Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Books

Review: New AC/DC bio by Mick Wall rocks with revelations

Before Angus Young dressed up in a schoolboy suit, the wee guitar giant strapped on Superman's cape. No kidding: He was "Super Ang," one of myriad on-stage guises AC/DC's lead hellion tried on before settling into his iconic academic uni — and shaking the world all night long.

"At one point he had even affected a Zorro look," writes Mick Wall in a bawdy new bio on the bluesy crew, "replete with mask and cape, drawing a plastic sword across his guitar strings in pantomime emulation of Jimmy Page's use of a violin bow in parts of Led Zeppelin's show."

If all you fanboys would like to take a minute to flip out, go ahead:

How awesome is that?!!

A significant part of AC/DC's four-decade allure is that for all its thunderstruck success — success derived outside the typical music-biz avenues, AC/DC existing in its own unique, authority-thwarting bubble — not much is known about the band behind Back in Black, the second-highest-selling album of all time (50 million copies sold), behind only Michael Jackson's Thriller.

That's why Wall's AC/DC: Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be is such a revelation — if not exactly a deep cultural examination on how a band with little PR interest is one of the highest-grossing outfits of all time. (Why does everyone love AC/DC? Maybe because they betray the rules — and win anyway. That's a good place to start.) The book has enough goodies to shake your foundations about Hall of Famers who have never met a horndog innuendo they couldn't cram between killer riffs and American thighs.

A British journo who writes like the smartest grunt at the pub, Wall digs in where he can, interviewing associates, rummaging through archives. (Wall also has a Lou Reed bio coming out this week, a release date perhaps accelerated by his subject's death last month.) He uncovers some jaw-dropping stuff. For instance, the fight song for Angus' primary school? "School that is set on a hill, we salute you!" Wow, right?

Or how about this: When working-class Scottish lads Angus and brother Malcolm moved to Australia with their parents, upon landing at the airport, Angus "would make an immediate impression on fellow passengers by throwing up all over the baggage-claim area."

It's fun, filling stuff, although Wall gets scant help from the gnomish Young brothers, who are reminiscent of the coarse, sparring hillbillies in that old Bugs Bunny cartoon, beating the tar out of each other and their environs. Part of the band's prickly energy derives from the fact that Malcolm, the band's rhythm guitarist and de facto leader, is believed by many to be a better all-around musician than Angus; he just didn't have the star power.

Wall devotes more than two-thirds of the book to ill-fated singer Bon Scott, who helped lead the band into the international spotlight but also seemingly sunk its future with his drinking, drugging ways. The irascible Scott died on Feb. 19, 1980, at age 33 after choking on his own vomit, an autopsy showing that "his organs were like those of a sixty-year-old man." If you want blood, you got it.

Oddly enough, Wall is less interested in the Greatest Second Act in Rock History: the Youngs discovering howling English singer (and now Sarasota resident) Brian Johnson, who took over lead vocal duties on 1980's Back in Black. That LP was produced with a bombastic touch by Mutt Lange (who went on to marry, and then divorce, Shania Twain).

Back in Black is considered by Rolling Stone (and this critic) to be one of the greatest albums ever. It's a hard-driving testament to the somewhat sociopathic, single-minded drive of Malcolm and Angus, who have little time to mourn or second-guess or deal in, like, feelings and heartache and stuff like that: If you're not rocking out, mate, you're wasting time.

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

Comments

Events: Writers in Paradise features Banks, Lippman, more

Book TalkThe Writers in Paradise evening readings continue this week. All readings will take place in the Miller Auditorium at Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Books will be available for purchase on site. All readings are free and o...
Published: 01/11/18
Notable: Books on Trump, one year in

Notable: Books on Trump, one year in

NotableOne year inWith the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration approaching, here are new books about him. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Henry Holt) by Michael Wolff is the incendiary look at the administration that provoke...
Published: 01/11/18
Andre Dubus III reads to ‘sink more deeply’ into the human condition

Andre Dubus III reads to ‘sink more deeply’ into the human condition

NightstandAndre Dubus IIIEckerd College’s Writers in Paradise conference takes place this week, and one of the returning faculty members is Andre Dubus III. Dubus is the author of six books, including Bluesman, Townie and two novels turned films, The...
Published: 01/11/18
Steph Post’s Florida noir ‘Walk in the Fire’ a sizzling sequel to ‘Lightwood’

Steph Post’s Florida noir ‘Walk in the Fire’ a sizzling sequel to ‘Lightwood’

In Steph Post’s new novel, Walk in the Fire, there’s a young aspiring criminal with a gift for astute observation. Asked to describe the tiny Central Florida town of Silas, where much of the book takes place, he says, "You drive through and it’s like...
Published: 01/11/18
Former Times columnist Klinkenberg named Florida Folk Heritage Award winner

Former Times columnist Klinkenberg named Florida Folk Heritage Award winner

Raise a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and toast former Tampa Bay Times columnist Jeff Klinkenberg. This week, he was announced as one of three 2018 winners of the Florida Folk Heritage Awards.The awards honor outstanding folk artists and folk ...
Published: 01/10/18
Harry Belafonte, who will visit USF, reflects on friendship with Martin Luther King Jr.

Harry Belafonte, who will visit USF, reflects on friendship with Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1964, when they were both 37, Harry Belafonte and his friend Sidney Poitier traveled to the town of Greenwood, Miss. As the two entertainers made their journey to meet with members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, they were chased...
Published: 01/09/18
New book from Tampa tax attorney tops bestseller lists

New book from Tampa tax attorney tops bestseller lists

Tampa tax attorney and certified financial planner Rebecca Walser hit the timing sweet spot with the Jan. 3 publication of her book, Wealth Unbroken: Growing Wealth Uninterrupted by Market Crashes, Taxes, or Even Death (Atlantic, $22.95 paperback, $4...
Published: 01/08/18
Two dying memoirists wrote best-sellers about their final days. Then their spouses fell in love

Two dying memoirists wrote best-sellers about their final days. Then their spouses fell in love

SAN MATEO, Calif. — The literary pairing was inevitable."When Breath Becomes Air," Paul Kalanithi’s memoir of his final years as he faced lung cancer at age 37, was published posthumously, in 2016, to critical acclaim and commercial success. "The Bri...
Published: 01/04/18
Review: Lippman’s ‘Sunburn’ a sizzling salute to James Cain

Review: Lippman’s ‘Sunburn’ a sizzling salute to James Cain

It doesn’t get much more noir than James M. Cain. Or at least it didn’t until Laura Lippman’s Sunburn came along. Back in the 1930s, Cain wrote a couple of novels that pretty much established — and perfected — the noir ...
Published: 01/04/18
Russell Banks, Ana Menendez among authors to appear at Writers in Paradise readings

Russell Banks, Ana Menendez among authors to appear at Writers in Paradise readings

During the day, Writers in Paradise is all work. The conference at St. Petersburg’s Eckerd College draws writers from around the country eager to hone their craft in eight days of intensive workshops in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.At night, the co...
Published: 01/04/18