When I was greedily consuming AC/DC’s back catalogue at the tender age of 14, this was always the album I could never bring myself to buy. It’s not even an album – it’s an EP of five songs previously released on the band’s Australian albums (but missing from the international releases), to celebrate the band’s 10th anniversary – which all sounds fine until you consider that it was priced the same as all their other albums. It was either this or a full album for the same price; so it remained an aspirational purchase, always slightly out of my reach.
A matured appreciation of the band’s back catalogue now makes this an essential purchase – the title track is worth the price alone. Originally released on the Australian version of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Jailbreak saw the light of day in the UK in 1976. It was released as a single on the same day as the Thin Lizzy song of the same name. That must have been a confusing day for denim-clad rockers in record shops.
It’s odd that the song was never used on any of the international releases until this EP came out, despite the band releasing it as a single and going to the trouble of shooting a great music video to promote it. The song was later to feature on the double-disc version of AC/DC Live in 1992, although this 14-minute version, split with a lengthy instrumental break to soundtrack Angus’ striptease, isn’t the best version. It’s a great pop song, but remains a largely ignored slice of their canon (no pun intended).
The rest of the EP’s tracks are taken from the original Aussie release of the band’s debut – High Voltage – and were probably overlooked by Atlantic Records in favour of the heavier songs on their second album. I guess when you take two albums and split them into one, you’re always going to have to leave something by the side of the road.
I can do without the cover of Baby, Please Don’t Go – it isn’t a patch on the seminal version by Van Morrison and Them – but Soul Stripper is fantastic. It’s a groove-based slow-burner, probably excluded from the international releases because of its length (6:25) and its lyrics which paint Bon Scott as a weak virgin – ‘then she made me say things I didn’t want to say / then she made me play games I didn’t want to play’.
Instrumentation other than guitar, bass and drums are usually very rare on an AC/DC track – unless you’re talking about bagpipes, cannons or (hells) bells – but Soul Stripper has a great cowbell-like percussive touch that sets it apart from the other songs cut from High Voltage. The effect makes the song sounds ominous – a true hidden gem.
Hidden Gem: Soul Stripper