How an onstage brawl with Deep Purple helped launch AC/DC’s career

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Being a rock star is more than just playing music; it’s a way of life. This is a form of music born out of rebellion, meaning that rebellious spirit has to be in everything a rock star does, whether it’s in the music they play, how they act on stage or cross the street. This mindset is why AC/DC struggled to get off the ground, but an incident with Deep Purple was sure to change everything. 

AC/DC had good music and musicians and were ready to get their names out there. That being said, something was still missing, so after they acquired Bon Scott, the band’s manager, Michael Browning, decided it would be good to get them playing on some new stages and living in a different city. With that, the band upped sticks and headed from Sydney to Melbourne.

The music scene in Melbourne was more vibrant, and the band’s sound would likely be better received there. However, because there was already quite an established music scene within the city, it took a lot of work for AC/DC to be taken seriously. Many other bands turned their noses up at them, and fans didn’t welcome their arrival with open arms. That is until the Sunbury Festival.

The Sunbury Festival was one of the group’s first gigs, which was a big deal given that there were so many big names on the bill and about 45,000 people in attendance. Essentially, it was the equivalent of Woodstock, except it was in Australia rather than America, and instead of peace and love being thrown around, it was beer cans and punches.

Deep Purple headlined the festival, and AC/DC was set to go on after them for a graveyard shift set; however, when they took to the stage, they were horrified to see that Deep Purple had taken all of their gear. There was no way the band could play without their instruments and kit, so the remaining members of Deep Purple’s team, who were still packing some stuff away, were on the receiving end of AC/DC’s fury.

Manager Michael Browning gave the band permission to start throwing punches, to which they happily obliged. Members of the band, their roadies, and their team were all encased in a brawl on stage, and the paying punters could only stand by and watch. “I had AC/DC, my road crew, George Young and myself in a major brawl with all of [Deep Purple’s] crew and manager,” recalled Browning, “A full-on brawl in the middle of the stage.”

AC/DC trading blows with one of the biggest bands in the world at the time was undoubtedly newsworthy, and as it happened, people all over Melbourne couldn’t stop talking about the up(percut)-and-comers. It meant that a few months later when they released their debut album, High Voltage, there were a lot of people who wanted to listen. The album succeeded, and AC/DC was projected into the rock stratosphere. It just goes to show that it really is a long way to the stop if you want to rock and roll, and you might have to break a few noses on your way. 

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