August 23, 2008

Heavy Metal Hopes Dashed – Here’s My Hair-Raising Story

By Stephen McGinty

IWOULD put my failure as a Heavy Metal fan down to my hair. While my peers in black leather biker jackets encouraged their follicles to grow into the most luxuriant manes, cascading rivers of black and brown hair that swept over their shoulders and dangled halfway down their back, my own barnet stubbornly refused to yield. For some unknown reason my hair was possessed by a most recalcitrant nature, namely its refusal to touch my shoulders, preferring instead to grow to within an inch or two, then begin to curl back up towards my ears and bestow upon me the appearance of a little Dutch girl.

The absence of a fine head of hair made headbanging problematic. Those with a decent length needed only to embark on a gentle nod and the hairy edifice would jangle and jig like a sandstorm. I, meanwhile, had to headbang to the point of inducing a tumour in order to shift my poor thatch. Afterwards, you couldn't help but feel like you had stumbled off a petrol-driven merry-go-round. I remember being told that each headbang killed off 10,000 brain cells and carefully calculating that I could probably afford to lose a few million per concert.

The man who made me doubt that spurious figure was Angus Young, the diminutive guitarist from AC/DC. Born in Glasgow, he and his brother Malcolm emigrated to Australia with their parents and there founded, with Bon Scott, himself an export from Kirriemuir, perhaps the greatest rock band in the world. Since the early Seventies, Angus had been headbanging at such a furious rate that, if true, he would surely now be a dribbling goon, confined to a wheelchair, instead of preparing once again to embark on a world tour whose Scottish date I await with eager anticipation.

There is something about AC/DC that brings out the best in people. They are universally loved, guaranteed to sell out any tour and almost unique in the musical firmament for refusing to write songs with any political message, unless you include peons to the pleasures of having sex with large-breasted women, an anti-feminist diatribe, or a skewed celebration of femininity.

Their lyrics are woefully direct. When my wife finally succumbed to their brilliance and began singing the songs out loud, I had to stop her when she sang one lyric as: "Let me cogitate with my mind..." The very notion of Brian Johnston, the Newcastle singer who took over after Bon Scott choked on his own drunken vomit in 1980, actually using the word "cogitate" in a song is hilarious. The line, in fact, was: "Let me cut your cake with my knife".

Back in 1986 I failed in my bid to win a place with the legion of fans dressed as duplicates of Angus Young, in schoolboy uniform of shorts, blazer and satchel and armed with cardboard guitars, who got to film the band's video for Who Made Who. (The song, one of my favourites, was written especially for the soundtrack of the film Maximum Overdrive, directed by Stephen King, a turkey whose dollars 15million budget is a price worth paying for the song.)

So I felt for the fans who this week lost out on the opportunity to appear in the band's new video for their forthcoming single, Runaway Train, but I recommend they check out the YouTube video of one lucky winner's rendition of the song, played in his bedroom, complete with wild air-guitar moves.

* The new AC/DC album, Black Ice, is out in October. The concert is scheduled for early next year. My trips to the barber are on hold.

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