The next album we’re looking at is 1978’s Powerage. We’ll look at the CD version rather than the European LP version. We’ve got ten categories of lyrical content to choose from and if none of these fit we’ll create new ones. Our categories so far are; sex, gambling, rocking (the importance of), love, personal power/ego, crime, loneliness, parties, the human condition and rejection of social norms.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation – this is tricky to classify, it seems like a song about a woman, but perhaps also about someone who plays rock ‘n’ roll. I’m going to call it half sex and half rocking (the importance of). The supporting sex lyrical evidence is “Damnation, you’re a toy for a boy”, the supporting someone who plays rock ‘n’ roll lyrical evidence is “And it’s a rock ‘n’ roll damnation, Ma’s own whippin’ boy”.
Down Payment Blues – this is a rocking (the importance of) song and the protagonist is a poor musician. Supporting lyrical evidence “Rock ‘n’ roller welfare”.
Gimme a Bullet – this is a love song. Supporting lyrical evidence “Doctor, doctor, ain’t no cure, for the pain in my heart”.
Riff Raff – this is not straightforward. I’m going to call it crime, but I think it’s more like a wrongful accusation kind of crime. Supporting lyrical evidence “I never shot nobody, don’t even carry a gun”.
Sin City – this is about Las Vegas. I’m going to call this half gambling and half sex. Supporting gambling lyrical evidence “So spin that wheel, cut that pack, and roll those loaded dice”, supporting sex lyrical evidence “Oh, let me roll you baby!”
What’s Next to the Moon – this is a love song but not a pleasant one, it’s also a crime song. The love object has been tied to a railroad track. This vaguely reminds me of a song I learnt at my primary school called Tom Dooley, which is a sweetheart murder ballad and probably sounded sinister sung by a class of eight-year-olds. I’m going to classify this as half crime and half love. Supporting love lyrical evidence “It’s your love that I want, It’s your love that I need”, supporting crime lyrical evidence “Alright, officer, I confess, everything’s coming back, I didn’t mean to hurt that woman of mine”.
Gone Shootin’ – I think this might be a song about a woman overdosing and/or committing suicide. Supporting lyrical evidence “I stirred my coffee with the same spoon” (a spoon used to prepare hard drugs?) and “She took another pill”. However, since there is a history in rock and metal of people jumping to conclusions about songs being about suicide when they were not (I’m referring to Ozzy Osbourne’s Suicide Solution, which was, according to Ozzy, about the death of Bon Scott) I’m reluctant to make a decision. I’m classifying this as a love song, because it’s about a lost love.
Up to My Neck in You – this is a love song. Supporting lyrical evidence “You came along when I needed you, now I’m up, I’m up to my neck in you”. I adore this song, this was the song my husband and I chose for the recessional music (the bit where the newlyweds leave the room) on our wedding day. It is totally a love song.
Kicked in the Teeth – this is a love song, if it was sex rather than love the protagonist wouldn’t be so cross. Supporting lyrical evidence “Two faced woman with the two faced lies”.
Conclusion – This album is 50% about love (albeit in some warped forms and unpleasant situations), 17% about rocking (the importance of), 17% about crime, 11% about sex and 5% about gambling. This was the hardest set of songs to categorise so far, there’s a complexity to the song writing which wasn’t in the earlier stuff.
Having looked at five albums (41 songs), we can see that sex and rocking are the best represented in AC/DC lyrics. I’m surprised by how little gambling has featured.
The next album we’ll look at is 1979’s Highway to Hell.