In 1986 the famous author Stephen King, who was already a best-selling writer and had many of his books successfully adapted to the big screen, had the chance to turn one of his stories into a movie. Based on his short story “Trucks”, King wrote the screenplay for “Maximum Overdrive“, which showed a group of people trying to survive when the machines started to rebel and kill all the humans.
He wrote many scenes with specific songs in mind, especially from the Australian Hard Rock group AC/DC. So he got in touch with Malcolm and Angus Young, the leaders of the group and asked for permission to use some of their tracks. But King was such a big fan of them that he asked if they could write some original music for the movie. The result was three tracks and one of them was the hit “Who Made Who”.
How Stephen King made AC/DC write the song “Who Made Who”
Stephen King had never directed a movie before and AC/DC had never made music to a movie before, either. So it was the first time for both of them and although it was an interesting experience, it really only was good for AC/DC, which came out of it with a new hit song.
Neither King nor AC/DC liked the movie but since then it became a cult classic for horror fans and the incredible soundtrack is one of the reasons. Besides “Who Made Who“, AC/DC also made two instrumental tracks named “D.T.” and “Chase The Ace”.
In an interview back in the early 90s, made available by AC/DC’s Youtube channel, Angus Young recalled how that partnership with Kind began. (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) “‘Who Made Who’, this actually came from the book writer Stephen King. He got in contact with my brother (Malcolm) and myself. We were in New York and he was very much a fan of our music. He asked us if we would like to write some songs (because) he was making a movie called ‘Maximum Overdrive’.”
“He said it would be very good if you guys were interested, would you write some songs for it? So that’s (from where) ‘Who Made Who’ came from. It was mainly about machines and they say the computers don’t mess up now, you know. Which we all know that they do, numbers can go wrong,” Angus Young said.
Besides those new songs written especially for the movie, older classics like “You Shook Me All Night Long” were also used. Angus Young believed they fitted quite well in the scenes as he told MTV in 1986.
“(Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) Some of the older tracks fit in very well (in the movie). Because he had those tracks specifically in mind when he filmed them. So songs like ‘Hells Bells’, ‘Shake Your Foundations’ (worked really well).”
Initially Stephen King didn’t like “Who Made Who”
Curiously, Stephen King initially didn’t like the song. Malcolm Young said he didn’t understand what the band was trying to say in the lyrics. So he had to listen to the track a few times to get the message. Young recalled that in an interview made available on Youtube by Scott Young.
“(Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) We had some ideas from the road and we got together with the producer Harry Vanda, who done our early stuff. We are not smart enough to get around these movie people, these Hollywood (people). They brought a musical director. We sort of walked him out of the studio the first day, you know (laughs). But the best thing to come out of it… the instrumentals were quite good.”
“But ‘Who Made Who’, we came up with that track, Stephen King hated (laughs). He ended up (liking), he heard a couple of times. (King) said: ‘Oh, I listen to the lyrics, actually I can see more now. He didn’t know what we were talking about. But when we watched his film we thought it should be made into a comedy to be honest (laughs),” Malcolm Young said
AC/DC and Stephen King didn’t like “Maximum Overdrive”
During the same conversation, the late AC/DC guitarist said that the band and Stephen King didn’t like the result of “Maximum Overdrive”. He said that the author went to their concert some time after the movie was released and said that the only good thing in it was the music.
“(King) came (to a show after the movie was released). He sat down and had a beer with us all. (He) said ‘Well, the only thing that worked (in that movie) was the music’ (laughs). The movie was crap and he said ‘I will never direct another movie in my life’ and he hasn’t. But he is a nice guy. The thing that impressed me and Angus was that we’ve got this track ‘Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round to Be a Millionaire)’ and it’s like eight and half minutes.”
“It’s all just eight and half minutes of verse, lyrics (each one different from the other). He put that on and he sat there miming the whole thing through. He is a big fan, it wasn’t a commercial (thing). There is probably 12 or 13 verses (in that song) and he had all perfect. But at the end of the day, I’ve seen the movie again. It’s not up there with the great movies. But for some of the crap that comes out these days it’s not too bad,” Malcolm Young said.
The movie bombed at the box-office, since it cost about 9 million dollars and made only more than 7 million dollars. On the other hand, “Who Made Who” soundtrack album sold an estimated amount of more than 5 million copies.
AC/DC recorded the tracks in The Bahamas
AC/DC used the Compass Point studio in Nassau, Bahamas for the first time to record their groundbreaking and best-selling album “Back in Black” (1980). After that they had used it again to make “Flick of The Switch” (1983), going back there again to record the songs for “Maximum Overdrive”.
During the same interview he made with his brother Malcolm, Angus recalled that all the expenses were paid by the producers of the movie. “It started off when he (Stephen) asked if he could get a couple of songs. He wanted to use tracks like ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’. He came later and he said: ‘Would you like to go to the Bahamas again? All the expenses paid by the movie people, you could go there and write me some score music.”
“(So I said) ‘Well, it’s something different, I will try. So we all packed up and we had been on tour at the time, that was the end of the tour. We packed off and went to the Bahamas again. We set up a studio and then just done some instrumental music for this movie. It come about that way ‘Who Made Who,'” Angus Young said.