"Angus looked like a pincushion, blood streaming out of his skin, and he's seemingly oblivious to the pain": Why supporting AC/DC is a thankless task

Brian Johnson and Angus Young onstage
AC/DC onstage at Newcastle Arena, UK, June 3 1996 (Image credit: Simon Greener/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Apparently we replaced one of the bands that one of the many Young cousins was in. We had no idea why they didn’t make it, but after one gig we assumed we’d fare even worse. Y’see, supporting AC/DC is truly a thankless task because there are no casual DC fans – they live and breathe AC/DC and wouldn’t care about the support band even if Jimi Hendrix was playing guitar and John Bonham was drumming. 

“You were great, lads,” Brian Johnson said to us afterwards. 

“But they were booing and telling us to fuck off,” I replied. 

“Yes, but no one was throwing bottles.” 

We made it through a vast European tour with them on the Ballbreaker tour, which seemed to mostly take place in Germany. 

It also turns out that generally no support band from Europe gets asked to continue to do the United States leg afterwards. So come the final show, we were all like expectant fathers waiting the verdict. I mean, we’d been partying pretty hard throughout, but surely that was expected from a young rock’n’roll band on an AC/DC tour, right? 

As it happens, it was, and they gave us the go ahead. We had the US tour. 

I handed over every penny I had to go towards tour expense, and we met them in the States to begin what was to be the worst investment of my life. We rapidly ran out of money, then began bickering with each other, then fighting, and finally abandoning the tour after less than a week, mostly spent in Canada, under the influence of so much tequila and drugs that the fact we were leaving the tour didn’t dawn on us until our plane began landing at Heathrow. 

I guess Brian Johnson was just as surprised, as the next day he asked: “Where’s the lads in The Wildhearts?” On being told we left because we were skint, he said: “Ah, fucking hell, man, we would have paid for them to stay.”

Of all the memories I have of that tour – most of which cannot be printed, more’s the pity – my lasting one is playing in Spain, where the perspex stage they normally used couldn’t be transported, and a makeshift one was hastily nailed together that morning by the locals. 

During their set, Angus came out to the side of the stage on a wobbly ramp that I dared not even stand on during our set, and started doing his dying fly routine, spinning around on his back on the unshaven wood while playing his solo. We could only look on in awe as he ran back down the ramp with his back impaled by lots of mean-looking splinters. He looked like a pincushion, blood streaming out of his skin, and he’s seemingly oblivious to the pain. 

I don’t care who you are, there are times in any band when you just look at each other and say: “We’re just not as good as AC/DC”.

Tickets for AC/DC's Power Up European tour are on sale now. The Wildhearts play a one-off show at London's Shepherds Bush Empire on June 6. This feature originally appeared in Classic Rock 191, published in December 2013.

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart is the guitarist, singer, songwriter and leader of Brit-rock icons The Wildhearts. In addition, he has released numerous solo albums and has been involved in many other musical projects, including Super$hit 666, Clam Abuse, Super Ginger 5, Brides Of Destruction, Hey! Hello!, Mutation and Ginger Wildheart & The Sinners.