How AC/DC Channeled Record Label Anger Into ‘Dog Eat Dog’
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade – unless you’re AC/DC. In that case, smash the lemons and turn them into an explosive rock song.
AC/DC were furious with Atlantic Records in late 1976 after their U.S. label decided that Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap was not worthy of release in the American market.
“There was always a siege mentality about that band,” bassist Mark Evans later recalled. “But once we all found out that Atlantic had knocked us back, the attitude was: ‘Fuck them! Who the fuck do they think they are?’ So from that point onwards, it was: ‘Fuck, we’ll show them!’”
Filled with fury – along with their already fiery brand of rock – AC/DC headed into Alberts Studios in Sydney during the early part of 1977 to record their next LP. Anger over Atlantic’s decision fueled the sessions.
“We were seriously fucking pissed off about it,” Evans admitted. “It didn’t need to be discussed. We were going to go in and make that album and shove it up their arse.”
The result would be Let There Be Rock, an incendiary LP brimming with unbridled aggression.
“We were all little guys," Evans noted in the book AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be. “None of us would accept being dictated to by anyone. You can joke about it and call it the little-man syndrome or whatever, but that’s just the thing. We were an arrogant bunch of fuckers. To have something like that was just, ‘Mate, we’ll show you.’”
Despite the band’s outrage over Atlantic’s decision, “Dog Eat Dog,” was the only song that directly addressed the issue within its lyrics.
Listen to AC/DC's 'Dog Eat Dog'
AC/DC made their feelings explicitly known. They had no time for music "business" types, and had zero interest in changing their style to appease stateside corporate interests: “Businessman, when you make a deal / Do you know who you can trust / Do you sign your life away / Do you write your name in dust,” singer Bon Scott shrieked early in the track.
Later, he summarized the music industry’s mentality: “And it's an eye for eye / Tooth for tooth / It's a lie / That's the truth / See a blind man on the street / Looking for something free / Hear the kind man ask his friends / Hey, what's in it for me.”
AC/DC manager Michael Browning subsequently described their perspective as “total disregard for what Americans think. That’s been their attitude all the way along, which is what’s made them so sustainable and huge – just never ever really compromising in situations like that.”
Released on March 21, 1977, “Dog Eat Dog” served as Let There Be Rock’s first single. Though it enjoyed only marginal popularity, the album as a whole proved to be a turning point. Let There Be Rock went Top 20 in the U.K. and Australia, and even broke through in the U.S., giving A/C their first taste of American success – whether they cared or not.
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