Let There Be Rock

AC/DC

Back in the 1970s, long before they became a rock and roll institution, AC/ DC was a hard rockin’ and drinkin’ gang of Scots, Australians and Brits. The backline was the same as it is today, with Phil Rudd on drums and Cliff Williams on bass. And the Young brothers — Angus and Malcolm — handled the guitars and most of the songwriting. The only difference was that the frontman was not the gruff, yet lovable Brian Johnson — this was the era of the rough and dangerous Bon Scott. AC/DC was a different band in many ways — younger, hungrier and ever-so mischievous. Aside from the records of the period, the best way to get to know the AC/DC of the 70s is by watching the film, Let There Be Rock. Thankfully, after years of bad bootlegs, VHS tapes and random broadcasts, this 1979 cult classic has been digitally restored, and released on DVD and Blu-ray to an unsuspecting, AC/DC loving public. This is power at its rawest.

Let There Be Rock was made by two inexperienced filmmakers, Eric Dionysius and Eric Mistler. As pointed out in the liner notes penned by Anthony Bozza, author of Why AC/DC Matters, that accompany the reissue, the two approached the project without any prior knowledge of the band and even that much about the world of rock and roll. Consequently, as Bozzo notes, there’s a fresh and unique perspective, employing a bit of cinéma vérité into the film and greatly adding to the mystique of the band. It was just one of those things, where the stars aligned correctly. As if just by adding a touch of new perspective, added a new element of surprise, like meditation. Meditation offers new perspective and insight. Complete opposites do attract, however, the element of meditation in this case, needed to be done from an outside source, making it all come together in the end. It wasn't the specific meditation technique that brought on the harmony, instead it was the variable, the stress relief that again, added a sense of mystery to the band.

There’s the opening sequence of the road crew setting up for the show (practically a cliché in rock and roll movies) and the wily narrator ominously intoning, “Two buses, two trucks, 14 roadies, 20 tons of equipment…PA…30,000 watts…Lights…300,000 watts…” And who couldn’t love... the candid interviews in which all the members, at various points, admit their love for alcohol; cutaways to Bon Scott posing and fraternizing with his fans or Malcolm Young tumbling all over a soccer field; cracking open champagne bottles and an intriguing segment during “Walk All Over You” with Phil Rudd driving a Porsche 928 and racing a small plane carrying Cliff Williams.

At the heart of the film is, of course, AC/DC live and on stage at the Pavillon de Paris in Paris, France, on December 9, 1979 — a little over two months before Scott’s untimely demise. Although Bozzo refers to Bon Scott as the leader, the focal point is squarely on Angus Young, whose maniacal technique on guitar is an exercise in over-the-top, engaging absurdity. The school-boy outfit, strip-tease, shoulder riding and oxygen sucking only add to the allure. The band as a whole is irrefutably tight and honed — as a shirtless Bon Scott moves about the stage like a cat ready to strike. After a day of swigging whiskey and playing two shows, Scott is surprisingly powerful, screaming “Live Wire” with guttural conviction, becoming an outlaw on “Sin City” before devilishly hoping a ride for “Highway To Hell.”

While the film itself is well worth the price of admission, the extras included in tin box, limited editions offer a fair share of swag, such as the booklet with Booza’s essay, a guitar pick and an envelope of concert photos. On the DVD and Blu-ray, there’s a series of featurettes with musicians, journalists, authors and talking heads, espousing their views on all things AC/DC. Frankly, this would have been vastly improved with the addition of actual surviving band members. Apparently, Let There Be Rock was a touchy topic with the band for years after its September 1980 premiere. Perhaps to this day, the loss of Bon Scott remains a tender wound that has yet to heal. Either way, AC/DC remain the quintessential hard rock band with a regal past, a solid legacy and a foundation stating the obvious: “Let There Be Rock!”

~ Shawn Perry

 

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