35 Years Ago: AC/DC Release ‘Who Made Who’
It was released as the soundtrack for the Stephen King film Maximum Overdrive on May 24, 1986, but Who Made Who was more than a piece of memorabilia for a mediocre fright flick. AC/DC hadn’t released a really solid album since 1981’s For Those About to Rock We Salute You and Who Made Who was a solid reminder of the Australian band’s excellence and influence.
These days, a five-year span between hit records is hardly unusual, but in the ‘80s metal bands typically put out a new album every 12 to 18 months and AC/DC were no exception. However, the records they released in the years before Who Made Who — 1983’s Flick of the Switch and 1985’s Fly on the Wall – seemed like uninspired retreads, lacking the cutting guitar riffs, salacious punch and bluesy swing that made AC/DC one of the biggest bands in hard rock. Never mind that both albums went platinum, they exhibited the band playing on autopilot and out of step with the times.
So the offer to make a mostly-compilation album to accompany Maximum Overdrive came just at the right time. The title track for Who Made Who is a pumping, thumping track totally in step with the commercial hard rock of the era. The drums are so echoey and over-processed they recall Mutt Lange’s production on Def Leppard’s Pyromania. While the rhythm is remarkably simple – even by AC/DC’s standards – Angus Young lets fly with some hammer-ons and pull-offs similar to the ones in “For Those About to Rock,” and he even plays some Eddie Van Halen-style finger-tapping during the lead. For AC/DC it wasn’t an era for originality, it was a time for rejuvenation and it worked. Who Made Who was certified gold by the RIAA on Aug. 19, 1986 and is currently quintuple platinum.
Amazingly for such a successful album, there are only three new songs on Who Made Who. And the other new tunes are both instrumentals. “D.T.” is a booming, bluesy belter that sounds like it should have vocals, but the band didn’t have time for Brian Johnson to record them, and “Chase the Ace” is a stone(d)-hard, droning jam propelled by some fleet-fingered leads.
What saves Who Made Who is the six catalog songs, which range from the almost too familiar “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Hells Bells” to the two somewhat obscure tracks from Fly on the Wall. Extracted from the clutter of the rest of the record, “Sink the Pink” is enjoyably brash and bawdy and “Shake Your Foundation” is a crashing hybrid of Chicago blues and overdriven firepower. The only song on Who Made Who to feature Bon Scott is the sultry, downtempo cruiser “Ride On.”
AC/DC, "Sink the Pink"
The new tracks from the Who Made Who sessions were recorded by George Young and Harry Vanda, who produced AC/DC’s first five albums (six in Australia). But the period in the Bahamas wasn’t just an opportunity for the band to chill on the beach and bang out a few new songs. The sessions were also the birthplace for five short, sparse instrumentals used in the score for Maximum Overdrive (but not included on the record, “Death City,” “Bad Boy,” Contra Attack,” “Scared” and “Humans Here" all heard below).
AC/DC, "Who Made Who"
To promote the album, AC/DC released a 73-minute-long VHS tape that featured music videos for “Who Made Who,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Shake Your Foundations (remixed),” "Hells Bells” and a live performance of “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” shot in Detroit in 1983. The tape went Gold in 1988.
For as much momentum as AC/DC generated with Who Made Who it’s a shame that it’s follow-up, 1988’s Blow Up Your Video, was pretty much a dud and that the band didn’t regain stride until 1990’s The Razor’s Edge, which contained “Thunderstruck,” “Moneytalks” and “Are You Ready” – not that any of the band’s live shows between 1988 and 1990 suffered either in sales or entertainment value.
Loudwire contributor Jon Wiederhorn is the author of Raising Hell: Backstage Tales From the Lives of Metal Legends, co-author of Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, as well as the co-author of Scott Ian’s autobiography, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax, and Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen and the Agnostic Front book My Riot! Grit, Guts and Glory.