THERE was a time when some of the greatest Australian bands of the era would regularly visit Albury.
The decade was the 1970s and acts of the calibre of Sherbet, Skyhooks, Rush and Daddy Cool stopped in and performed on their way between Melbourne and Sydney.
But the one that stands above them all was AC/DC, the band responsible for the second-highest selling album of all time — Back in Black — behind only Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
“Acka Dacka” came twice to Albury and those who were there have never forgotten it.
The first time was in December 27, 1975; they were still just a fringe player on the national scene (had only recently made their first appearance on the TV show Countdown) and the second time on December 7, 1976, when Bon Scott, Angus Young and the boys were well on their way to becoming household names.
Albury’s Dean Ried remembers both visits.
“The shows were fantastic, standing only. The band would stay at the Commodore Motel in Kiewa Street and Bon would give his room key to any girls willing to take it,” he said.
Tim Petts, who now teaches photography at the Riverina Institute of TAFE in Albury, was just an aspiring photographer at the time.
He was at the first of the concerts at what is now the Albury Entertainment Centre.
The 15-year-old music fan would take his camera along to the visiting acts and snap shots which he would then sell in the schoolyard for $2 the next day.
His collection from that night, published in The Border Mail today, captures the band in full flight.
It reveals a young Angus Young, almost identical to how he appears today, give or take a few wrinkles. And he captured Bon Scott in his prime, five years before the rock lifestyle caught up with the frontman and he drowned in his own vomit in a car parked in a London street.
“I remember all the energy coming out of Bon Scott and Angus,” Petts said this week.
“Bon was a tiny bloke, but he worked the crowd so well, made a lot of eye contact.
“There was a heap of girls there and Bon was pretty keen on the girls. There was a lot of innuendo.
“Angus was the same as you see him now. He hasn’t really changed.
“He’s got all that energy.
“Then there was his brother (Malcolm) who just stood there and did not do much and played rhythm guitar and Phil (Rudd) was on drums.
“The memories are getting a bit hazy but I remember really enjoying it, they got you up and excited.
“They were the sort of band who’d just get your foot tapping and head banging.”
Albury’s Kerry Chapman is another who remembers the ’75 concert.
She was just 12 and was taken along to the alcohol-free event, that was mostly filled with teens and people in their early 20s, by her cousin who was 18.
She was left with an experience that would be priceless to many of the legions of fans.
“I wasn’t really a big AC/DC fan, more of a Bay City Rollers girl to tell you the truth, I was a bit daggy at that stage, but I knew who they were,” she said.
“I was surprised my parents let me go with my cousin and her boyfriend. My dad was fairly strict, he probably didn’t know who AC/DC were.
“Because I was so young everybody felt sorry for me and they ended up letting me sit on the stage.
“I was sitting up there and Bon Scott wandered over while he was singing and shook my hand, everyone cheered but I didn’t really think it was such a big deal.
“I guess now looking back it probably was.”
Mrs Chapman said the crowd was packed in, all long hair, head-banging and good vibrations.
“I thought it was a bit intimidating at first, but people looked after me and I ended up having a great time,” she said.
The concert went off without controversy which wasn’t the case the following year.
The next year AC/DC returned. They were on one of their famously intense tours, playing about 25 gigs a month.
The night before they had been in Shepparton, and after Albury they headed to play a high school hall in Canberra. A day later they were in Wollongong.
This time the build-up had been greater. The Border Morning Mail, as it was known then, sent its music reporter Tony Wright to cover the event.
More than 600 fans packed in and instead of the tight leather pants and vest, Bon was in the trademark studded chequered shirt.
The concert had started on a controversial note when the Albury Council town clerk had banned an “offensive” program being distributed by promoters.
Wright’s report the next day on page 3 said the program had comments from the band that were deemed sexually explicit by the clerk, who had warned the promoters beforehand about some song’s lyrical content, especially The Jack — slang for venereal disease — where Bon sings about the band’s conquests with women how any diseases were shared by the band.
The promoters gave in to the town clerk’s request and the show went ahead.
However, controversy rose again when towards the end of the three-hour gig, which had started with a performance by Sydney band Punkz, guitarist Angus Young bared his buttocks to the screaming crowd.
Wright described Young’s performance as “flamboyant” but the editorial two days later lamented that Young felt the need to bare “his pimply white buttocks”.
“It’s a sad commentary on his (Young’s) faith in the drawing power of the band’s music ability,” the editorial said before going on to lament the audience’s parents’ failure to endear their children with a better taste for entertainment.
One member of the crowd who to this day revels in AC/DC’s flamboyant shows is Lavington’s Jason James,
He sneaked out to attend the ’76 show and was blown away by what he saw.
The then 14-year-old, who will take his family down to Melbourne tomorrow to see the band for his fourth time, had a night to match Mrs Chapman’s.
After the band finished, he and his friend went around the back of the concert hall to try to sneak backstage.
They succeeded. Mr James climbed through a rear window and unlocked the door for his friend and they wandered in to find Bon Scott sitting alone on the stage, “swigging a bottle” of hard liquor.
“He was just chilling out. He invited us over and just sat us down and asked us if we liked the show,” Mr James said.
“It was unbelievable. I can’t even remember what I said. He was really nice, very friendly.
“Then he invited us back to the after party at the Commodore Motel in Kiewa Street where they used to stay.
“Malcolm was lying on the bed, Angus was somewhere else. We stayed for a while and eventually left. We couldn’t sleep that night and when we went to school the next day and showed everyone Bon’s autograph, we were legends.
“I just get goosebumps thinking about it now.”
Another Albury woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said her friend ended up lying in bed with a band member that night.
“She was an attractive girl, slim, blonde, and like all of us of the era, a miniskirt was the compulsory attire,” she said.
“It was standard at these concerts to ‘dress as a schoolgirl’ — short skirt and school tie in disarray — and the AC/DC boys chose a girl from the audience to come onto the stage.
“She was one of the schoolgirls chosen, and she not only went on stage, but back to the motel room with the boys.
“She brought the photos of the lads in their underwear to school as proof.
“I was very naive at the time, but recall her stating that she had been in bed with one of the lads and he told her he wouldn’t sleep with her because she was ‘too pure’.”
“I don’t think we really had any idea the lads would become as internationally renowned ... and I’ve often wondered what the value of those faded photos would be today.”
AC/DC begins its first Australian tour since 2001 in Melbourne tomorrow night and Mr James and Mr Petts will be there.
“Nobody puts on a show like
AC/DC,” Mr James said.