Imagine a world where those about to rock were not saluted. Where dirty deeds were performed only at exorbitant prices. And where the highway to Hell had an ABBA soundtrack.
All of these things might have transpired had AC/DC not formed. And a newly re-released “lost” album by the Malcolm Hook Roll Band reveals that in 1972 and 1973 that was a distinct possibility.
The group, whose R&B and pop infused 1973 album Tales of Old Grand-Daddy makes a long-delayed splash on Tuesday, June 3, consisted of Angus Young and Malcolm Young, and their older brother George and Harry Vanda, who were both members of famed Aussie rock group the Easybeats, who cut the “Nuggets” garage-pop classic “Friday On My Mind.”
The name missing from that line-up is, of course, Marcus Hook. George and Harry, who were the driving forces behind the band, named the group after a small town in Pennsylvania.
Although the Marcus Hook Band never toured or, for that matter, apparently never played outside of the studio — and, as we all know, Angus and Malcolm quickly moved on to form their own group — rare copies of Tales of Old Grand-Daddy have been pricey as bullion among hard-core AC/DC fans in the ensuing decades.
What’s interesting for Gibson Signature Model SG legend Angus Young’s legions of fans is that these recordings catch him at a point when he’s forming his musical approach. The song “Natural Man,” in particular is a blueprint for later AC/DC classics like “Highway To Hell.” The slashing introductory chords build up to a fat chorus propelled by blues licks, carefully threading the song’s dynamics. Angus’ squalling bends played against a second sustained and unbent string — one of his trademarks — decorate the verses. Angus’ Marshall driven tone isn’t yet established, but his vocabulary clearly is.
There are a few left field entries, too. “Ride Baby Ride” is an acoustic tune, entirely alien to the sound Malcolm and Angus would forge with Bon Scott. And “Louisiana Lady, with its honking sax lines, displays a vein of rhythm & blues that AC/DC would replace with its own twisted blues riffs and rhythms.
Wally Waller, who engineered the Marcus Hook Roll Band sessions, recounted the tale of Angus’ arrival at the studio in a recent issue of Billboard: “Nobody knew who [Malcolm and Angus] were, of course. At first Malcolm and Harry were playing [guitar] and George started playing the bass. After a couple days Malcolm was really coming on brilliantly; he sounded like he should have been about 30 or 50 years old ’cause he had so much maturity in his playing. I said to George one night, ‘Your kid brother is something; he’s great.’ And he said, ‘Well, there’s another one like him at home. You wouldn’t believe it.’ So the next day he showed up with Angus as well, and he was astonishing. He must have been 15 or 16 or something. He looked like a fresh-faced kid, but he played like a monster.”