The Day I Appeared In An AC/DC Video

ACDC Angus Young Live Wembley Arena 1991 Razors Edge

Angus Young of AC/C live at Wembley Arena on the 1991 Razor’s Edge Tour
Picture by Every Record Tells A Story

Ask a teenager now if they would stay up all night to watch TV on the off chance of seeing one of their favourite bands’ music videos and you’ll probably get as baffled a look as the one that Wayne Rooney might give you were you to ask him a tricky question such as “What day is it?”

In 1986, seeing a rock music video on British TV was as rare as seeing a hen’s dentist. Now, nearly thirty years later, YouTube has made British TV’s recalcitrant attitude to playing rock music somewhat redundant. This is great, yet rather galling. I spent hours recording highlights from “No Limits”, “The Tube” “The Word” and “The Chart Show” onto videotape, timing the release and re-application of the “pause” button with a mixture of precision and clairvoyance – a skill that only a child of the eighties will ever fully appreciate – sitting through interminable hours of Stock, Aitken and Waterman videos just to capture two minutes or so of AC/DC or twenty seconds of Metallica.

“The Chart Show” was only worth tuning into every three weeks as it alternated a Rock chart with a Dance and Indie chart.

It’s hard not to feel delighted for today’s teenagers who can access just about any video on YouTube so easily without sitting through Rick Astley’s latest single. Well, perhaps “delighted” is the wrong word. I just hope they don’t all choke on their iPhones.

All of which explains why I had to wait a long time to see the one video that I actually appeared in. When I say “a long time”, I’m not kidding: it was a Seventeen Year wait. It was so long, My Bloody Valentine released two albums and flared trousers went in, then out, and then back into fashion whilst I was waiting. Although filmed in 1988, it wasn’t until 2005 that I discovered it was available – on the “Family Jewels” DVD which I ordered on Amazon.* I poured myself a glass, settled down and turned on the DVD player….

Angus Young ACDC Live Wembley Arena

But we are getting ahead of ourselves here. “How..” I hear you say “did you get to appear in an AC/DC video?

Twenty five years ago in March 1988 AC/DC played Wembley Arena in support of their Blow Up Your Video album. You may remember the one: It featured Angus dressed as a schoolboy on the cover. Not narrowing it down? OK, “Heatseeker” was the lead single, and “That’s The Way I Wanna Rock n Roll” the follow up. At the front of the queue someone handed me a flyer. It read: “Want to appear in an AC/DC video? 10am Sunday morning, Wembley Arena”. That was tomorrow. I was going to see the band for the second time anyway. Not seeing one of my favourite bands for free was as likely as John Prescott passing up a free pie and chips. I was 17 years old, so would obviously have had a packed weekend ahead of me, but after a call to my secretary** I managed to free up some time, cancelling some “hanging around with friends” or possibly “going to the video rental shop“.

I mused over the role I might play in the video. A young roadie perhaps? Maybe there would be some attractive girls there? Then I remembered this was an AC/DC video. I’d be in a crowd scene, whilst the band played onstage – just like the previous fifteen videos. And attractive girls? Well – there might always be a first time in an AC/DC video, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath. They weren’t that kind of band.

Sure enough, as we were let into the UK’s leading cavern of bad acoustics – or Wembley Arena as it is otherwise known – it was clear that I, and the two hundred or so others in the queue were to be members of the crowd.

But there was an unexpected twist to this video. Not in a “Sixth Sense”, “he’s already dead” kind of twist, but as they let us in, the film crew handed out what is now a very special bit of memorabilia for me: a lifesize cardboard replica of Angus Young‘s Gibson SG guitar.

ACDC Guitar Gibson SG Angus Young Cardboard

We were to be in the crowd as the band played second single “That’s The Way I Wanna Rock n Roll” onstage. I had a front row position. The director told the audience to bang their heads and generally jump up and down. A bit self-conscious about head banging on TV in case my mum (or worse, my friends) should see me making a fool of myself on Top of the Pops, I told myself that just waving the cardboard guitar around would suffice. The band came onstage and mimed to the song a few times as the cameras joined them on stage and zoomed into the crowd’s faces. Then – because the cardboard guitars were only printed on one side – we were asked to turn our guitars around as the cameras then filmed from behind the crowd. That’s the magic of Hollywood, folks.

After filming, Brian Johnson and Angus Young stayed behind for a while to chat with fans and sign the cardboard guitars. I got mine signed by Angus before I was ushered out by the venue staff.

I kept the guitar safe by travelling on tube and train an hour an a half back home, no doubt catching a few strange looks from people wandering why anyone would be carrying a cardboard replica of a guitar. I left it carefully at home and then travelled back on the train to watch the evening’s gig.

I couldn’t wait to see myself waving in the video and tuned in to Top of the Pops when the single charted. Sadly, this was the most ill-judged display of optimism and over-confidence since Goliath looked at the boy David, turned around, shook his backside whilst blowing a raspberry and said “Let’s be having you, sling-boy!”

There was more chance of a library being named after George W Bush than TOTP playing an AC/DC video***, and that was that…my chance of seeing myself on TV had gone.

Fast forward to 2005.

Having shelled out fifteen quid on the DVD, I wondered what I would look like as an eighteen year old on TV. I pressed “play”.

The video wasn’t terrible… The plot, such that it is, consists of a bunch of kids who want to go to an AC/DC show, and Angus appears magically out of a poster with a bit of camera trickery and goes on to play a show, taking the kids with him. Being the days before CGI, this “magic poster” was clearly an expensive special effect. I believe it was first seen in Buster Keaton films – when it was achieved by throwing a dummy off a building, stopping the camera, laying an actor on the floor in place of the dummy, restarting the camera and letting the actor get up and dust himself down.

That was about it, plot-wise. But no worries – I wasn’t expecting Citizen Kane. I was more interested in the crowd shots. There my eighteen year old self would be, front and centre.

I watched, entranced, as the kids in the video all appeared in front of the Birmingham N.E.C. waiting to see the AC/DC show.

It was at this point that I started to worry. The N.E.C? The band came onstage. At the N.E.C. The crowd were going wild. At the N.E.C. It was all at the N.E.C. In Birmingham. Where was all the Wembley Arena footage? I had waited seventeen years…for this? Where was my stupid face?

Nowhere. I hadn’t made the cut. By the look of it, none of the Wembley footage had made it either. It appeared as though there had been another video shoot and the Wembley footage didn’t make the grade****.

For seventeen years I had laboured under the impression I was in an AC/DC video, and it turned out I had been left on the cutting room floor. I couldn’t believe it.

Ah well, I reflected. Perhaps it was just as well. I never had a great look at eighteen. But I still had that cardboard guitar, signed by Angus Young…

Record #234: AC/DC – That’s The Way I Wanna Rock n Roll

* If I had spoken of having a DVD from Amazon in 1988 people would have thought I had a tropical disease.

** I didn’t have a secretary. I still don’t have a secretary.

*** Or so you’d think, anyway. Who says Americans have no sense of irony…?

*** I did a bit of internet research into this: it turned out that there had been another similar shoot at the N.E.C. a few days earlier – it looks like this footage was preferred. 

Oh, and yes – the photos on this page are from a later tour….



Categories: Hard Rock

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31 replies

  1. I always wondered about this video! Thanks for the story!

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  2. AC/DC videos and BBC documentaries… man, you sure get around. And that guitar replica is awesome!

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  3. Hey look on the bright side. You still got your cardboard guitar signed by Angus

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  4. Do you kind of wish you’d never seen the video? Then, at least, you’d have that signed guitar (hope you still do) and also been under the impression that you were in an AC/DC video. But this is an even better story! 🙂

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    • I do still have the guitar. It was in perfect mint condition until six years ago when my two year old son found it and bent it in two. It only just survived. My son, that is…
      Actually since then I have stuck some plastic on the back to give a bit of reinforcement, just in case he tries again…

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  5. Oh the memories come flooding back. The pause button, The chart show, Top of the pops. Just hilarious the lengths we went to to capture just a snippet of something decent. I do remember staying up until about 2.30am to record about 20 seconds of Slayer’s Reign in Blood, live from Night Network. Having to sit through The Jame’s Whale Show and numerous episodes of Get Stuffed before It came on. Thanks for the memories.

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  6. You’re right that was the album w Angus dressed up as a school boy. I remember staying up late to see videos too…most of them were so bad back then. Like Van Halens Pretty Woman…remember that gem?

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  7. I still have boxes of VHS tapes of my favorites from MTV took hours to get the videos you liked

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  8. I do have a VHS player but don’t ever use it. I need to get some of those old tapes digitized. Especially my skydive, college guitar recitals and conducting the symphony in college with hair down my back…good times! All the videos are surely on Youtube but it would be scary to re-live my old teenage brain and the videos I taped.

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  9. Closest I got to what you describe was seeing the Cramps at the Peppermint Lounge, and then finding that the show had been released on vinyl as a live EP – trouble is, I’m pretty sure it was two nights of same set, same recording, so no real way of knowing if the one on the album is the show I was at!
    But it was a great show, so it didn’t matter much, and it was/is a great album.

    Sorry to hear that your anticipation went so richly unrewarded!

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  10. Gutted for you. I was at the NEC gig and also have (still to this day) my cardboard replica guitar. Failed to spot myself on the video though.

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    • Ah! Great to hear from someone else who was there (well, at the N.E.C. Anyway) and has their guitar! I sometimes wonder if it was all a dream as I have never come across anyone else who was also there, so thank you! Did you have a chance also to get yours signed?

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      • Hi mate
        Strange as I met a cdc back in march 88 as I got to stand on the stage with my Gibson replica signed by the whole band and I loved it yet many years later the removal people stolen my signed cardboard guitar pretty much gutted me forever now
        I met George lynch also that evening as I was invited to meet and greet type thing I was 18 at the time, awesome moment I’ve never forgotten about

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  11. I was at Wembley too (Sun 13th March ’88) I too have my autographed by Angus guitar,got a big smacker of a kiss on the lips from him,and he put my homemade Angus hat on his head too!! We are in it!! Our footage is all the close-up stuff of the band on stage. Remember those massive cameras zooming around behind us? Its shot as if they were in the crowd with us. The Birmingham footage was the far away shots, and from stage looking out over audience etc. My guitar is the one waving highest of all. My brother is 6ft 4″and gave it his best!! Still got the hat too!!

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