“I was terrified!“ Def Leppard‘s Joe Elliott recalls AC/DC‘s “unbelievably exciting“ Highway To Hell tour

DC 79
(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Image)

In the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott shares his still-vivid memories of observing AC/DC‘s power and passion at close hand when the (then) Sheffield teens supported Malcolm Young‘s band on the UK leg of the Aussie rockers‘ Highway To Hell tour in 1979. “It was just unbelievably exciting,“ Elliott recalls.

“They looked after us. We had good lights and sound, and we went down really well with their audience. There wasn’t much socialising, but the overall vibe of the two bands together was pretty damn good. It wasn’t that AC/DC weren’t friendly, we just never saw much of them. But the one guy who was really personable was Bon Scott. I remember we happened to be in the same hotel as them one night, we had four straws in one pint, and Bon threw a tenner down and said: ‘Here you are, lads! Go buy yourselves a round.’ Sadly I never had the chance to pay him back.“

“We watched them like hawks every night,” Elliott admits. “We wanted to learn, and one of the big lessons was the value of repetition, which is a key ingredient to longterm success. Most artists don’t want to repeat themselves, but if you want to stay in the game you don’t change your set every night. AC/DC never changed their sound, their look or their work ethic.”

“The Glasgow Apollo shows were the most memorable for me. The first night, I went up to the balcony when AC/DC went on. They started off with Live Wire, and that balcony… My god, I thought it was going to come down with all these people jumping around going bonkers. It was like a fucking trampoline! For a few minutes I was terrified. So I just fucking legged it. I watched the rest of the show from the side of the stage.”

“Bon was an amazing frontman,” Elliott adds admiringly. “Every night, he wore a sleeveless denim jacket, no shirt, and he was in good shape for a guy who drank so much. But it was the expression in his face that I remember most. He looked like he didn’t give a shit. I don’t mean he didn’t give a shit about being in tune or in time, he just had this facial expression that said he was living in the moment.”

For more from Joe Elliott, and much, much more on AC/DC’s final world tour with Bon Scott, order the new issue of Classic Rock, which is on-sale now.

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