September 2020: AC/DC Make Awesome Return and Fleetwood Mac Go Viral
With the coronavirus pandemic lockdown in its fourth month, word of a brand new album from AC/DC was the best news we could possibly get in September 2020.
After a few years when it seemed like they would call it quits, AC/DC regrouped with the quintet that made Rock or Bust for Power Up. The record had been rumored as far back as summer 2018, when some of its members were spotted outside a Vancouver studio. But the project was kept under wraps until the official announcement at the end of September.
Fleetwood Mac also received an unexpected surprise that month, with a surge in popularity thanks to a viral video that used their 1977 hit "Dreams." Bruce Springsteen also announced a new LP. And a pair of classic rockers thought it was odd their songs were being played at President Donald Trump's campaign rallies, while Van Morrison began protesting the lockdown in song.
AC/DC Announce Return With 'Power Up'
In the last days of September, AC/DC confirmed rumors that first surfaced two years earlier. They announced that Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd were back in the band with a new album, Power Up, their first since Malcolm Young's 2017 death. Power Up consists of songs that Malcolm and Angus Young wrote years ago, including the singles "Shot in the Dark," "Realize" and "Demon Fire." Angus revealed that the record represented just the tip of the iceberg of what he and his late brother had stockpiled. Johnson, who left the band toward the end of the Rock or Bust tour due to issues with his hearing, was able to return thanks to an experimental procedure. Williams said it was a bad case of vertigo that made him retire, and Rudd convinced Angus Young that his substance-abuse issues were behind him when they saw each other at Malcolm's funeral. The guitarist also praised his nephew Stevie for maintaining Malcolm's high standard as the band's rhythm guitarist.
Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" Becomes a Hit Again With TikTok Video
One of the most whimsical rock stories of 2020 took place when Nathan Apodaca posted a TikTok video of himself skateboarding and drinking juice to the strains of Fleetwood Mac's classic "Dreams." The success of the clip led to sales and streams of the 1977 single, more than doubling their usual numbers. Apodaca received an endorsement from the band, which retweeted the clip and added, "We love this!" It inspired dozens of copycats; even Mick Fleetwood got in on the act. Stevie Nicks made her own version, lacing up a pair of roller skates while seated at a piano and singing along with the Rumours No. 1 hit.
Bruce Springsteen Goes Back to E Street
Six years after his last album with the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen announced the October release of Letter to You. He had convened his longtime collaborators in his New Jersey home studio in November 2019 and cut the entire record live in the studio in four days. Springsteen wrote much of the material on a guitar given to him by a fan following a performance of Springsteen on Broadway; the LP's themes, including the second single "Ghosts," deal with mortality and aging. He also included new versions of three unreleased songs from the early '70s that he rediscovered while working on a second volume of his 1998 box set Tracks.
Rockers Question President Trump's Music Choices
The use of classic rock at President Donald Trump's campaign stops continued to draw attention from artists, but this time it was with bemusement instead of threats of legal action. John Fogerty noted that playing his Creedence Clearwater Revival classic "Fortunate Son" was "confounding" since the song rails against "people of privilege ... or people that had a position could use that to avoid the draft. ... It seems like he is probably the Fortunate Son.” Eric Burdon of the Animals thought Trump's playing of "House of the Rising Sun" was appropriate: "A tale of sin and misery set in a brothel suits him so perfectly!" he wrote. "Far more appropriate for this time in our history might be ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place.’” Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley, on the other hand, repeated his support for Trump. "All the politicians have had skeletons in the closet," he said, "but I think that Trump is the strongest leader that we've got on the table."
Van Morrison Releases Anti-Lockdown Songs
While most musicians were doing their part to encourage social distancing in the COVID-19 era, Van Morrison bucked the trend. After calling for the music industry to "fight the pseudo-science" and restart full-capacity shows, Morrison promised three songs that claim scientists make up "crooked facts" and refer to authorities who enforce lockdown rules as "fascist bullies." The first, "Born to Be Free," arrived toward the end of the month; the second, "Stand and Deliver," featured guitar work by Eric Clapton, who backed Morrison in a statement accompanying the track. Robin Swann, the health minister of Morrison's native Northern Ireland, said Morrison's actions went "further than disappointment," calling them "dangerous" and “going way beyond raising questions." A third song hasn't been released yet.