It’s hard to believe that the almighty AC/DC were ever at risk of getting dropped by a label. However, according to the man who signed the classic rock icons to Atlantic Records, that indeed almost happened in 1976.
In an interview with Classic Rock Magazine, Phil Carson (Atlantic Records’ London-based chief executive) revealed that AC/DC were almost dropped from Atlantic shortly after delivering Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Carson recalled the following:
“They’d delivered Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap , which I thought was pretty good. But the Atlantic A&R department [in the US] said: ‘We’re sorry, but this album doesn’t make it. We’re not gonna put it out and we’re dropping the band.’ And everybody was unanimous in this, by the way – everybody.
I said: ‘I think you’re making a very big mistake.’ But the drop notice was out; AC/DC were history. So I went to Neshui [Ertegun, co-owner of Atlantic with brother Ahmet] and showed him the sales figures that we’d got for High Voltage [also 1976].
They were not awe-inspiring but considering we’d only paid $25,000 for the album this was not so bad. There were 10,000 sold in Germany and 12,000 in England. Maybe it had sold 40,000 overall. It had certainly earned its $25,000 back. Neshui backed me up and I re-signed the band at that point. I managed to claw it back in. Thank God I did.”
For Atlantic Records’ sake, thankfully Carson did convince them to resign AC/DC. Not only did 1977’s Let There Be Rock bring them back from adversity, but AC/DC would eventually release the third highest selling record of all time in 1980. To this day, Back In Black is still the best-selling hard rock album, and ranks only behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon in all time sales.
Carson’s interview is featured in the latest edition of Classic Rock Magazine, which has AC/DC on the cover (as seen above) and recalls the story behind 1977’s Let There Be Rock.