Choirboys have certainly earned their reputation as one of Australia’s great pub rock bands with songs that have become rock anthems and they have a pretty impressive back catalogue of their own but they also have the utmost admiration for another great Australian rock band, arguably the most successful rock band this country has ever produced. Of course, I’m referring to AC/DC and Choirboys are paying homage to their old stablemates with a series of shows, performing two great AC/DC albums, ‘High Voltage’ and ‘Highway to Hell’ track by track.
“We actually did three shows about three years ago, just for a bit of fun and we enjoyed it and people liked it so we thought we’d go out and do a whole bunch of them.” Mark points out that the two albums the band will be paying tribute to are ‘High Voltage’ (the first album that Bon Scott recorded with AC/DC) and ‘Highway to Hell’ which was the last album that he recorded with AC/DC. He concedes that there are numerous AC/DC tribute bands out there but stresses that this is not a tribute; “It’s more of a homage to AC/DC because we were signed to the same label. We were signed in the 70s and we recorded in the same studio. We did all our demos there and recorded our first album in the same studio that the ‘High Voltage’ album was recorded in and AC/DC did their first six albums there and so we’ve got that history and I think it makes a dramatic difference to hear a band that was actually around then doing (the songs of) another band that they were stablemates with and I think it gives a better slant than a band just pretending to be AC/DC so hats off to AC/DC who ended up being one of the biggest bands in the world. Who would have known? And this is how we pay homage to them.”
Mark says that it hasn’t been easy learning the songs. “Particularly the lyrics and the arrangements. There are all these little intricacies that you don’t think about but when you’re actually trying to play it and perform it and sing it, there really is a lot of detail to it so yes, it has been hard but a lot of fun.”
While both bands were stablemates at Alberts, Mark points out that, by the time Choirboys signed with the label, AC/DC were already based in London. “But we did get to meet them and I can remember Phil Rudd was as strange then as he is now. Malcolm was just this down to earth normal kind of bloke. We went out for beers once and he gave me some really great advice and I thought this guy’s a regular guy and, at this time, they had ‘Back in Black’ which has ended up being the second biggest selling album of all time and so I was just impressed with how normal the guy was. However, when they were out around that time, they were doing a performance at the Sydney Cricket Ground and I went into Alberts and said ‘Hey can we get tickets to see the band?’ and they said ‘No. We can’t give you any comps.’ I was really annoyed so what we did was we went and broke in. So, a band that was signed to the same label, had to break in to see their show,” he laughs. “So we didn’t pay. We got our own complementary tickets but we broke in. I think we pushed out a wire fence and broke in.”
I asked if he ever got caught doing it. “No! I’ve never been caught for anything,” he replies with a proud chuckle. “It was a great show. They’d developed to such a point where the stage was enormous with the props and bells ringing and all that kind of thing. But I really think that the hay day of the band was when Bon was in the band and that’s what we’ll be celebrating with these shows. Bon was the guy! I always remember those appearances on Countdown when he dressed as a schoolgirl with pigtails and he was so funny. He was the comedian, the entertainer. He had an incredible voice. He was a brilliant lyricist and he was a very funny lyricist. And even though I think that both these albums are incredibly sexist when I listen to them now, at the time they were deemed acceptable and very funny. When you look back on it, because you come from that era, it was a lot of fun and it’s taken light-heartedly and it was right for the times.”
Of course, even though the show is essentially paying homage to AC/DC, the band will also be playing some of their own songs in the set. “We throw in a few Choirboys songs at the end but it’s basically those two albums, cover to cover, exactly how they appear on the album complete with fade-outs.”
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