Metal Army caught up with Mark Evans, the bass player for AC/DC from 1975-1977. As the first regular bassist in the band he went on to play on the seminal albums T.N.T., the re-release of High Voltage, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Let There Be Rock, and ’74 Jailbreak. Mark published his memoir Dirty Deeds: My life Inside/Outside of AC/DC. Mark is the first member of the band to tell the story of the early days of the group from a first hand perspective. He has many terrific stories from the bands early days making it a must read. The book also has many great anecdotes about Mark’s life, the band and the legendary late front man Bon Scott. What follows is an excerpt of a longer chat.
Dirty Deeds came out in November from Bazillion Points Publishing.
MAA: How did you come to write your memoir at this time?
ME: My motivation has been two-fold. One motivation has been over the years people coming to my gigs have been so supportive of me. People always come up to me at the shows and say “Hey you toured the world with AC/DC” and “What was BON SCOTT like?”. I was just me paying back the genuine interest about my life in and out of AC/DC. It was just the right time in my life to take stock of things. To take a deep breath and immerse myself in a project. There were a few Australian publishers who were interested in my story. I didn’t take it really seriously at first. But it turned out to be the right time for me and that started in 2007. It’s been a real plus in my life since writing it. It’s been very good for me too, very cathartic to talk about my time in the band. This is the first time someone from inside the band has ever written anything. I have had the other books written about the band passed on to me over the years. Some of the stuff was at best really inaccurate. I am only qualified to talk about the years when I was in the band. Also, a lot of people are quite interested in Bon and it’s a great way to put some flesh on the bones and tell his story since he was such a great guy.
MAA: What originally inspired you to pick up the bass and want to start a band?
ME: I always had an interest in music from very early on. My siblings were a few years older than me. I got introduced into rock n roll through them like ELVIS PRESLEY, 1950s music, JERRY LEE LEWIS, FATS DOMINO and then the BEATLES. It wasn’t until I was 14-15 that I got into it, because I was nuts about football. That is, Australian rules football. Some friends of mine picked up the guitar and a few of my buddies started playing in bands. And they said hey ‘we need a bass player’. So I went down to the local second hand store and bought a bass. It was 22 bucks and it was bought with money that was supposed to be for my school books in high school. So I started on bass, moved to guitar and then back to bass. I always loved the bass. Initially it was just hanging out with my friends playing music. It was a great time for music. The early days of the 1970s guitar driven rock bands like CREAM, BLACK SABBATH and DEEP PURPLE.
MAA: What was the band like when you joined in 1975?
ME: It was a little bit odd. When I joined the band they were already known locally and the album High Voltage had been released in November of 1974. When I first joined we were playing the bars and pubs with maybe 10, 15 or 20 people at a show. Very, very early days. But the album started to hit right when I joined. Our first single started to really to hit when I joined, “Baby Please Don’t Go”. That was actually the B-side. Lucky for us the radio stations played the B-side, because the A-side of the single was this sappy thing called “Love Story” and it sounded like something out of SAVAGE GARDEN! (laughs) We got tabbed to be on a national TV show called Countdown. So I had been in the band literally three days and then I was on national TV. A few months later we were playing to thousands. The whole band had only been together 12 months at that time. People say the the lineup of Malcolm (Young), Angus (Young), Bon, Phil (Rudd) and myself, a lot of people call that the original lineup, but that isn’t true. There had been other people in the band before me. It moved and came together really quickly.
MAA: Please talk about the relationship between the Young brothers and the rest of the band during those early days.
ME: “Rob the Roadie” drove me home from my audition and told me ‘There is two things you need to know. It is Malcom’s band and we plan to move to the UK in twelve months’. The relationship with the brothers and how it was viewed in the band, and I mean (producer and older brother) George, Malcolm and Angus was very strong. They were the driving force behind the band. George was a mentor to me and pretty much to the rest of the band too. When you are in the band with three brothers working on the same project, it could be tense and George was very hands on. They would get pretty feisty and punches would get thrown and stuff. At the same time the positive far outweighed the negative undercurrent. Bon was very close to Malcolm and Bon was also very high up in the pecking order. I know for a fact Phil and myself had very little say in the decision making process. Bon had some influence, but any decisions were made by Malcolm, Angus, George and their manager at the time, Michael Brandon. And what a great guy to have helping you like George who had been through it all with the EASYBEATS. But it was very much Malcolm and Angus’ band. But we all had equal shares in the band, so no one was a hired gun. No one was in the band for personal gain. We were all in the band for a common goal. It mattered because we believed in the band. We had a common goal, to take on the world. Not to be too conceited, but we also all knew we were in a great band.
Mark and Bon make a sandwich out of a girl.
MAA: You tell some pretty awesome stories about Bon in your book. Tell us something about Bon people might not expect.
ME: I think Bon felt a very strong responsibility and duty to his image. The Bon on stage was a larger than life figure. The crazy guy. The rock n roller. All denim and leather. But if you got him away from being Bon Scott, he was quite domesticated. He couldn’t wait to set up shop at home with a new girlfriend and settle down. He was a very warm hearted guy. He had impeccable manners. You could take him to a bikers club and he’d have a ball with the bikers. The next night you could take him to the White House to meet the President and he’d be the same way. He wouldn’t change. He’d still be Bon. He could deal with any situation. If it was getting too aggressive he could handle that too. I think he was very depressed and lonely on the road and missed home. If you want to get a good idea about Bon and his life I think the song “Ride On” is very autobiographical. Very much who he is. He was a very domesticated soul. Of course once he got a few charges in and a few bourbons, he was away! He was a partier of Olympic proportions. It’s a strange thing. He had many acquaintances. A lot of people wanted to know him, but he had very few real friends. I’m sure I could count them on two hands. We were all together in Perth for the funeral (Bon’s) which was really tough to go through. I have to say that that way the band handled it, with a lot of care and respect was great. I have a lot of respect for the way the band handled it, that whole situation. Then the way they came back with Back In Black was amazing. To come back that hard is impressive. But, they are pretty hard boys. I don’t think there has ever been a band in that situation that has had to make that kind of transition at their level.
MAA: Looking back on your departure from the band do you think I could’ve been handled better?
ME: I think the decision was made that they were better off without me. The answer Malcolm gave me at the time was they wanted to get a bass player who could sing, but that was kind of weak. It wasn’t so much of a surprise to me as much as it was a shock. It really knocked me over for a long time after that. I was like getting kicked out of a gang when your four best guys in the world say they don’t want to be your friend anymore. I was a very social person and maybe they thought I wasn’t as committed as I should be. At the same time I think it’s impossible to be any more committed than Malcolm and Angus have been. I have a very philosophical view of it now: had I been the right guy for them I would still be there. There was an element of relief too cause it could be very tense in the band. Bon at the meeting took great pains to let me know it wasn’t personal, but I took it very hard and very personally at the time. I would have appreciated a warning shot across the bow. In my ideal world that would have been great. Those guys can be pretty ruthless. They know what they want and you have to admire them for it.
Mark was an integral part of AC/DC's early success.
MAA: What really happened with the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in 2003?
ME: I was quite surprise when a journalist friend of mine told me I was nominated. I was a little surprised. My initial feeling was like ‘Oh shit!’! Really? My first reaction when I got nominated that I might knock it back (turn it down) and get everyone off the hook. My relationship with the guys is I hadn’t and still haven’t really talked to the guys since 1981. Because I thought it would be very uncomfortable. What happened was after they said I was to be inducted with the band, they turned around and said my nomination was being “reviewed”. For the previous three times the band was nominated there was no issue with me. It was odd. The main thing is that washes up is the band richly deserved to be there and of course Bon had to be included. That sits well with me. What didn’t sit well with me was they put it on their website that I was accepted and then took it away. I would have liked an apology from the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. Overall, it’s good for the band.
Mark Evans... today.
MAA: You have had a lot of rough times personally as well as professionally. How did get to the point where you are now perspective wise?
ME: I was very fortunate to come from a good environment all my life. I come from a family where we were always really truthful with each other. You try to look at things as they are. You just accept what you can’t change and live with it. If there is a message in the book for people who want to do music and start bands or anything else that is it. Take the time out to enjoy the good times. There’s ups and downs. You should look how to take success for what it is; recognition for hard work. And the same with the other times. You can learn a helluva lot more from a mistake than an easy win.
(Special thanks to Mark Evans and Bazillion Points publishing. You can buy Mark’s book and other BP titles here.)
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes