AC/DC Hit California

AC/DC PLAYED their West Coast debut at the legendary Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles, with the club fully living up to its legend of being crowded with elderly-type industry people whose complete lack of enthusiasm for rock’n’roll is always a sure bet to put a damper on any show.

After the opening night, few people came to see the band and most of those who did, seemed totally devoid of energy. Welcome to California, guys. From L.A. the band flew to San Francisco, a town not blessed with any real Record Industry. Where there couldn’t have been more than 80 people in the Whisky the night before, 750 fans packed each of AC/DC’s four shows at the Old Waldorf in S.F. Each show was completely sold-out – and sold-out to devoted fans of the hard-rockin’ Aussies, fans as eager to get down and show their stuff as the band was.

And the band was! These guys rock out. Perhaps Angus Young, their Billy Gibbons-oid guitar genius, was a trifle self-indulgent, perhaps even a little [God forbid] excessive with the licks for the hard-core pinhead set, but most rock’n’rollers could relate right away to their raw, basic youthful energy. AC/DC does a show cathartic in the way a Patti Smith show is cathartic. Sure, the albums are great, but there are just some bands that ya gotta see live. When Patti performs live and sings “Redondo Beach is a beach where women love other women,” there ain’t no room for misinterpretation. And when Bon Scott is wailing “gonhorrea” in the introduction to ‘The Jack’, sounding like a cantor blessing the bread on Yom Kippur, all the speculation about lyrical, interpretation stops.

Like a lot of bands, AC/DC isn’t too keen on being pegged into any cultish categories. “We just call ourselves a rock band,” Angus told the ROCKER after their San Francisco opening. “We don’t like being classified as a ‘punk rock’ band. Not everyone can be punk rock. It’s great that there are new bands, fresh faces and all, but there are good bands and bad bands, within that punk rock. Actually the punk thing is pretty cool in America. It’s not like England where it’s a very political thing – a dole queue type thing. There’s too much money over here to classify all the punk bands as dole queues and dropouts. It’s just a young thing – new breed type thing. If I said we were a punk band, people would say, ‘Yeah, right. These bands are violent; they like shittin’ and pissin’ on carpets, smashin’ up rooms and the like. A lot of people get the wrong idea and get turned off and don’t wanna see ya.”

Of course, AC/DC isn’t exactly the band to complain about punks’ violent image. Their first US release, High Voltage, featured four incendiary letters – one to Angus and Malcom’s mom and one each to each of the other band members – emphasizing problems the band has had with school masters, club owners and parents of fans. And their music isn’t exactly what you’d call laid back. Bon actually had one of the original, uncensored letters that was used on the album cover. The un-toned-down version summed him up as a “foul, rotten, filthy, sordid, disgusting, sex-starved, revolting, used-up bastard.”

I don’t know; he seemed like a nice enough chap when we talked with him – even if he does have a funny accent. As far as the sex-starved stuff…well, even if Bon is, Angus sure ain’t. After a complement on the band’s faster-than-lightening version of ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, during which Angus rides through the audience on Bon’s shoulders, Angus complained that it had been a very painful experience. “Some chick was suckin’ me dick and bit the end of me dick – left these big teeth marks in there. Backstage; big tits; a huge, tall chick.”

“I had him on my shoulders out in the audience,” recalled Bon, “and he was shoutin’, ‘put me down, put me down, me balls, me balls,'” I don’t know – coulda fooled me; I mean it sounded like a pretty good tune, even wrote it down in my notes as a high point of the set. But AC/DC didn’t always have it that easy picking up on the chickies at gigs. Because of the name, they’ve had a lot of weird bookings through the years.

“The first time we ever toured,” said Angus, “we were with that guy from here…what’s his name?”

“Yeah, Lou Reed; and so consequently people said, ‘Oh, AC/DC and Lou Reed. This is gonna be a big bisexual show.’ Every gay place in the country booked us on the name alone.”

But even if Angus wasn’t meeting any little girls on the shows, he dug the gigs. “They were some of the best shows we ever done. They loved it,” he enthused. “Yeah,” interjected Bon, “especially Angus’ school uniform and shorts. They went crazy.”

Well, the audiences in San Francisco didn’t look any gayer than any audience, but they went crazy over the band anyway. They’ve got a strong rock’n’roll/boogie following, dedicated to guitarmanship, high energy and raw power. AC/DC doesn’t use safety pins, never went to art school, and they sure don’t limit themselves to 2 or 3 chords, but if new wave is a reaffirmation of rock’n’rolls traditional values, this band is an important part of it.

© Howie KleinNew York Rocker, November 1977

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