Retrospective: AC/DC

It's a Long Way to the Top if You Wanna Rock n' Roll

The AC/DC story begins in Glasgow where both Malcolm and Angus Young were born. In the mid 60s the Youngs uprooted to head for Sydney, Australia. In 1974, having played in various school bands, Angus agreed to join his elder brother's outfit. The band, supplemented by Mark Evans on bass and Phil Rudd on drums, hired a guy to roadie for them. Although much older than the brothers he too was Scottish. Having sung in various bar bands it wasn't long before he stamped his personality on the group and became their singer. His name was Bon Scott.

In 1974 their first album was released 'down under.' Its style set a precedent of what was to follow. The production team went under the names of Vanda and Young. The latter was none other than Angus and Malcolm's older brother George. TNT was released in early '75. So successful were these albums that the band was quickly outgrowing the confines of Oz. The Albert Productions organization, of which Vanda and Young were a part, were to produce the next four AC/DC albums proper, thus making them pivotal in the band's success.

It was Atlantic Records that gained their signatures in early '76. In April AC/DC paid its first visit to Britain. While still on the road High Voltage emerged to favourable reviews, four tracks feature on Live plus a fourteen-minute rendition of Jailbreak, their first single for Atlantic.

The rest of the year was spent slaying European audiences. Their reputation as a hard-working band was cemented, each audience marvelling at the school-uniformed antics of Angus as he flailed across stages wringing solos from his Gibson. Before the year was out, so was Dirty Deeds Done Dead Cheap. The title track appears on the Live album, but it was Big Balls that everyone was humming. Bon's reputation as master of the double entendre was cast.

The Spring of 1977 was to be a focal point in their evolution as Let There Be Rock became the first simultaneous worldwide release for the band, though only the title track and the gargantuan Whole Lotta Rosie appear on the Live album. Mark Evans vacated the bass position to be replaced by Cliff Williams.

Although 1978's Powerage met with unfavourable reviews and only offers Sin City on the latest release, Rock n' Roll Damnation provided the first success in the British singles chart. A tour of Britain in October was followed in November by the archetypal live recording If You Want Blood You've Got It. It became a live album to judge all others by. If You Want Blood... also ended phase one of their story.

AC/DC returned to England to spend six months at The Roundhouse inn London with Robert 'Mutt' Lange. Released in July 1979 Highway To Hell proved the breakthrough album. Lange's production had given a sheen that encouraged radio play, a move which resulted in this being the first multi-million seller for them. Just two tracks make it onto the Live album but no matter, the band were on the crest of a wave. Until that is the wave crashed in on them with mighty force. On February 21st 1980 Bon Scott was discovered unconscious, rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival, the result of choking on his own vomit.

AC/DC decided to continue, one-time Geordie member Brian Johnson being the replacement. Back In Black was issued as a salute to Bon on July 31st, 1980. The vocal style of Johnson, both gritty and earthy, boasted an affinity with the band that they couldn't have hoped to match elsewhere. B.I.B became their most successful album to date. As if proof were needed of their stature AC/DC headlined the second Donington festival. They went on to repeat this feat on two more occasions to date, 1984 and, as we know from the new record and video, 1991. Such was the strength of B.I.B that four cuts are revamped for Live.

In November of 1981 For Those About To Rock emerged, and heralds the now famous 21-gun salute though the title track is the only tune repeated on Live. The rest of the 80s saw the band playing to increasingly large and receptive audiences, although their recorded output failed -- 83's self-produced Flick Of The Switch and 85's Fly On The Wall -- failed to match the magnificence of B.I.B.

The next two releases both leave their mark on the Live album. Who Made Who emerged as a soundtrack to the rather dismal Steven King film Maximum Overdrive. In January 1988 Vanda and Young returned to the frame to produce Blow Up Your Video in France. This showed that AC/DC were back on the right track. A sold-out World tour followed, and the two tracks featured on the new album, Heatseeker and That's The Way I Wanna Rock n' Roll, both became hit singles.

Simon Wright, who had replaces Phil Rudd in 1983, decided he was better suited to Dio's style, and was subsequently replaced by ex-Firm member Chris Slade. It was Slade therefore who handled drums at Little Mountain Studios under the direction of producer Bruce Fairbairn for what was to be AC/DC's return to form. The Razor's Edge also saw a change in label for the band, moving from Atlantic to Atco. The record itself was thunderously compelling, as the six tunes on the subsequent Live prove.

Produced once more by Fairbairn, the double CD and cassette feature 22 tracks and over two hours worth of music, the double vinyl 20 tracks, and the single disc formats 14 tracks. The audio is taken from a number of shows, while the video captures the band on one very special night indeed, in front of 72,000 at Donington 1991. Directed by David Mallet, it promises to boost the live video approach in the same way If You Want Blood... boosted the audio format.

'Absolutely essential purchase' is a phrase often over used. For this album/video it's the only phrase applicable.

Joe Mackett
Riff Raff
May 1993

Share on Google Plus


Post a Comment