AC/DC - ‘Thunderstruck’ Builds Fever Pitch For Chicago White Sox

October 21, 2005, 13 years ago

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Chicago Sun-Times (www.suntimes.com) has issued the following report from Leslie Baldacci:

A listener calls a Chicago rock station and requests the AC/DC classic ‘Thunderstruck’.

"I wanna dedicate it to the Sox," he says.

Ian Kovac, 21, of Lombard, waits nervously outside the team's administrative offices. He has come to pick up a pair of World Series tickets. His cell phone rings, and the ring tone is the frenetic guitar intro of ‘Thunderstruck’.

How did Rock And Roll Hall of Famers AC/DC, an Australian quintet whose amps go up to 11, come to be so closely associated with the Chicago White Sox? ‘Thunderstruck’, from AC/DC's 1990 release The Razor's Edge, is the song that plays when the opening lineup is announced at U.S. Cellular Field.

"It's something that'll get you going," explained Kovac. "There's fuel behind it."
"With our intro, we are trying to build a fever pitch so people are ready to go at the first pitch," said Brooks Boyer, vice president of marketing for the White Sox.

At the old ballgame, the traditional ballpark organ is being squeezed into obsolescence, replaced with pump-'em-up rock anthems that deliver - as AC/DC would say - "high voltage." Replacing live organists are sound technicians who can trigger any sound snippet or effect at the touch of a button, including pre-recorded organ music.

This year, fewer than half of the nation's stadiums had live organists. Six American League teams and four National League teams, including the Sox and Cubs, have live organists at every home game.

In the arena of ballpark rock, every team has its favorites. The Angels use METALLICA's ‘Enter Sandman’ to get the fans pumped up. The Texas Rangers use GUNS N’ ROSES' ‘Welcome To The Jungle’. The Yankees like NELLY's ‘Heart Of A Champion’.

"We use 'Detroit Rock City' by KISS when the team takes the field, and often in a rally situation we'll go with 'Eye of the Tiger’," said Joel Scott, promotions director for the Detroit Tigers. The team added a "Motor City Music Play" at the end of the fourth inning this year, featuring Detroit artists from ARETHA FRANKLIN to KID ROCK.

"To me, the music sets the tone and atmosphere of the ballpark," said Charles Steinberg of the Boston Red Sox. "If you are a 16-year-old, and you realize that the DROPKICK MURPHYS have a song about the Red Sox called ‘Tessie’, then suddenly that cool band is even cooler, and the Red Sox are cool because they're in a Dropkick Murphys song."

In 2004, the Red Sox reunited the original members of the STANDELLS to perform their 1964 hit ‘Dirty Water’ at Fenway. The team plays the recording after every victory.

"Very few fans noticed" when the Angels went to prerecorded organ riffs this year, said Peter Bull, the team's entertainment manager.

"We didn't have a name organist, someone the fans knew and identified with," Bull said. "If you have a name organist, there is certainly great value in holding on to that person. It's not just about organ music, but about the person who plays it. It's traditional. It has great value."

Asked if she's a fan of AC/DC, longtime Sox organist Nancy Faust replied, "No, not particularly.

"But I think it's great. The youngsters love it; what can I say?" she said. "The game now permeates every sense. There's something going on at all times. It's like the Sesame Street crowd just can't sit still unless there is constant stimulation."

Boyer said the Sox used ‘Thunderstruck’ last year and tried to change it at the beginning of this year. Heated e-mails, phone calls and letters landed ‘Thunderstruck’ back in the lineup.

The 1969 STEAM song ‘Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)’ has been played thousands of times at the old Comiskey Park and the new U.S. Cellular Field. And every time organist Nancy Faust tickles the keyboard and gets the crowd to sing it - even if just for a few seconds - Steam's three former members get royalty checks.

But it's not just a hit on the South Side. The song has been so popular at sporting venues, in movies and in programs like The Tonight Show' - which played it multiple times even in the past six months - that it has earned its writers a total of $1 million in royalties since 1970.

It was that year that Paul Leka, the lead member of the band, sold the publishing rights to what is now Warner/Chappell Music. Warner, in turn, has also earned $1 million in royalties.

"This song has become very powerful,'' said Leka, now 62, of Connecticut. Leka, a keyboardist who sang background vocals on the song, has never been to Sox Park and would be happy to perform "if somebody gives me a ticket.''

And if the song is played during the World Series, there will be even bigger checks: Royalties for songs that play on national television are even higher.



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