Overplayed and Overlicensed

Saturday afternoon, I went to a matinee showing of “Iron Man” with my stepfather.  I could dedicate an entire blog to this fantastic film and how Robert Downey Jr. is making a comeback like LL on “Mama Said Knock You Out”(minus the deoderant chunks on MTV Unplugged of course).  I could write about the advancement of comic book movies post-“Batman Begins” as a serious attempt to create great art based on dime store pamphlets most mothers tossed in the trash 40 years ago.  I could even write about Jeff Bridges’odd shaped melon that I could not take my eyes off throuhgout his entire performance. 

But no…in spite of all the great things that make up “Iron Man,” I’m focusing on a larger issue: overplayed and overlicensed songs, or why in the world a track like “Back in Black” by AC/DC was used to open up this blockbuster.  The problem is that 40 year old program directors and music supervisors don’t really listen to anything made after 1992.  So when the opening sequence of “Iron Man” was flickering before my eyes, I almost spit out the $7 hot dog I was eating because once again I had to hear “Back in Black.”

AC/DC is a great band.  Even if you don’t know any of their album cuts like me, you’re heard from your pedophiling uncle or your older brother or your friendly neighborhood classic rock station (I think we’re up to 5 here in Philly)  that dammit, AC/DC IS IMPORTANT! I’m not gonna argue that, even though I cannot forgive a band who lets Arnold Schwarzenagger dress as a school boy and “play” guitar with them in the video for “Shook Me All Night Long” from the “Last Action Hero” soundtrack.  Yeeeeesssh…that was creepy.  I’m too lazy to YouTube it but if you haven’t seen that video nor the film, you’re much better off.

Back to the lecture at hand: of ALL the recorded pieces of music available, why, dear lord, WHY does AC/DC continue to have exactly 2 songs (“Back in Black” and “Shook Me”)  licensed/replayed/interpolated for someone’s soundtrack or ad campaign year after year?  Isn’t the band Jetsuccessful because they are essentially a younger, Austrailian AC/DC cover band? 

I remember as a young Catholic church goin’ boy (no Pope John Paul III) being terrified of “Highway to Hell” because I thought if I said the lyrics out loud I would indeed be on a highway heading to hell…and they don’t even accept EZ Pass.  And THAT is what AC/DC, Motorhead, Black Sabbath, etc are all about: writing hard, bruising, creepy songs about scary satanic stuff while eating quaaludes, drinking Yaegar out of a viking helmet, and giving your girlfriend herpes. 

With all of these wonderful and terrifying songs to choose from, licensing people have decided that AC/DC has only 2 songs that work when selling a Verizon phone, soundtracking an NFL highlight reel, parading scantily clad women in beer commercials, or expressing attitude and “grit” when hawking some power tools.  The music supervisors for “Iron Man” had a decision to make when opening the $180 million blockbuster: “Do we use a song that ties in with the character, songs like “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath or “Iron Maiden” by Ghostface Killah, that not only function as great ear-openers and grab the audience by the throat but relate to NAME of the movie….or do we pull “Back in Black” out of the CD player in the Miatta and grab lunch?  Done and done.  Vincento, where’s my soy latte?!  You’re fucking right I said grande!!”

Look, “Iron Man” was going to be a badass movie no matter what song opened up the film.  Tony Stark is a man’s man–rich, smart, drunk, goateed, and scoops alot of trim.  He probably smells like success and Jameson.  His costume is made of iron. His heart is powered by a metallic glass shield thingy that is way cooler than a scar.  He can fly and crush SUVs with his mitts.  The Iron Man faceplate is expressionless and killer.  Just look at this picture and tell me the first thought that pops into your mind isn’t “Iron Man is gonna fucking kill me”:

SEE!!!  His eyes can eat a child’s soul. 

I don’t need to hear “dah…dah dah dah…dah dah dah….da na na ner ner ner” for the 40,000th time in the background to understand I’m about to see some mean, punishing shit.  And yet that is what AC/DC has been reduced to for the mainstream: manufactured ‘tude.  Maybe that’s why they’re still selling the band’s shirts at Target for $12.99 (*update* Jim Jones and black hipsters have bought them all.  Sorry for the inconvenience)

Next time you’re watching a PG-13 movie or watching Monday Night Football or happen to catch a Ford Truck commercial and you hear AC/DC, you’re gonna think of me.  And I’m gonna think of you!  And make sure you respond as the programmers intended:  put on a black leather jacket, mash that blueberry scone with your BARE HANDS, leave your stupid ass moisturizer in the medicine cabinet, and kick the shit out of your neighbor’s dog because AC’DC is rugged and mean and rock n roll and just doesn’t give a damn!!!!

Unless Verizon needs to sell some black Razor’s…. 

*Can anyone recommend some lesser known AC/DC songs?  I need some ‘tude for the gym.  Much appreciated*



  1. “WHY does AC/DC continue to have exactly 2 songs (”Back in Black” and “Shook Me”) licensed/replayed/interpolated for someone’s soundtrack or ad campaign year after year? ” Because like you said most of the people making these decisions are 40 year old asshole and they HAVEN’T listened to anything new since 1992. Despite the younger intern type people who may be making amazing suggestions, there is always gonna be some kiss ass douche bag who suggests Back In Black or something like it just to get on the good side of their boss and guess what…They think its a great idea and they use it. Simple as that and we have to deal with listening to it over and over in every form of advertisement and entertainment. Now there are plenty of good AC/DC songs that i probably wouldn’t mind hearing ever once in while but thats a list i refuse to compile at the moment.

    I’m still pretty upset i haven’t had the chance to see this movie. Maybe I’ll go over the weekend. Your description of Tony Stark…sounds like someone I know.

  2. I would’ve used the Cardigans “Iron Man” cover off of “The First Band On The Moon”. That shit was ridiculoid.


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