AC/DC Reflections



“AC/DC’s first American exposure was through the Michigan radio station AM 600 WTAC in 1977. The station’s manager, Peter C. Cavanaugh, booked the band to play at Flint’s Capitol Theater. The band opened with their popular song “Live Wire” and closed with “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)”

My Space Book Cover

From–“Local DJ”—Pages 258 to 261

The only truly outstanding and personally rewarding musical
moment of 1977 came December 5 at the Capitol Theater
in Flint. It was my last “Peter C. Rock ‘n Roll Presentation.”
I had become very enamored with a new band just before I
left the airwaves. Ron Counts, representing Atlantic Records,
knew my taste in music, and had brought me an advance copy
of their first release. Going nuts, I programmed almost every
cut, especially one that sounded as though the lead-guitar had
been replaced by a bagpipe. I told Ron that it was the best new
product I had heard in years. The music was clean and raw;
direct and basic. WTAC was the first station to play the band
in America, and the album had sold more copies in Michigan
han anywhere else in the country as a consequence. When the
group announced their first U.S. tour, I called Joe Windsor.
Although I had agreed to abandon any future personal promotional
efforts as part of my ascension to the new highly-paid
and well-compensated General Manager’s position, I had to bring
this group to Flint. I told Joe that I would do it as a benefit
performance, with all proceeds going to Michael Moore’s
Davison Hotline. Joe asked me to promise it was a one-time
request. I did so without remorse. This was how I wanted to
end it.

AC/DC were picked up at the airport in Flint
early in the evening. No sooner had they all piled in my car,
than someone fired-up something in the back-seat.
“You want a hit, Mate?”
Sure. Why not?
It was a Winston.
These were boys from Australia. To them, an American cigarette
was something to be shared. I took a “‘it,” and passed it back.
A major snowstorm had moved into the area earlier in the
day, and it took 45 minutes to reach the downtown area— at
least double normal travel time. Roads were becoming blocked
by snow and attendance had been limited by conditions to less
than five hundred. The group was still virtually unknown. Who
cared? I knew the night would be historic.
Following the opening act which featured Rob Tyner of the old MC5,  there was a brief intermission for equipment change, then I killed every light in
the theater. Everything was jet-black. The theater was utterly
dark and ominously promising.
It started with a single, pounding, thundering bass note;
droning in constant repetition. Dum-Dum-Dum-Dum-Dum-

The screaming lead-guitar came in out of nowhere. It was
“Live Wire.” Four spotlights instantly flooded the stage, all focused
on and following a remarkably-strange, rapidly-moving,
seemingly-possessed apparition. He wore knickers. He was
dressed as a proper English schoolboy with necktie and knapsack.
His head bounced as though about to become disengaged.
He ran back and forth in circles around the other players, the
intensity building and volume rising with every stroke of the
guitar. He was barely out of his teens. His name was Angus
Young. His high voltage band had been christened in reference
to alternating and direct electrical currents, both common in
familiar housing “Down Under.” It seemed a nice name. AC/
DC had come to Flint.
They played for over 90 minutes. The audience wouldn’t
let them leave.  AC/DC’s final encore was the “bagpipe” song, the bagpipe being a guitar effect obtained through processing. Bon Scott belted-out the title.
“It’s a Long Way To The Top If You Want To Rock ‘n Roll!!”
I paid them a $1000 in cash. They wanted to try some
“Arby’s Roast Beef,” so we stopped at the nearest location, still
open despite horrible weather. They bought packs of cigarettes
by the dozen and emptied-out several brands from a machine.
They loved the Arby’s sandwiches, both for food and as projectiles.
Since we were the only patrons and had tipped heavily,
there was no hassle. I dropped them off at their hotel and extended
sincere thanks. My last concert had been among the
very best. They were equally appreciative. Their U.S. appearance
had gone well. They had enough American cigarettes for
weeks to come, no matter what

A few months later, the boys were back in town. I traveled
to a Detroit suburb and caught AC/DC opening for Ireland’s
Thin Lizzy at the Royal Oak Music Theater. The Aussies were
most excellent, but I noticed marked sound mix peculiarities
near the middle of their scheduled set. Things were becoming
unbalanced, first upon my ears and then before all eyes. Out of
nowhere, several security guards rushed onto the stage and attempted
to conclude the performance. It was all fiercely fast.
Suddenly, the music discordantly ceased. One uniformed enforcer
made the tragic mistake of grabbing Bon Scott’s arm. A
violent head-butt sent the uninvited transgressor flying backward,
then down and out. Chaos reigned. More police poured
out on the stage. The group formed an immediate protective
circle, rapidly expanding as AC/DC proceeded to kick superserious
ass. Even several members of Thin Lizzy joined the fray
in unrestrained Rock ‘n Roll reinforcement, advancing upon
the uninvited intruders from behind. Feet flashed. Fists flew.
Foreheads filled faces.
A phalanx of record company and management personnel
somehow introduced themselves into the midst of the melee
and separated participants, much to the relief of those few authority
figures still unmarred. Confusion was abound. It was
clear the group had no idea what had triggered so unpleasant
an incident. The band members had reacted with instinct, not
intent. It turned out to be a noise thing.
Neighbors near the theater had been complaining. The City
of Royal Oak had passed a local ordinance proclaiming any
sound level over 100 decibels as noise, and therefore a nuisance.
An official “Decibel Deputy” had arrived on the scene
and, standing next to the AC/DC sound board at the very back
of the building, had clocked the lads in at 125 and climbing.
Their sound man, responding to a tap on the shoulder and barely
hearing the word “loud” screamed into his ear, joyously responded;
“Ahhhh, yeah, man. And we’re just startin’ to cook!”
There was a firm punch for attention delivered on the audio
technician’s back. The “Decibel Deputy” was dropped with a
heel to the heart. Three security police dragged the offender off
the monitor platform and, assisted by several others, effected
arrest. This is where the sound mix got screwy. They ordered
the performance to stop. That’s when the stage went wild. The
crowd was now in total uproar. Miraculously, calm heads prevailed.
Charges forgotten, technician unfettered and sound restored,
the group returned to their set.
I sent a formal telegram to the group the following day
apologizing for all the “dainty little ears” they had encountered
in our fair Michigan. They responded with a note expressing
appreciation for my support. The “Battle of Royal Oak” had
ended with encores.

DC Mail,jpeg

4 Responses to “AC/DC Reflections”

  1. Margaret Says:

    Hi Peter, ,Just to clarify the point for those readers who may not know… The MC5 did not open for AC/DC. You are referring to Rob Tyner’s band at this point in time. Thanks, Margaret

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      Hmmmmm. Interesting. Hi, Margaret! The group opening for AC/DC was sold to me and contracted as “The MC5”, although I do clearly recall that Wayne was not a participant. I can’t remember if Wayne was with Tyner when “MC5” (or so referenced by Dave Leone and DMA) appeared with me earlier that summer in Bay City at some open air venue. I do know the group played MC5 material at both gigs. Let me herein state for the record, however, that, at least in my humble opinion, an “MC5” without Wayne Kramer would have been missing a critical original component and would not truly have been THE MC5 in Wayne’s absence. As you know, band membership changes were (and are) quite common in the rock ‘n roll world with group name retention often bitterly disputed. Are The Rolling Stones THE Rolling Stones without Bill Wyman or Brian Jones? Ditto AC/DC without Bon Scott, The Yardbirds without Jimmy Page and so on? Nevertheless, I have removed the MC5 reference from my blog site and will similarly refrain from using the MC5 name in the context of that Flint AC/DC performance in any future published editions of my book.


  2. Margaret Says:

    Hi Peter, no prejudice intended. No early members in that band other than Rob, which was acknowledged even by Rob soon after as not actually The MC5. All the best, Margaret

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