High Voltage- The Life of Angus Young (Jeff Apter)

In 2015 I had the enormous privilege of seeing ACDC perform live. For any fan of music, in particular rock n roll, seeing these guys live should most definitely be on your bucket list (admittedly this is getting harder to do since Angus is now the only one remaining from the original line-up). So, when I saw  a new biography of legendary guitarist and ACDC icon, Angus Young, on the shelves I just had to grab it.

My experience with biographies can be a bit hit and miss, usually miss. They have a tendency to be a bit dull. But, I can say with confidence that this book is not that. It is an incredibly satisfying and entertaining read.

The biographer, Jeff Apter, is clearly a music fan. He is the  author, of of over 20 books about various rock n roll acts, including ghost writing biographies for Michael Browning (Dog Eat Dog)  and Mark Evans (Dirty Deeds), this guy knows his stuff. That’s part of what makes this book so enjoyable. Aside from being well researched, it is obvious that this guy knows his subject inside and out. Yet, he managed to avoid gushing. This is not a fluff piece.

The early chapters in particular were especially pleasurable. It was great to relive the story of the foundations of the Australian rock n roll scene. From the exploits of older brother George in The Easybeats and his enduring songwriting/producing partnership with Harry Vanda, to the moment that ACDC made their explosive entrance onto the world stage, it is a great story all on it’s own. While reading it, I felt compelled to put on my old classic Australian rock albums, which made the experience all the more enjoyable.

Overwhelmingly the main impression is of a band with an incredible work ethic. The dedication and commitment that the band members have, the Young brothers in particular, to the group is awe inspiring. Their no nonsense, no bull shit approach to the idea has remained unchanged for 40 years. Others have tried to label them, they’ve been called punk before there was punk, new wave before there was new wave, and heavy metal. While these movements have come and gone, ACDC has continued on it steady path, ignoring most of it.

If I had a criticism of this book, it’s that we don’t get enough insight into the man himself. This is meant to be about Angus, not the band. But, then maybe that’s the point. The band IS Angus Young, and Angus Young IS the band. ACDC has survived numerous changes in personnel (it is a multi-million dollar industry in it’s own right), but it is the aging, school boy with the devils horns that people come to see.

I would recommend this book to anyone that likes a good read. Even if you aren’t a fan, this book will entertain you.

(High Voltage is currently available in Australia. It is scheduled for release in the UK in October 2017 and in North America in April 2018.)