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Author: AC/DC Illustrated History Shows the Human Side of the Band

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AC/DC books are hot and there are a few on the market right now. We especially like Anthony Bozza’s ‘Why AC/DC Matters.’ However, we’ve unearthed another just-as-worthwhile chronicle of AC/DC in Phil Sutcliffe’s ‘AC/DC — High Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History,’ which is in stores now via Voyageur Press. This tome should adorn the coffee table of every self-respecting hard rock fan, not to mention all rabid AC/DC worshippers.

The 224-page volume traces the bands entire roller coaster career, from the high highs (the Diamond status-earning comeback ‘Back in Black’) to the low lows (the tragic loss of Bon Scott). The book boasts 400 illustrations, including handbills, posters and backstage passes from across the globe, mixed with rare candid and performance photography. There are sidebars from rock journalists, album analyses and guitar gear info. It’s all encompassing, that’s for sure. It’s a perfect visual read for a rainy day.

Noisecreep spoke to Sutcliffe, an English journalist, who said the book is “for an AC/DC fan. Everybody involved hopes it’s a cornucopia of delights. Maybe read it and bask in the visuals with an AC/DC album playing loud?”

How long in the making was your AC/DC book? Was a lot of research required to unearth the photos and set lists?

It took about six months, but the book is a bit unusual in that, when I say that, I don’t just mean my time. I was writing my 30,000 words, but at the same time, a bunch of other writers were hammering away on the album reviews and other “articles” the book contains and the special heroes of an illustrated history, the picture/visual researchers at Voyageur were doing their magic thing. It’s a real skill that most of us writers don’t possess and discovering all those photos from around the world plus the memorabilia and so on. So what I stress that, although I’m lucky enough to have my name on the cover of a book, I’m proud to be involved in, this really is a team endeavor, just like a rock band, in fact.

Why did you decide to do an AC/DC book? Are you a longtime fan?

Literally speaking, I did the book because I was asked to by the publisher, but beyond that mundane answer I am indeed a longtime fan. I’m a Londoner and I was working for a British music paper called Sounds back in 1976 when AC/DC first came over here and I saw them in those sweaty pubs and clubs and started writing about them then, which was the first time they tried to reach out beyond Australia, of course.

What was the most poignant thing you learned about the band while doing the research?

Poignant is a good word to introduce when thinking about AC/DC because it’s easy to imagine they’re a bunch of hard nut Aussies, almost superhuman and unfeeling. No way, so I like the human side of thinking about those Young boys as immigrants in a strange land, Australia, when they’d just flown in from Scotland to make a better life; the story of Bon Scott finding his way through from a kind of lost childhood and mid-20s, and then the tragedy of his death; the astonishing way the band came together again after that, encouraged by Bon’s dad and then “saved” by discovering such a kindred spirit as Brian; Malcolm’s iron-willed recognition that he had an alcohol problem and self-motivated recovery from it; the ups and downs of Phil Rudd, a rock of a drummer but clearly a fragile man in some ways … Everything that says these are real human beings getting through all that to bring us all those good-times-rolling nights for almost 40 years.

What are some of your favorite photos or “chapters” in the book?

Photos? There’s a wonderful double-page spread of a bunch of fans in the front row at some old gig getting off in their own ways. It’s good to look at the fans once in a while. On band action, I like the ones that have a sculptured clarity about them: one of Angus and Brian in action in profile I remember looking great and also, talking of sculpture, the slightly weird one where Angus is playing in front of the huge statue of himself they used to wheel onstage a few years ago. Somehow they can do that without even seeming egocentric, I’m not sure how.

There have been a few AC/DC books in recent years. What do you think sets your apart?

Yes, a couple of good “words” ones for sure. What makes this good and different is the “illustrated” part which has been wonderfully researched, as above, and then beautifully put together by the designers in a really high quality presentation so all that can be enjoyed and treasured hopefully. Then on the writing side, there are all those different points of view from more than a dozen contributors and my core narrative to hold it together, I hope!

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