On Sunday January 1, 2006. I spent about 35 minutes on the New York State Thruway creeping along at between 5 and 10 miles per hour. An accident had happened up the road and everybody was at a crawl. It was pretty uneventful (for those of us not in the accident). I was by myself listening to the radio. I switched between WPDH, a classic rock station, and a boring and meaningless week 16 Bears vs Vikings game (a game they should replay in Hell’s waiting room just to warm you up).

After about 20 minutes I was startled by a car racing down the right shoulder of the highway. Five minutes later another sped by. No lights so they weren’t cops or rescue personal; at least I didn’t think so. But it got me thinking (and dreaming of following them). What would it take for a person to drive down the shoulder of the NYS Thruway? Late for dinner? Late for a wedding? Late for a business meeting? What would it take? Even frustrated and bored I wasn’t doing anything as anti-social and vaguely dangerous as driving in the breakdown lane. On the way to the hospital I might do some crazy driving. To catch a plane? Stuart airport was in the other direction so no one was rushing to a flight. What would it take? Having never driven on a highway’s shoulder in the middle of a traffic jam I have no answer. But I do wonder what would make me do that.

This analysis come out of a discussion I had with Johnny B about which AC/DC song was the best. He went with “Back in Black” and I with “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

Right off of the bat I have to say that I am not a real AC/DC fan. Sure, I love the “Back in Black” record but back in 1980 what 14 year old didn’t? I also have a bunch of their other hits but I never got into buying all of their CDs. Still, I want to give you my analysis of what makes this, their greatest song, so great. I’m really just examining the lyrics. I’ll leave it to a musician to wax poetic about the music and the guitar licks. So here we go:

“She was a fast machine
She kept her motor clean”

To start the song AC/DC compares a woman to a fast car and a clean one at that (for all of you obsessive compulsives out there). Thus we are introduced to the single most important concept in the song and the concept that rules the album. The double entendre. As dictionary.com describes it: “an ambiguity with one interpretation that is indelicate”. A classic Rock ‘n Roll pairing and a classic Rock ‘n Roll double entendre. You can’t go wrong with “girl as car”. Power to the people!

“She was the best damn woman that I had ever seen”

Straight out declaration. AC/DC lets us know that they are not trying just to be clever with their double entendres and that they’ll hit you with the gospel truth when they need too (see the video for Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” for a song where the band is trying to being clever but, boy, are they mistaken).

“She had the sightless eyes
Telling me no lies”

This is the one line in the song that I had wrong. Until I read the lyrics (just yesterday) I always thought that they said “She had it cyclized” meaning she was a as machine on a cycle, unstoppable. The things one learns 25 years later after the internet is invented to look up song lyrics. Remember the days when you had to guess? Not every album came with a lyric sheet.

Someone is going to have to tell me what is meant by “sightless eyes” because it’s new to me. But I do know that our singer can relax because the woman offers no deception. What a dream!

Alright, I’m sorry. That was a cheap shot at the opposite sex. I can’t help that I’m a trouble maker. It’s a disease. Or genetic, take your pick.

“Knocking me out with those American thighs”

That’s the money line. The most important word being “American”. Besides pandering to the world’s largest music market it called on the USA’s reputation in the world for being bigger, bolder and filled with a “can do” spirit. Who doesn’t want to get knocked out by thighs like that. Songs don’t usually even mention thighs.

“Taking more than her share
Had me fighting for air”

Now he is losing himself in her. Not in a lovey dovey staring into her eyes kinda way but losing himself in their raw sexuality as she takes from him whatever she wants regardless of his well being.

“She told me to come
But I was already there”

Again double entendre and even more blatant. He loses total control to this woman. And likes it.

“Cause the walls start shaking
The earth was quaking
My mind was aching
And we were making it
And you shook me all night long.”

The Chorus. AC/DC starts us off with some classic “baby, you made the earth move” stuff then struts into “You’re blowing my mind up” territory and after that back to the single entendre about making it all night long. A little something for everyone is in the chorus.

“Working double time
On the seduction line”

Now, here is where the song breaks into brilliant new ground. These two lines are a single entendre disguised as a double entendre. There are no two meanings here. The first line leads you to believe that a double entendre is to follow but it doesn’t. Just a single entendre does. It makes the listener feel smart and included. Good stuff, what?

“She was one of a kind
She’s just mine all mine”

The straight dope to make the listener feel he is right there beside the singer. This is a “we are all in this together having a good time” line. Join the party. Kind of the opposite of what the line actually says. AC/DC is twisting it all around on us.

“She wanted no applause
Just another course
Made a meal out of me
And came back for more”

We have already had a car reference, so how about some food? More classic stuff comparing our appetite for food to our more lustful appetites. Plus it mentions that she shuns applause so we know it is not her own ego she is trying to satisfy but something more pure and shiny. Goodness and badness all rolled into one.

“Had to cool me down
To take another round
Now I’m back in the ring
To take another swing”

We finish up with a little violence to add to our sex. But the violence is made non-threatening towards the women by not only having her winning the boxing match but just by making it a boxing match. Boxing is a competitive sport and who can get offended at a sport? Thus we can have our cake and eat it too. Violence with a women without making it violence towards a woman.

There you have it. Classic allusions, sex, violence, cars, food, a single entendre masquerading as a double and lots of rhymes. People dig rhymes. You get more than you asked for with this song. Around every corner is a tasty new lyrical dish. The best AC/DC song.

As a final thought I have to go with “You Shook Me All Night Long” as the superior song over “B in B” because it is much harder to sell to Madison Avenue for them to use in a car commercial.

I turned on the TV this morning and stumbled across a movie from the 1970’s. I’ve never heard of it (Contract on Cherry Street from 1977, a TV movie) and it isn’t particularly good but still evokes a feeling of nostalgia. It takes place in New York City but I was never in NYC in the 70’s. So it is not the place. I was a kid in the 70’s (born in ’66) but this is not a kids movie nor is there anything relatable to children in it. It’s kinda boring for adults too. So why the nostalgia? And I respond this way to a lot of 1970’s movies.

I think it is because sometime in the 1970’s the world started to look like the world looks today. Movies from the 40’s through the 50’s generally look like they take place in the same world. An old time world, to me, filled with men in full brimmed hats, women in skirts and dresses, and telephone booths for making calls. Movies from the 60’s still have a lot of leftover stuff from the 50’s but add plenty of “Swinging 60’s” goofball elements. It’s in the 70’s things begin to become as I know them. Except for one thing. Everything hasn’t become branded yet. New York City in particular.

Advertising is everywhere now. In NYC (where I have worked and played on and off for 16 years) it is everywhere. It’s on billboards, on busses, on bus shelters, on taxis, on the floor of the Port Authority bus station, on bags, on coffee cups and on everything people wear. I am not a fan of being bombarded with advertising so I generally try to ignore it. This means I’m ignoring a lot of what I see when I’m in NYC. I don’t even know that I’m doing it.

In the 70’s the clothes people wore were just clothes. Today people wear clothes that are branded. Instead of a plain old shirt it’s a shirt with the company name writ large across it. I know people who wear t-shirts with advertising on them and they don’t even know who the company or what the product is. It is just a free T-shirt that gets worn regardless of what’s on it. Then there are sports team shirts and rock band T’s. To see someone in a shirt that is not branded is unusual.

Now I’ve got to mention hats. Everyone who sees old movies where men are wearing old time full brim hats always comment on it, “Wow, everyone is wearing a hat. How odd.” I’ve just got to point out that men are still wearing hats all the time. They are just baseball caps now. They are so ubiquitous they we don’t even consider them. No one counts baseball caps as hats. But they are. And they are all branded by a sports team or a company logo. Count how many people you see with a blank baseball cap. One in a thousand I bet.

In the 70’s movies all that is missing. The same recognizable world without the branding. I find myself staring at all the different streets, buildings and people in the background. They look so familiar. They look like the word I know except not covered by advertising. I actually notice a lot more because my “ignore ads” sense is turned off. I realize how much I miss in everyday life because of that sense. How much I don’t see.

I’m nostalgic watching 1970’s movies because I’m nostalgic for an unbranded world. A world where my vision has fewer blind spots.