Memoir From Early AC/DC bassist Mark Evans Sheds Light On Band's Beginnings
The Thunder from Down Under that is AC/DC has been blasting eardrums for nearly four decades, continuing to move millions of records and tour huge arenas worldwide. And though the lineup has changed over the years, the band has found a niche in sticking to a simplistic - though highly effective -- musical blueprint.
Much of that blueprint was laid early in the band's career, and bassist Mark Evans was there. Joining in 1975 at the age of 19, he played hundreds of gigs with the then-struggling rockers, and appeared on seminal early records T.N.T., Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Let There Be Rock, and the '74 Jailbreak EP. And when he took not one but two women home after his very first gig, it certainly seemed like a great career, with more booty bounty to come.
Two years later on the eve of their first U.S. tour, Evans was summarily dismissed by band consensus, taking a 38-hour flight back to Australia alone. And, as he writes in Dirty Deeds, he's still not clear on the reasons why (Did they want a singing bass player? Had he pissed off the touchy Angus Young? Did a few missed band meetings make him the odd man out?). And when the band got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, Evans writes that he was originally included on the inductee list, only to have his name mysteriously disappear and his phone calls not returned.
Still, Dirty Deeds is not a poison pen memoir. Instead, as Evans concentrates on bring the reader into the band's no fuss/no frills/denim clad life and work ethic as they climbed the career ladder.
Copenhagen, Denmark - April 19, 1977
But make no mistake, AC/DC is never was nor is today a democracy. Evans says that the group was run by the nexus of Young brothers -- rhythm guitarist Malcolm (the undisputed leader), lead guitarist and naughty schoolboy Angus, and older brother/producer/musical director George. Singer Bon Scott mostly merrily went along with decisions -- so long as he could have a somewhat private life away from the group -- and drummer Phil Rudd was uninterested in band politics and the songwriting process.
Evans offers plenty of amusing anecdotes of these road tours including drunken arguments, fights, and the band's hapless attempts to construct a kit of bagpipes for Scott to mime with during "It's A Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)."
After his AC/DC years, Evans played (and continues to play) with a series of bands and ad hoc groups of friends while getting involved in the vintage guitar business. He alludes to continuing troubles with the Young brothers, but demurs on details. And he clearly held no grudge against Scott, whom he saw later on a friendly level before his 1980 death, shortly after the band finally broke big with Highway to Hell. Evans also writes movingly of losing his teenage daughter in a traffic accident after she first survived an illness that almost killed her.
Dirty Deeds will of course be of interest to AC/DC fans, and is actually much meatier on the band's history than Brian Johnson's own recent band/car memoir, Rockers and Rollers. But as his time with the band ends prior to massive success, there's a whiff of "What if?" to Evans' story, which, of course, is something that he's had to live with everyday.
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