AC/DC play the penultimate leg of the European part of their Black Ice tour tomorrow at Punchestown racecourse in Co Kildare. They’ve put on nearly fifty shows all over Europe since last February. Yesterday, they played Wembley stadium and their Hampden Park gig on Tuesday will be their final one for a month. Then, they hit off to North America from late July to early September where they’ll play eighteen dates, most of which have been sold out already. They finish the tour down under at the start of next year with a dozen sold out shows. The band has been around since 1973 when Scottish-born brothers Malcolm and Angus Young formed the group in Sydney. Their original vocalist, Bon Scott, died in 1980 and was replaced by Brian Johnson from England. The rest of the band had considered packing it in, but their first album with their new vocalist, Back in Black (1980), was a huge success. In fact, it has gone on to sell 45 million copies worldwide and only Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982) has sold more copies
For some reason, I had never come across much of their music when I was growing up. The first song I remember hearing by them was Thunderstruck from The Razors Edge (1990) album. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve started to get into their other stuff, especially Back in Black and Highway to Hell (1979). Because of their fan base, their logo and their album covers, the perception is that they are a heavy metal band. While they certainly aren’t a pop band, I think it would be more correct to call them a rock band. I’m a fan of Johnson’s vocal style where he seems to be straining to get the words out. I love guitarist Angus Young’s particular image and the band’s guitar riffs. Most of all, I love the humour in their songs and their constant references to rock ‘n’ roll
A number of acts have attempted the band’s songs, although the results have varied. The Hives and the Dandy Warhols are quite successful with their versions of two classics from Back in Black. Hayseed Dixie perform rock songs in a bluegrass style and started out with a whole album of AC/DC songs. Lucinda Williams and Jessica Will also bring a country flavour to their versions while Apollo Nove’s take is more easy going. Mark Kozelek has recorded a whole album of AC/DC covers called What’s Next to the Moon? (2001). Arab Strap from Scotland do a fine version of my favourite AC/DC song, You Shook Me All Night Long. That’s followed by a mashup that replaces Johnson’s vocals with those of Cher! I’m afraid that you’ll have to listen to Wing’s take on Highway to Hell as I cannot find the words to describe it. Unfortunately, I missed the boat when the tickets went on sale, so I won’t be taking the motorway to Punchestown. However, for those about to rock I salute you!