Although his younger brother, Angus, was their public face, Malcolm Young was the founder, leader and guiding force behind Australian super group AC/DC.
Malcolm passed away earlier this month at the age of 64. Michigan’s WTAC was the first radio station to play the band in America. That’s why they came to Flint on December 5, 1977 - exactly 40 years ago next week. It was my last “Peter C. Rock Roll Presentation.”
I picked up AC/DC at the airport. A major snowstorm had moved into the area earlier in the day. Roads were becoming blocked by snow. Attendance would be limited by conditions. The group was still virtually unknown. Who cared?
I killed every light in the theater. Atmospherics were utterly dark and ominously promising. It started with a single pounding, thundering bass note droning in constant repetition. The screaming lead guitar came out of nowhere. It was “Live Wire.”
Four spotlights instantly flooded the stage all focused on a remarkably strange, rapidly moving, seemingly possessed apparition.
He wore knickers, dressed as a proper English schoolboy with necktie and knapsack. His name was Angus Young.
They played for over 90 minutes. I paid them $1,000 dollars in cash. They wanted to try some “Arby’s Roast Beef,” so we stopped at the nearest location. They loved the Arby’s sandwiches, both as food and projectiles. I dropped them off at their hotel.
A few months later the boys were back in town. I traveled to the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak and caught them opening for Thin Lizzy.
The Aussies were excellent, but I noticed sound mix peculiarities near the middle of their scheduled set. Several security guards rushed onto the stage and attempted to conclude the performance. It was all fiercely fast.
One uniformed enforcer made the tragic mistake of grabbing lead singer Bon Scott’s arm. A violent head butt sent the uninvited transgressor flying backward. Chaos reigned. More police poured out on the stage. The group formed an immediate protective circle, rapidly expanding as several members of Thin Lizzy joined the fray.
Feet flashed. Fists flew. Foreheads filled faces.
A phalanx of record company and management personnel jumped into the midst of the mêlée and separated participants, much to the relief of those authority figures still unmarred. Confusion was everywhere.
It was clear the group had no idea of what had triggered so unpleasant an incident. The band members had reacted with instinct, not intent. It turned out to be a noise thing.
Neighbors near the theater had been complaining. The city of Royal Oak had passed a local ordinance proclaiming any sound level over 100 decibels as “noise” and thus a nuisance. An official “Decibel Deputy” had arrived on the scene and, standing next to the AC/DC sound board at the very back of the building, had clocked the lads in at a stunning 125 and climbing.
Security police dragged a mystified sound technician off the monitor platform and proclaimed arrest. This is where the sound mix got screwy. The cops then ordered the performance to stop. That’s when the stage went wild.
Calming cash miraculously sprang forth - properly placed. Pacified heads prevailed. Charges forgotten and sound restored, the group returned to their set.
I sent a formal telegram to AC/DC the following day apologizing for all the “dainty little ears” they had encountered in our fair Michigan. They responded with a note expressing appreciation.
The “Battle of Royal Oak” had ended with several encores.
R.I.P. Malcolm Young.
Rock in peace.