‘A Great Dose Of Rock & Roll’- the night I saw AC/DC

Canberra in the mid-70s. I went to my first concert on Sunday 7th December 1975 when I was 11. The day before, my sister Ann won tickets off the radio to see Skyhooks at Frazer Park Speedway and, after a bit of a disagreement, my mum made her take me. When Mum picked up the tickets from 2CA, Shirley from Skyhooks was there and they shook hands. “Prawns!” Shirl exclaimed. Mum admitted she’d been making prawn sandwiches for our lunch.

We’d never been to a concert before, and we really didn’t know what to expect. Ann and I joked that the new band called Ol ’55 we’d seen the week before on Countdown would play the one song, their cover of Paul Anka’s ‘Diana’, over and over. Along with about 5000 others I saw Skyhooks, Hush (they played a mean ‘Paperback Writer’), Ol ’55, John Paul Young and a whole swag of local Canberra bands. My eldest sister Jane spotted Bongo Starr and climbed up the lighting rig. We got our Ego Is Not A Dirty Word book signed by three of the ‘Hooks and one of my sisters stupidly faked the other two. And Ol’55 didn’t even play ‘Diana’!

1976 came around and I’d definitely been bitten by the music bug. I’d save up my pocket money and buy an album every couple of weeks (starting off with the Beatles and Ringo Starr – my fave Beatle! – and at $6.20 for a full-length album this was easy to do). I’d go to the Canberra Theatre to see bands as often as I could afford it, either by myself or with my younger sister Sara. We saw Chuck Berry, Dr Hook (who supported themselves dressed up as a glam band), and Leo Sayer, even the Dudley Moore Trio (that was with my Dad, of course). One afternoon after school I went to the Boulevard cinema, watched A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, then walked over to the Canberra Theatre and saw Skyhooks (again). Caught the bus home and was in bed by 10.30. No homework tonight for this 11 year old!

Countdown. AC/DC. As far as I was concerned they were no different to Skyhooks, Kiss or The Sweet. Popular with us kids, they were a Countdown band. I’ve still got the photo I took off the TV of the back of Angus – his out-of-focus schoolbag taking up the whole screen. I bought Dirty Deeds when it came out and ‘Problem Child’ instantly became my favourite song – it was about me! I related to it like no other song. I was also amazed at how, when the song ended, it started up again. I’d never heard anyone do that before. And those loud maracas! I started a fanzine called WAK Weekly – which stood for Wings, AC/DC, Kiss – and my sister’s teenage friends made fun of its title, with me not knowing why. I bought an AC/DC songbook (since stolen off me) despite not knowing how to play proper chords, and during a school camp we all sat inside a muggy tent singing along to ‘TNT’ and ‘Jailbreak’ while one of the kids mastered the tunes on a crappy acoustic guitar. The camp ended on a bad note with me being belt-whipped by a drunk headmaster for my part in stealing a radio from a farmer’s shed. I had a scar on my thigh for years after that.

So now we’re in the last week of primary school. It’s December. It’s hot. And AC/DC are coming to Canberra. They haven’t been here since late December of the previous year and I had no chance of going then and I wasn’t going to miss out this time. I think I had to get Mum to persuade Nigel and Tim’s parents that the boys will be okay and she’ll pick us up after the show. And besides, it was on at another school, so it wouldn’t be any different to an after-school activity. I raced into Homecrafts (Canberra’s one and only mainstream record store at the time) and bought our tickets. They cost $5.30 each. I must have been first in line for my dose – I got ticket #1. ‘A Great Dose Of Rock N’ Roll’ it says on it. That was a busy week. To get us all ready for the tour, AC/DC played ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ live on that first week’s episode of Countdown. There was also some crappy glam band on called Bennie & The Jets. Two nights before the AC/DC show, while I was with my parents at my 6th Grade Speech Night, my three sisters were all at the Bay City Rollers concert. I wasn’t jealous. I had my ticket #1!

Thursday 9th December. One of the other mums drives me, Tim and Nigel (maybe there was a Hugh, but I can’t remember) to Ginnindera High School to see AC/DC in the school hall. Walking in, there’s a few dozen mainly older teens sitting around the edges of the room, all dressed in the standard uniform of desert boots, grey Levis, black tee-shirts or Miller checkered shirts and lumber jackets. No, can’t be, as it’s summer, forget the lumber jackets. We sit and wait down in front of the stage. I feel small, being one of the youngest kids here and surrounded by some pretty tough looking guys. The hall fills up. Maybe 200-300 are here. The support band comes on. They’re called Punkz. I’ve seen them on Countdown but they’re not punk at all. Long curly hair, jeans and big wide ties. The only song I can remember them playing is a cover of ‘Smokin’ In The Boys Room’.

I’d like to say the lights dim, but I can’t remember. I’m in the front row. And I’m at my first indoors rock show. So I get prepared. I’ve taken my tee-shirt off and I’m perched on Tim’s shoulders punching the air as Bon Scott enters from side of stage with Angus on top of his shoulders, playing a guitar solo with one hand. They come right up to the front of the stage, directly in front of me. Bon grinning at the crowd, dressed only in a pair or blue jeans, and Angus hammering on and off. With one hand! Never seen that before. And I’m being spat on by both of them, as they get into the music. My friends laugh at me, think it’s pretty funny I’m being unintentionally spat on. The rest of the band joins in and BANG! it’s one classic song after the other – “TNT”, “Jailbreak”, “Dirty Deeds”, “Rocker”, “Big Balls”. I’m sure Angus showed us his bum, but that was also front page news the same week, as the police were taking as much interest in the antics of AC/DC as we kids were. The Ginnindera High School Hall becomes a blur of sweaty kids jumping around and a sweaty band playing tight and loud. I just remember the band getting into it and Bon and Angus being clowns pretty much the whole time. But I do remember what happened afterwards very clearly.

There are a few of us waiting at the side door for the band to come out. While we’re waiting, a younger kid, maybe about 8 or 9, starts hassling me. I tell him to fuck off. This goes on for a while. AC/DC appear, we all reach out to touch them and wave them onto their bus. My friends and me turn to walk up the grassy hill to the road to wait for Mum. The little kid appears again, but this time with some bigger kids. Bigger than us. “Hey, you picking on my little brother?” “No,” I reply, “he was hassling us.” Before we know it, there’s about five 1st-formers from Ginnindera on top of us, kicking, punching, spitting. It’s a full-on fight. And we’re outnumbered. Damn that little kid. I should have ignored him. Now he’s egging his older brother on. There’s a crowd forming – cool, a fight.

Luckily for us, another mum, waiting to pick up her kids, sees what’s happening, hops out of her car and breaks up the fight. She makes us wait in her car until Mum arrives. This feels even worse than being beaten up, as we see our tormentors only metres away, jeering and giving us the finger. Mum arrives, thanks the lady for looking after us and drives us home. She recalls that one of us got our finger jammed in the door but I can’t remember that bit.

A night I’ll never forget. Spat on by Bon Scott and Angus Young. And beaten up afterwards. What a great way to finish Primary School – with my ears still ringing the next day thanks to AC/DC.

Nic Dalton 2004