Anthony O’Grady – “AC/DC: Australia Has Punk Rock Bands Too Y’know” (1975)

November 18, 2009 at 4:09 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles)

April 19, 1975 article from RAM magazine, right after AC/DC had released their first album (the original domestic Australian version of High Voltage)…they were still a local band and unknown to the outside world…  

Ladees and gentlemen, introducing one of the few bands in Australia that deserves the tag of a real street punk band…putcha fists together in ominous slow handclap fashion for AC/DC!

“Street Punk Band”. Maybe you’ve heard the description apply to groups like the early Rolling Stones (in whose honour the phrase was first coined back in the mid sixties). In recent years the tag has been applied to such as The New York Dolls, Iggy and The stooges, the MC5, The Troggs and The Sweet.

But Australian bands have been too good-natured on the whole and have been a bit inclined to suffer from malnutrition (a disease contracted from low paying gigs) as a result. Real Aussie roughies with real rock and roll skill have been hard to find. But AC/DC, they play real blitzkrieger rock and roll and you’d better not believe they won’t stomp you if you make a wrong move.

“Before I joined the band,” says singer Bon Scott who’s now been with AC/DC for six months, “Angus ‘n Malcolm, the ones you’d least expect to be the heavies, used to get up to some incredible things. The first gig I was with them, in Adelaide, there were a dozen guys in front of the stage shouting ‘Hey, Hey Come on down here ya…’ and Angus, he walks up to the edge of the stage and screams at them ‘Go and get…’ So me, I’m looking for a microphone stand ready for the onslaught…it happens all the time. Especially with the school uniforms…”

For anyone struggling through the backwash of them for opens, Malcolm ‘n Angus Young are the guitarists for AC/DC. They’re also the younger bro’s of ace songwriter George Young who combines with Harry Vanda to knock out such pop opii as ‘Evie’ and ‘Hard Road’ for Stevie Wright. Angus bears the added attraction of playing in a white school tunic with ridiculous brown kindergarten satchel strapped to his back. He’s played with that satchel so long now, he would maybe feel lost on stage without it.

The group was formed in early ’74 for a gig at the Sydney disco, Chequers. Bon Scott was the first change, replacing singer Dave Evans. Next, Phil Rudd replaced Peter Clack on drums. And currently they’re looking for a bass player.

“It’s a pretty rare type of bloke who’ll fit into our band,” says Bon Scott. “He has to be under five feet six. And he has to be able to play bass pretty well, to.”

Short tough bass players may apply to AC/DC, care of Mike Browning at the Hard Rock Café, Melbourne. (Though rumour has it a short toughie ex from Mississippi now has da job).

It has been said of AC/DC, that any band under the guidance of Vanda and Young has a better than average chance of making it. The fact that the bro’s Malcolm ‘n Angus Young cap rip out a pretty mean guitar riff, and Bon Scott has been a member of two significant Australian bands, The Valentines and Fraternity, is often underscored by the fact that Big Bro’ George has sometimes lent the helping hand. As Bon says: “Yeah, George is pretty scared that the sort of attitude will spread too, so he stays out of it as much as possible. Like he played bass for us for six weeks in Melbourne and whenever we’re stuck he’ll give us a hand, but we write our songs, play our own material; it’s not a case of George pushing the band to where they couldn’t get by themselves.”

Another thing that rankles the band, even months afterwards, is the treatment meted out to them at the Sunbury ’75 Festival. Over to Angus:

“They come and they drag us away half way through a job y’know…and they say ‘You gotta come out cause Deep Purple aren’t gonna play tonight’. So we go out to Sunbury. We get there and we have to walk through the crowd in our stage gear. Then Deep Purple decide they’re going to play after all…which was fair enough. So we’re supposed to go on an hour after they finish.

“So we’re down there and we find there was one caravan for the Australian bands. We got there and everyone was crowded into that. Deep Purple, they had everything else, all the other caravans and changing rooms cause they’re international right? …and we’re Australian.

“What happened after Deep Purple finished, their roadies are getting Purple’s gear off and while we’re setting up, one of the Purple roadies gets hassley with Michael Browning our manager, telling him we can’t go until Purple’s gear has been cleared…which will take y’know, something like five hours. So then there’s brawl and we cancelled y’know, like they wanted to put us on next day…but we said ‘Up yours’. Well it saved us from not getting paid anyway. It was just one of those things I guess.

“But we cancelled them, they didn’t cancel us.”

Actually, the first time I’d met AC/DC, Angus, all five foot five of him, had approached me with homicide in his eyes. It was due to the Sunbury report in RAM’s first issue which stated AC/DC were cancelled by the promoters, which was the prevailing opinion at the time, especially since the group had left the Festival grounds and were uncontactable.

At this stage in time it doesn’t matter either way I guess.

Their album High Voltage is the new thing. So let’s talk about that, lads.

First thing you notice is that it doesn’t contain the band’s first single ‘Can I Sit Next to You Girl’.

“Yeah, well it’s a new band init?” says Bon, “We gotta different style now.”

“We’re just starting to get to work playing the album at our gigs now. It’s real tough music so it’s good to play on stage. Melbourne and Adelaide radio are playing stuff from it.”

“One of the problems with the album,” says Malcolm, “is the words. There’s a lot of ‘dirty’ words in the songs which they can’t play on straight radio…like on one line there’s the word climax…as in sex. And you can’t have a climax on radio…it just ain’t done. Wouldn’t want to corrupt the kids y’know…har…har…”

“Musically it’s real rock and roll. For a while, before we got AC/DC together, I went off rock and roll a bit. Like me and Angus, we were into jazz chords and progressive music…the real complex timing change things. But that only lasted a year, ’cause really we grew on rock and roll and we’ve been progressing through rock and roll ever since.

“It’s the way it’s played that we’re really into. If we don’t come off stage really sweating and absolutely stuffed we don’t reckon it’s been worthwhile out there. We’re really into getting a real energy thing happening. So that’s what’s happening on the album; it’s the way we play rock and roll that’s important.”

“It’s a lot harder to play something simple in a way that hasn’t been played before, than it is to play something complex”, says Angus.

Malcolm by the way has been playing in rock and roll bands, even accounting for a year of guitar experimentation, for six years.

He is nineteen.

Angus has been in bands for six years too. He’s seventeen.

“Christ,” says Bon Scott, “I didn’t join my first band ’til I was nineteen.”

Bon Scott is in the twenty eight and over age bracket. As mentioned earlier he’s been with both the Valentines, a gaudy and successful straight pop band of the sixties, and with Fraternity, a well respected Music Band of the late sixties and early seventies. They’re still around, but not nearly as high on the music tree as they used to be.

“Fraternity were just a copy of the real Band…not much in their music but in their heads and all. They breathed and lived like the Band. From the Valentines to Fraternity was a big change…I got sick of doing bopper audiences with the Valentines and I wanted to become a musician, to be recognised in the Australian rock scene as more than just an arse shaker. I really enjoyed myself in Fraternity, got a new direction I could never have got with the Valentines y’know. But there was a lot of stuff I was writing I could never give to them and I was getting old, and the pace Fraternity were moving I thought ‘God I’ll have grey hairs before I’m thirty.’ Then these guys come along and took ten years off my age.

“Fraternity and me had been together four years and they were all married with kids and I was married too…which was something I wasn’t ready for. I joined the band and got divorced.”

A bit drastic, that?

“Well I dug and band more than I dug the chick so I joined the band and left her.”

“Bon writes the words to the songs,” said Malcolm. “And they’re straight Bon. Just exactly like he lives. We have to censor half of them…and they’re still outrageous.”

“They aren’t poetry, that’s for sure,” says Bon. “I don’t write about flowers and trees.”

That’s for sure.

I remark that Bon has both ears pierced and there are gold rings in them there lobes, giving him a distinctly piratical look.

A few years ago, of course, it was the custom for heroin addicts to have the right ear pierced and to wear an earring there…is it at all possible that…

“Nah” says Bon, “I’m not a druggie. What happened y’see, was a few years ago I was working on a cray fishing boat and there was this guy there I really respected and admired. And he had his ear pierced…so I got one of mine done then.”

And the other?

“Well y’see one night we’re coming home from a gig and I was feeling pretty bored…wanted to wear another earring but like I didn’t have anywhere to put it, see. So I got a safety pin and told the roadie, stick it in here. Well it was something to do to pass the time anyway.”

I guess you could say that AC/DC live and breathe bloody aggressive rock and roll.

Anthony O’Grady

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