Hell’s Bells it’s AC/DC: Jonathan Trew is on the Highway to Hampden
As AC/DC limber up to play Hampden Park on Sunday night, writer and founder of Glasgow Music City Tours, Jonathan Trew, goes all misty-eyed as he recalls falling for the band as a teenager.
Recently, a friend was ribbing me for playing Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, one of AC/DC’s earlier albums. His charges were that the lyrics had a teenager’s sense of humour; the music was basic rock ‘n’ roll and that the guitarist, Glasgow-born Angus Young, still dressed as a schoolboy at the age of 60. Guilty as charged, m’lud, but nothing to apologise for. You might not want to try and justify many of AC/DC’s more crude lyrics before, say, your Mum but the band’s absurd sense of fun and unswerving commitment to simple but effective blues rock are exactly what have made them one of the biggest bands in the world.
Growing up in a Dundee suburb in the Eighties, AC/DC represented pretty much everything that I wanted but couldn’t or shouldn’t have. This was a time when the frothy pop of Wham, Duran Duran and Kajagoogoo seemed to rule the airwaves. They all had their merits. It’s just that as a teenage boy, I was oblivious as to what they might be.
At parties, you had to at least feign interest in Careless Whispers to be in with a chance of any female interest. In my own room, I was much more interested in the defiant stomp of Hell’s Bells; the parent-baiting blitz of Problem Child or the sexual allure of You Shook Me All Night Long – a song whose subject matter intrigued precisely because I only vaguely understood what it was about.
Motorhead and Iron Maiden offered similar forbidden thrills but without the cheeky double or, more likely, single entendres. Motorhead’s Lemmy would never be mistaken for a ray of sunshine and, for all their Boy’s Own Adventure appeal, Iron Maiden often seemed rather earnest. AC/DC had the same swagger, the same bravado and the same tales of hell-raising bar brawls but they were usually accompanied by a knowing wink.
For a teenage boy, it was the aural equivalent of catnip. I saw them play Edinburgh Playhouse when they were touring For Those About To Rock We Salute You. As was customary, Angus was carried into the crowd on the back of a roadie for a guitar solo. At one point, he shook his hair and showered those around him in sweat. Looking back, it’s disgusting. At the time, it was like being touched by some sort of deity.
Of course, no-one remains a teenager forever. Jobs, responsibilities and real relationships come along and few of them have much resonance with the world view of AC/DC songs. Live your life like an AC/DC lyric and you’ll soon be divorced and doing a ten stretch.
Not there is anything wrong with a little fantasy every now and then. The opening rush of Rocker from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap still makes my blood pump faster. My head-banging years are long gone but AC/DC’s songs will always revive that teen spirit. The Eighties tour T-shirt stopped being merely snug quite a few years back. While the flesh is spilling over, the spirit remains willing and I suspect that tens of thousands of former teenagers will feel exactly the same way when AC/DC take to the stage of Hampden on Sunday night.