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

| 28 December 2012 | Reply

Published by Orion Books, November 2012
Rrp AUD$32.99
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

ACDC Hell Aint A Bad Place To Be - by Mick Wall

You can always count on a Mick Wall article or book being fuelled by his legendary meticulous research and insider knowledge.  AC/DC – Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be is no exception – delving deep into the beating heart of a band beloved by millions, to find a dysfunctional family running the show ruthlessly, and doing it on their own terms at every turn, even to the point of self-sabotage.

The book focuses primarily on the band’s formation and early lineups, and the six years spent clawing their way to within spitting distance of the top with Bon Scott as their singer and chief lyricist, before his tragic and wasteful death in 1980.

What emerges is a daunting tale of three brothers – Malcolm and Angus Young, and elder brother George, ex-Easybeats – who let no-one stand in their way, tolerate no dissension or even, at times, free thinking, and who drop integral team members on the musical and business side of things without a second thought or another mention.

Wall is rightfully critical of some of the songs on the early albums, though a little hard on a few of them.  Where he gets it mostly spot on is in glossing over much of the post-For Those About To Rock albums as second rate (though I’ll admit to liking Flick Of The Switch a little more than he does!)

What is really intriguing is the stern, ruthless (yep, there’s that word again) way the Youngs run the AC/DC ship – making it absolutely clear to all comers that if you’re in the band, you do your job and don’t talk back, otherwise you’re out the door.  Long time drummer Phil Rudd is beaten and kicked out of their hotel in the middle of the night over a rumour, and not invited back into the band for a decade; other members are discarded like yesterdays papers with little or no regard for their contributions.

As if all this unlikableness wasn’t enough, Wall makes it very clear that the band’s ascension to their current megadome-filling glory is very much a business-related issue – “this ain’t rock n’ roll,” Wall states of one show on their last tour that he attended, “it was simply… pleasant.  Like taking the kids to the circus.” – and has little to do with their musical output over their past few years.  On 1998’s Black Ice not being the classic some talked it up to be, he quotes former Kerrang scribe Dante Bonnuto: “it didn’t NEED to be a classic at that point.  It just needed to be an AC/DC record that wasn’t Fly On The Wall or Flick Of The Switch.  As long as it wasn’t that they were on safe territory.”

No-one, including Mick Wall, is denying that AC/DC hold a special place in the pantheon of Rock Gods.  AC/DC – Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be merely sets the record straight in terms of some of the business and personal decisions that brought the band to where they are today, and if there’s one overriding truth to take from it’s pages, it is that with Bon Scott at the helm they had soul and heart, a soul and heart which was lost when the man died, leaving the Young brothers no-one to temper their dictatorial control over the band.

Category: Book Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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