‘Back in Shack’: Celebrating the shared 40th anniversaries of ‘Back in Black’ and ‘Caddyshack’
Well, except for this: 40 years later, both are still beloved and ubiquitous — “Back in Black” songs a staple on rock radio and “Caddyshack” lines as quotable now as they were then. “Back in Black” has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide, and “Caddyshack” has shown up on cable at least that many times.
Is that fodder for an entire column? Even after their shared anniversary has passed?
Sure, why not.
I mean, if you want to be silly about it, there are some connections between the two. Both owe their success largely to men known by animal nicknames: “Back in Black” was produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, and “Caddyshack” was produced and co-written by Doug Kenney, who two years earlier had famously played Stork in “Animal House.”
Or how ‘bout this? AC/DC guitarist Angus Young always wears ties on stage; in “Caddyshack,” Lacey Underall (Cindy Morgan) seductively asks Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), “Wanna tie me up with some of your ties, Ty?” (If “Tie Me Up, Ty” wasn’t an AC/DC song title, it should have been.)
I did find one person with a connection to both works, but it’s a stretch even by my admittedly loose standards. Musician Paul Shaffer didn’t play on “Back in Black” and wasn’t in “Caddyshack,” but he did cover “You Shook Me All Night Long” on his 1993 album “The World’s Most Dangerous Party,” and he did host a special screening of “Caddyshack” alongside Chase at the Bedford Playhouse in New York this past January.
And just in case those aren’t big enough leaps for you, there’s this: AC/DC singer Brian Johnson, who replaced the late Bon Scott for the recording of “Back in Black,” is (or has been) a member of Gator Creek Golf Club in Sarasota, Florida. “Caddyshack” was filmed across the state, at the Rolling Hills Golf Club (now the Grande Oaks Golf Club) in Davie, Florida (even though the story was set in Nebraska).
You just know Rodney Dangerfield’s Al Czervik would have loved Johnson and his AC/DC band mates … and Ted Knight’s Judge Smails would have loathed them. Had the song been released in time, it’s not hard to imagine Dangerfield blasting “You Shook Me All Night Long” from his high-tech golf bag in the middle of a round (as opposed to Journey’s then brand new “Any Way You Want It,” as in the movie).
But it wasn’t … and he didn’t … leaving me to scramble to come up with ridiculous links between the two that aren’t really links at all.
All is not lost, however.
Because you can make the case that “Back in Black” and “Caddyshack” are kindred spirits in their use of double entendres, ribald wordplay, playful naughtiness and carefree attitudes. Al Czervik, Ty Webb and Carl Spackler easily could have been characters in AC/DC songs, given their penchant for wine, women, general debauchery and, in Carl’s case, powerful explosives.
Whether it’s AC/DC imploring listeners to “Come on and have a good time, and get blinded out of your mind” in “Have a Drink On Me,” or Bill Murray’s Carl describing his hybrid grass to Chase’s Ty as, “You can play 36 holes on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night,” these are not works concerned about the morning after.
And Dangerfield’s film-closing “We’re all gonna get laid!” line could apply to about half the songs on “Back in Black.”
“Back in Black” and “Caddyshack” targeted young male audiences but ultimately appealed to a far wider demographic, mostly because both the album and movie are just plain fun, and neither takes itself too seriously (or seriously at all). Sure, there are occasional moments of gravity — the requisite underworld imagery in “Hells Bells,” the fleeting “I’m late”/”I’m not pregnant!” subplot among the teen caddies — but first and foremost, this is party music, and a party movie.
In both cases, the creators had something to prove. “Caddyshack” co-writers Kenney and Harold Ramis had previously teamed on the comedy smash “Animal House,” but on that film, they ultimately ceded control of the project to director John Landis and producer Ivan Reitman. This time, they were basically running the show, with Kenney producing and Ramis making his directorial debut. (When the film wasn’t immediately embraced by critics, Kenney took it personally, which may have contributed to his death via a fall off a Hawaiian cliff a month later.)
AC/DC, meanwhile, had to prove it could thrive without dynamic front man Scott, who died of alcohol poisoning or a heroin overdose (depending on what you read) five months before “Back in Black’s” release. The album’s title track was a celebratory tribute to him.
Neither was an immediate box office or chart phenomenon. “Caddyshack” was the 14th highest-grossing movie of 1980 (and only the ninth highest-grossing comedy), and “Back in Black” failed to make Billboard’s year-end top 10 albums chart, with singles “You Shook Me All Night Long” and the title track barely cracking the top 40.
Forty years later, movie and album have long since achieved pop culture immortality.
I’ve got one final connection between “Caddyshack” and AC/DC, and it’s personal. I experienced one with my mother, and one with my daughter, and both are priceless memories (although in the case of the former, a tad embarrassing).
As a fan of Murray and Chase, there was no way 14-year-old Andy was going to miss seeing “Caddyshack” in the theater. But I wasn’t getting into the R-rated movie without an adult. So I somehow convinced my mother to take me. I’m sure she figured, it’s a comedy about golf; how raunchy can it be?
It was the second R-rated movie I saw that summer with a parent. My father, who had taken me to see “The Blues Brothers” a month earlier, definitely drew the less uncomfortable assignment. Take away some language, and “The Blues Brothers” easily could have been a PG-rated musical action comedy. “Caddyshack,” on the other hand, definitely earned its R rating. During the sex scene between Danny and Lacey (Michael O’Keefe and Cindy Morgan), I’m pretty sure my mother’s face turned red enough to light up the entire theater.
There was no such parental embarrassment 36 years later (just some throbbing eardrums) when my daughter, a year older then than I was in 1980, and I rocked out to an AC/DC concert at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Sure, it wasn’t the full band (Axl Rose had replaced an ailing Johnson on the tour, and since-deceased rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young had retired for health reasons), but the songs were the same, including six of the 10 tracks from “Back in Black.” It’s a parent-child moment I’ll cherish forever … unlike my mom’s experience with me and “Caddyshack,” which I’m pretty sure she’s wiped from her memory.
Point is, people have been bonding over a shared love of “Caddyshack” and “Back in Black” for 40 years, and that might be all the connection I need to justify this column.
Andy Vineberg is a former sports and entertainment writer for the Bucks County Courier Times, Doylestown Intelligencer and Burlington County Times. He currently co-hosts the music podcast "David Uosikkinen's In the Pocket" with the Hooters drummer. Find all episodes at in-the-pocket.simplecast.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ADVineberg
"David Uosikkinen's In The Pocket" show airs live on PhillyRockRadio.com Thursday mornings at 11am.
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