AC/DC’s secret weapon
If you like your rock hard, you love AC/DC. But how did they get such a punch-in-the-guts sound? Nothing comes from nowhere, does it? Above is a trailer for parts one and two of a superb film that tells all. It’s called “Blood & Thunder: The Sound of Alberts” and every hard rock fan needs to watch it. To find out more, read on.
“Nobody plays electric guitar harder than Australians.”
That quote, or words to that affect, came from Angry Anderson, lead singer of Rose Tattoo in the film above.
If you’ve never heard of Rose Tattoo, they were a pile-driving Aussie blues-rock band that influenced a host of American guitar bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses, Foo Fighters and Motley Crew. Below is a taste of Rose Tattoo live in Germany some 37 years ago.
It’s no coincidence Rose Tattoo had that same aggressive guitar punch as their stablemates, AC/DC. The guys behind AC/DC were the guys behind Rose Tattoo. And the Angels. And Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and … the list goes on. All these hard-rocking Aussie bands made it big in America, for a while anyway.
So what was their secret? What was AC/DC’s secret? There were four main ingredients.
1. An Aussie band made up of recently-arrived migrants from the UK and Holland: the Easybeats
2. A Scots family named Young (See brothers Angus, Malcolm and George, left to right, on the cover shot)
3. A Dutch guitarist called Vanda
3. A ‘straight’ Australian music publisher with an ear for great rock: Ted Albert.
It started with the Easybeats.
The Easybeats were a band out of Sydney, Australia, made up of UK migrants fresh off the boat to the old convict colony of New South Wales. They were two Englishmen – frontman and drummer, a Scottish rhythm guitarist, and two Dutchmen – lead guitar and bass. If you’ve a spare 50 minutes, why not catch the movie below.
The Easybeats’ talent was spotted and nurtured by Ted Albert, who’d set up Albert Production, with Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs his first signing. Albert produced all the Easybeats early hits, although he was replaced by American producer, Shel Talmy, when the band were in London. Talmy, who had produced The Who and the Kinks, had huge success with the Easybeats on the US, UK, Canadian and European pop charts in 1966, with the Vanda-Young-penned single, “Friday On My Mind.”
Vanda-Young were the Easybeats song-writers: rhythm guitarist, George Young, and lead guitarist, Harry Vanda. In 1973, Glaswegian Young, and Dutchman Vanda, joined Albert Productions as song-writers and producers.
George Young, by then, was always banging on about the guitar prowess of his two younger brothers, Malcolm and Angus. Once Ted Albert heard them, he signed them up. The Youngs’ sister suggested the name AC/DC – as seen on her Singer sewing machine – and one of the biggest bands of all time were up and running.
Malcolm Young was on rhythm, Angus Young was on lead (what rhythm! what lead!) and Vanda-Young were behind the control desk.
In late 1974, Vanda-Young produced AC/DC’s single “Can I Sit Next to You Girl“, followed by tsuch early albums as High Voltage (1975), TNT and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976), Let There Be Rock (1977), Powerage and If You Want Blood You’ve Got It (1978). This was what became known as the Alberts Sound.
As well as AC/DC, Vanda-Young also wrote and/or produced a string of hits for artists like Rose Tattoo (see the Tatts’ “Bad Boy For Love” video up top), the Angels, hard rock girls Cheetah and TMG – Ted Mulry Gang.
I used Ted Mulry’s Vanda-Young-produced version of an old ragtime classic, in the video below. It follows the song’s journey from 1917 to 1976. It was only the second video I’d made, but if you get past the film’s middle, you’ll be rewarded by footage of a couple jiving in 1916 – amazing historic footage – accompanied by TMG’s Status Quo-like track.
As George Harrison wrote, all things must pass, and during the last couple of months, sadly, George and Malcolm Young passed. But you don’t need me to tell you that.
George Young, 70, died in October 2017. Malcolm Young, 64, died in November 2017. May they rest in peace.