AC/DC’S SINGLE ‘IT’S A Long Way To The Top’, has a lot to answer for. First, since its weird, bagpipe-drone of a break sounded unusually imaginative, it promised a ‘live’, bright new band of Aussie-rockers who; putting the boot in nostalgia, were propelling their sound into the soon-to-be-upon-us sci-fi age.
Secondly, raunchy and rough though the feel of their music is, the name of the band suggested that the lads were not outback rednecks or macho-chunder bar proppers but more akin to the fresh breed of musos who are fighting through the sexual barriers which trap us in a remorseless struggle to live up to masculine and feminine stereotypes.
Both these impressions were dispelled at The Nashville Rooms as AC/DC thundered through their London debut. For a start, three of the five are Scots. They were, however, unable to treat us to a blast of bagpipes, making the live rendition of their single rather a disappointment. Moreover they are exponents (albeit excellent) of well-tried riff-rock. Nor would a more macho and less sexually ambivalent lot be easy to find.
Lead singer, Bon Scott, anxiously informed us, almost as soon as he could draw a breath between belting out numbers like ‘Hi Voltage’ and ‘TNT’, that “although we’re called AC/DC we’re NOT!” And you’d better believe him. He wears not a smidge of the promised pancake which was dispensed with two years ago since it didn’t go down too well in the antipodes.
Instead, as they built up their set, getting ever more monotonously walloping and solid, they strip down and we get to see a large expanse of tattooed, muscle-rippling, hairy flesh. This expose underscores the message in the band’s lyrics.
Numbers like ‘Can I Sit Next To You Girl’ and ‘She’s Got The Jack’ pay homage to the myth that men have gotta be goddamn tough to stand up to all the puritanical females who reject them, plus being physical supermen to withstand the gonorrhoea-ravaging consequences of those women who make a habit of accepting their advances.
In essence, then, AC/DC are nothing new. The legs astride, uncompromisingly male stance of Malcolm Young (rhythm guitar), Phillip Rudd (drums) and Mark Evans (bass), their faded denims and sweat-soaked T-shirts are a familiar sight in the rock ‘n’ roll arena.
What, though, makes them a band to be seen and heard, are the extraordinary, virtuoso antics of the lead guitarist, 16-year-old Angus Young. The rest of the band are fine foils for him as he gives a not-seen-since-Quasimodo-did-a-dive-and-Richard-Neville-left-the -Old-Bailey performance of a doubled-up school kid in the throes of an ecstatic mutation with his guitar (He wears the appropriate flannel drag and satchel).
Just before the end of their set, a gent close to me shook his head in gleeful disbelief and yelled “God, it’s f– amazing!” By then, having recovered from my initial disappointment, I was ready to agree with him.
© Caroline Coon, Melody Maker, 8 May 1976