Ever wondered what the connection is between AC/DC and Soft Machine? wonder no more, dear reader.
Funnily enough as I write this there are sheep being sheared on the TV behind me*, on 18 July 1988 it was my turn. On the way back from a W.O.M.A.D festival with my parents we stopped off in Bristol and I bought an LP by Mournblade and Bon Scott With the Valentines The Early Years. What can I say? I still hadn’t collected all of AC/DC’s LPs yet and here I was grasping at an LP mostly because it had ‘AC-DC Collectors Edition’ on the front cover – the signs weren’t good, this was a youth who’d go on to buy many wonderful and quite a few very pants records in the future. I confidently predict that, retroactively.
Let’s see what I got. There’s Bon fifth from the left, leering not unlike an oversexed Mr Darcy, looking pretty much like the wild one in the Valentines. In fact the rest of the band all look pretty baby-faced and innocent, a pattern which would repeat itself to a lesser extent with his band after next. I would imagine Perth’s Valentines, formed in 1966 with co-vocalist Vince Lovegrove (who went on to manage the Divinyls, later in life), were similar to a lot of local bands dotted about the world at the time, capable players looking to get in late on the swinging 60’s. The liner notes** enthuse about the Valentines rocking it up at the Swanbourne Surf Lifesaving Club and having some minor hits in the Perth charts.
The Valentines, like almost everyone dealt mostly in covers and for an AC/DC scholar it’s interesting to see the writing credits Vanda & Young on the LP’s small print, the Valentines covered two tracks by the Easybeats, ‘Peculiar Hole In The Sky’ (not very good) and ‘She Said’ (better). The only track I liked on The early Years when I bought it was their cover of the Phil Spector ‘To Know You is to Love You’, which I’d never heard the original of at the time, simply because it had the best tune.
The music, I’m sorry to say is pretty bland most of the time, well maybe bland isn’t the most sympathetic way of putting it, maybe ‘formulaic’ might be a kinder interpretation. It’s late 60’s pop, a few touches of psychedelia here and there, but nothing too way out, just enough to show what year it was. It is all very tame until you come to the cover of the Small Faces ‘I Can’t Dance With You’, I don’t know the original at all but this was much more like it, a bit of a blast, some jarring organ and a few rough edges on show. The lyrics strike me as pure blueprint Bon,
You know I can’t dance with you
I can’t move to the way you’re dancin’
Then turn down the light when it comes to romancin’
Look out, girl
Hey, you know you
You know you make me wanna move
You know I can’t move to the way you’re dancin’
Stick that over a heavy enough backing track and you’ve almost got an offcut from the original Aussie version of High Voltage. It’s the only time on the LP you can locate any of AC/DC’s DNA.
The connection with Soft Machine? the Valentines covered Soft Machine’s only single, ‘Love Makes Sweet Music’. Badly.
So there you have it, Bon Scott The Early Years, not a trace here that he’d become my favourite shirt-off vocalist. Still I learned my lesson I’d never get suckered like that again, paying out my hard-earned for hastily repackaged tunes from before someone was famous/good. I stuck by that too^.
No-one shears me!
*Honestly, Tudor Monastery Farm on BBC; what can I say it’s just the way I roll, I’m a history geek.
**its been about three posts since I mentioned how much I live for liner notes, so I’ll just mention it here.
^it was at least two months before I bought Brian Johnson Strange Man – basically it should have been called, Brian Johnson The Early Years.