AC/DC unleashed Fly on the Wall on June 28th, 1985. This collection of pumped-up, tricked-out, down-and-dirty blues-metal broadsides in keeping with their previous nine studio LPs, as well as the six they’ve released since then.
Fly on the Wall arrived smack in the middle of the ’80s, AC/DC’s biggest decade by far, and it landed as something of a misfire on immediate impact. Although the LP generated no pop hits or even any enduring classic rock radio staples, the album remains a crucial cannonball in the group’s arsenal. It’s also, with age, only garnered greater impact.
In honor of Fly on the Wall’s 30th anniversary, here now are 30 facts about the album to enjoy as you crank it up again and air-guitar all Angus Young-like for the rest of the day.
1. Fly on the Wall is the ninth studio album by AC/DC to be sold internationally. Their 1975 debut, the original version of High Voltage, came out commercially only in Australia.
2. Fly followed the 1984 release of ’74 Jailbreak, an EP composed of rarely-heard tracked culled largely from the first High Voltage sessions. The title single “Jailbreak” caught on as a fan favorite and remains in regular rock radio rotation.
3. Critics largely slammed Fly on the Wall upon its release. Mainstream rock writers circa 1985 despised heavy metal in general, and AC/DC in particular. Even those who didn’t hate the band mostly branded Fly as repetitive and lazy.
4. Rolling Stone wrote: “You’d never guess how sexist and politically incorrect all this is if you didn’t read the lyric sheet, because you sure can’t make out a single word coming out of the dentist’s-drill glottis of Brian Johnson (except maybe the song titles, which tend to be repeated like mantras). Angus Young is also in great form, playing the dumbest, most irresistibly repetitive chords in the lexicon.” Now bear in mind: that’s what passed as a positive review!
5. One unexpected outlet that differed from most critics was, bizarrely, People magazine. The celebrity gossip weekly deemed Fly on the Wall the single greatest album of 1985 in its year-end issue. Really—People magazine!
6. For the most part, AC/DC fans actually agreed about Fly on the Wall with the bulk of our Self-Anointed Professional Tastemakers. After the multiplatinum triumphs of Back in Black and For Those About to Rock, Fly on the Wall repeated the number of 1983’s similarly non-beloved Flick of the Switch and sold “only” one million copies.
7. Fly on the Wall peaked at #32 on the Billboard albums chart.
8. Who Made Who followed Fly in 1986. Essentially a “best of” collection, the album served as a soundtrack LP for the cult horror favorite Maximum Overdrive, author Stephen King’s only effort to date as a movie director. Of the album’s nine tracks, three are originals, the instrumentals “D.T” and “Chase the Ace,” as well as the absolutely killer title track, “Who Made Who.”
10. “Shake Your Foundations” was remixed for Who Made Who and shortened from 4:10 to 3:53.
11. AC/DC had high hopes for the single “Danger.” Alas, not only did the song stiff on vinyl, the band noticed audiences getting bored or taking bathroom breaks when they performed it in concert. Thus, it was dropped fairly quickly from their live set.
12. Fly on the Wall was also the title of a companion VHS release that featured AC/DC in a New York City barroom performing five songs from the album: “”Fly on the Wall”, “Danger”, “Sink the Pink”, “Stand Up”, and “Shake Your Foundations.”
13. The concept video depicts patrons at the bar, called the Crystal Ballroom, growing rowdier and dancing more fervently throughout the mini-concert. By the time AC/DC blasts out “Shake Your Foundations,” the entire place adheres to the song title and crumbles into rubble around the revelers. The band is left tearing it up on the New York waterfront with the lit-up World Trade Center towers looming behind them.
14. Aside from the group and the audience, the long-form video’s main star is the cartoon insect from the Fly on the Wall album cover. That little bugger buzzes all over the place throughout the action.
15. The isolated clips for both “Sink the Pink” and “Shake Your Foundations” were rotated on MTV as regular music videos.
16. AC/DC recorded Fly on the Wall at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland.
18. In January 1985, AC/DC took a break from making Fly on the Wall to headline the Tuesday and Saturday night shows at Brazil’s first Rock in Rio festival, where they played before more than 250,000 fans at each performance.
19. The Scorpions opened for AC/DC both nights at Rock in Rio. The Saturday bill also included Ozzy Osbourne and Whitesnake.
20. Whereas Flick of the Switch had been produced by all the band members, only brothers Angus and Malcolm Young oversaw the recording and engineering of Fly on the Wall.
21. For future releases, AC/DC worked with outside producers, including Bruce Fairbairn on their 1990 comeback The Razor’s Edge, Rick Rubin on 1995’s Ballbreaker, and Brendan O’Brien on their 2008 triumph, Black Ice.
22. AC/DC’s Fly on the Wall tour was split into two legs: one American and one European.
23. Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force opened for AC/DC on both legs of the tour.
24. After getting mixed up in the 1980s’ “Satanic Panic” the previous year due to teenage heavy metal fan turned killer Ricky Kasso wearing an AC/DC t-shirt, the group got even further bogged down when a psychotic sexual sadist murderer in California left behind an AC/DC baseball cap at the scene of a crime.
25. The media seized on the AC/DC connection to the slayings, which looked to be part of a pattern. News outlets nicknamed the killer “The Nightstalker” and pointed to AC/DC’s 1979 song “Night Prowler” as evidence of… something.
26. AC/DC has always maintained that the lyrics of “Night Prowler” deal with a young lothario sneaking into his girlfriend’s bedroom after her parents have gone to sleep.
27. Richard Ramirez, the sick piece of garbage responsible for the killings, was captured on August 30, 1985. He shortly thereafter carved a pentagram into his palm and interrupted his trial proceedings by yelling “Hail Satan!” Frightened fools looking to pin this on heavy metal floated rumors that “AC/DC” stood for “Anti-Christ, Devil’s Child” or “After Christ, Devil Comes.”
28. Quickest to act was the Parents’ Music Resource Center (PMRC), an anti-rock coven led by senator’s wife Tipper Gore. With congressional hearings looming for their proposal to label records, the PMRC came down hardest on AC/DC, mounting an encouraging protests against the group.
29. Due to fears of demon worship and human sacrifice, several venues canceled stops on AC/DC’s Fly on the Wall tour.
30. In time, the Satanic Panic subsided, AC/DC shook off its stink, and ever since then, the Gods of Thunder from Down Under have continued to reinvent themselves while, somehow, never changing the elementals of what makes them the most balls-out rock monsters to ever conquer the human senses.