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Sutcliffe, Phil
AC/DC-High Voltage Rock 'n' Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History (Book Review)
June 2012
Released: 2010, Voyageur Press
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: JP

Last month was Maiden Month, so this month is AC/DC month! I’m taking a look at four AC/DC related books this month. Feel free to also check out my reviews of DIRTY DEEDS (Evans), LET THERE BE ROCK (Masino), TWO SIDES TO EVERY GLORY (Stenning) and HIGH VOLTAGE ROCK AND ROLL (Sutcliffe)

At first I was a bit skeptical about an Illustrated History of AC/DC for two reasons. One, illustrated histories are often fluff pieces done by well-intentioned people but with little or no connection to the band in question. A cynic might say they are easy cash grabs for a publisher exploiting a target market but I'm not a cynic. Most illustrated histories have value for the true fan even if they are a bit thin on real content, unless you really enjoy looking at old ticket stubs from a concert from 30 years ago that you never went to, in a country you have likely never been to.

Secondly, AC/DC have got to be one of the visually least interesting bands in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Sure, they have the iconic 'Angus-as-schoolboy' figure which is probably second only in band 'brand identification' to Iron Maiden's Eddie, but really, aside from that, what have they got to show? They have always been a working class blues-based, hard rock band, it was never really about the costume and flair, except maybe way back in the very early 70's when Bon dressed up as a school girl a couple of times.

About a year after its release I came across HIGH VOLTAGE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL in the bargain bin, which may indicate others had the same reservations about running out and buying the book at full price. HIGH VOLTAGE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL is a really nice looking, hard bound, 224 page coffee table book. The cover has a quite clever, moveable, inlaid spinning disc of 'Spinning Angus' on his back, on the stage, representing one of his signature moves. I can't help but think that at his age it must be starting to hurt, flopping down on the steel and concrete stage and flailing all about, but the show must go on.

This book is much more than just long-time champion and AC/DC uber-fan Sutcliffe’s personal visual tribute to the Aussie (via Scotland) rockers. No, there are no less than 21 guest contributors including heavyweights Bozza, Bukszpan, Christe, and Martin Popoff. Even Joe Elliot of Def Leppard gets the last say in the Afterword. Each album gets an individual write-up by one of the guest contributors while Phil handles the bulk of the text. The commentary while interesting and informative takes second-place to the dazzling visuals. The amount of material photographed for this book is staggering. I can’t even begin to count it all. There are pictures of vinyl singles of the very early days of the Easybeats and Fraternity. Those singles must be worth a fortune!

Although AC/DC haven’t reached the stratospheric levels of marketing of some bands like Kiss or Alice Cooper they have had their name emblazoned on more items than one could easily count. Buttons, stickers, patches, posters, flyers, laminates, real stamps, fake money, credit cards, t-shirts, tour books and more are all presented here in all their eye-catching glory. I’ve often read about the AC/DC stamps and credit cards but never saw them until I got this book. The book is laid out pretty much chronologically with the album-by-album, chapter-by-chapter approach. It is nice to see big glossy pictures of the various territorial pressing of the first few albums that each sported different album covers. Let’s not forget the band photos! There are heaps of shots of the band, many, many candid photos of the band offstage goofing around. There are some of the iconic press shots of Angus in full-flight, but the emphasis seems to be on the rare and unique shots such as the band backstage in England or Bon goofing around on a bicycle in Germany or Bon flirting with some chick in Los Angeles and many more.

As a longtime AC/DC fan and Rock book librarian I'm glad I got it but it really was a bit of an impulse buy on my part. It’s flawless execution, lay-out and design however compensate and make this one of the better illustrated histories I’ve seen. You won’t find a better collection of AC/DC memorabilia anywhere.
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