Just found out I won New Times SLO's contest for free tickets to tonight's High Voltage (A Tribute to AC/DC) show at SLO Brew in downtown SLO. Music writer Glen Starkey asked readers to tell him why they deserved to win a ticket more than anyone else.
Here was my submission:
Glen, I believe I deserve one of your High Voltage tickets (along with the first round of drinks on you) because I have actually seen both of AC/DC's singers perform live. I saw the Bon Scott version of the band twice: once in 1978 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA (Bonus fact: they opened for Ted Nugent and the Scorpions were also on the bill in their first ever US appearance). Bon carried Angus around on his shoulders up into the rafters...Angus hung a BA....the whole bit. The other time I saw the Bon Scott AC/DC was at the Forum in Los Angeles in '79 or '80 (it was the Highway to Hell Tour). I also saw the second version of the band, with Brian Johnson on vocals, twice, once in about 1981 or so in support of Back in Black, and again many years later, both times in LA.
Given this solid history of AC/DC fanaticism, I believe I will have the best perspective to judge how well High Voltage's vocalist does at the complicated dual task of mimicking both the leering, demonic/comedic stylings of everyone's scariest uncle, Bon Scott, as well as the boozy, painful screech of his most worthy successor, Brian Johnson.
I've thought a lot about this band's place in history. When Bon Scott died, Highway to Hell was screaming up the charts. At the same time Bon was singing: "I'm the night prowler, crawlin' 'cross your floor...." Richard Ramirez, LA's murderous Night Stalker, was actually crawling across peoples' floors, which only made AC/DC's music all the more frightening to the uninitiated. Highway to Hell was everywhere. It could be heard blasting out of every car on Friday and Saturday nights, and then...WAM!...shockingly, Bon was dead.
How could a band ever continue in the wake of such a loss? Bon was truly a larger than life character. He was irreplaceable. But somehow the band decided to press on. "We'll find someone else," they said. As a fan, I was skeptical. And then, even more remarkable, they had a new album ready to go in no time at all. I just looked it up: Highway to Hell came out July 27, 1979; Bon Scott died Feb. 19, 1980; Back in Black came out July 25, 1980. Less than a year from one album to the next; about 5 months from Bon's death to the release of Back in Black. That is an incredible turnaround.
When Back in Black did come out, I went and bought the record, and I rushed home and plopped it on the turntable, and it was one of those moments I'll never forget: when I dropped the needle arm on that record, paused for the requisite 3 or 4 seconds while the needle worked its way over to the grooves, and the first thing you hear is the long, slow, funereal tolling of a bell, Bong....Bong...Bong....like a last tribute to the departed Bon. Then comes the low, measured growl of Angus's guitar, and then the drums, and then Brian: "I'm rollin' thunder, pourin' rain...I'm comin' on like a hurricane." Talk about announcing your arrival!
Aw, Hells Bells, they're a goddamn great band, and if High Voltage can even come close to the real AC/DC, then it would be wise to stay near an exit, because I know for certain that red-brick SLO Brew building has yet to be seismically retrofit.
Shazbot, nanoo, nanoo.