Rock & Roll Summer Reading
AC/DC Maximum Rock & Rollby Murray Engleheart with Arnaud Durieux
HarperCollins, 488 pp., $16.95 (paper)
"It was a real gut-wrenching thing, the whole episode, and we didn't still know what was going to happen. You were sort of in a limbo world and I think that came through in all the stuff we came up with on that record. We always thought that Bon was with us in that too, you know what I mean? He was a big part of what we were doing, and his spirit was all over it because a lot of the energy was coming from Bon. So that's a special album." Take it from Malcolm Young. With his help, AC/DC Maximum Rock & Roll finally resolves one of modern rock's great album conundrums. Aussie writer/insider Murray Engleheart, with AC/DC amasser Arnaud Durieux, puts the group's yowling frontman Bon Scott in a London rehearsal studio with tiny guitar badgers Malcolm and Angus Young several days before the singer's death from "acute alcohol poisoning" on Feb. 19, 1980, at the age of 33. "Let Me Put My Love Into You" and "Have a Drink on Me," jammed with Scott on his beloved drums, were Back in Black by July and platinum by October, lyrics and teeth-screech courtesy of Brian Johnson. A 1-ton "Hell's Bell" tolling the LP to life, South African producer "Mutt" Lange "being very exacting about virtually every syllable that got sung," the pitch-black cover art: "That way, the album is dedicated to [Bon]," explains Angus. "Rather than just one little line on the back of the sleeve – it goes a lot deeper than that." Forget that the authors unveil nil about Lange, nor reveal a single detail about the Young brothers furthering a family pyramid that began with seven boys and a sister that liked Louis Armstrong, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry being uprooted by their parents to far-off Oz from Glasgow. That the story pivots on next oldest brother George Young, whose Easybeats brought Beatlemania to the outback, sets up a fast, riveting epic with a gang chorus of oi!s until Scott's "death by misadventure" 300 pages later. Rubber Soul or Revolver, Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall, Scott's Highway to Hell or Johnson's Back in Black? "Occasionally I've had a few dreams about Bon that I've met him in a place up the back end, up north in Western Australia," admits Malcolm in the final lap. "He'd never died ... he just decided to get out and disappear. A few little dreams like this. We still think that Bon's around, basically, and he is around because of the music." Have a drink on Bon Scott.