The quintessential single-disc live album, Live At Leeds needs no introduction. I first heard about it through a comedy show – Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s first series on the BBC (The Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer) – where it was featured in a novelty song: The Who, Live At Leeds / A Packet Of Seeds / And a top hat full of gloy, gloy, gloy. Once you start buying rock music though, you quickly learn about the high watermark this record is held up as.
There’s just something infinitely more attractive about a live set on just one record. Short, sharp and to the point. AC/DC’s If You Want Blood – You’ve Got It is another great example of capturing something so energetic in such a small timeframe. The antithesis would probably be something like Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive album, about as far away from the immediacy of the Who as you could imagine.
There are just six songs on this record, mainly taken up by the fifteen minute extended medley of My Generation and the eight minutes of Magic Bus. Looking at the full set list from the Leeds gig, it’s a wonder how they managed to reduce it down to just two sides of music – a staggering thirty three songs played on the night would have provided enough material for three or four discs.
56 blogs in, and I’ve not even covered an album by the mighty ‘DC. Shocking!
I remember when I first started listening to rock music – well, not even rock music, it was Aerosmith and nothing but Aerosmith at this point – my Dad brought home a stack of LPs that he’d borrowed from a friend for me to listen to. Amongst this pile was several AC/DC albums – all from their classic 1970s period.
This was the first time I had been subjected to AC/DC, and even before listening to them, I was in awe of the covers; and the one I remember being blown away the most by was this one – their first live album, recorded during the Powerage world tour. On the front cover, an out of focus shot of Angus Young impaling himself in the gut with his Gibson SG, with Bon Scott leering over his shoulder, holding onto his microphone. On the reverse, a similarly blurry shot of a now lifeless Young, lying face down with the headstock of his guitar poking through the back of his bloodied white school shirt. You can talk about classic album covers all day long, but this one is a real peach. In terms of a cover describing a band’s sound, this one really gets it down perfectly.
As well as introducing me to AC/DC, this album also gave me a love of the song Riff Raff. Underrated and underplayed by the band, this is a real gem and used perfectly here as their show-opener. You know that guitar sound that comes out of the speakers after the first line of vocals in the song? That’s Young bending an entire open-D cord. Beautiful. I’ve broken many guitar strings doing this very trick.
It’s odd that AC/DC have never really been able to capture their live sound in the studio. They sound as good as anybody in the studio – especially from Powerage onwards – but recorded live they sound like a completely different band. That’s probably the reason they’ve never released a greatest hits record – their live records are their greatest hits.