Date running: 7th November 2009 – 28th February 2010
Location:Gallery 1 Arts Centre, St Kilda Road (Situated between: The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and the Southbank precinct)
How to get there: A 5-minute walk down St Kilda Road from Flinders st station; Stop 14 on any tram that goes down St Kilda Road; alternatively you can drive and park in the Arts Centre car park complex.
Curator: Tim Fisher
Tim Fisher first saw AC/DC perform in Canberra in 1975. Fast-forward to 2009 and Tim, along with his colleagues from the Collections, Research and Exhibitions unit of the Arts Centre had to think of whom to exhibit for their ‘Icon’ exhibition. They came to a unanimous decision that there was only one option of who could end its 5-part ‘Icons’ exhibits. None other than the biggest band in the world: AC/DC. They seem to have made the right choice.
This exhibition is the fifth and final instalment in the Arts Centre’s Icon Exhibition Series. Previous exhibitions include:
– Kylie: A Free Exhibition (Kylie Minogue)
– Ednaville: A Historic Home (Aussie Icon Dame Edna/Barry Humphries)
– Nick Cave: The Exhibition (singer/songwriter, writer, occasional actor)
– Peter Allen: The Exhibition (the late Peter Allen is most famous for his hits ‘I Go To Rio’ and ‘I Still Call Australia Home’)
Firstly, Tim had to seek approval form the band; their publisher and their record label Albert Music. He did not get to speak directly to the band members.
Throughout 2009, Tim set about travelling around contacting avid collectors; visiting old friends, family and roadies; searching photographer’s archives; reading endless press stories and all unapproved biographies (to sort out what really was the truth).
Organisers: The Arts Centre and Western Australian Museum: in association with AC/DC, Albert Music and Sony Music.
Time: Open 7 days a week you can go to the exhibition from 7am until 1 hour after the last show. 9am until 1 hour after the last show and on Sunday from 10am until 1 hour after the last show.
Description: The exhibition was set up not just to celebrate the musical career of AC/DC spanning 35 years, and still going strong. But also to honour the history and power of the artists known as one of the world’s greatest rock and roll bands.
Although, it’s quite a small exhibition (one U-shaped room), you learn quite a lot from the spectacular items displayed at the exhibition. When you walk in, you are welcomed by an image of each of the band members and their roles within the band. A couple of steps and you’re reading about the emigration of the band members to Australia and the inception of AC/DC. As you walk out, the last thing you see is photographs from 2009 taken throughout their current, Black Ice tour, the images stay etched in your mind. The most memorable; a photo of the band performing with an inflatable female known as ‘Rosie’, wearing very little clothing, riding a prop train high above the stage.
At the back of the room there’s an imitation live viewing room. Here you can watch their performance at Donington in England in 1991 while sitting on a red bolt-shaped couch.
As you exit the exhibition, you can buy merchandise for their Black Ice tour, a good idea if you don’t plan to wait for hours and missing seeing the band (or supporting act, Wolfmother) performing just to get that one t-shirt you really liked.
Key items on display:
Angus Young’s guitar: On display, is one of Angus Young’s signature SG Gibson guitars signed by the man himself. Unfortunately, unplayable to viewers due to being encased in a glass display cabinet. It is unique in the way that on the headstock (situated between the tuning pegs) has an engraved picture of Angus wearing a schoolboy outfit.
Cannon: The cannon is used in the ‘For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)‘ section of their performances. It is amazing to be so close to something, that you can touch, that has been on the stage with the guys.
Highway to Hell touring Jacket: This embroidered black leather jacket was the touring jacket for 1979’s Highway To Hell tour. Also on display is a black leather jacket, once owned by Bon Scott.
(American) Dollar Bill featuring Angus Young: The poster of the bill at the exhibition is about 100 times the size of the original note. This must have been an honour to Young as not many people can say they’ve had their face printed on any amount of money. If only, money was always printed with ‘celebrities’ on it.
Screens with performances: There are many televisions throughout the exhibition to watch various interviews and performances, you can even play guitar along to them (It wasn’t there the day I visited, but according to an article I read in Rolling Stone Magazine, there is). There is even a special screening room (as mentioned previously)!
Mini bio: AC/DC have sold over 150 million copies of their 18 studio released album, including their latest, 2008’s Black Ice. Having toured the world on 60 different tours. They are Sony BMG’s biggest selling artists worldwide and have sold 70 million albums in the US alone. This notion puts them in the top 5 of America’s top-selling bands.
Now… lets have a look at where it all began.
Angus and Malcolm Young’s family migrated from Glasgow, Scotland to Sydney, Australia in 1963.
Angus and Malcolm’s older brother, George Young was a member of the Australian band, The Easybeats, and manager of AC/DC. Their eldest sibling, Alexander, is also a musician.
The 2 brothers (both guitarists) played together with various others live for the first time on 31st of December 1973 showcasing their skills, before forming the band AC/DC. It got its name from a label on the back of their sisters’ sewing machine. After which they moved to Melbourne to seek out additional band members. They had to find a certain voice that would suit the young brothers’ guitar playing style. They stumbled upon Bon Scott, who’d once previously, unsuccessfully auditioned for the band when he worked as a roadie and driver back in Sydney. Scott, another Scotsman who’d also relocated Australia, took up his place as co-front man alongside Angus, distinctly known for wearing a school uniform. The idea came from a time when Malcolm was younger and would rush home after school to practice guitar while still dressed in his school uniform.
Well-known musician and music producer, Harry Vanda teamed up with Malcolm Young as co-producer, snapping them an album offer soon after Scott joined.
They produced their first album, High Voltage in 1974, shortly followed by T.N.T in 1975. Each album has received silver, gold and platinum status in Australia.
Due to their success, they ventured out to Great Britain in ‘76 and toured across America in ’77. By ‘78, they were considered to be amongst the hottest concert attractions in the world.
In ’79, they changed producers for their next album, Highway to Hell, to Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange.
Unfortunately, on February 19th 1980 Bon Scott died at the age of 33 whilst the band was touring in the UK. His death was reported as ‘due to swallowing his own vomit’, and is listed as ‘death by misadventure’ and ‘acute alcohol poisoning’.
The band members’ tribute to him: continue to play, as Scott would have wanted them to.
Fortunately they found an equally as good vocalist in Brian Johnston. A singer Scott had raved about to the others. Their next album, with their newfound member, Back In Black sold 22X platinum (double diamond plus status).
During the 80s and the 90s they continued to tour, playing sell-out tours and into their 35th year of the bands career are currently touring their latest album, Black Ice, released in 2008. Black Ice is their 15th studio-recorded album.
Nomination of the band included; two for the American Music Awards, two ARIA awards, seven Grammy Awards and one MTV Music Award. A total of 13 nominations; yet have only won the 2 ARIA awards.
The band has been honoured and recognised in many different ways: In 2000 they were inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame; their imprints cemented outside the Guitar Center on Hollywood Boulevard; And induction into the American Hall of Fame in 2003.
In 2004, Corporation Lane in Melbourne’s city was renamed ACDC Lane, The lighting bolt, usually depicted between the C and the D was forbidden to be used; and inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1988, along with Malcolm Young and Vanda.
They are currently on the Black Ice tour, which they have been on since October 2008, and 18 months long tour. Other current band members are: Cliff Williams on the bass and backing vocals, and Phil Rudd on Drums and Percussion. Both members have been with the band a couple of years after the inception of the band.
The Australian leg of the band’s tour sold 520,000 tickets in 3 hours, almost all shows, completely sold out! 48 semi-trailers hauling around their props, set to be quite an amazing show.