Titans of Aussie rock

Over the last couple of months, we’ve seen the death of two Australian music legends, brothers George and Malcolm Young.

George was a driving force behind the Easybeats, which was a great Australian band of the sixties. They had a bunch of songs chockful of classic guitar riffs, and in Friday On My Mind, one of the most perfect songs of the era. Later George joined with fellow band member Harry Vanda to become a legendary songwriting and production duo.

Malcolm was the younger brother of George, and with his brother, Angus formed the nucleus of one of the greatest rock bands of all time, AC/DC. It’s hard to imagine two better rock guitarists than Malcolm and Angus Young.

Vanda & Young guided AC/DC to the top of the charts, with Bon Scott as their lead singer. These are all fucking legendary names, and a great era of Australian guitar rock.

As it happened, I watched a dramatisation of the Easybeats story a few weeks ago, followed on by a fascinating documentary on the music and characters of that era, and the Albert’s sound – the production company that broke, and then nurtured these great performers.

I was just a kid back then when AC/DC was making it, but have sketchy memories, especially of the classic video of AC/DC performing. It’s a Long Way to the Top on the back tray of a truck driving down Swanston street. Great video, great song. A few years later I remember my best mate and next-door neighbour, Peter Woody, buying the Back in Black LP and us playing it on high rotation. And for many years I can recall a piece of graffiti scrawled on a bench at Montmorency railway station: Bon Scott lives!

I was rapt watching these shows, nostalgic, but also fascinated by the stories and the progression from those early days to a professional and mighty music industry. It made me realise things I’d never really taken much notice of until then. I knew Stevie Wright, and have his epic song Evie on my iTunes. What I hadn’t realised was what a powerful and charismatic frontman he was. For a little fella, he packed a lot of power in his voice and performance, and more attitude than, ultimately, he could survive. I came away convinced than in the story of Australian rock music he’s one of the three outstanding front men – he, Bon Scott, and Michael Hutchence. What does it mean that they all died prematurely?

Like so many, I loved Bon Scott. He had the perfect voice for a rock band like AC/DC, a powerful snarl laden with rugged experience. Added to that, he had a style that at a distance seemed menacing, but in fact, he was a rad Aussie, a larrikin with energy you could bottle. He was on the edge and liked it there, and it captivated thousands of fans like me. He wasn’t just a voice (like Brian Johnson), he was a persona. I’m one of the old school fans who think the Bon Scott years were the best of AC/DC.

I remember the days of Aussie guitar bands and pub rock and in your face attitude and they’re just great memories. We’ve been lucky.

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