Billboard exclusively premieres "Ride Baby Ride" by Malcolm & Angus Young’s pre-AC/DC group the Marcus Hook Roll Band.
Wally Waller didn't quite know what he was getting into when he went to Sydney, Australia, during July of 1973 to record the Marcus Hook Roll Band's one and only album, "Tales of Old Grand-Daddy."
The group was the post-Easybeats venture of George Young and Harry Vanda and had recorded some tracks 13 months earlier at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London before the musicians moved Down Under. After Capitol Records in the U.S. expressed interest in the single "Natural Man" they decided to pursue a full album and brought Waller to Sydney for sessions that included Young's teenage brothers Malcolm and Angus -- who would, of course, go on to their own fame as the sibling guitar duo of AC/DC.
"Nobody knew who they were, of course," Waller -- who revisited the tracks for a June 3 re-release of "Tales of Old-Grand-Daddy" -- tells Billboard. "When we got to Australia, at first Malcolm and Harry were playing (guitar) and George started playing the bass. After a couple days Malcolm was really coming on brilliantly; he sounded like he should be about 30 or 50 years old 'cause he had so much maturity in his playing. I said to George one night, 'Your kid brother is something. he's great.' And he said, 'Well, there's another one like him at home. You wouldn't believe it.' So the next day he showed up with Angus as well, and he was astonishing. He must've been 15 or 16 or something; he looked like a fresh-faced kid, but he played like a monster.
"So he would come along now and again, too. I think George wanted to let them know what it was like working in the studio. Malcolm was around the whole time, and Angus showed up occasionally. It was a great vibe to have around."
The Marcus Hook Roll Band released one album and three singles, none of which made significant commercial impact anywhere in the world -- though a listen to "Natural Man" reveals some parts that would later show up in the AC/DC track "High Wire." Waller says the group was partly responsible for that disintrest, too. "The record company said, 'We want you to tour because we want to put some weight behind this to get it moving,' and they said, 'Well, no, we're not gonad tour in America because we're very happy here in Sydney. We want to stay in Australia,'" the producer recalls. "So Capitol decided to shelve the project and it came out in Australia only at the end of 1974." Capitol did eventually release a version of the album on its budget series in 1979, after Vanda and Young resurfaced in the group Flash and the Pan.
The new version of "Tales of Old-Grand-Daddy" includes the 10-track original album, the singles "Natural Man" and "Louisiana Lady," the B-side "Moonshine Blues" and the unreleased tracks "One of These Days" and "Ride Baby Ride." Waller says the project was "something I'd forgotten about" until he got a call "out of the blue" about the reissue, and he was pleased to discover the tapes were still in good shape. Waller hasn't spoken with Vanda or any of the Youngs since the 1973 sessions, but he's always gotten a charge from the continuing presence of AC/DC.
"I heard about AC/DC and heard a couple of things and thought they sounded pretty good," Waller remembers. "I don't remember how I found out it was Malcolm and Angus, but when I did I thought, 'Of course, naturally...' I mean, they were very talented, let's face it. That doesn't always guarantee anything, but it wasn't a great surprise. I just thought, 'Yeah, of course, it has to be.' And it was great. From then on I'd always listen and pay attention to what they were doing...and be able to say, 'I knew them when.'"