Why is AC/DC Underrated?
Gene Ulm, a partner in my wife’s firm, points to some facts that I did not know and bet you didn’t either:
You would never know it by reading the rock-and-roll press: metal band AC/DC has sold more records in the U.S. than Michael Jackson or Bruce Springsteen. More than 200 million albums world-wide and trail only the Beatles as the second best selling act EVER. “Back In Black” is the second best-selling album in history — beaten only by The King of Pop’s “Thriller.” Staying power? Last year’s “Black Ice,” was the second best selling album IN THE WORLD.
I knew AC/DC had been quite popular over the decades and that “Back in Back,” which was a monster hit when I was in high school, was one of the biggest albums ever. But I had no idea that the band had sold more records than Michael Jackson domestically.
Gene cites a new book, Why AC/DC Matters, by Anthony Bozza. Other lists have different rankings. The RIAA actually has Eagles’ “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” as the top selling album in US history with “Back in Black” a mere 5th; but the albums in third through seventh place vary between 23 and 21 million so the difference is academic. Plus, the RIAA totals count double albums as two units, skewing the results.
As to the best-selling artists, these lists vary as well and it’s virtually impossible to get accurate figures. Jackson’s sales have exploded since his recent death; he’ll overtake everyone by the time the next list comes out.
Regardless, there’s not much doubt that AC/DC has endured in popularity for going on forty years despite drastic changes in the field of popular music and the death of the lead singer who first brought them to international acclaim. And they’ve done so without the aid of ballads, which are much more likely to generate enduring hits that cross genres. Further, as Gene notes, “the band did all this while being virtually ignored by the music press. They’ve never won a Grammy or MTV Music Award and have only been on the cover of Rolling Stone twice in 35 years.”
Even the likes of KISS and Metallica ultimately earned critical acclaim over time — simple respect for lasting success. For whatever reason, that’s eluded AC/DC.