I have no idea where this song came into my world. I have to blame either Linda or James – Linda loved hard rock, as did James – but I suppose popular culture could have inflicted it upon us, as well. You Shook Me All Night Long was a staple of the onzaine’s mixtapes, even more than the classic rock stations.
Although the song’s lyrics don’t even attempt to hide the sexuality, they didn’t – oddly – register with me. That was a common thing when I was younger (and still happens to this day, to be honest) where I would listen to the music and less to the words.
And frankly, that the song opened with “she was a fast machine / she kept her motor clean” probably just told me that the song was about a car, not a woman. (To be fair, Van Halen’s Panama is about a car. I wouldn’t know that for many years to come, though.)
I was still very naive at that point in my life. I didn’t understand innuendo hardly at all, I didn’t know the different between flirting and attraction (not that I saw it very much … well, at all, really), so hearing it in any music had about the same effect as someone slapping me with a trout.
I will note that I understood British absurdist humour far better than I did anything to do with emotions – mine or anyone else’s – so anything I didn’t understand was usually met with a strange response. I continued to be strange. And, apparently, “intense”.
Frankly, I have to look back at my youth and wonder how I even had any friends, let alone be turned into one of those boys that others get warned about. I mean, all the signs are there: spent a lot of time on computers, watched TV alone in the dark, sat on high-backed chairs stroking my kitty cat while glaring at my arch nemesis…
Suffice to say, I didn’t “understand” You Shook Me All Night Long until years later, by which time I’d actually taken a distaste to it. (Thank you pop radio for murdering yet another great song.) But what I did understand, lyrics aside, was what made a great rock song.
And this, perhaps more than anything else, was the nacent foundation of my love of music, why I have a bad habit of tuning out people talking to me if I hear a great song playing on a nearby radio, or worse, at a restaurant or pub. I want to hear how it’s played, where the instruments are used, try (vainly, I still suck at music theory) to pick up the signature time or hear the rhythm.
I might not understand music, but I do love it. And about this time, my tastes started broadening. I might still not listen to country and western, but I appreciate it a lot more today than I did back in high school. I can’t say it all started with AC/DC, but I will say that there are few bands – even fewer albums, and precious fewer songs – that have such brilliant structure and production that they stand the test of time.