9. “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)” by AC/DC (1979)

The JOAT 50 Song Countdown is a blog series where every weekday for 10 weeks I am posting a brand new long form essay where I have ranked and written about my 50 favorite songs of all-time. From Adele to Zac Brown Band, Patsy Cline to Plasma Canvas, Ludacris to Rise Against, this series offers a personal essay about the 50 songs that hit me the absolute hardest.

I didn’t mean to start my company on Rex Manning Day, it just sorta happened. You can never really know exactly when you’re getting laid off for a variety of reasons, but in my mind it’s because corporations necessarily just have to be motherfuckers for reasons both valid and extracurricular.

I’ve told this story many times, but I had been itching to leave my corporate gig for 14 endless months and in the months leading up to that moment, I laid the groundwork for my new company to launch as soon as I was free. It took that long thanks to a buffet of factors, but in the end, they dismissed me on April 7, a Tuesday.

On Wednesday, April 8, 2015 I launched Deft Communications, talked to a couple of friendly reporters, earned coverage, and made sure the company saw my name and my new company in their daily media clips just as a huge “fuck you” to those in that company I especially loathed. Goodbye and good riddance! I suspect the feeling was mutual from many on the other side. Good. I’ll see you in Hell, you bastards.

In the movie Empire Records, we spend the day at the titular store with its employees and their various dramas, visiting washed-up rock star Rex Manning who’s there to do a signing, and their exasperated manager Joe. It’s lightweight and charming, and given that we are now 41 entries into this series, its obvious love for music is clearly deeply in my wheelhouse.

Near the movie’s midpoint, Joe, already exhausted by having to figure out how to compensate for his employee Lucas stealing the previous day’s take, gambling it away in Atlantic City in hopes of raising enough money for Joe to buy the store before it’s converted into another outpost of a soulless corporate chain, reaches his breaking point when the unctuous Rex Manning’s bored handler abruptly quits. He puts on “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)” off AC/DC’s Highway to Hell record and cathartically drums along to it. The employees, who never found a knife sticking out of Joe they can’t twist, put the song over the PA and rock out along with him. Great scene.

The obvious connection to my own business launching on Rex Manning Day gives me a sentimental hook to this song that is also variously true to the other songs on this incredible soundtrack. One would hope that a movie about a freaking record store would have a good soundtrack. But here we have AC/DC, a band I once hilariously referred to as “the ultimate American rock band.” My best buddy Jason deadpanned back to me, “Totally. Except they’re from England and Australia.”

The spirit behind my technically wrong assertion is that I think if you put AC/DC on the jukebox of virtually any bar in America, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that’s mad about hearing “Shook Me All Night Long” or “Thunderstruck” or “Big Balls.” And let’s call a spade a shovel. Put on any AC/DC album, and it pretty much sounds like every other AC/DC album. The six years of Bon Scott feel like a slightly different flavor, but still set the template for the next five decades of the band.

“If You Want Blood” could be my favorite AC/DC song for reasons of pure sentimentality alone, and that’d be fine, but not terribly interesting. This song was in a movie I like, and its fictional holiday happened to coincide with the launch of my business. Give me a lollipop.

No, what I really like is just how fucking confrontational that song title is.

It’s having life square you up, and you responding in kind. It’s calling some punk ass bitch’s bluff. It’s making someone rethink ever stepping to you. It’s knowing you’re going to go down, but making whoever is doing you dirty, actually do it and not letting them off the hook and going quietly. In short, it’s an anthem dedicated to standing up for yourself and standing up for what’s right.

You want blood? You got it. And you’re gonna regret it.

The world is filled with clowns and charlatans and phony tough guys. “If You Want Blood” is about exposing these frauds for who they are. It’s about surviving. It’s about self-actualization. It’s about standing on principle, and being willing to stand on that principle even if it means you’re going to lose. At least you didn’t sell yourself out and you forced the other guy to reckon with himself in a way he probably finds unpleasant.

The song doesn’t take an antagonistic posture, more of a defiant one. Don’t shrink from the moment, rise to it. Someone does you wrong, let ‘em know. You don’t necessarily have to be a dick about it, but you also don’t have to sit there and take it.

Are they threatening to turn your little beloved indie record store into a Music Town? Fuck ‘em. Throw a party in the street to raise money and buy it yourself.

Corporate been jerking you off for months and possibly even years? Get them to pay you to quit, then launch your own damn company the very next day and make sure they read about it in the media. Then make more money on your own than those cheap fuckwads paid you.

Feeling like an animal locked in a human zoo? Blood.

The year 2020 was probably everyone’s least favorite year. 2019 was still worse for me personally, which I hope is wildly illustrative for you. But 2020 was no cakewalk either. Every year our family does a Christmas card based on an album cover. There really was no other choice that year for us besides AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. That’s where the world felt headed, and if I’m in the wrong headspace or have been doomscrolling after two bourbons too many, still feels that way.

But here’s the deal. I know with my family, my closest friends, and a belief in the inherent goodness of the vast majority of people, we’ll be all right. And if we’re not? We’ll go down swinging.

If you want blood… you got it.

Up next: Destination unknown.

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