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Watch AC/DC blow the roof off a small TV studio

Brian Johnson and Angus Young being interviewed
(Image credit: VH1)

Some bands engage in "promotional activity" more readily than others, and AC/DC have always been reluctant to engage with TV and the press. Back in 2020, when Power Up was released, the raft of interviews that accompanied the album was less a reflection of the band's enthusiasm to chat than it was a necessary evil after Malcom Young's death, Brian Johnson's departure, Axl Rose's arrival and their unexpected return to the studio. They actually had some explaining to do.

Of course, they didn't say much. Notoriously backward in coming forward, forever loathe to expose the inner workings of the AC/DC machine, they're a band who've always done their talking on the stage. And in 1996, promoting the previous year's Ballbreaker album, they did what they did best in a room barely large enough to swing a guitar. 

The performance took place at VH1's Studio B in London, just around the corner from Roundhouse Studios, where the initial sessions for the Highway To Hell album had taken took place 19 years earlier.

They'd done similar shows before – the iconic promotional album Live From Atlantic Studios was recorded in front of a tiny New York audience in 1977 – while many UK fans caught their first glimpse of AC/DC via the BBC series Rock Goes To College the following year.

"When was the last one?" Angus Young asks himself in the interview the precedes the band's set, before going on to answer his own question. "There's been video stuff of us done live, but this is the first time we've done this since the 70s." 

"Aye," adds Brian , succinctly.

"We just thought it was a good idea," adds Malcolm, "because you asked us, you know?"

Unpleasantries over, it's on with the live action. And it's brilliant. Two days earlier they'd played at Barcelona's 17,000-capacity Palau Sant Jordi, the following evening they'd head back to the Iberian Peninsular to at perform at Lisbon's Estádio do Restelo. And yet here they are, crammed together in a North London studio with an audience smaller than that which attended AC/DC's first UK show in 1977.

It's quite the setlist: Riff Raff, Go Down, Gone Shootin', Back In Black (which didn't make the final TV broadcast), You Shook Me All Night Long, Shoot To Thrill, Rock'n'Roll Ain't Noise pollution, Down Payment Blues, The Jack, Ballbreaker, Whole Lotta Rosie. And the band look like they're having the time of their lives. 

Notable moments include the opening Riff Raff, which Brian had never sung before onstage and never would again (it wouldn't return to the band's set until Axl's stint as relief pitcher in 2016), and Johnson roaming the studio in a desperate attempt to find people willing to provide backing vocals on The Jack. It's also a weird reminder that smoking in the workplace used to be a thing. Most of all it's vivid evidence of the band's onstage brilliance and of the searing heat that only the best rock'n'roll can generate. 

AC/DC haven't mined this filming in the way fans would like – Gone Shootin' appeared on 2007 Plug Me In DVD collection – but you can find unofficial releases hidden away in the internet's sketchiest corners if you're that way inclined. It deserves better.

Fraser Lewry
Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 36 years in music industry, online for 23. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.