As of time of writing this book review, (early 2018) this is a scary era for long-time fans of AC/DC. Massive line-up troubles, the passing of two members of the Young family, the weird firing, (but not really?) of longtime singer Brian Johnson, a new temporary (or not?) hiring of Axl Rose, threats of a new studio album, a line-up decimated in a relatively short period of time, ex-members facing legal charges…it is a real mess. What is going to happen? Will there be a triumphant new album and tour as the band is threatening? Or will the bands legacy get tarnished as they crash and burn? Should they quit while they are ahead? No one knows…except Angus Young. What is going on in his head? No one knows for sure, but in quite a timely fashion, there is a new book, HIGH VOLTAGE-THE LIFE OF ANGUS YOUNG, which, with any luck will give us an insight into the mind of the only original member left in AC/DC. The book is even sub-titled, ‘AC/DC’s Last Man Standing’!
Writing a book about AC/DC is a very ambitious move. The market is absolutely saturated with books about the band. I personally have ten books about AC/DC in my own collection and I know several more exist. They al have their slant or angle on the well-told story, and all of them are well-done, but they all have the same virtually unavoidable problem. As time went on the band became more and more insular. Ever since BACK IN BLACK went multi-platinum, the band went into virtual hiding. Accordingly every book is loaded with interesting detail of say… the first decade of the band, and then it just drops off the cliff.
HIGH VOLTAGE, the second book about AC/DC called HIGH VOLTAGE, is a recent paperback published by Chicago Review Pres. It’s eye-catching cover compliments the well-presented book. At 300+ pages in slightly larger font, it is an easy read. There are a fair number of interesting photos, many of which I had never seen before. There are a few useful features, such as your standard bibliography, discography and my favourite, the always entertaining and useful ‘Where Are They Now’ section.
Author Jeff Apter is a former writer for Rolling Stone Australia but we won’t hold that against him! However, he does have extra credibility as being the ghost-writer for the Mark Evans book, DIRTY DEEDS, released back in 2011. His approach is an ambitious one, a focus on Angus Young. Jeff really digs deep and presents in an entertaining fashion, the life and time of Angus. Apter is an entertaining and enthusiastic writer bordering on devotional at times, it seems the band can do no wrong! I learned a lot about Angus, his wife and family and many other bits and pieces I had not picked up from the other books, so there is a little treasure trove of info for the die-hard Angus fans. Even though the story is ancient and told 100 times, his section on the PMRC, the Filthy Fifteen (of which AC/DC is an honorary member!) and the infamous Night Prowler crime story, is all very well done.
The book is not without a few minor flaws however. As mentioned earlier, the band became increasingly reclusive once they got rich (can’t say I blame them) and interesting (ie, non-press release) information became increasingly hard to find. Apter covers the entire period from FLICK OF THE SWITCH to BLACK ICE (1986-2008) in a mere 40 pages! That is over two decades of the life of Angus that get completely glossed over. Secondly, Apter certainly does not conceal his disdain for other Hard Rock bands calling some of them ‘cartoonish’ and ‘goofballs’! AC/DC is king in his mind! These are really minor issues, the book is well-researched and a great read.
LAST MAN STANDING is really well done. Pair this book with THE YOUNGS by Jesse Fink and you will have a complete picture about one of the more iconic and interesting figures in the history of Rock ‘n Roll!