On Monday I listened to AC/DC’s “TNT“. The band is a great favourite of one of my softball buddies, an Irish American from New York. Their song “Long Way to the Top” has long been a favorite of mine; the lead bag-pipe break is absolutely inspired. I have heard TNT many times, but I added it to a playlist after hearing it again in Talladega Nights. What I heard on Monday was the drum opening of the song. I had never heard it so clearly or paid much attention. (You can here the drum opening on this version it is not included on most video clips). But on this listening having heard it I had a nagging feeling that the opening was similar to another song. Surprisingly it came to me later when I heard another familiar sound in the song. The lyrics “I’m dirty, mean and mighty unclean” are lifted directly from an advertisement for Mortein Fly Spray that has done the rounds in Australia from the late 1950s through to the present. Through many versions the ad features Louie the fly who tells us in the ad jingle that he is “bad, mean and might unclean.” Somehow that connection triggered a memory. The drum opening is very similar to that of the Australian band Zoot’s opening to their cover of the Beatles’s Eleanor Rigby. Their version is somewhat akin to the way Vanilla Fudge reworked The Supremes’s “You Keep Me Hanging On.”
Zoot was yet another Australian band that came out of Adelaide moving their base to Melbourne for larger exposure. One of the founders Beeb Birtles went on to fame and fortune with the Little River Band. A later addition to the group Rick Springfield became a teen heart throb in America. The drummer Rick Brewer enjoyed one hit wonder success with a band The Ferrets. At one stage Zoot dressed all in pink and played bubblegum music. Eleanor Rigby was their attempt to be taken seriously. In many ways they tried to channel The Who; it is not in this clip but Sprigfield’s party trick at the time was to throw his guitar in the air catch it and hammer the last chord. The singer Daryl Cotton must have practiced his Roger Daletry moves in the mirror daily.
Bon Scott too played in a bubblegum band: The Valentines. He along with Vince Lovegrove, later manager of the Divinyls, was one of the two lead singers. If only there had been colour televison in Australia at the time you could see in the clip that the Valentines wore lilac. I still remember it because Bon’s tats showing through the lilac crepe balloon sleeves was so incongrous. Check the gonk doll thrown on stage in the clip. It was de rigueur in the mid to late 1960s for girls to throw these on stage at any pop concert in Australia.
Bon Scott died in 1980, but he has something of a cult status in Australia even beyond his AC/DC work. In 2006 a Perth television station showed a documentary on him. (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). In 2008 the Fremantle Arts Centre created a Bon Scott Project (Here and Here). While you’re at it take a look at Bon in Fraternity he looks like a hobbit.