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The Electric AC/DC Test
Or, The Post Modern Irony of Metal Tribute Bands

By Wil Forbis
May 15, 2001

A few weeks ago, I purchased a speakerphone to enable myself to record the various phone interviews I might find necessary to perform in the pursuit of raising the journalistic value of this magazine. (There was also the added incentive that I might lower my phone sex charges by recording a conversation once and..uhh, "using" it over and over.) After I had the thing unpacked and set up, I felt it would be prudent to conduct some sort of field test by actually calling someone and recording the result. The lucky recipient of my test was my old chum and noted zinester Chuck Swaim, a fellow who can easily be persuaded to blab on endlessly about subjects no sane person would care about. (You can hear my in-person interview with Chuck in Real Audio here.) A quick dialing and I managed to catch Chuck in the middle of a home recording session of some of his poetry, but the can of 211 Malt Liquor he was tastefully consuming made him more than willing to pursue my venture and test out the phone. So we chatted a bit, mainly about what was happening in his neck of the woods, Olympia Washington, a place that had been a home base of mine for a year in the early nineties. Olympia was a capitol of the lo-fi punk scene so I decided to ask Chuck's opinion of the current sonic emanations coming from the various "musicians" inhabiting his burg. I did so by saying, "Hey, Chuck, what's happening in the Olympia music scene?" Chuck, at first drew back in mindful awe of the simple brilliance as to which I had approached the subject, then prattled off a few of the new local bands I'd never heard of. I began to regret even raising the issue when he mentioned one name in particular. "Oh, Wil," he said, "There is one band here I think you'd like. An all female, AC/DC cover band called Hell's Belles! Everybody loves them."

To this, I was taken aback. I'd heard of Hell's Belles, they'd been circulating around the clubs of my recent hometown, Seattle, right around the time I'd left. It sounded like a solid concept: chicks pumping out some of the greatest rock ever created, and serving it with a healthy dose of irony since it would be persons of the female gender performing such songs as "Giving the Dog a Bone" or "Big Balls" (I would happily eat a worm and cucumber sandwich to hear a chick deliver the chorus from the classic "Sink The Pink".) I didn't hasten to assume that Chuck was right in his assertion that I would love this band, but I was puzzled, nay, flabbergasted by his statement that "Everybody loves them." After all, this was Olympia, Washington we were talking about, a place rich with political correctness and derision for anything that could be called mainstream. At the local college, Evergreen, they had whole courses in "Identifying Male Oppression and Penis Symbols in the Films of Mike Nichols" and street corner hipsters would go to great lengths to explain to you that the material in their sweater was "Genuine Peruvian Yak hair made by non-oppressed workers." How could these dull witted PC Nazis possible have any appreciation of a cover band extolling the virtues (however tongue and cheek) of rock masters such as AC/DC?

You might assume me to be overreacting. "Sure, these Olympia nuts may be a bunch of monkey-scrotum-fondlers," you say. (You did say that, right?) "But it doesn't seem like a stretch for them to lighten up and enjoy a mock metal band." By saying that you a merely showcasing your ignorance, my friend. In my days there, Olympians didn't know the meaning of the term of "lighten up" unless it was to "lighten up" a George Bush doll they were planning on burning in effigy. Real Rock and Roll... you know, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Stones, was considered anathema... even enjoying it on silly level was beyond reproach. By listening to such cock rockers you were helping to ensure that Aboriginal women would never get access to abortions and that the Bolivian flightless iguana would be extinct within twenty years. (I even developed what I called "The AC/DC test." Whenever I found myself at an Olympia party I would wait till the current music selection on the stereo ended and replace it with some Angus and Co. The test was to see how long it lasted before it got substituted with Nirvana. I'm sad to say that I don't think we ever even got through one song.)

The truth is, the selections on the approved Olympia play list were quite limited. Nirvana was the mainstream breakout that had managed to escape the criticism of being corporate sellouts (Followed next, perhaps, by Jane's Addiction.) The gamut of the Olympia and Washington DC riot grrls bands were okay, allowing the girls to feel empowered and the boys to trick their way into sleeping with girls who felt empowered. Various local "sensitive boy" punk bands were in as well, Beat Happening, Some Velvet Sidewalk and the like. Basically the music scene was so emasculated they might as well had a "Check your Scrotums at the Door" sign when you pulled past the Olympia off ramp.

To be honest, I despised most of those bands. Not because I was opposed to the feminism or punk ideology of the music (I've always like the Dead Kennedy even though I disagree with a lot of Jello Biafra's beliefs.), rather I disliked the songs for same reason Betty Frieden would've disliked them: They sounded like crap! The D.I.Y. philosophy that had encouraged a generation of alternative teens to pick up guitar was resulting in really, really awful music. Sounds capable of lowering the sperm count of male elephants from miles away (and increasing it in females) were regularly heard from the basements and practice studios around town. And since the philosophy or moral relativism was now being applied to music criticism, none of these inept minstrels could find anyone honest enough to tell them the truth about their music ("Even though my ears are bleeding and I'm about to pass out, I feel your band is creating a valid aesthetic statement that can be properly understood in the context of blah, blah, blah….")

So I was surprised to hear that AC/DC were now coming into vogue in the capitol of wussy rock. In fact, had this been the only instance to verify these claims I might've passed it off as a fluke. But not long after, I picked the new album by the all female group, The Donnas, and couldn't help notice the AC/DC influence playing itself out in their music. (An influence The Donnas have readily acknowledged in interviews.) And get this: The Donnas are on tour with seminal, Olympia riot grrls, BratMobile. On top of that, punksters of all faiths and creeds are readily commenting on their acceptance of AC/DC as genuine rocksters worthy of note (Here's an example.)

Truthfully, I think this is part of a grander change. I was recently surprised to see London based Acid Logic blogger, Tarryn Stewart, lump punk/noise bands such as At The Drive In and Trail of Dead in with groups like the Def-Tones and Tool. Upon questioning her on the subject, I found that it's not uncommon for European youth to group together such bands, even though here in the states they are separated by electric fences (despite the fact that the Def-Tones and Trail of Dead probably have more in common that they have differences.) The lines that separated music when I was in my early twenties are disappearing. Generation Y never learned the strict rules of disenfranchisement that were laid out by the punk revolution of the early nineties (though they may create their own equally obtrusive rules) so they have no problem putting on a cd of Black Sabbath followed by Mogwai. And it's with this spirit of musical desegregation I find myself looking back on the musical nazis of of my Olympia days and fighting the intense urge to yell, "I won!" and pee in their faces.

You gotta admit, it's funny how different styles of music change and come to represent new things to new groups of people. Maybe not "ha-ha" funny, like watching the death of a baby, but sort of "that's interesting" funny. And I have to admit that it's even hit me. A couple years ago I got a hold of the Joan Jett produced Bikini Kill singles and now I play them all the time. I've even developed a healthy respect for Beat Happening lead singer Calvin Johnson's baritone. In truth, by holding out on these bands, I was being a music nazi of sorts myself, refusing to listen to them because the people who disliked "my" music liked them. Recognizing such flaws in myself gives me hope, and combined with my never ending obsession with criticizing those around me, I truly believe we may some day be able to stand together, arm in arm and deliver a rousing chorus of AC/DC's "BallBreaker."

Or at least the Donnas' "Forty Boys in Forty Nights"! Damn, that songs rawwwkkks!


For more metal mayhem, read the article, Judas Priest Versus AC/DC at



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Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email -

Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.

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