Happy Birthday, Angus Young!

Angus Young turns 60 today, and — not coincidentally — today is the official pub date of the latest addition to the Backbeat Books FAQ series: AC/DC FAQ by Susan Masino.  Here’s a tribute to Angus from Susan, who first met AC/DC nearly forty years ago and remains today the biggest fan of “the world’s true rock ‘n’ roll band!”

00120817AC/DC’s diminutive schoolboy guitar player, Angus Young, turns 60 years old today, a milestone birthday for anyone, but, as Angus proved to the world with his performance on the Grammys this year, in his case at least, 60 must be the new 40.

Blazing through the single, “Rock or Bust,” from their new album of the same name, AC/DC flawlessly segued into their classic hit, “Highway To Hell,” with everyone from Katy Perry and Paul McCartney to Blake Shelton and Lady Gaga singing along. Some sporting glowing devil horns, no less!

Joining his big brother Malcolm’s band over 41 years ago, Angus used to run home from class and take off for band rehearsal still dressed in his schoolboy outfit. After trying several wardrobe options in the seventies, the band settled on jeans and black t-shirts, but Angus kept his schoolboy uniform and, armed with his trusty Gibson SG, magically became a force to be reckoned with.

Recording a brand new album in the spring of this year, appearing live on the Grammys for the first time ever, and launching a European summer tour, AC/DC showsno signs of slowing down. When they hit the United Kingdom for the first time back in 1976, a journalist marveled at Angus’ unbridled ability to play his guitar, never missing a note, while in perpetual motion. The writer remarked that seeing the then 21-year-old Angus maintain that pace once he turned 25 would be something to see. What an understatement that was!

It brings to mind one of my all-time favorite Angus Young quotes. Asked backin 1990, after turning 35, if he was getting too old to rock and roll, Angus quickly shot back, “The name’s Young, always has been, always will be.” With that sentiment in mind, I’d like to wish Angus Young the happiest of birthdays, filled with high octane rock and roll. It’s the only kind of music AC/DC will ever play, which will continue to be celebrated by millions of fans for many more birthdays to come.




Now Available from Backbeat Books: AC/DC FAQ!

AC/DC FAQ spans AC/DC’s 40-year career, starting from the band’s inception in 1973. This book covers everything from their early days in Australia to their first tour of England and the United States. It also includes personal experiences, stories, conversations, and interviews by author Susan Masino, who has known the band since 1977.

Featuring 37 chapters, AC/DC FAQ chronicles the personal history of each of the band members, all their albums, tours, and various anecdotes. Rebounding from the tragic loss of their singer Bon Scott in 1980, AC/DC hired Brian Johnson and went on to record Back in Black, which is now one of the top five biggest-selling albums in music history. Taking a seven-year break after their album Stiff Upper Lip, the band came back in the fall of 2008 with a new album,Black Ice, and a tour that ran from 2008 through the summer of 2010. Once again breaking records, AC/DC saw the Black Ice Tour become the second-highest-grossing tour in history. True rockers from the very beginning, AC/DC will continue to be heralded as one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time.


Now Available: The Eagles FAQ

The Eagles FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Classic Rock’s Superstars by Andrew Vaughan is now available!

Paperback Original
6″ x 9″
352 pages
Backbeat Books, an imprint of Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group

Check out this excerpt from the book’s introduction!


The Eagles are the most popular American band in rock-and-roll history. No band before them had sold over ten million copies of two different albums, as the Eagles did with Hotel California and The Eagles—Their Greatest Hits 1971–1975. Indeed, the latter album is now certified twenty-nine-times platinum by the RIAA, which means twenty-nine million copies sold in the United States, a figure equaled only by Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

The Eagles have scored twenty-one Billboard Hot 100 hits between 1972, when their debut cut “Take It Easy” climbed to #12, and 2003, when “Hole in the World” made the chart. Ten Eagles singles have made the Top 10, with five of those becoming #1 hits. On top of that, when it comes to their individual careers, the members of the Eagles have chalked up an impressive forty solo hits between them. Don Henley, not surprisingly, leads the pack with fifteen. The statistics go on and on. The Eagles have had seven #1 albums, and since their 1994 comeback, they have topped touring gross lists every year they’ve been on the road.

In 2008, they grossed over seventy million dollars in the U.S. alone, beaten only by Madonna and Celine Dion. Their most recent album, Long Road Out of Eden, sold exclusively through Walmart and went straight to #1 on its release in 2007. Looking at the Eagles’ album sales in total, the band are in the Top 5 of the best-selling artists of all time in the U.S., right behind the Beatles, Elvis, Garth Brooks, and Led Zeppelin.

The Eagles surfaced from the folkie, hippie scene of the late ’60s in L.A. and turned their mellow, country-rock sound into a worldwide brand, culminating in the international epic “Hotel California.”

Don’t be fooled by the outlaw/cowboy image. The Eagles, especially Don Henley and Glenn Frey, were part of a savvy new breed of rock-and-roller who understood the business side of music and demanded a fair share of the financial action. Teaming up with David Geffen, one of the toughest of all the ’70s music execs, gave the band a degree of power and leverage unknown in popular music.

The story of the Eagles is also the story of most artists of their time. The drugs, the music, the excesses, the piles of cash—it affected them all. But the Eagles took it to the limit. And in Henley and Frey, they had two songwriters who intuitively understood and accurately portrayed the changing America they were living in. They perfected the California sound, shifted the power from record company to artist, and pioneered the FM sound. Eagles songs of the period are incredibly memorable, while their most popular album, Hotel California, is a timeless record of the decadence of the ’70s. 

So popular were the Eagles in the ’70s—and on their own terms, too—that many in the American music press and media gave them short shrift. Critics at the time failed to acknowledge Henley and Frey’s social commentary, and they refused to give the band their due. Eventually, the sheer power of the music won out, and the Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Not that success didn’t bring problems of its own. Eagles tours were outrageous fiestas of sex, drugs, and rock and matched only by the Who and Led Zeppelin for outrage and expense. Money and drugs, lawyers and accountants got in the way of the music, and some couldn’t cope. Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner called it quits early on, leaving Henley and Frey in charge of the beast. Things got so bad that individual Eagles stayed in separate hotels on tour. The Eagles became poster boys for bands that hated each other. Frey and Henley famously didn’t speak near the end, and things got so bad that a longtime band member, guitarist Don Felder, was booted from the organization. As with all good rock-and-roll fables, an outside source—in this case a country-music tribute album—brought some harmony back to our divided band of brothers, and the Eagles had what Frey always refers to as a “resumption” (rather than a comeback) in their sometimes rocky career.

The country-music tribute album, Common Thread, catalyzed the reunion that produced the 1994 LP Hell Freezes Over, which sold more than ten million copies in a few months. But the old animosities resurfaced, and in 2001 Felder was fired, never to return.

The remaining members carried on, and in 2007 the Eagles released their first proper new album in almost thirty years, Long Road Out of Eden, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard chart and set the stage for more sellout world tours.

With their lasting success, the Eagles proved themselves to be one of the few early-’70s bands still current and relevant. Honoring the band’s legacy, over forty years after the release of their first album, was the documentary movie History of the Eagles, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 and was screened by Showtime in two parts, and featured more than three cool hours of footage and interviews. The documentary has brought renewed interest in the group’s incredible story. 

Eagles albums still sell in platinum numbers, and Eagles tours out-gross those of most of their contemporaries. Their story is one of individuals, and of an era—an era that still fascinates and shapes the present day. This book looks at the whole career of the Eagles—their achievements and successes as well as their low points and disasters—and draws on interviews with fellow artists and contemporaries who watched the crazy tale unfold.

Listen: C. Eric Banister on Pop Culture Tonight with Patrick Phillips!

C. Eric Banister, author of Johnny Cash FAQ, talks with Patrick Phillips of “Pop Culture Tonight” about Johnny Cash’s musical legacy and Banister’s book.


00119344Johnny Cash remains one of the most recognizable artists in the world. Starting in 1956, he released an album every year until his death in 2003. In addition to these albums, there were also some posthumous releases in the years after his death. From rockabilly to country, folk to comedy, gospel to classical, the prolific Cash touched them all. His hit singles crossed over from country to pop, as he transcended genres and became a superstar around the globe.

Cash skyrocketed from the beginning, flying through the ’60s until he was one of the country’s biggest stars by the end of the decade. Following his own muse through the ’70s, Cash slowly faded commercially until he nearly disappeared in the ’80s. Instead of giving up, he made an incredible late-career run in the ’90s that took him into the new millennium, along the way collaborating with various contemporary rock and pop artists.

His offstage problems often overshadowed the music, and his addiction often takes center stage in the story, pushing the music off the page. But Johnny Cash FAQ celebrates the musical genius of Cash and takes a look at every album Cash released, the stories behind the hits, and how he sustained a fantastic nearly 50-year career.


Listen: Natasha Scharf talks with the Grand Dark Conspiracy

Listen to Natasha Scharf’s conversation with the Grand Dark Conspiracy host Daniel Bautz! Together, they discuss the beginning of goth along with Natasha’s book, The Art of Gothic.


00127606The gothic look – head-to-toe black attire and extreme makeup – has been a popular one since the 1980s, with each generation reinterpreting this dark aesthetic as its own. From the staccato postpunk of Siouxsie and the Banshees and the dark rock of the Sisters of Mercy through to the industrial metal of Marilyn Manson and the funereal emotional pop of My Chemical Romance, gothic culture has strong roots in music and continues to adapt and survive. But gothic art is about more than just album covers and ephemera; it’s about fashion, book jackets, cinematography, and fine art. Its influence frequently seeps into mainstream culture too. Nowadays, “goth” comes in many shapes, sizes, and even colors, as it encompasses a myriad of sub genres, including cyber, death rock gothic metal, gothic Lolita, and emo goths. Although each is different, followers are identified by their striking, often theatrical look, music with a hint of melancholy, and the ability to find beauty in morbidity, sometimes even in the macabre.

The Art of Gothic is the first heavily illustrated tome to explore the aesthetics of this fascinating style in great detail. Previous books on goth have given a bold overview of the music and culture associated with the genre, but this book goes deeper and hones in on the album art, intricate fashions, fantasy illustrations, and more.

Dale Sherman: KISS Update

00122479With the upcoming release of Dale Sherman’s latest FAQ book (Coming in March!), Quentin Tarantino FAQ, Dale is celebrating by going back to his previous books in the series to pull up some new details for readers! This week, he has provided additional information on KISS!

In KISS FAQ I cover the making and ramifications of the notorious television movie, KISS Meets the Phantom of the ParkThe chapter of the book certainly held no surprises to readers in the acknowledgement that the movie contains wooden acting, a bizarre musical soundtrack (namely in the televised version; not as much in the later theatrical one), bad special effects, and a clunky script, but one myth that was put to rest was of KISS Meets the Phantom being one of the highest rated television programs of 1978. NBC certainly wished that had been the case, as they pre-empted a showing of their popular cop series, CHiPs for the movie in hopes of gaining a good chunk of young viewers.

It was a gamble that NBC needed, as they were floundering; the network had only two 00333153programs with ratings high enough to place in the top twenty-five programs of the 1978-1979 television season: the family-oriented drama about frontier life, Little House on the Prairie, and the police series CHiPs. Even so, a gamble on using the CHiPs timeslot earlier that October for a two-part showing of Rescue from Gilligan’s Island had earned a 40 share for NBC, making Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park in the same time the last Saturday of October a seemingly good risk.

However, when the ratings came out, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park was nowhere near the Number One slot. It wasn’t even in the top 25 for the week. It finished at #45, leading to Variety , to proclaim “NBC had its worst Saturday of the year,” with the KISS movie being the reason. Its failure in drawing interest as a television movie was only the starting point of concern for those connected to the film, as it was about to be released as this type of filmic albatross in theaters overseas. But that story and other details about the movie can be found in the pages of KISS FAQ.

Check out the rest here!

Listen: Martin Popoff on the Grand Dark Conspiracy

The Grand Dark Conspiracy host Daniel Bautz chats with Martin Popoff about his new book Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-by-Day.


00123694Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-by-Day aims to add to the shockingly slight representation of all things Oz-man in book form with celebrated metal expert Martin Popoff plotting the crazy 30-plus-year run of rock’s most adorable madman, day by day, milestone after milestone, the hirings, the firings, the rehabs and relapses, the bats, the doves, Zakk Wylde, and most seriously, the tragic death of Randy Rhoads in a fly-by-prank gone wrong.

Adding to the considerable textual substance of the tome (which promises to leave no Oz-related scrap of trivia unearthed) is a running oral history of the band, making use of Popoff’s extensive interview material with Ozzy plus various band members and producers (along with press quotes), augmented by an explosion of garish imagery culled from the band’s record sleeves, live shows, ads, and memorabilia. Indeed, Ozzy’s shock-rock visuals are some of the flashiest in the biz, making each page of Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-by-Day explode with heavy metal power.