San Francisco band Yesterday & Today (later Y&T) joined AC/DC for a string of shows in the midst of a blisteringly hot Texas summer in July 1978. They were booked by local promoter Jack Orbin, who organised AC/DC’s first Texas shows in 1977.
‘Jack took us under his wing and booked us many times throughout Texas,’ says lead singer and guitarist Dave Meniketti. ‘We had become quite popular, much to our shock, because of a DJ on KMAC/KISS FM, Joe Anthony, who played us religiously. He basically "broke" us in that part of Texas. Jack saw the popularity of the band because of the radio play and started to book us around Texas for quite a few years.’
‘That tour in Texas with AC/DC was a very special,’ adds their late rhythm guitarist Joey Alves, who passed away in early 2017. ‘I had been a fan of the band from the beginning so naturally I was excited to be a part of it. I was instantly impressed by their strong performance each night.
‘Summertime in Texas is very hot but the heat never slowed down AC/DC’s intense show. Towards the end of each show Angus Young would go out into the audience on top Bon's shoulders playing his heart out on his guitar. Needless to say the crowds loved it.
‘AC/DC was a big influence on Yesterday & Today, especially with their live sound that they got each night. It was bigger than all the others and we had played with most. I would go so far as to study Malcolm's and Angus's amp settings. Dave and I would stand in the back of the arenas during their sound checks just to see what we could learn. And we learned a lot.’
‘Bon's death was a total shock to us. While we knew he was a hard partying kind of guy that lived life full with gusto, I don't think we ever gave it a thought as to how it could lead to his demise.'
– Dave Meniketti
What did Yesterday & Today observe of the dynamic between AC/DC’s rhythm guitarist and strongman leader, Malcolm Young and its hard-living lead singer, Bon?
‘We were so young and impressionable at the time that I don’t think any of us observed interactions between the members as it pertained to Bon and Malcolm,’ says Meniketti. ‘If we did, I don’t remember anything going down. Just the partying part and the band performances, outside of a few other things that we observed about the road manager trying to gather all the DC guys after the shows. You know, typical stuff that happens on the road.
‘But years later when we toured for two months with AC/DC on the For Those About To Rock tour in the UK and Europe, there was no question we saw the presence of Malcolm in his band environment. It was put to us by our manager that Malcolm was the guy you didn’t want to piss off or we would be off the tour immediately. When the guys would invite us into their room after their performances, sitting down to talk and eat their after show meals (on that two-month tour), we could really get a sense of the band dynamic. It was sort of obvious to us that Malcolm seemed to rule the day.'
As for Bon, he left an impression even if the memories are fading.
‘I just wish I had the presence of mind to really pay attention and remember more things about him as he was hanging with us,’ says Meniketti. ‘Time has eroded much of the details, as we were so young and it all happened so fast in a three-day span that it sort of became a bit of a blur to me. Our heads were in the clouds as we started our career and this just seemed to happen in a flash.
‘His death was a total shock to all of us. While we knew he was a hard partying kind of guy that lived life with full gusto, I don't think we ever gave it a thought as to how it could lead to his demise. We were somewhat used to guys around us that partied like there was no tomorrow, so he was not completely unusual to us. When you're young and crazy you feel invincible. But I can say without hesitation that his awesome gritty voice, unusual swagger on stage, and fun partying kind of personality off stage, made him an instant legend amongst our band members and crew.’
BON: THE LAST HIGHWAY: THE UNTOLD STORY OF BON SCOTT AND AC/DC'S BACK IN BLACK is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and hundreds of other retailers. Just click the title above (in red).
2017 is an important year for AC/DC – or should at least be for every serious AC/DC fan. It marks the 40th anniversary of the international release of AC/DC’s landmark album Let There Be Rock and the 40th anniversary of its first American tour. My book, Bon: The Last Highway, is the untold story of Bon in America from 1977–79 and his death in London in 1980.
It’s hard to believe just how far AC/DC – a band that has sold well over 200 million records – has come since that first show in Austin, Texas. To give you an idea how long ago we're talking about, John Lennon had just got his Green Card. Bjorn Borg had won Wimbledon. The Soviet Union had performed an underground nuclear test. Vietnam had joined the United Nations. Jimmy Carter, a Southern rock–loving Democrat governor from Georgia, was President of the United States.
They also had a proverbial mountain to climb to get the attention of booking agents and radio programmers, being such a relatively unknown quantity in the States at that time, practically unheard on the airwaves outside Texas, Florida and California, though the portents for their first crack at the USA at least seemed good for the Australians when they arrived in July 1977.
AC/DC had made quite an impression in England and Europe and the Sydney Morning Herald trumpeted that the band was on the cusp of international fame: ‘They have moved with calculated accuracy in the direction of fame and fortune both here and overseas. Their records are consistent powerhouses of raw energy. Their songs move as restlessly as Hannibal’s elephants.’
The reality, however, was a little starker for AC/DC. Down Under, the band was hardly flavour of the month.
AC/DC got banned from performing at Tamworth’s Town Hall in December 1976. An editorial in the Northern Daily Leader praised local aldermen for ‘acting wisely and in the best interests of our young children in refusing to allow the hall to be used if there is any danger of [rock] groups infringing decent moral standards by their on-stage actions and lyrics. Unfortunately, audiences at many of the rock concerts are mainly sub-teenage girls. They need protection.’
On December 30 1976 an article appeared in Melbourne’s Age: ‘The five-member Melbourne group who claim to be the original punk rock band have had concerts banned, official concert programmes seized, and been attacked in both State and Federal Parliaments for corrupting children’s morals.’
In January 1977, Portland and Eaglehawk councils in Victoria asked for $500 and $2000 bonds respectively before they’d allow AC/DC to play. ‘This will prevent one of the group’s guitarists dropping his pants on stage,’ said the Age. In England, too, as Angus Young admitted, the dropping-pants act had worn thin with the authorities: ‘We’d have the whole vice squad at some shows. The same Britain where they have topless women in their daily papers… in the end, even the police were laughing about it.’
‘Audiences at many of the rock concerts are mainly sub-teenage girls. They need protection.'
– An editorial in the Northern Daily Leader
Stateside, too, AC/DC’s first international album, High Voltage (1976), a collection of cuts from their first two Australian albums (I've posted some photos of an original mint press release in the gallery above), was only getting heavy airplay from Bill Bartlett at WPDQ/WAIV in Jacksonville (proved by a lone 22 January 1977 mention in Billboard’s ‘Album Radio Action’ charts, substantiating without doubt Bartlett’s longstanding claim that AC/DC took off in Florida before anywhere else), but the band was to get a key review further south in the Miami News – nearly a year before they even touched down on American soil.
There aren't a hell of a lot of newspaper clippings about AC/DC from America in 1976 – I have a personal collection containing a few very rare clippings from Texas, and I found in archives several others I've included in the book – but during my research for Bon: The Last Highway, by pure luck I found this old newspaper from 29 October 1976.
Jon Marlowe even concluded his preceding review of the various-artists Atlantic Records release Live at CBGB’s by saying, ‘If you’re into punk, just forget this one and pick up on “High Voltage” by AC/DC instead.’
At a time when AC/DC wasn't getting a whole lotta love, how shrewd the floridly expressive Mr Marlowe turned out to be.
HIGH VOLTAGE – AC/DC – (ATLANTIC)
You say you ripped holes in your $30 jeans to look just like Dee Dee Ramone while dreaming of spending ten minutes alone with Joan Jett of the Runaways in the Aloha Motel with the Flamin’ Groovies blasting from your cassette player.
And you say Yes are five musical vegetarians you’d like to run through a Veg-O-Matic and you refuse to patronize music stores that even stock synthesizers.
Well, kid, have we got an album for you – ‘High Voltage’ – by a group of five Scottish-Australian punks who call themselves AC/DC and dress in London schoolboy clothes and utter such memorable statements as ‘Can I Sit Next To You Girl?’.
AC/DC is currently giving Eddie and the Hot Rods and the Sex Pistols (two of Britian’s [sic] primo punk rockers) a real run for the money [sic] and you should immediately fork over the price of this one just for the wonderous [sic] experience of hearing the 96 decibel delight: ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock ’N’ Roll’.)
BON: THE LAST HIGHWAY: THE UNTOLD STORY OF BON SCOTT AND AC/DC'S BACK IN BLACK is available to preorder now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and hundreds of other retailers. Just click the title above (in red) to preorder and save on the retail price.
Jesse Fink is the author of Bon: The Last Highway: The Untold Story of Bon Scott and AC/DC's Back In Black and The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC. For more information about Bon, click HERE or click the book covers below to be directed to editions in your preferred territory and language.