AC/DC: The plot to conquer the U.K. Part 4

After Bon Scott died in 1980, AC/DC replaced him with Brian Johnson (far right).

Bad reputation

On July 13 1976, AC/DC made their first ever U.K. television appearance, filming at the Wimbledon Theatre for inclusion in Marc Bolan’s “Rollin’ Bolan” television spectacular; the following year, hosting his “Marc” series, Bolan would establish his eye for young talent by filling the show with up-and-coming punk bands.

A full 12 months earlier, his vision was just as sharp, and AC/DC rewarded him with a seething “Live Wire” and a menacing “Can I Get Next To You Girl.”

Their name and reputation were spreading, but first timers remained perplexed by the prospect of the band. Journalist Caroline Coon confessed that, before she saw them, she was convinced that a band calling itself AC/DC would be “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 …. 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.”

She was wrong. The band members themselves insisted they had never heard of “AC/DC” being hijacked as a slang term for bisexuality, and they weren’t especially impressed when they did find out. As Scott informed the audience at the Nashville Rooms in early May, “Although we’re called AC/DC we’re NOT!”

Get Caught Up

Start with Part 1 | Continue with Part 2 | Part 3 is here

Moving out of London on a tour dubbed, with unequivocal menace, “Lock Up Your Daughters,” AC/DC played 20 shows around the U.K. before heading back to the capital for a residency at the Marquee Club. Having already played there twice in May and twice more in June and July, AC/DC made The Marquee their own in August and September.

Seven shows spread over six weeks included two doubleheaders, on Aug. 23-24 and again on Sept. 7-8, and every night, close to a thousand people a night crammed into a venue built for no more than 700 to marvel at what Coon’s review — having overcome its disappointment at the band’s political stance — admitted was “f**king amazing.

“In essence,” she declared, “AC/DC are nothing new. What … 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).”

So, “hey, do you wanna go see a band that dresses like schoolboys?”

“Okay, then.”

Sounds journalist Phil Sutcliffe was caught in the same crush as the rest of us, mentally and physically. Personally, I hated what passed for metal at that time, ever since Deep Purple turned into a funk band and Black Sabbath turned into mush, and so did he.

“I’m trying to analyze it,” he wrote in his review the following week, “find critical explanations as to why these Aussies who are ostensibly just another heavy-metal outfit really rock, rock you out of your skin. But I can’t stand still to write. My hips being the only part of my anatomy with an inch or three to move in are doing the shake-shake with all of their might, consequently my bum is threatening to beat a hole in The Marquee’s very nice brick wall.”

The Marquee marked the beginning of the band’s mercurial rise. By the end of the month, AC/DC had been booked to open for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow as they toured around Europe. They headlined three shows of their own in Germany, where High Voltage had sold 16,000 copies in its first week of release.

And, on Aug. 29, AC/DC played their biggest show ever, when they were pulled onto the bill for the annual Reading Rock Festival. They had been in the country less than five months, and they had 50,000 people standing in a field for them. A year later, and even Reading would look like small potatoes.

AC/DC were on course to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. But they very nearly became a punk band as well.

AC/DC Discography 1975-1976

Australian Singles

  • Albert AP 10551 Can I Sit Next To You Girl / Rockin’ in the Parlour (July 1974)
  • Albert AP 10700 Baby Please Don’t Go / Love Song (oh Gene) (April 1975)
  • Albert AP 10829 High Voltage / Soul Stripper (June 1975)
  • Albert AP 10990 It’s a Long Way to the Top/ Can I Sit Next To You Girl (November 1976)
  • Albert AP 11070 T.N.T. / I’m a Rocker AP 11070 (January 1976)
  • Albert AP 11135 Jailbreak / Fling Thing (March 1976)
  • Albert AP 11265 Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap / R.I.P. (September 1976)
  • Albert 11340 Love At First Feel / Problem Child (December 1976)

Australian Albums

  • Albert AP LP 009 High Voltage (February 1975)
  • Albert APLP 016 TNT (February 1976)
  • Albert APTL 50257 High Voltage (revised track listing) (summer 1976)
  • Albert APLP 020 2  Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (September 1976)

UK Singles

  • Atlantic K10745  It’s A Long Way To The Top/Can I Sit Next To You Girl (April 1976)
  • Atlantic K10860  Jailbreak / Fling Thing (August 1976)
  • Atlantic K10899 Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap/Big Balls/The Jack (January 1977)

U.K. Albums

  • Atlantic K50257 High Voltage (revised track listing) (May 1976)
  • Atlantic K50323 Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (revised track listing) (December 1976)

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