An AC/DC Tour of Melbourne, Australia
AC/DC were formed in Sydney, Australia by a pair of Scottish immigrant brothers, Angus and Malcolm Young, in 1973. That original line-up included bass player Larry Van Kriedt, drummer Colin Burgess (who had already tasted success in Masters Apprentices) and singer Dave Evans. The band toured throughout Australia quite heavily during their early years, serving as one of the cornerstones of the Australian pub rock scene, which also included The Angels, Rose Tattoo and Cold Chisel. So practically every town has a story about being raided by “Acca Dacca” at one point or another, and everyone has a tale about their close encounter with the band. (This writer recalls a family friend who swore he was a roadie for AC/DC and that his job was "to carry Bon Scott's guitar".)
Although AC/DC were formed in Sydney and left their mark on pubs, clubs, sheds, halls, theatres and, eventually, arenas and stadiums throughout the country, the southern city of Melbourne, 540 miles (869 kilometres) away from the band's hometown, offers a number of unique points of interest for any self-respecting AC/CD pilgrimage.
Our first stop is the Esplanade Hotel in the seaside suburb of St. Kilda. Overlooking Port Phillip Bay, the Espy, as it is more commonly known, has a rich musical history dating back to string performances in the late 1800s. Its front bar hosts bands seven days a week. The Gershwin Room, formerly the grand dining room of the original Esplanade Hotel, is one of Melbourne's most prestigious stages, with gold leaf walls and hand-rendered motifs. It is also where the hit music trivia TV show RockWiz is filmed.
The Espy has played a key part in Australian music history - you can't call yourself a musician in Melbourne until you've played the Espy - and bands such as Jet owe much of their early buzz to the venue. The Espy is more than just a venue that AC/DC performed at during their early days: according to the ac-dc.net archives, it was the site of their last show with Dave Evans (in late September 1974) before he was replaced by Fraternity singer Bon Scott. In those days the band played a covers-heavy list, which included "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Blue Suede Shoes," "No Particular Place to Go," "All Right Now," "Baby Please Don't Go" and "Honky Tonk Woman," as well as originals such as "Can I Sit Next to You Girl." Scott sang many of these same songs at his first show with the band at Largs Pier Hotel in Adelaide, South Australia at the beginning of October.
The major Melbourne thoroughfare of Swanston Street runs right through the city center. Strewn with historic buildings such as Flinders Street Station, the Melbourne Town Hall and the Young & Jackson Pub (as well as modern concert venue the Hi-Fi Bar), it was the perfect place for AC/DC to commandeer for the filming of the video for "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)." The video was filmed on February 23, 1976 for the Australian music program Countdown.
Most of the buildings seen in the background of the video are still recognizable today, especially those seen in the shots of the band performing at the intersection of Swanston and Bourke Streets. Behind Scott, 261 Bourke Street still looks very much the same (aside from a wave-like adornment at street level), while the building directly across the road, behind Malcolm, has had a lick of paint or two since 1976.
Do you think these statues still brag about the time they saw an AC/DC gig in their driveway?
A little further down Bourke Street you'll encounter the Myer department store, where the ac-dc.net archives show that the band was booked to perform five shows at the “Myer Miss Melbourne” department from August 25 - 29 in 1975. Only the first of these shows went ahead, and the subsequent four days were cancelled. Why? Did the bookers not quite know what they were getting themselves into? The thought of AC/DC performing in a department store, in a section specifically targeting hip and happening teenage girls… That would have been a gig worth seeing!
AC/DC's contribution to Melbourne was recognized by the city in 2004 when it renamed Corporation Lane “ACDC Lane”. Home to another legendary rock venue, the Cherry Bar, then Lord Mayor John So opened the renamed lane by declaring, "As the song says, there is a highway to hell. But this is a laneway to heaven. Let us rock!" before bagpipers serenaded the crowd with a rendition of "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)." AC/DC-themed street art adorns the lane, while the Cherry Bar is known as a hotspot for star spotting after a show whenever a touring band is in town. AC/DC-influenced Oz rockers, Airbourne, even name-checked the venue in their song "Fat City" with the lyrics "Midnight bite at the Cherry, so sweet is the juice."