By the end of 1985 AC/DC were being managed by Londoner Stewart Young (Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Billy Squire and Tears for Fears), he was on a rescue mission, the band were fast losing traction in the global marketplace, they had sacked so many key personnel in the previous three years that they were in danger of devouring themselves.
Malcolm Young (above) had always been the spiritual leader of the band, now he was also the producer and self-appointed manager of the group, two areas in which his skills were suspect. He and Angus had sacked Mutt Lange (below) because primarily he was costing them too much and taking too long to record. The brothers wanted to get back to a more raw, bluesy, spontaneous sound, less the separated and curated wall of sound of Mutt Lange.Malcolm’s attempts at managing band members and support staff was both brutal and basic – abuse them, criticize them, unfairly blame them for any perceived lack of solidarity, exclude them from the tight family circle of decision-making, discourage them from developing a public profile outside of himself or his younger brother, and if all else failed, just sack them.
Within two years Malcolm would have withdrawn himself from the recording of the band’s Razor’s Edge album to seek treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, clearly his drug dependence had been a growing problem within the band, even Angus and he had fought over this issue. His increasingly erratic behaviour, suspicious nature, indiscriminate dismissals of managers, producers, musicians, and outbursts of rage and violence, were the actions of a person in the grip of alcoholism and drug dependence.The band’s first album with Stewart Young, was the soundtrack to a new Stephen King (an AC/DC fan) movie, Maximum Overdrive, it was a mix of old and new songs. The standout song was a new track, the pounding Who Made Who, which charted #9 locally and #16 in the UK and #33 in the US, the album notched up global sales in excess of 5 million copies, both Harry Vanda and George Young had returned to the production desk to helm the recording, and it was really a greatest hits album, something the band had generally been opposed to doing, but the money was good.The band’s next album, Blow Up Your Video, was a dig at MTV which was spruiking that music television was supplanting radio, the band had hedged their bets, they had three promo videos made to promote the album, but were also seen to be supporting radio, as the album title confirmed. George and Harry were still on board producing at the income-tax friendly Mirval Studios in Provence (France), and this was the last album on which Brian Johnson, who had run out of both single and double entendres, would get a writing credit, and drummer Simon Wright would feature. Heatseeker, a thrumming Chuck Berry-style 50’s rocker, was the standout single when lifted from the band’s Blow Up Your Video album and was one of the last singles produced by the venerable team of Vanda and Young; by the time AC/DC released Thunderstruck in 1990 Canadian Bruce Fairbairn was in control.
Heatseeker became AC/DC’s highest- rated Australian single when it reached #5 in January and it was also the best-performed record for the band in the UK when it went to #12. It remained their biggest UK single for 25 years until Highway to Hell was re-released there and hit #4 in 2013, thirty-four years after it first charted in Australia in 1979.The album sold 3 million copies and hit #2 in the UK, #12 in the US and #2 in Australia
The band returned to the formula that had served them so well over the previous fifteen years, their songs, like Heatseeker, are anthemic, musically repetitive, but powerfully affecting, the lyrics are another matter and the band’s tunnel vision pre-occupation with a lurid, slightly juvenile venality is best demonstrated by their innuendo-laden song titles over the years – Big Balls, Deep In the Hole, Give the Dog A Bone, Love At First Feel, Get It Hot, Go Down, Hard As A Rock, Send For the Man, Let’s Get It Up, Squealer, Whole Lotta Rosie, Sink the Pink, You Shook Me All Night Long and I Put The Finger On You – surprisingly Inject The Venom was actually about lethal injection executions.
The phallic symbolism of the promo video for Heatseeeker was unmistakable, Angus is propelled via an ICBM across the globe, which crashes into the Sydney Opera House during an AC/DC concert, the “warhead” explodes and Angus is ejaculated onto the stage and launches into an inspired guitar solo finale. AC/DC would continue to be an enduring global hard rock act gloriously unfettered by concerns of taste and finesse