AC/DC: Sex, Snot, Sweat and School Kids

AC/DC: The Mayfair, Newcastle

QUOTE FROM AC/DC person to me: “Whenever I meet you you’ve got your shirt off, Phil”. Which on reflection is probably true but there’s a very obvious reason for it. AC/DC live are the most insanely compulsive heavy rock band I’ve ever experienced and I get very hot and malodourous listening to them.

However, my reactions were the very epitome of cool compared to the couple of thousand who packed into the Mayfair. From the sanctuary of the soundman’s enclosure on the balcony they looked like the Kop crowd or maybe a jar of maggots seething and squirming in the crush to be an inch or three closer to the stage. They must have been just about as uncomfortable as any human being could be outside of trench warfare and yet they were very happy too – no fights that I saw which is not always the case at the Mayfair. It’s an instinctive flesh and blood volcano. Compress and compress the energy, and soon it must erupt.

That happens when Angus comes on stage alone for a solo that becomes their opening song ‘Let There Be Rock’. No slow build-up of approval until the ritual berserk demands for an encore. The crowd was pogoing, roaring and chanting ‘AC/DC, AC/DC’ after that first number. They basked in their own hell heat while soaking in Angus’s flying sweat and snot as if it were Holy Water. And the band, who offer the rare combination of wild excitement and consistency, simply gave them everything like Olympic runners going for gold ripping through the pain barrier.

They now have a set’s worth of hot songs with ‘I’m A Problem Child’, ‘Hell Ain’t No Bad Place To Be’, ‘High Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘She’s Got The Jack’ the very best. With a superbly produced instrumental sound you could hear exactly how effective they all are: Phil Rudd on drums straight and loud, new bassman Cliff Williams unorthodoxly strumming a growling underthrum, Malcolm Young emerging as a riffmaker of the most ferocious intensity and Angus continuing to play hard and even imaginative lead while shaking himself about as if he had no further use for his head.

I suppose he is the main reason why AC/DC have picked up such a huge following in a couple of UK tours. His physical abandonment while somehow retaining the dexterity to play the notes that kick you in the ass presents an irresistible unity of force in the sound and the visuals. The schoolkid image will have to go one day but at the moment it’s still dead right: like when he takes his shirt off with a stripper’s suggestive bump and grind then screws any thoughts that he’s beginning to fancy himself as a sex-bomb by blowing his nose in it.

One criticism: Bon Scott, much-improved singer and indispensable character, was often short-changed by the PA. When both guitars were going full-tilt as in ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and ‘Rocker’ you couldn’t hear a sound from him though he was obvious screaming his goolies off. Malcolm said something about this PA having suppressors built in which cut out a channel when it reaches a certain volume.

Hopefully the offending gadgetry will be removed because Bon is vital. He’s the spice and flavour with the heavy hardtack. An appealing rogue and buccaneer, give him a wooden leg and a parrot on his shoulder and he’d be the image of Long John Silver.

I mean, who else could get away with singing ‘She gave me her soul/And her great big worn out empty hole’ and have everyone including the girls chanting ‘She’s got the jack’?

© Phil SutcliffeSounds, 29 October 1977

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