By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
"We don't care about your fancy costumes," one Aussie said to Tempest Storm Jr., as he patted a spot on the runway. "We don't want to see your fancy dances or your strutting all about." Pat pat pat pat. "We want to see your twat--right here, right now!" That's AC/DC's raw and in-your-face attitude in a nutshell.
Being from Australia alone didn't mean much, as the likes of Olivia Newton-John, Rick Springfield, Helen Reddy, and the Bee Gees proved, but the flip side of that Top 40 scene were the bucket-o-blood rock clubs full of drunken rowdies who demanded a harder strain of "blooze."
Among the misinformation that's been spread about the band's history, the greatest myth is that the late Bon Scott was once a roadie with the band. It's true he met the other members of AC/DC when he was dispatched from a local club to pick them up at the airport, but Scott had been singing in bands for years, and he volunteered for shuttle duty because he wanted to get with the Young brothers and their manager/brother George (formerly of the Easybeats, who hit it big in 1966 with "Friday On My Mind") and convince them to can their wimpy singer Dave Evans and hire him.
The type of clubs AC/DC played in probably had a lot to do with Scott's appeal to the teeny-tiny Youngs. "Bon was a rough sort, and he used to watch out for me and Malcolm," Angus said when I interviewed him before the Austin show in January. "After he joined up, he told me, 'Whatever I do, you do the opposite.'"
So Angus stayed relatively sober most of the time. Not that Scott was uncontrollable--in fact, Angus said Bon worked hard when it was time to work--but he also cut loose when it was time to party: "We'd get off a six-month tour, and Bon would say, 'It's time for a wing-ding,'" Angus recalled. "And you wouldn't see him for awhile. But he also used to say that no matter what he did, he always got eight hours of sleep."
Often that meant waking up in the early evening, but there was one time in 1980 that Bon Scott didn't wake up, and it only takes one. He'd been out drinking all night in London and a friend drove him home. Scott had passed out, so the friend let him sleep it off in the car. The next morning, Scott was found dead drunk in the car. AC/DC would never be the same. Cry as much as you want about John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and all your other dead rock stars: Bon Scott ranks with Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain as one of the greatest losses because Bon ate it near the peak of his vitality.
I mean, John Lennon hadn't made a good record for 10 years before his death, and Elvis died wearing that gaudy jumpsuit with the cape. But Bon Scott was choking on vomit just a few months after recording Highway To Hell. That's like dying of a heart attack a few minutes after giving Shannon Dougherty, or someone like her, a sticky kiss of appreciation.
Even though the albums featuring Scott as the singer remain AC/DC's golden era, the band actually became more popular after his death when they hired Brian Johnson, who's also been incorrectly pegged as a former roadie. Back In Black, Johnson's debut with the band, has sold more than 10 million copies in the U.S. alone. He's made the best of his situation, and even though he sings "Whole Lotta Rosie" like old people fuck, he doesn't keep AC/DC from being a great concert act.
Still, when our group of meeters and greeters were finally escorted into another barren room at the Erwin Center, I had absolutely no desire to meet the singer. Or the bass player or the drummer. I really wanted to talk to Malcolm and Angus Young, who keep the whole thing together. Angus is the flashier one, with the schoolboy uniform and the U.S. flag underwear and the constant duck-walk energy. But older brother Malcolm's hard-charging rhythm guitar is the engine that drives the AC/DC sound. I wanted both of them to sign my backstage pass: AC/DC turns me back into a teen-ager.
The fans backstage were lined up, and when Brian Johnson bounded through the door first, Sharpie pen in hand, I sorta moseyed on out of the line. I didn't want this guy's name to devalue my pass. When the bassist and the drummer came down the line next, I stayed out of flow, but then in walked Angus and Malcolm, each about 5 feet tall and extremely skinny and showing age in his face, which you don't get in concert because they're too busy pounding your brain for you to notice.
I went back to my original place in line right before Malcolm got there, and I told him AC/DC is the greatest rock band of all time. He just smiled and muttered something and moved on as if I'd just told him that the sun rises at 6:17 a.m. tomorrow. Then came Angus, another mutterer, who gave the thumbs-up sign to virtually everything that was said to him by the radio people.