Driving without Bon

Last week I proposed that driving around is one of the better ways to listen to Acca Dacca: you can turn it up loud without disturbing the neighbours… the stereo in the car is pretty good, and somehow the rhythms of the highway meld with the driving force of the rock rhythms.

So to try it out, I picked Diego up from his house, and we went for a spin around Redfern. Earlier, Diego had told me about his first encounter with an AC/DC cassette tape – in Italy in the late 1980s. Telling the story, he couldn’t help himself, and air guitarred the key riff from Back in Black. So Back in Black, naturally, was his album of choice for our drive. I went and bought it from the record store (thereby doing my little bit to help cement it as AC/DC’s highest selling LP of all time).

Bon Scott, of course, doesn’t actually sing on Back in Black: by the time of its recording, 1980, he was freshly dead. Malcolm and Angus Young quickly auditioned for a new singer, who turned out to be Brian Johnson. Now I don’t want to get bogged down in a fruitless never-ending debate, but if you Google “Who is better: Brian Johnson or Bon Scott?” you come up with over seventy thousand hits. So you can see that this controversy, far from being laid to rest, is one of the defining and enduring features of the band.

I’ll reserve my opinion on this for later. In the meantime, you can listen to Diego musing “live” over the top of the album… some of the songs trigger memories of his first home-made tattoo, the time he did a strip-tease to Back in Black and his Eighties enthusiasm for Reggae…

We head down Regent Street, past Green Square to Gardeners Road, and then proceed to loop back up past Redfern Station. As a result of skipping a few tracks we get bored with, the odd nip n tuck in the editing, and muddied by road noises and conversation (apologies to the purists), Back in Black is thus compressed to just 18 minutes.

Click here to listen now, or right click and choose “save target as” to download the file [mp3, 10mb, 18 mins].

Or for the time-poor, here is a shorter version, with just the first six minutes…[mp3, 3mb, 6 mins].

Bon and Me

Everyone has a Bon Scott story.

I just got back from overseas, and my friends ask “so what are you up to now that you’re back?” When I reply, “I’m working on a project about Bon Scott, you know, that guy from AC/DC”, there is generally a pause, and either a look of incredulity, or almost immediate raucous laughter. You see, I’m not really the kind of person who you’d think of as an enthusiast for these things. My interests tend to be a bit bookish. I have a tendency to over-intellectualise, which fits more with an interest in obscure corners of conceptual art history, than Aussie rock legends. So it’s all very amusing, isn’t it?

The next thing that happens is that, once my so-called friends have gotten over their ridiculing of my rock credentials, they inevitably launch into their own stories about AC/DC. Here’s one by Diego, who is describing a scene from a small town outside of Turin, in the north of Italy:

When was it? Oh damn, I was driving around, so I must have had a licence, so that makes me 18…so I suppose it must have been about 1988 then. I was driving around with all my friends, and someone had this tape, I can’t remember where it came from, did my sister give it to me? Anyway, we put it on and it was wow! You know [does air guitar and sings the riff “na, na na, na na….di-di-di-di-du-do”] and we were really into it but we had no idea who it was, we figured it must have been Rod Stewart or something. It wasn’t until a long time after that someone told me it was AC/DC. You know, we knew nothing about that stuff, but it were were really into that guitar bit.

The funny thing is, I’m not even convinced that the famous riff Diego sings while telling this story is an AC/DC song. But who knows? Certainly not me. There are so many famous guitar riffs. They’re like pithy quotes from Shakespeare: we all recognise them, but we can’t always remember where they came from.

Diego asks a few other questions which betray his enthusiastic but hazy grasp on AC/DC-ology:

“Wasn’t Bon the one who wore the funny hat?”
“No”, Keg says, “that was Angus, and it was a school uniform.”
Diego: “Oh, I thought they all had school uniforms”…

-but never mind that, he immediately picks up his air guitar and launches into song, in his Italo-Aussie accent: “ROCK-AND-ROLL-MAKES-NOISE-POLL-U-SHUNN!!”

Immediately I find myself correcting this in my own head. It should be “rock and roll AIN’T noise pollution!” (The meaning is quite specific, although Diego’s misreading is, I must admit, an interesting slip). (Read the full lyrics here.)

And then it dawns on me that after only a couple of days into my career as a fan (which consists, thus far, of the paltry reading of the first half of Bon Scott’s biography, and listening to one single album), it’s already started: I’m becoming an AC/DC nerd. Mothers of Australia, lock up your daughters. I’m about to bore them to tears.

*post script: according to further research, the riff Diego was singing was an AC/DC track. Click here to listen to Diego himself rendering the riff in all its glory…