Pho­tograph­ing AC/DC

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FOR Philip Mor­ris, a pho­tog­ra­pher with Aus­tralia’s lead­ing weekly mu­sic mag­a­zine, the phone call was a ter­rific scoop. The sound tech­ni­cian for the na­tion’s top rock out­fit AC/DC was tip­ping him off to a sur­prise show at The Strata Mo­tor Inn, in Sydney’s Cre­morne that night.

It was a Sun­day af­ter­noon in 1979, a great era for shoot­ers like Mor­ris, who worked for Go-Set.

That night he headed out with girl­friend Rosie Hewett to the ho­tel where Mel­bourne band The Fer­rets (big hit: Don’t

Fall in Love) were al­ready on stage and AC/DC were out the back wait­ing to shock the crowd with their unan­nounced gig.

Ush­ered through, Mor­ris spot­ted charis­matic front­man Bon Scott tuck­ing into din­ner and a few whiskies.

“I just in­tro­duced Rosie to Bon and he went really funny, ‘Aarrr, Rosie’ in his best pi­rate voice,” Mor­ris re­calls. It seemed odd. “He had some whisky and he was drink­ing so I thought he was a just bit pissed … and didn’t think any more of it. And then when he did the song, A Whole Lotta Rosie, I thought, ‘Ohhh, maybe he does know her’.” The show was a riot, and af­ter­wards a wor­ried pho­tog­ra­pher thought he’d bet­ter sort out ex­actly how well Bon knew his girl. “I asked Bon about the song ‘Rosie’. He laughed and told me it was about a big fan of the band – in more ways than one – and had noth­ing to do with my girl­friend, which was a re­lief.”

“Sadly,” he writes in his new book It’s a Long Way: From Acca-Dacca to Zappa, “that was the last time I saw Bon alive.”

Mor­ris’s book chron­i­cles the decade he spent from 1969 pho­tograph­ing some of the world’s big­gest rock bands, from Led Zep­pelin to the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, on their Aus­tralian tours.

As well, he got to know the young Aus­tralian stars. Bon, he says, was just very like­able.

“When I first met him he was in a hippy band called Fra­ter­nity, from Ade­laide, and he was sort of tak­ing a back seat, play­ing the recorder and he’d sing oc­ca­sion­ally,” re­calls Mor­ris.

“Then I pho­tographed AC/DC a couple of years later and Dave Evans was the singer. He didn’t last very long; he was too flashy. And so Bon joined.

“Bon really changed when he was on stage – that’s the per­son he be­came, the rock singer. Off stage he was pretty quiet and re­served. It was in­ter­est­ing.”

The Young broth­ers were pri­vate, so he didn’t know them so well. But he re­calls one hi­lar­i­ous night with them all when they shot a poster for the new sin­gle Jail­break.

“That was a lot of fun to shoot,” he says. “They came to the stu­dio, and we drove down to Laven­der Bay in the Kombi. They had a couple of slabs of beer, some wine and a few joints and their man­agers dressed up as po­lice. It was mem­o­rable.

“So much fun. You couldn’t do it again.” In one shot, Bon is look­ing to belt the cop­per over the head with a wine bot­tle in a pa­per bag. But in an­other, he’s tip­ping the wine down his throat.

“He was drink­ing the wine from the bot­tle, and smok­ing joints, so the first hour I did the shoot it was go­ing okay. But then it got out of hand and they went a bit crazy … those shots weren’t any good.”

Still, when the news of Bon’s death came through in 1980, it was un­ex­pected. “I was to­tally shocked,” Mor­ris says. “He was drink­ing – but we all do – and he was prob­a­bly tak­ing some drugs. He lived a hard life, a typ­i­cal rock and roll life. But I think it was just a very bad sit­u­a­tion and a shock to ev­ery­body.”

And yet the band con­tin­ued and went from strength to strength. Why?

“I think they just stayed the same,” he thinks. “They were really good at what they do … that rock and roll, raw, ba­sic sound and the gui­tars to­gether.

“And it was really lucky they found Brian John­son be­cause he was so sim­i­lar. He just fit­ted in so well.” It’s a long way from Acca-Dacca to Zappa, Hard­cover, Echo Pub­lish­ing, $49.95

Philip Mor­ris has trained his lenses on some of rock and roll’s great­est ex­po­nents – in­clud­ing AC/DC who play Ade­laide Oval tonight – and his can­did im­ages have helped doc­u­ment mu­sic’s ri­otous back­stage history

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