AC/DC’s Live from The Atlantic Recording Studios is a lost classic – and in my view is their best album.
Very soon after I bought AC/DC’s Fly on the Wall, The Friday Rock Show broadcast an entire live show of AC/DC from December 1977 live from the Atlantic Recording Studios. I was there hovering over my tape recorder like an expectant teenage father hovering over the phone waiting for the CSA to catch up with him. I imagine there were a number of AC/DC fans across the country that night doing exactly the same thing.
After seven songs the tape was running perilously close to the end of the reel – and I flipped it over faster than a five-stars-on-badge McDonalds worker can flip a cheeseburger off the floor…if I had messed up the recording I would have had to wait twenty years to hear that show again.
Live at the Atlantic Recording Studios is unlike any other “live” album I have heard. It sounds so intimate, it is more like having the world’s loudest rock band turning up to play in your living room in front of you and a few friends. At one point you can even hear beer cans being opened and handed round the handful of people in the “audience”.
The guitars growl, but in a friendly way, like a couple of slightly tipsy lions.
The thing I couldn’t help but notice compared with “Fly on the Wall” was that the singer was different: less rough, and his banter between songs was funny and charismatic.
As anyone even vaguely familiar with AC/DC will know, I had stumbled on a band that had to replace its first singer, Bon Scott with Brian Johnson after the former tragically choked to death on vomit after a heavy drinking session. This, along with the death of Jimi Hendrix gave Spinal Tap that awful line about choking on “somebody else’s vomit”…….”you can’t dust for vomit…”. That’s some dark humour right there…
It is this record, I think, that captures AC/DC at their very best. Many of the songs sound better than their original versions (I’m thinking Livewire, The Jack, High Voltage), which is always a good test of whether a live album is worth listening to.
We also learn that the lady in Whole Lotta Rosie was from Tasmania, and actually weighed 305 pounds, which for pedants everywhere is actually more than the “nineteen stone” in the song itself. Maybe she’d put on a few pounds over Christmas.
Recorded after the Powerage album “Atlantic Recording Studios” eventually found an official release on the Bonfire box set. It also exists on vinyl: the original album sent to DJs in the seventies can fetch over £120 for those with more money than a small country (er, excluding Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal – OK bad analogy). I recently bought a newer version at a record fair for a few quid.
AC/DC, with Let There be Rock, Powerage, Highway to Hell and Back in Black are one of only a few bands who have managed to string a number of classic albums together. In the middle of that run, they also lost a lead singer and produced this (and another) amazing live album.
It seems extraordinary that their record label (Atlantic) had been at the brink of dropping them prior to the release of “Let There Be Rock” (a move that would have been about as smart as buying EMI in a private equity buyout) as revealed in an excellent Classic Rock Magazine article this month. Good job they didn’t. “Back in Black” turned out to be the best selling rock album of all time…
Record#34: AC/DC – Livewire – Live from the Atlantic Recording Studios