When DVDs became the dominant format for home video, AC/DC made some decent attempts at putting out comprehensive collections. Family Jewels (Great name!) is a two disc set from 2005 that compiles almost all of their music videos from 1976 to 1990.
All of the hits are here. Thunderstruck, Who Made Who, and Back In Black are presented as they were on MTV 30-40ish years ago, but it is the deeper cuts that are the real treat for me. As someone who had taped every Much Music Spotlight on AC/DC and bought all of their VHS tapes, even I had yet to see some of what is on Family Jewels before 2005.
The videos are presented in chronological order with disc one opening to the band’s first appearance on television. It was on an Australian show called Countdown performing their cover of Baby, Please Don’t Go with Bon, to compliment Angus, in a school girl uniform! There is also the band’s debut on American television performing Sin City on NBC’s Midnight Special and Bon’s final television appearance for a Spanish program called Aplauso. This is where the band performed Highway To Hell and Girls Got Rhythm 10 days before his death.
I’m using the word “performed” loosely. Most television stations in the ’70s were not equipped to properly mic a full rock band. Heck, most are not still today. Some performances are legit, some have Bon’s mic hot as he performs to a backing track, but most have the band mimicking their performance to the album track. They are a product of their time.
Disc two contains the videos that most are accustomed to. They are the “promo videos” from the ’80s that are designed to regularly air on MTV and attract teens to buy albums. They start off simple, as the four cuts from 1980’s Back In Black look like they were shot in one day, and leap in production value as the three videos done for 1990’s The Razors Edge were shot months apart.
AC/DC gave you some solid bang for your buck here. The videos that make up the last half of this disc were originally released on separate VHS collections, Fly On the Wall, Who Made Who, and Clipped. These collections could have been ported over to DVD and priced individually. I’m sure someone was tempted.
The entire Fly On The Wall VHS from 1985 is as bad as you remember it. Thankfully AC/DC hired David Mallet for the following Who Made Who videos. He has a sense for what works for AC/DC in video form and he has done all of their videos since.
It is not exactly a complete collection which is disappointing since the discs are not exactly full. During the recording of promo videos for Back In Black, the band did one for You Shook Me All Night Long, which was skipped to include Dave Mallet’s version from Who Made Who. Highway To Hell is in the same boat as Bon’s final television appearance was chosen over its promo video. The video for Guns for Hire was cut and videos for Ballbreaker and Stiff Upper Lip that are absent.
These omissions were corrected by a third Family Jewels disc that was added to another boxset, Backtracks in 2009. Not adding them here is a mistake. I understand how they wanted to eliminate duplicates from the main setlist, but they could have added them as a bonus tracks. The length for each disc totals 90 mins, so you had plenty of room to do so.
Speaking of extras, there isn’t much. Disc two’s AC/DC discography is really the only one. There are no interviews, commentaries, or an alternate 5.1 audio mix. None of the videos have been restored. The Fly On The Wall videos, for example, were obviously shot on quality film and scaled down for VHS. It is disappointing to see the same VHS transfer is on the DVD. But the booklet is fairly solid with all of the background info on when and where these videos were shot.
With a lot of this content free to view on AC/DC’s YouTube channel, is Family Jewels still worth it?, I would say almost not. There are still a few videos on here, mostly from the Bon Scott era, that have no official place to stream. Fans do upload them from time to time, but they only last for a while before they are taken down. So, for now, this set remains as the most reliable way to watch them. And if it were a little more complete, Family Jewels would be a little more perfect.