A few years ago I made a CD loaded with mp3 files of every song lead singer Bon Scott recorded with AC/DC. It was the perfect disc to take with me in the car as I’d drive around town running from errand to errand. The playback would be set to Random-ALL so I’d get a variety of tracks from any album. On time, just as I started the car, the disc continued to play my favourite AC/DC tune, “Whole Lotta Rosie”. The track kicked in right when Bon belts out “You can say she’s got it ALLLLLLLLL”. As I listened, I could not figure out why the song sounded… a little off. Bon was fine, but the guitars were playing back too fast.
It then dawned on me that I wasn’t listening to the studio version from the album Let There Be Rock, but the “live” version from If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It!). With my windows rolled down I couldn’t make out the added crowd noise, and it was the first time I noticed how similar the two cuts are. I started thinking… maybe those internet rumors about how this album is somewhat doctored are true…
The official line for If You Want Blood (IYWB) is all of the tracks were recorded at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland on April 30th, 1978. Some are trimmed down and one is omitted (“Dog Eat Dog”, since released on Backtracks in 2009) so most of the concert could fit onto a single vinyl record disc.
Many have questioned the authenticity of this since its release. They point to evidence that shows how the album has been “sweetened” with additional crowd noise, and some tracks are “improved” with studio takes. As someone who listens daily to all things AC/DC for the past 25 years, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that SOME of these claims are indeed true.
When I decided to write about IYWB I dragged “Rosie” into some audio editing software (Adobe Audition) to find out for myself what was doing. And after looking at it under the microscope I am convinced the track is NOT what the audience heard that night in Glasgow. The following video is about what I discovered:
Other’s have gone further with the track than I have. There are claims that rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young gets tripped during a chord change at the exact same spot and drummer Phil Rudd’s end fill is a verbatim copy of the studio cut. I didn’t have to go that far though to know IYWB‘s “Rosie” is indeed a bastard of studio work. I can hear it in singer Bon Scott’s voice. The way he shouts that line. It is enough for me.
So if “Rosie” on IYWB isn’t from that one evening in Glasgow, then what exactly is it? As far as I can tell, Bon’s vocals are a mix of the final studio track and alternate takes. The rhythm section is sped up, then the pitch is adjusted so the guitars keep their “ballsy” tone without sounding too “mousy”. Both are laid on top of some generic crowd noise before finally some questionable solo work from lead guitarist Angus Young is added in.
I know. Some of you might be screaming at me now about how Angus’ solos are completely different from the studio version, which shows how “Rosie” is indeed live. Well, not quite.
The final studio cut of Angus’ first solo on LTBR’s “Rosie” has a pattern that he follows every time he plays it on stage. There are times when he will need to make a small adjustment as he bounces around like a wild animal. So, of course he is going to need to take some poetic licence and swing the strings a wee bit different.
His solos on IYBW, however, are WAY out there. Not even close. Instead, Angus begins the first solo by hammering on some C and A notes with vibrato before taking it to places it has never been before or since. It is cool and all, but… why does Angus play the solo in a different way for only one show? I don’t believe he did.
My guess is that IYWB‘s solo is actually an alternate take from the studio. Since it isn’t as elaborate as Angus’ usual one, it is most likely an earlier cut; a first or second attempt at a kick ass solo before Angus perfected it to how it is finally heard on Let There Be Rock.
So, now that we know (and have accepted) the truth… Is this a bad thing? Well, it depends on how you look at it. You could be upset how this was sold as a live track 40 years ago (which it clearly isn’t), or you can be happy that you have an alternate studio version of “Rosie” to enjoy. I choose the latter.
Does this mean IYWB is a terrible album? Nope.
I believe “Rosie” is the only track to receive this Frankenstein treatment. There are some shenanigans happening with Malcolm and Cliff’s backing vocals on “High Voltage” and “Rock ‘n Roll Damnation”. However, the rest of the album seems to be a recording of what happened in Glasgow, 1978. Plus, by now there is enough concert footage officially released from the band (See Plug Me In DVD Box Set) to show that they were legit that evening.
In fact, I feel that IYWB is a tight live album that you should have in your collection. Editing the show down to one disc means there isn’t a lot of filler to sit through. Bon’s voice was in fine form and not as… “slurry” as it could be heard on other live shows from the same era. This Glasgow concert had a different flavour from the norm as “Riff Raff” kicks it open instead of the usual “Live Wire”, and “Rocker” wraps it up instead of “Let There Be Rock”. The band was on fire that night while the tunes are kept to the point, so I can see why this show was chosen to get official live status. Despite its flaws, IYWB‘s uniqueness makes it one of my favorite AC/DC albums.
As an AC/DC album: 4/5
Compared to everything else: 5/5
PS: Follow the link if you want a smokin’ version of AC/DC doing “Rosie” live for REALS in ’78 24:36