AC/DC: Scotland's Family Jewels brings a proper rock and roll show to Kelvingrove

By Ben Miller | 09 September 2011
A colour poster of a rock band in the 1970s
The album poster for Highway to Hell (1979)© Courtesy Albert Music Archives
Exhibition: AC/DC: Scotland's Family Jewels, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, September 17 2011 – February 12 2012

“This show is one of the very few proper rock and roll exhibitions ever made,” says Tim Fisher, the lifelong AC/DC fan (or “Acca Dacca”, as he calls them) behind this tribute to rock royalty.

Having temporarily absconded from his usual home of Melbourne Arts Centre – which originally organised the exhibition alongside the Western Australian Museum, Albert Music, Sony and the band themselves – Fisher has every right to make such singular claims.

Anyone who has ever been inside an AC/DC fan’s house will know that this is one beat combo idolised more than most. But taking inspiration from the hard-working, all-or-nothing style of Angus Young and his gang, Fisher and his team’s deluge of memorabilia amalgamates everything from Young’s infamous stage costumes and exhausted instruments to photographs, posters, tickets and letters.

“There are more than 400 objects,” he tells us. “But the real thing that sets it apart is that this is the first and only band-approved biographical treatment of AC/DC.

“They have had considerable input into its development and, most importantly, have allowed us to play a substantial amount of their music, both on screens and as large live projections.

“So when you are looking at printed ephemera and letters from, say, 1975, you can also watch a set of six early film clips with headphones and loud soundtracks.”

Fisher can relate – he first saw the band at the Canberra Theatre as a 16-year-old in 1975. “It was hot and as loud as hell, and I couldn’t hear anything much for about a week afterwards.

“Back then, I didn’t know much better, I didn’t have any money and certainly wasn’t buying Pink Floyd or Eagle’s albums. Live, loud, homegrown rock and roll was the only thing that grabbed me in the guts and wouldn’t let go.

“For my mates and I, as we played air guitar to Angus’s wild leads, it was AC/DC – by us, about us and for us. There were no messages, no concepts – we just wanted to have a good time. I now know that this was the same for many other people.”

Several hundred gigs later, in 2009, the Arts Centre team planned their Icon project, aimed at “treating popular culture seriously” for a “large and interested audience.”

“We soon came to the realisation that there was only one act possible as the finale of our first series,” reflects Fisher, saluting “the biggest Australian act of them all”.

“I have travelled all over the place from Sydney to Glasgow and New York, contacting collectors, visiting old friends, family and roadies, searching photographer’s archives, reading endless press stories and all the unapproved biographies, and generally sorting out fact from fiction about the band’s history.”

His Glaswegian discoveries give a distinct local twist to the Kelvingrove display. “There are considerable amounts of Scottish content, from early emigration papers of the Young and [former lead singer Bon] Scott families through to rare posters from the Glasgow Apollo.”

Six “fantastic” songs recorded from that 1977 gig, when Fisher reckons the band were “at the absolute height of their powers”, will also greet moshers.

“The Scottish link to the band is so important to the story that we have actually rebranded the show for the Kelvingrove display as Scotland's Family Jewels. All of the collected material is linked to the experience of AC/DC’s music.”

Fisher’s own perceptions of the group have also changed. “From coming up with our first exhibition proposals about what we were going to achieve to now, I have gradually come to understand the band much better,” he explains.

“AC/DC have never, ever set themselves above their fans. We want to recognise the pact that I felt as a 15-year-old – that us fans were actually a part of the band.”

  • Open 10am-5pm (11am-5pm Friday and Sunday). Admission £2/£1.50. Book online.

More pictures from the show:

A black and white picture of a 1970s band against a wall
We Luv AC/DC, publicity photograph for Albert Productions, Sydney (1975)© Philip Morris, courtesy Albert Music Archives
A photo of a half-naked rock star on stage with a massed crowd roaring behind him
Angus Young, AC/DC, Atlanta, Georgia (1978). Photo: Rennie Ellis© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive
A black and white photo of a 1970s rock star singing into a microphone and gesticulating on stage
Bon Scott at Victoria Park, Sydney (September 1975)© Patrick Jones
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