well.

  2. really? i’ve never seen them live, or watched live footage, but i’m a drummer, and to me, the drumming on razors edge is indistuishable from that of highway, or back in black. if anything, the earliest albums seem to have a little more zest in the drums.

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