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Catchgroove – The Desert Sessions: AC/DC the Bon Scott years 1975-1979

January 22, 2022

We have been in Phoenix a little over a week now and, my first musical obsession in Arizona is, of all things, AC/DC – more specifically the Bon Scott version of the band. I haven’t listened to AC/DC in years. I was running some errands and I dialed up some driving music and on a whim I played Let There Be Rock (1977). It sounded so good and I was down the AC/DC rabbit hole.

My most vivid memory of AC/DC was seeing the concert film AC/DC: Let There Be Rock at the Skyway Theater in Minneapolis in the fall of 1980 with my buddy/roommate Marty. The showing was augmented with a nice concert PA system – it rocked. The movie was filmed on December 9, 1979 at the Pavillon de Paris in Paris, France, and also contains interviews with members of the band, including lead vocalist Bon Scott, who died shortly after filming.

In the US market, the debut of AC/DC was High Voltage, which was a compilation of their first two Australian releases. It only included two tracks from the Australian High Voltage release – “She’s Got Balls” and “Little Lover” – with the rest of the songs taken from T.N.T. It remains my favorite AC/DC album. It set the template for the sound and vibe. It includes my favorite AC/DC song “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll).” It was a signature song for Bon Scott. Brian Johnson, who replaced Scott as AC/DC’s lead vocalist after Scott’s death in 1980, does not perform it, out of respect for his predecessor.

Next up was Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap the band third Australian release, but released in the US in 1981 after the death of Bon Scott and the success of Back and Black (which was a tribute to Bon). The titular track is a classic.

Let There Be Rock (1977) was an album I never owned physically, and so it is new to me, with the exception of “Whole Lotta Rosie.” As I stated in the opening paragraph of this post this was the album that hooked me into this recent AC/DC jag. Wonderfully trashy hard rock blues.

Powerage (1978) is an album I have a CD of, but never really got into, listening to it now with fresh ears it sounds great, but if I get the AC/DC itch I am more likely to listen to other albums.

Highway To Hell is a masterpiece and my second favorite album. It became AC/DC’s first LP to break the US Top 100, eventually reaching number 17, and it propelled the band into the top ranks of hard rock acts. Unfortunately, it was the last Bon Scott album.

Back And Black (1980). It was the first AC/DC album to enter my consciousness. It is my third favorite album by the boys. It is not higher only because it has been over-listened to. Unfortunately it doesn’t have Bon who had died in classic rock star fashion: per the coroner, Scott had died of “acute alcohol poisoning” and classified it as “death by misadventure.” The band does consider the album a tribute to Bon Scott.

‘74 Jailbreak is an EP released in the mid-80s and is previously unreleased (in the US) Australian material recorded. I had never listened to it until recently. Shows a punkier side of the band.

I am now working my way through the live material from this period, but I will save you from that rabbit hole.

What I like about AC/DC is that they are hard rock, but they are more toe tapping than head banging. Bon Scott can wail like Robert Plant, but can be as silly in his vocals as Keith Moon. They are kind of punk (in The Ramones sense of punk), but unlike most punks, bluesy. They found their lane and stuck to it – they have been playing the same schtick for 50 years and somehow it never gets old. Thanks Arizona for reminding me of their greatness.

From → Music Reviews

One Comment
  1. Once you put the needle down on these guys they do take you on hard blues rock journey for sure. Good stuff. I always thought they had that desert vibe.

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