GUEST BLOG: Five Important Books About AC/DC by Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC

by |October 31, 2013

With sales of over 200 million albums, AC/DC is not just the biggest rock band in the world. It’s a family business built by three brothers: George, Malcolm and Angus Young. And, as with any business, some people prospered while others got hurt along the way.

The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC is unlike any AC/DC book you’ve read before. Less a biography, more a critical appreciation, it tells the story of the trio through 11 classic songs and reveals some of the personal and creative secrets that went into their making.

As part of Booktoberfest, author Jesse Fink guides you through five other important books about the world’s biggest band: AC/DC.

highway-to-hellHighway To Hell
by Clinton Walker

A biography of Bon Scott published back in 1994. Walker is a very good writer and didn’t get a lot of help from the Youngs or their camp for this book. Actually, like all the band’s biographers, he got diddly squat. Big mistake on their part.

He wasn’t afraid to dish it up to the Youngs, describing them as “a closed shop, uniformly suspicious, paranoid almost, possessed of the virtual opposite of Bon’s generosity, prone to sullenness… Angus and Malcolm had this incredible tunnel vision where no one else counted . . . insularity bordering on paranoia”. Strong stuff.

Bon emerges as a true Australian larrikin antihero and this book did a lot to cement his legend. I have a lot of admiration for the work that was involved in this book… more

Highway To Hell
by Joe Bonomo

Not to be confused with the Walker tome, this is about the crucial 1979 album produced by Zambian mega-producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange”, also of Foreigner, Maroon 5, Shania Twain, Bryan Adams and Def Leppard fame.

It was published by Continuum as part of the “33 1/3” series. It’s slim, really a long essay rather than a book, but Bonomo brings a fresh American perspective on the AC/DC story by writing from the point of view of a young man growing up in Wheaton, Maryland, hearing this landmark album from these wild colonial boys for the first time and, like me and every AC/DC fan, being blown the f*** away by it.

He strongly denounces AC/DC for their lyrics to “Night Prowler”, a song that unfortunately came to be associated with the Richard Ramirez killings in California in the early 1980s (Ramirez was a fan of AC/DC). The band claimed the song was simply about a guy sneaking into his girlfriend’s room late at night. Bonomo disagrees: “Bon Scott’s more treacherous imagery pushes the song into regrettably mean places. I’m not sure that the band can have it both ways.” He’s absolutely right. How else do you explain the lyrics, And you don’t feel the steel/Till it’s hanging out your back?… more

Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside and Outside of AC/DC
by Mark Evans

The first autobiography by a current or former member of AC/DC. Mark got treated poorly by the Youngs. He was sacked in 1977 and has plenty of reasons to take off the gloves – such as his being denied induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003; a disgraceful decision – but largely doesn’t.

That said, he doesn’t avoid being critical of his former bandmates, such as his description of Angus and Malcolm as being “morose, grumpy, sullen and generally not too much fun to be around”. As a piece of writing, this book is straightforward but there are some lovely passages and at points it’s deeply personal, moving and poignant.

Mark’s not afraid to show his sensitive side and that’s to his immense credit… more

AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll
by Murray Engleheart with Arnaud Durieux

Not the “definitive” biography it claims to be and appears to be from its enormous heft, but what’s “definitive” anyway?

This book has a lot of useful information and was the product of years of intensive research but it just reads like a laundry list of shows and album releases.

It could have benefited from more structure and a lot more critical analysis.

Too many AC/DC books are hagiographies. This isn’t one but it comes close… more

AC/DC: Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be
by Mick Wall

Again, another brick of a book embracing a conventional biographical format, but the difference is Wall is much more strident with his opinions.

If you’ve read Highway To Hell by Walker and AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll by Engleheart, in my view this is really only super-essential for hardcore fans of the band.

It’s most notable for his theory about the circumstances of Bon Scott’s death in 1980, involving the possible role of heroin… more


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About the Contributor

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

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  • jeremy

    February 14, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    good books

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