Imagine being the parents of a teenage Angus Young – then imagine he started hanging out with Bon Scott. By the time Angus was 15, he’d already dropped out of school in Sydney, started working at a men’s magazine called Ribald and bought his first Gibson SG – his trademark guitar for the next 50-odd years. Before his 18th birthday he’d form AC/DC with his brother Malcolm, and Mr & Mrs Young started losing two boys to rock’n’roll.
You’d hope that maybe it was a phase, that the lads would get bored of headbanging in the garage and get proper jobs, learn a trade or go back to school. That’s until the first time they brought their new singer round. Bon Scott was 10 years older than Angus, a rock’n’roll lifer who’d been in various skuzzy garage bands since 1964. The real bad influence was about to start.
By 1976, AC/DC already had three albums behind them and the title of their 1976 LP, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, sounds like a shorthand manifesto for every one of their songs. Back then, and still, AC/DC songs were split into three categories: songs about chasing women, songs about boozing, and songs about rock’n’roll itself – 21 of their songs have the word ‘rock’ in the title. Actually, make that four categories — balls come up quite a bit.
Dirty Deeds, along with early compilation High Voltage, gave AC/DC a big fanbase outside Australia, and they hit London on a tour called Lock Up Your Daughters, and started a residency at the Marquee. Amid the discussions about whether the new punk bands were anarchists, nihilists or situationist art chancers, AC/DC were just about the goofiest good craic band on the hard rock circuit.
I first saw this interview with the band on Family Jewels – a collection of AC/DC’s promos and live clips from 1975-91, and it could well be my favourite ever DVD extra, as Bon Scott holds court with interviewer Doug Crawford from Aussie show Countdown, walking around Covent Garden while the younger AC/DC lads trail behind him sniggering.
At the time, the UK was experiencing its most severe heatwave in history, and the government had appointed an actual ‘Minister For Drought’, Denis Howell. According to the Daily Mail, “his wife Brenda appeared on the Mail’s front page the following day, at home in Birmingham cheerfully washing the family clothes in used bathwater”.
The government had imposed water restrictions, there were warning signs in every town, and the Sun had published a guide for lovers to stay cool in bed because people had stopped having sex. Even the Big Ben clock stopped working for the only time in its history.
Wimbledon officials rebelled by refusing to wear their green jackets on Centre Court, and civil servants started coming to the office in shorts – but no one had the balls to walk round London like Bon Scott, in a pair of knicker-sized denim shorts with a banana tucked in the belt like a maverick cop.
Correspondent Crawford tells Aussie viewers it’s a progress report on the UK tour, but he doesn’t get much info from “your mob”. He’s only got about two minutes, but in that time Scott claims AC/DC are better than the Beatles and the Stones (“last year’s model”), he steals a banana from a fruit stall and tries to be semi-profound about his inspiration for writing: “You gotta keep your eyes and ears open for lines and words and ideas and all. And pictures.”
Angus claims they’ve made enough money to buy Big Ben, the band introduce the video for ‘Jailbreak’, then they all sprint across the road into a local pub, with Scott managing to keep his flip-flops on.
As a progress report it’s light on info, but a brilliant snapshot showing a bunch of pure chancers on their way to rock stardom, and Bon Scott at his daftest.