tisdag 1 mars 2011

Bokrecension och Q&A´s!

Phil Sutcliffe

"AC/DC High voltage rock n´roll: The ultimate illustrated history" (2010)

AC/DC tillhör de där riktigt stora banden som kan sälja ut gigantiska arenor världen över, utan att egentligen behöva göra någonting. De skulle inte behöva ge ut fler skivor, utan bara snickra ihop en turné och ändå dra mer publik och håva in mer pengar än de flesta band.
Senaste albumet ”Black ice” blev en försäljningsframgång utan dess like och den tillhörande turnén kom att bli en av deras största och längsta. Själv hade jag åter nöjet att se de gamla herrarna på Stadion i Stockholm och var fullkomligt lyrisk efter konserten. Sällan har väl ett gäng i den höga åldern utstrålat så mycket energi och glädje, som AC/DC gjorde den vackar sommarkvällen.
Muiskjournalisten Phil Sutcliffe har med hjälp av Voyageur press snickrat ihop en rejäl bok drygt 220 sidor, sprängfylld med allehanda godis från bandets långa karriär. Historien berättas kronologiskt och tar upp de viktigaste händelserna, men bygger i mångt och mycket mest på andra böckers och tidningars informationsflöde. Nej, det roliga med denna bok är allt det andra. Fantastiska foton från tidigt 70-tal, bl a från ett improviserat gig på legendariska och numera nedlagda CBGB´s i New York. Eller varför inte bilderna från Whisky A Go Go i LA 1977. Det är svettigt, hårt och rockande.
Till alla bilder förljer kommentarer och berättelser, ofta från fotograferna själva. Men det bjuds även på mängder av backstagepass, gamla biljetter, svåra skivor och roliga gamla konsertannonser från bl a brittisk press. Med andra ord ett riktigt himmelrike för AC/DC-fantasten!
Phil Sutcliffe står för den genomgående historieberättelsen, men mellan hans utdelade portioner bjuds det äeven på iakttagelser från andra mer eller mindre kända människor. Journalsiter som Martin Popoff, Sylvie Simmons och Anthony Bozza får även de berätta sina tankar och minnen kring bandet och gör det bra och i de flesta fall underhållande. I slutet av boken finns även en genomarbetad diskografi och varje album har en egen sektion i boken där allehanda folk får ge sin syn på respektive album. Klart läsvärt!
En kille vid namn Bill Voccia har en enorm samling med AC/DC-prylar och hans saker finns representerade genom hela boken. Dessutom ägnade sig folket bakom boken till månaders inköp från Ebay, för att få ihop ett så intressant och givande material till boken som möjligt.
Kanske är det inte några större eller nya sensationer som det bjuds på i boken, men det var nog inte heller tanken. Hur som haver är det en riktigt snygg bok där tyngden lagts på bildmaterial och samlingsmani. Dessutom är flertalet bilder sådana som aldrig tidigare sett dagens ljus. Bara det är värt summan du får lägga ut på detta verk. Köp. Läs, titta och njut samtidigt som du spelar ”Powerage” i bakgrunden och återigen slås över hur makalöst bra bandet är. Få har lyckats komponera ihop så tunga och slagkraftiga riff som bröderna Young!

Jag tänkte att det kunde vara kul att höra lite om bakgrunden till boken och hur man jobbat med att sätta ihop den. Sagt och gjort, jag mailade Phil Sutcliffe, Dennis Pernu (redaktör) och Robert Francos (fotograf) och fick omgående läsvärda svar tillbaka.

Phil Sutcliffe (föfattare/journalist):

When did you get the idea for this book and what sparked that idea?

Phil: Dennis Pernu of Voyageur publishing in Minneapolis sparked the idea by
saying "How about we do an AC?DC book?" I'd written the narrative for
an earlier book in the Illustrated History series - about Queen - that
worked OK and he must have known from somewhere that I'd written about
them in their early days. Seemed like an enjoyable job and the money
was acceptable!

How long did it take to put it together and were you able to get all the people you wanted involved in it?

Phil: I was just doing the main narrative which, in this format, is about
30,000 words. In itself that's a short book, but it's only about half
the words in the Illustrated History. My work took about three months
spread over about six months - I wrote articles for Mojo and others
during that time, being a freelance, no salary coming in etc.

How did you decide on all the writers and photographers to be part of the book? Did you know of all the photographers prior to your book and had you seen their photos?

Phil: All of this is down to Dennis and the team in Minneapolis. It's just a
huge chunk of work to get all the visual material together and the
designers and picture researchers at Voyageur do a fabulous job on
every book they undertake - I'm just lucky to have had my name on the
cover of a couple of them.

Did you at any time try and contact the band and get a comment from them?

Phil: No, I didn't. Neither the budget nor the writing space available in
the Illustrated History format are sufficient to go for a whole new
biography of a band. Dennis picks writers who are familiar with the
story of whichever artist and will diligently draw on their own
resources/old interviews and whatever else is available to construct a
tight, "accurate" narrative to support the visuals and also the new,
lengthy album reviews and other info - I put the inverted commas
around "accurate" because you never ever get the whole truth of
anyone' s life, even if you can check with them personally (issues of
memory and honesty both) so you just do your best and try not to mess
up too badly.

How did you get in touch with Bill Voccia and did you know of his vast AC/DC collection already?

Phil: I refer you to Dennis on that one. I know his contribution was crucial
and much appreciated.

How did you go about picking out all the pictures, posters, passes etc? All by yourself or with the help of others?

Phil: Again, over to the team in Minneapolis.

Were there a lot of cool stuff that didn´t make it into the book?

Phil: As above re the visuals, which I think is what you mean here. On the
words side, I always write too long and cut back so I think my first
draft text would have been 45-50,000 words. You do lose some nice
details when cutting by 50-60 per cent, that's for sure, but the book
can only be so long - and as you work at tightening the writing
definitely gets clearer and more readable too so it's not all bad by
any means - I don't personally feel that thing writers often talk
about, that in editing you "kill your children". My favourite boast is
that I'm a "wordsmith" - a craftsman, not an artist, and proud of it.

Please tell us about the first time you saw AC/DC live? Fondest memory of that show?

Phil: That was back in London when they first came over. I keep on wondering
whether I saw their very first gig here, at the Nashville, but I think
I've read so much about it I've invented a kind of ghost memory. So
the real one is the Marquee, which I wrote about in Sounds. That was
the hottest summer of my rather long lifetime - 1976? (Sorry I
finished writing the book a year ago now and the stats and dates fade
from memory.) That marquee gig was maybe the hottest night of my life
in every sense. The band were fantastic, just the absolute essence of
hard rock - not heavy metal! (as they would always insist and I agree
totally). Peering above the crowd from the back I was. I remember
leaning against the wall, drenched in sweat and being aware that the
ceiling, which was very low, had started raining on us - so much
perspiration rising, condensing, falling again. Quite refreshing in a
somewhat icky way. the band obviously took the heat much better than
we Brits did and they just hammered through their set, everything
right there as it was always to be, the rhythm section just lifting
you pulse beat, Malcolm uncanny the way he makes the beat so hard -
it's not funk but it affects you like an ace funk band, James Brown,
it's so visceral, the rhythm of life you know - and then there's all
the action from Angus - imagine seeing him for the first time, the cap
and shorts and satchel, kind of mad but the guitar playing the best
hard rock ever, aye, neats Eddie Van Halen and all the rest for me
because he stayed so close to what happens in R&B (old meaning) - and
then Bon, the rude twinkle in his eye si what I remember more than
anything although it was pretty impressive the way he carried Angus out
into the crowd and so on. I don't know that I appreciated the wit of
his lyrics at that point, probably couldn't hear them much, but as
soon as I really listened I knew that was something else that made
them special - and the Aussie and Brit sense of saucy sexy fun is
pretty adjacent (especially given the Youngs and Bon were born Brits
of course).

When was the first time you interviewed a member of the band and what do you remember from that?

Phil: Soon after that gig I interviewed them all at the flat they were
sharing in London and that was a lot of fun too - I was older than all
of them except Bon but I just liked their down-to-earth funny approach
to everything and the easy informality of sitting around with these
straight-up Aussies drinking tea and hearing about their exploits with
Rosie and so on (Bon called her Bertha at that point, he must have not
written the song by then, just be rolling the yarn around his

Who came up with the idea for the "spinning Angus" on the book´s cover?

Phil: Over to Dennis and the bold, jokey geniuses of the design department.
Perfectly appropriate to have had a laugh with the cover I think...

Do you have a favorite AC/DC show of all the ones you´ve attended?

Phil: Straight back to that night at the Marquee, an all-time great up there
with Rolling Stones at Stevenage Locarno, 1963, Bruce Springsteen at
Royal Albert Hall 2005(?) and Brian Wilson & Wondermints at Festival
Hall 200? (the first time he played there and did the Smiley Smile
album start to finish)... and a few others no doubt.

Tell us a bit about your history as a music journalist!

Phil: Wrote about the Stones for the school magazine in 1963, then a hiatus
until i was an apprentice journalist on the local paper in Newcastle
upon Tyne in the early 70s and started DJing a bit and doing some
interviews for Radio Newcastle - Sparks was my very first band
interview. Then down to London and Sounds, later The Face, Smash Hits,
Q, Mojo, Los Angeles Times etc - Mojo my remaining mainstay along with
a couple of books. It's been great, I've been a lucky man making a
living in this line of work for more than 30 years as a freelance.

Are you working on any new book projects?

Phil: Yes, one on my absolute hero, Springsteen. Not commissioned as yet so
you may never have the chance to not buy it...
Thanks to all at Metal Shrine for taking an interest in this AC/DC
book. Hope it entertains any of you who may read it and all the best
from now until then.

Dennis Pernu (redaktör):

Where did you get the idea for this kind of AC/DC book?

Dennis: We had published Whole Lotta Led Zeppelin (2008) and Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History (2009), both of which were well-received. Ever since, we’ve been constantly casting about for other bands and artists with long, engaging histories and rabid worldwide followings. AC/DC seemed to fit the bill, and so far that hunch has proven correct.

How long did it take to put together?

Dennis: Just about a year, from the time I asked Phil if he was interested in writing the main narrative to the day we had finished books sitting in our warehouse! Ideally we’d have more time to put books like this together, but because our music publishing program was still relatively young at the time, we were still getting up to speed on getting books into the marketplace.

Did you know of Bill Voccia before this project or any of the other ones involved in the book?

Dennis: I did not know Bill before beginning this project but was fortunate to find him and have him agree to get involved. You’ll notice a lot of the more interesting items depicted in the book come from his vast collection.
A few of the other writers and photographers featured in the book had contributed to previous projects, notably Detroit-based photographer Rob Alford, Garth Cartwright (who penned the piece exploring AC/DC’s brief dalliance with the world of punk rock), Dave Hunter (who wrote the sidebar on Malcolm and Angus’s gear and who also wrote a stellar book for us last year called Star Guitars), Andrew Earles (who contributed to the Zep and Queen books but also wrote a full-length narrative history about Hüsker Dü, which we also published last year). Let’s see . . . Gary Graff has also written pieces for us in the past (he gathered all those great musician quotes on the endpapers), as has Sylvie Simmons.
Other than that, I tried to target writers who I felt were considered some of the world’s top scribes in the realms of hard rock, heavy metal, and AC/DC—guys like Ian Christe, Daniel Bukszpan, Martin Popoff, Joe Bonomo, Anthony Bozza—and photographers like Robert Ellis, Philip Morris, and Bob King who had iconic images of the band. Happily, I was able to agree to terms with all of them.

How did you go about picking out the items featured in the book?

Dennis: Believe it or not, aside from Voccia’s items, the bulk of the memorabilia was the result of 4 or 5 months of scouring eBay on a daily basis.

Tell us about the "spinning Angus cover"!

Dennis: Whenever we decide to publish a book we have a preliminary meeting to discuss possible cover concepts. I had already seen Rob Alford’s photo of Angus spinning on the stage at the 1979 World Series of Rock and half-jokingly suggested we incorporate an actual spinner to assimilate Angus’s famous stage antics. At the time I got the impression that most of the room thought I was nuts. But the person who managed the book’s design process and the person who arranges for the manufacturing of our books took up the idea and ran with it. When everyone else saw that they were pursuing it and that it was actually possible, it just took on a life of its own.
I think it really captures the manic energy of the music in a way a static photo can’t. The spinner is also a bit goofy, just like Angus’s stage performances. “Goofy” in a good way, of course. It’s interesting, my 6-year-old son and I just saw School of Rock and Jack Black’s character shows his students footage of Angus spinning on stage. My son thought it was hilarious. It really speaks to the band that they can appeal to rock fans from ages 6 to 60.

Was there a lot of cool stuff that didn’t end up in the book?

Dennis: Arnaud Durieux has a mind-bending gigography that I wanted to license for the book, but he respectfully declined, citing his own future book project. Other than that, one of the main problems with assembling these books is that usually a day or two after it goes to press you stumble upon a killer piece of memorabilia or photo that you missed or that wasn’t available when you were gathering materials.

How did you get Phil Sutcliffe involved?

Dennis: Phil penned the main narrative of our aforementioned Queen book. He was such a pro’s pro on that project, and I was aware of his old Sounds review of a 1976 AC/DC show at the Marquee in London, so I asked him if he wanted to write this one. I think the fact that all these people whom I badly wanted to be involved with the book agreed to it speaks to how much people really love this band.

Tell us about your first AC/DC show? How many times have you seen them live?

Dennis: Unfortunately, I’ve never seen the band live! The thing I realized about AC/DC while putting this book together is that they were always pigeonholed in the States as a metal band, which of course they’re not . . . they’re just a loud, fast rock ’n’ roll band. But that categorization turned me off when I was younger, even though I’d heard a lot of their stuff. So as someone who came of age listening to bands like the Replacements in the ’80s and then going to tons of club shows in the ’90s (Soul Asylum, Mudhoney, Rev. Horton Heat, Run Westy Run, the Cows, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, the Jayhawks, Wilco, etc.), I was too doctrinaire to go back and explore AC/DC, because, well, the ’80s and even the early ’90s weren’t altogether kind to them and they were considered dinosaurs. I regret not getting to know them earlier. Despite the “indie rock” ethos that I bought into, AC/DC were clearly a band that paid their dues and that even influenced, to varying degrees, the bands I was listening to.

Favorite AC/DC item in the book and why?

Dennis: That’s a tough one. The spread of silkscreened Black Ice tour posters is cool, but I would have to say that a handful of photos are my favorites, particularly Robert Francos’s CBGB photos and Jenny Lens’s Whisky A Go Go shots (check out Jenny’s image showing Angus’s sweat-drenched SG). I mean, who doesn’t wish they saw AC/DC in a small rock club? Also, there are a couple of two-page spreads showing crowds at the Apollo Theater in Glasgow and at Monsters of Rock, which I love. And, the Rob Alford shot on page 88. You always read about the prodigious amounts of snot that would fly from Angus’s nose at shows. Here, you can actually see the boogers in his nose!

Favorite AC/DC record and why?

Dennis: Ooh, another difficult one! I’d have to say the High Voltage (the Atlantic debut)—the LP that introduced the band to the rest of the world. It’s just tight, blues-based rock full of Bon’s trademark wit. Plus Rolling Stone called it an “all-time low” for hard rock, so the boys had to be doing something right. I wish they’d included their version of “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” Seems just about everyone’s covered the song, but I don’t think anyone’s surpassed AC/DC’s take. Budgie and Lightning Hopkins came close. . .

Any other projects going on?

Dennis: Speaking of “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” we have a similar treatment of Aerosmith due in September (written by Guitar World executive editor Rich Bienstock), and Iron Maiden coming next spring (by UK-based metal journo Neil Daniels).

Robert Francos (Bidrog med bilder och berättelse):

Tell us about that show at CBGB´s!

Robert: (Edited from my blog at http://ffanzeen.blogspot.com/2008/11/acdc-at-cbgbs-1977.html:) On August 24, 1977, I went to CBGB's to see one of my favorite powerpop bands, The Marbles. As their set was ending, suddenly there was a commotion at the back of the club. Then I noticed part of the crowd moving toward the stage, surrounding a cluster of people. That’s when they announced AC/DC as the next band to play over the speaker, though they were not scheduled. It seems AC/DC had been playing in town at the Academy of Music (which would be renamed as The Palladium) to support their High Voltage album, and wanted to check out the club. The band proceeded to play a full impromptu set, which actually lasted longer many other local bands’ turn at the mic. And this was after their playing a full concert uptown shortly before. The late singer Bonn Scott ran around the relatively small stage, ripping his shirt off along the way. Meanwhile, guitarist Angus Young also frenetically moved like a madman, brandishing his guitar like a weapon of noise, and playing their fun version of pop metal. At one point, Angus switched guitars that either had a remote or a really long cord (I can’t remember which). He then made his way through the crowd, while playing wild solo licks, and went outside. So, there was little Angus, while still playing thrashing chords, talking to the transient gents from the Palace Hotel milling outside CBGB.

What did you think of it? Were you impressed?

Robert: I'd never heard the band before, honestly, except for clips on television concert programs. They were fun, to be sure, and active on stage, that was obvious. I was more impressed with Angus's playing than Bon's vocals at the time. I couldn't make out what he was singing thanks to accoustics, volume, and Bon's growl, but that is pretty common at any club. If I would have known it was Bon's last tour, I may have been more observant of particulars and details, but I just enjoyed it for what it was. Though I'd been going to punk shows for a couple of years, metal was a bit out of my ken, so I had no base on which to compare it, so I just accepted it. It was also strange considering that AC/DC was a polar opposite of the powerpop Marlbles I had come to see (though the Marbles' guitarist, Howard Bowler, is a phenom in his own right). One of the things that impressed me was how well AC/DC all "moved" together. It was sort of like a jazz band that had been playing together long enough to know each other well enough to play off of them. And considering they just finished a who-knows-how-long show uptown, they went in full throttle. Yes, it was impressive.

How many photos did you snap all together of that show?

Robert: 11 in color, 18 in B&W. The band was moving around so fast, and I did not have a flash at that time, that all the pictures were blurry due to the movement. At first I was disappointed by the blur, but after some time I found that the effect was almost like echo from the guitar, giving a true feel to the motion of the moment. A few of the photos have appeared in two books so far: "33-1/3: AC/DC's 'Highway to Hell'" by Joe Bonomo (2010) and "AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock'n'Roll The Ultimate Illustrated History" by Phil Sutcliffe (2010). While both quote me, Sutcliffe's lists me as one of the many "Contributed By".

What was the crowd´s reaction to the band?

Robert: During their performance the audience was a 50/50 mix of people who had been there before and a crowd that had followed them from uptown. Just about everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Some of the 50% who were there before were in shock that AC/DC was playing at the club and were so fortunate, yet there was a very small group who were just not impressed at all. Obviously the 50% that came with them were whooping it up quite a bit. CBGBs had tables throughout then (which would be removed during the hardcore days to come to make room for a mosh pit), so the entourage that came with them stayed toward the back of the dining area, near the bar.

Did they play an encore?

Robert: I don't remember. Now, mind you, I taped the show on an audio-cassette. I lent it to someone a years ago who wanted to hear the Marbles. Then, a couple of years later, I sold a pic I took that night of AC/DC to a collector from Europe, and as a thank you he sent a bootleg CD to me of the show. It was from my own tape! I know because it starts with someone making a comment about Angus's legs, and it was me... It's only about 20 minutes long because the tape ran out. However, just a couple of years ago, getting ready to move, I found the second part of the tape, only to misplace it again during the move (I have hundreds of tapes, being interviews, live shows, and demos of bands, many unlabeled). At some point, when I find it again, I'll make it available to collectors, but until then, oh, well, guess people will just have to drool in antici-----pation.

Did they stay and hang out after the show?

Robert: No, they stayed long enough for a drink, and then left with their entourage. By the time the Marbles came back for their second set, they were long gone.

Did you ever see them live again?

Robert: Never had the pleasure. I've seen some YouTube videos, but I don't think Brian Johnson has the stage presence Bon did.

What other cool shows did you attend in NY City? Did you take more photos?

Robert: Without exaggeration, I have attended thousands of great shows here in NYC over the years. For example, I saw Alice Cooper four times during the '70s ("Welcome to My Nightmare," "Billion Dollar Babies," etc.), saw Slade a few times (love them; first time in '74, I believe, the opening band was Aerosmith; the second time it was Brownsville Station, who I enjoyed more than Aerosmith), I've seen the Ramones dozens of times (first time, June 20, 1975, with Talking Heads opening...found out later it was the Heads very first show; there were 12 people in CBCBs that night), saw Tom Petty play CBGBs and the Bottom Line, Television, Patti Smith, Dictators, New York Dolls, Lene Lovich, and soooooo many others. I started taking pix of them in 1977, when I got my first real camera (first roll was of the Ramones), for two reasons: first, because I was seeing so many bands that I couldn't remember them all, and having pix helped, and especially for the second reason, as I was starting my fanzine FFanzeen (ran from 1977-88), and I needed photos for the interviews and articles. I have thousands of photos of bands from back then.

What are you up to these days?

Robert: Now I have my own blog at ffanzeen.blogspot.com, where I write about music, culture and my life. I also have a CD/DVD review column at jerseybeat.com/quietcorner.html. I moved out of New York in 2009, and am currently living in Saskatoon, in the middle of the Canadian plains. I am once again getting into local music. For example, just last night I saw a great reggae group (led by a Belizian native and now Canadian) the Oral Fuentes Band.
Oh, and if anyone wants me to go to review your release, write me at rbf55@msn.com, and if you're playing in Saskatoon and want me to write about your show, just put me on the guest list....