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Rewinding "Supernatural": The Dark Side of the Moon

Jessy Krupa

“Trippy” episode is mostly flash with little substance, but “I’m cool with it”.

During this week’s “previously on Supernatural” montage, we heard Zachariah say, “How many times have you two died anyway?”, so it shouldn’t have shocked you to see Sam and Dean gunned down by two vengeful hunters in the show’s opening moments. They apparently knew how the apocalypse would be started if Sam accepted Lucifer, so they killed him to prevent it. Then they shot Dean to death because they feared his wrath. Also predictable was the fact that Dean wanted to be murdered after seeing Sam die.

But the predictably ended to the sound of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, as Dean woke up in the Impala and was greeted by an adolescent Sam. Just as the two was having a happy moment, shooting off fireworks in a field, the vision disappeared. Dean then heard Castiel break in over the car radio in order to tell him that this was not a dream and he was actually in Heaven. In the Supernatural universe, despite the fact that the moon looks really weird, Heaven looks a lot like Kansas. Dean follows Castiel’s advice to drive down the road, but he finds himself in a strange house, watching a grown-up Sam eat Thanksgiving dinner with an unknown family. Sam then tells Dean that he woke up there, at the home of a classmate who once invited him over for the holidays. Therefore, Heaven, as Dean explains it, is “a chance to replay your greatest hits”.

In a nod to the Poltergeist movies, Castiel appears on a television set in order to tell the brothers, “Don’t go into the light”. In a touchy mood, he also points out that their mission is to find the Angel Joshua, who talks with God. He’s supposed to be at “the garden of Heaven”, which they can get to by following the roads. The roads here are a little unconventional, because the brothers transport themselves to their childhood home by playing with a toy racetrack. Dean walks into another memory, comforting his mother after he overheard her and his father have an argument over the phone. This time Sam finds a Route 66 postcard that takes them to Flagstaff, AZ, where a young Sam once lived alone with a dog named Bones after running away from home. It is at this point that Sam and Dean argue about their different definitions of Heaven, especially when they reach the next location, the night that Sam left the family to go to college.

Before Dean can further elaborate on his point that Sam’s always happiest when he’s away from his family, Zachariah appears to try to take them back to earth. While running away from him, they are aided by a man in a mysterious Mexican wrestler costume. It is their friend Ash, who presumably died when The Roadhouse burned down. Ash reveals that every person has their own version of Heaven and that it’s very rare for two people to share the same one. As his “congregation’s No.1 snake-handler”, Ash’s Heaven is The Roadhouse, complete with an endless beer supply and no hangovers. Just as he was a computer hacker on earth, so is he in the afterlife. He can create wormholes into other people’s Heavens, including celebrities. Oddly, he hasn’t found John or Mary yet and he didn’t know Ellen and Jo were dead. The formerly blind psychic Pamela shows up for a reunion with the boys, imparting to Dean that death isn’t so bad. Ash agrees, stating, “I’m cool with it!” Dean begs to differ, describing it as “The Matrix and saying that, “It feels real, but it’s Memorex.”

After a goodbye kiss for Dean from Pamela, Ash transports them to their next stop. They see their mother again, but this time Mary is mad. With glowing demonic eyes, she gorily describes her death. Zachariah then shows up to creepily fondle this vision of their mother as he tortures and taunts the brothers. His rant about everyone “laughing at him” because of them is cut off by a mysterious man who turns out to be the Angel Joshua.

Joshua takes Sam and Dean away to the garden of Heaven, which looks like “the Cleveland botanical gardens”. Joshua has a message from God, “Back off.” God has heard Dean’s cries for help, but He won’t do anything to stop the apocalypse. Sam and Dean then wake up back where they were on earth, covered with blood, but still unharmed. When Castiel hears what God has said, he’s crushed. After calling Him a “son-of-a-bitch”, he vanishes after giving Dean his amulet back. Dean throws the amulet away, symbolizing his lost faith in God.

The show’s mythology didn’t move ahead as much as I would have thought in this episode. I did like their unique concept of Heaven, but I’m really tired of the cliche of characters referring to God as a “deadbeat dad”. It is overdone and slightly offensive. What I’m really wondering though, is how this apocalypse is supposed to begin and end within a few episodes?

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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