PHIL SUTCLIFFE – AC/DC: HIGH-VOLTAGE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – The Ultimate Illustrated History

  • 9/10
    PHIL SUTCLIFFE - AC/DC: HIGH-VOLTAGE ROCK 'N' ROLL - The Ultimate Illustrated History - 9/10


Voyageur Press
Release date: October 15, 2010

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AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll – The Ultimate Illustrated History is the first complete illustrated history published about the legendary band. This unauthorized biography gives a very detailed run-through of AC/DC’s history, their great music, their struggle to make it big, and the obstacles they had to face getting there.

London-based freelance journalist Phil Sutcliffe has been an AC/DC fan since he first saw them live back in 1976. He’s interviewed the band members on several occasions and he’s been writing about Rock since 1974. His work has appeared in, among others, Mojo, Q, the Los Angeles Times, Blender, Sounds, and more. Sutcliffe is also the author of another publication with Voyageur Press: Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock.

Of course, the story starts with focus on the brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. The two started the band after the family emigrated from Scotland to Australia in the early 1960s. We follow the band through thick and thin from their early days as a bar band Down Under to their latest release Black Ice (2008). Readers are taken on a journey that tells of the loss of their vocalist Bon Scott as they were about to take over the world, and their strong comeback success a few months later with their new vocalist Brian Johnson and their best-selling album to date; Back In Black. The book also includes a special afterword by Joe Elliott (Def Leppard).

All the way, the story is accompanied by photos from their earliest gigs to the latest Black Ice Tour, posters, backstage passes, and vinyl from around the globe, as well as rare performance photos, promo shots, pictures of singles and albums from bands the members were in before AC/DC, concert tickets, and even pictures from Revolutionary Comics’ Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics (1990), telling the story of the band’s raise to fame.

Every chapter ends with a step out to look at the big picture. These segments are written by guest writers and includes in-depth analysis of each and all of their releases (albums, videos, box sets, etc), in-depth analysis of why media in the mid-70s labeled AC/DC as Punk Rock, but their record label labeled them as Metal (while the band said they were just a Rock N’ Roll band), and also an in-depth analysis of the Young brothers’ gear. The latter offers you detailed descriptions of amps, guitars, pick-ups, and even guitar string sizes. But, all of these parts are separated from the narrative history, so if you’re not a gear freak or interested in reading a detailed description of Flick Of The Switch, you can easily skip this part without missing out on anything.

The only drawback the book suffers from having these guest writers analyze the albums is that they’re contradicting Sutcliffe at times. For instance Sutcliffe says the “… AC/DCs swing just feels dead as lead” on the songs “Snowballed” and “C.O.D.” from For Those About To Rock, while guest writer Bill Voccia praises these songs. This is a bit confusing to the reader and the book could have benefited from more consistency between the writers’ statements.

Though the author and his guest writers clearly love the band, they can be brutally honest about the band’s mistakes, the under par releases (e.g., the in-depth analysis of Fly On The Wall), and there’s no sugarcoating the truth. However, the book suffers the same problem as other unauthorized biographies; it doesn’t go deep enough. The interviews Sutcliffe has done with the band members are from back in the days and the book doesn’t reveal any new detailed information that an official biography would. It’s not lacking details per se, the author has done tremendous research, but it lacks the personal details one only could retrieve by an in-depth interview with the band members. This is, however, a brilliant recording of the band’s career and it’s heavily illustrated. It’s especially great when the author is referring to the Australian cover art for some album, or “Angus bucks” (dollar bills with Angus’ face on them) that you can see on the same page to know exactly what they’re referring to.

The book includes a special “spinner” cover image of Angus Young lying on stage (you can spin him and recreate his world-famous move). It’s a nice touch, and together with the many quotes by other famous rockers like Jimmy Page, Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, and Meat Loaf spread out throughout the book offering their view on AC/DC, it really completes the work. AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll – The Ultimate Illustrated History makes the perfect introduction to the band for new fans. Old fans (and fanatics as well) will find something new and enjoyable in this book too. If you’re only buying one book this year; this should be the one!


  • Kristian Singh-Nergård

    Kristian is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He is Metal Express Radio's Marketing and Communications Manager, and on occasions also reviewer and photographer. Based out of Oslo, Norway, Kristian is a bass player and owner of the independent record label Pug-Nose Records. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2006.

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