I was a starving college student when Bonfire came out before the holiday season in 1997. I remember being short the $80 plus tax it cost to get a copy and how no store in North Bay, Ontario even carried it. I struck out at getting it for Christmas, so I didn’t get my hands on a copy until the spring of ’98. I scraped together the dough by selling off some video games, then handed the cash to my roommates who were taking a trip to Toronto. The mid-’90s was an awkward time to be an AC/DC fan.
Bonfire was designed to celebrate the life of Bon Scott, the band’s iconic lead singer who passed away in early 1980. Bon would often joke with the rest of the band that his first solo album would be titled “Bonfire”, hence the name. The set includes a ’77 live performance at Atlantic Studios in New York, a two disc soundtrack to the film Let There Be Rock, Live in Paris from ’79, a complication that included some rarities and studio outtakes, and a remastered copy of… Back in Black?
I was annoyed then, and I still am that the set included Back In Black. The band could have saved me a few bucks by not tacking on an album EVERYONE already had. Oh well, there was no way I was going to miss out on the rest of that content!
Disc 1|Live At Atlantic Studios
Live At Atlantic Studios is a treasure. The recording is a performance the band gave in front of a small audience for what I assume was a radio show. This was years before AC/DC would make a dent in the American market, but even in this intimate setting they rocked like they were performing for a crowd of 100,000. I believe this is the first official recording with Cliff Williams on bass and the only live recording I know of with Bon performing the clean lyrics for The Jack. No complaints for this one!
Disc 2&3|Let There Be Rock, Live In Paris
I love this show but there wasn’t much new here for the hardcore fan. The performance was already released on VHS in the mid ’80s, with the only addition being T.N.T. which was cut for the film for some reason. I mean…
Volts is the real meat and potatoes for the hardcore. Dirty Eyes is the opener, an early version of Whole Lotta Rosie. It really shows how Angus and Malcolm would bring an idea into the studio and Bon would raise it a level with better lyrics.
Next are studio outtakes of Touch Too Much, If You Want Blood (You Got It), Back Seat Confidential (which eventually became Beating Around The Bush) and Get It Hot from the Highway to Hell session. These rough versions are before producer Mutt Lange got his hands on them and they give insights into the evolution of an AC/DC tune. We all wish there was more of like this in existence but the band insist this is all there is.
We get two early live tracks of Sin City and She’s Got Balls, then the band’s cover of Chuck Berry’s School Days from their Aussie only album, T.N.T. The rest is padding with It’s A Long Way to The Top if (You Wanna Rock ‘N Roll) and Ride On. I get it. They are iconic tunes that represent Bon at his best, but really, I’m not sure we need them again.
The band claimed they searched everywhere for lost material to add to Volts, but couldn’t find any. While that might be true, they could have continued where they started with School Days and added more Aussie only tracks like Stick Around, Carry Me Home, Crabsody In Blue, etc. Essentially all of the Bon stuff that ended up on Backtracks in 2009.
Disc 5|Back In Black
WTF? I guess the idea is that this was the remastered version with a cardboard case is somewhat different. Well, I used it enough to get some hand cheese and grime on it. I probably should have wiped the CDs down before taking photos but didn’t for authenticity sake… yeah, that’s it.
The packaging is decent. Heck, it has held up for 23 years now. Every CD is living in a jewel case, with Live in Paris being a 2CD set. I can’t say that about many boxsets today. The bonus material includes a book, a double sided poster, a temporary tattoo, a keychain that works as a bottlecap opener, and a guitar pick. Besides the book, the rest I have never been able to use. The collector in me will not allow it.
The book is a little bizarre with its vertical paragraphs squeezed off to the side, but the format is coffee book style where the images are the priority.
BTW, I see the the set has been reissued as a “digi-book” set without many of the extras, so be aware of which version you are buying.
I wouldn’t trade in Bonfire for the world since the exclusive tracks on Volts and Live At Atlantic Studios make it collection worthy. But It is hard to look past how light on exclusive content it is, especially since it arrived at a time when I could not afford it. I’d grab it for a deal, but not make it a priority.