AC/DC’S FIRST SINGER DAVE EVANS RECALLS THE ROCK SHOCKS
May 31, 2009
Nathan Bevan of WalesOnline.co.uk reports that he’s the hard-rocking son of a West Wales welder who ended up singing Down Under in what would become one of the biggest headbanging bands in the world.
But, despite the early success they’d achieve with him at the helm, Dave Evans’ tumultuous time in AC/DC would last barely a year.
In an exclusive interview with Wales On Sunday last night, the self-proclaimed King Of All Badasses from Carmarthen gave us the low-down on the bust-ups, break-downs and the back-biting that lead to his explosive departure from the world-renowned group just as fame came calling.
“There’s an old expression that goes, ‘You never really know someone until you live with them’, and it was like that with me and the guys in the band,” cackled Dave down the line from his home in Dallas, Texas.
“I was just a young kid answering an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald from some blokes looking for a heavy rock singer into Free, the Rolling Stones, stuff like that,” he said.
“Everyone knew me because I’d always sing in local pubs and cafes and people would complain I was louder than the bloody jukebox, so they all suggested I should have a crack at trying for a shot at the big time.
“When I rang the number and was told to drive over and jam, I did and it sounded great.”
Soon the 21-year-old found things moving fast as the band, who settled on the name AC/DC after the electrical term for alternating current/direct current, scored a 1974 top five hit with their very first single, the glam rock-sounding Can I Sit Next To You Girl?
“It was crazy,” said Dave, “I’d gone from leaving home aged 16 after a big row with my dad about having long hair to everyone suddenly patting me on the back and offering me these huge gigs.
“From living in the King’s Cross area, which is pretty much the drugs and red light capital of Australia, surrounded by murderers, pimps and prostitutes, I was now playing places like the Sydney Opera House and sharing the stage with big names like Lou Reed.
Dave added that the band’s early look even beat the likes of The Village People hands down.
“All the Aussie bands looked the same and we were a typical jeans and T-shirt band until the guitarist Angus Young decided he was going to dress as a shorts-sporting school boy in order to attract the kids,” he said.
“So Malcolm would wear a satin jump suit, drummer Noel Taylor was dolled up like a joker from a pack of cards, and our bass player Neil Smith decided to dress like a tough New York motorcycle cop – and this was long before that YMCA song, mate!
“Me? I went for a cross between Rod Stewart and Slade with the high boots, tight jackets and scarves.
“The first time we all saw each other with that get-up on we were like, ‘Bloody hell’!
“But the fans loved it and Angus just seemed totally energised by it and tore up the stage for the first time that night, he was an incredible presence.
It was a world away from Dave’s humble upbringing.
“My dad Hugh was a panel beater and hadn’t long come out of the army after WWII when he decided he wanted to get away from the bloody cold and go somewhere warm,” said the singer with a throaty laugh.
“We were called Ten Pound Poms in those days, part of the Aussie government’s assisted passage that attracted millions of Brits with the promise of beautiful beaches and a better life.
“I didn’t even know where we were going. I just remember standing at Carmarthen train station and being told me, my sister Carol and mum Olive had a six-week journey on a big boat ahead of us.
“It wasn’t too bad though because, when we landed in Queensland, we stayed at a migrants’ hostel overlooking a bay that reminded me of places I loved like Llansteffan.”
But, despite the early success with AC/DC, Dave learned the road to rock notoriety never did run smooth.
“It was frustrating because the band was going fantastic, but there was a constant clash of personalities,” he sighed.
“When you’re in a band you’ve got to be a gang . . . and if you’re not mates it’s not going to work.
“We went through three bass players, drummers and managers in the time I was joining the group – in fact, the guys in the promo video for Can I Sit Next To You Girl? weren’t even the ones who’d played on the bloody track!
“That’s how fast things would change.
“Angus and Malcolm would always give us a bit of lip and I remember them poking fun at our first drummer Colin, who was already famous from the 60s band Master’s Apprentices.
“They’d sneer ‘Pop star’ at him behind his back but I never put up with all that s***.
“One time me and Angus fell out back stage and he came at me with both fists flying,” smiled Dave.
“Don’t forget, he’s only a bit over five foot tall, so I just put one hand on top of his head to keep him from reaching me.
“I guess it would have looked pretty comical for anyone watching,” he chuckled.
Dave admitted that he knew the end was nigh when he took at swing at their manager.
“Yeah, that didn’t help my case at all,” he roared, dissolving into a hacking cough.
“We were all drinking in Adelaide and p****d off about not being paid. I just happened to be the only one who’d speak up.
“There we were, one of the best bands in Oz and I couldn’t even pay my flamin’ rent?
“Well, words were exchanged and the next thing I knew we were right into it and the boys had to pull us apart.”
Things turned icy after that, until eventually, after a show in Melbourne, Malcolm told Dave he was out of the band. He was replaced with long-time friend, the late great Bon Scott, who provided vocals for their 1975 debut album High Voltage.
But Dave insists there were no hard feelings.
“Me and Bon met up afterwards and had a private chat, shook hands and wished each other the best of luck,” he said.
But the same couldn’t be said about the rest of the band?
“I’ve not spoken to the other blokes for 30 years or so, but I don’t have a grudge with them – what happened, happened.
“They seem to still have some kind of animosity towards me though, but I take that as a back-handed compliment.”
And will Wales’ prodigal son ever return to rock his home land?
“I played there once, at a huge AC/ DC convention in Wrexham a few years back,” said Dave, who now fronts a Texan band called The Badasses.
“I was invited over as one of the founding members of AC/DC and it was a real honour.
“Fingers crossed, I’m just about to sign a UK record deal for my new record Judgement Day, so I’m hoping to rock out back there again soon.
“I’m still a very proud Welshman, mate. I’ve never ever forgotten that.”