Chris Johnston of Australia's The Age has published an article on the 30th anniversary of the filming of the clip for AC/DC's "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock'n'Roll)", which took place Monday morning, February 23, 1976 in the midst of a heatwave on the back of an old truck in Swanston Street in Melbourne. Work started at 6:00 a.m. and was finished by mid-afternoon, by which time a large crowd of onlookers had gathered.
Now, with the passing of the years, it has become a unique Melbourne time capsule, a piece of heritage, with fascinating views of the streets, buildings and passers-by. Quite apart from the song, and the spirited performance by the country's best-loved and most successful rock band, the clip is a look back to a time long gone.
For one thing, Swanston was a Street back then, not a Walk. Green, wooden, W-class trams rattled through it, jostling with HQ Holdens. It was a simpler time, proved by the fact that the film's makers, from the ABC's "Countdown", basically just turned up and got down to it.
"We told the council and the police," said director Paul Drane. "But they didn't seem to mind. There were no streets shut, there was no problem. It's crazy, I know. These days it would take months to get through the red tape."
A key part of the film is the bird's-eye view over Swanston Street. Nothing was arranged, so on the day a cameraman simply walked into an office block near the Bourke Street corner, found the caretaker, and asked if he could use a high balcony. No worries. Up he went.
But this was rock'n'roll, this was AC/DC, so the best laid plans were sure to slip away. The band were supposed to turn up at 7:00 a.m., frightfully early on a Monday morning for a mob renowned for hell-raising. But they didn't show, so crew member Peter Murphy was sent to a "fleapit" pub near Spencer Street to wake them up.
The film clip was among the first in Australia to be made on location, away from the confines of the TV studio. Now, with AC/DC's incredible longevity (130 million albums sold) it is one of the most played on television. They are also experiencing yet another renaissance thanks to deferential new bands such as JET and AIRBOURNE. In 2004, a city lane was renamed in their honor.
"Every time it's on 'Rage'," says cameraman David Olney, "my daughter says 'you should have got royalties for that, Dad.' If I did, we'd be living it up in Las Vegas by now." But because it was made for 'Countdown', the ABC owns the film clip.
The idea to do it in Swanston Street on the back of a truck — a blue ABC-owned flat-bed, in fact — was hatched by the late AC/DC singer Bon Scott and 'Countdown' host Molly Meldrum. It was supposed to refer to the Moomba parade and was shot on three cameras between Bourke Street and Flinders Street. The budget, according to Drane, was $380. Three pipers from the RATS OF TOBRUK pipe band were hired for the song's characteristic bagpipe solo.