In the summer of 1978 a then relatively new band called Yesterday & Today, who had just released their second album “Struck down”, got the chance to open three shows for AC/DC in Texas. Y&T´s singer Dave Meniketti recalls those crazy shows and also the European tour they later did with them in 1982.
They were the loudest band to date that we ever had experienced on a stage. The air was moving at such an intensity just being off the side of the stage, that we were like “Oh my God, these guys are actually out of their minds loud!”
What did you know about AC/DC before you got the support slot in Texas in 1978? Was it a band you listened to?
I had heard about them through a friend of mine. Actually he was a fan first and then he became a friend and he was one of these guys that was always into any bands that pretty much were brand new at the local record store. He was one of those guys that investigated and found out about bands from overseas pretty much before everybody else did. He turned us on to AC/DC a couple of years before that, so I knew who they were. I had certainly heard some of their songs and we were not one hundred percent big fans yet or anything like that. It was kinda too early for all of that. We didn´t know that much about them but I certainly had heard about them. When we did play with them, we recognized a couple of tunes right off.
You played in Austin, Corpus Christi and San Antonio (July 6-8). How did you end up getting the support slot?
We had a promotor out in Texas that was pretty hot on the band, because we were really hot in San Antonio and some surrounding areas in Texas. We had taken off because a local DJ had played us on the radio before we even went out on tour for the very first time. When we pulled into town we were playing for like 4-5000 people right off the bat, so that was a real shock to us, that this DJ had broken the band in the local area in San Antonio. That sort of became the start of a really good relationship with this particular promotor and every time we came back into town, he would book us three or four shows throughout Texas and always do a good job for us. It was his idea to put us on with AC/DC and it was obviously a very cool thing to do.
What memories do you have of that first show in Austin? What was your first impression of the band?
Well, right off the bat I remember talking to Angus, as a matter of fact. We were just doing our soundcheck and Angus came up and talked to me and I remember getting into this conversation and he was discussing how he was almost deaf at that time and that when they went into the studio, they found it really hard to record in the studio at the intensity that they wanted to have, which is their live intensity. They figured out that the only way they could do it was to invite a bunch of girls and a bunch of friends over to hang out in the control room, so that they could have somebody to play for. That would get their intensity up and that way they felt like they could play more like they did live, on record. That was their little trick. That was the first conversation I remember having with him. Just talking about his hearing and about how loud they played and talking about how they recorded in the studio. I don´t know how we got on to all those different conversations, maybe I was talking to him about us just recording our second record, I don´t know? It just ended up being the very first discussion that we had and then there were others after that, but that was the one I remember the most.
Were you impressed with their show?
Oh, it was outrageous! It was absolutely outrageous. We sat on the side of the stage, or stood on the side of the stage I should say, for all three shows. First of all, it was something that was memorable for one reason certainly, because they were the loudest band to date that we ever had experienced on a stage. The air was moving at such an intensity just being off the side of the stage, that we were like “Oh my God, these guys are actually out of their minds loud!” We were already loud and we were used to playing loud, but these guys were a double level above that. It was absolutely incredible just from that standpoint. The other thing was that we were totally getting off on the songs. Every song was just… we were banging our heads on the side of the stage. And the other thing that I remember for my own self and certainly I know the other guys felt the same way, was not only just the energy, but the whole thing of how Bon Scott was doing his thing on stage. He´d get about three or four songs into every set and his shirt would be off and then he would get about halfway through the set or maybe longer and he would unzip his jeans so that the flap was open and you could see his pubic hair. I was just thinking “Man, now that´s totally different! I´ve never seen a lead singer do that.” But he just sweated it out and gritted it out and screamed through everything with such an attitude and it was just so different. We had never seen anything like that before. That was something that stayed in my mind.
Then there´s the story you´ve told before about Bon coming on your bus to party. What was the deal there?
I think somebody else thought that I was saying he thought the other guys were boring, but as I remember it and of course it´s a little cloudy to get the exact wording, but the basic idea was “Hey, can I hang with you guys because it´s not what I wanna do on the bus, because they don´t want us to bring groupies on the bus and they don´t want heavy drinking on the bus?” He figured we were a bunch of kids, we´re starting out our career, we´re crazy and we´re driving in a van and we are taking groupies from one show to the next and half of the guys were drinking in the back of the van, while we´re on the road going from one gig to the next. We were like “Hell yes, come with us!” and that´s exactly what happened. He spent a couple of days with us. Strangely enough I don´t remember a whole lot of detail because I was so young and it was all happening so fast that it all kinda became a blur. I do remember that we would stop once in a while to fill up the tank and him and Leonard (Haze, drums, 1955-2016) and Phil (Kennemore, bass, 1953-2011) would go into the little grocery store at the gas station and they would probably get like a 5th of Jack Daniels or whatever it was they were getting and then just slugging it down as we´re going down the road. That was rock and roll, man!
This was 1978. Two years later Bon dies. With his drinking, did you get the feeling that he was overdoing it then already?
I mean, we were all overdoing it. To us it just personified what we expected it was gonna be like for rock and roll on the road in the 70´s. It was everything we had heard about and what we were already doing for the most part. I was not a big partier at that time. I had pretty much already gone through my drug phase early on in high school and I kinda was the straight laced dude in the van at the time, but the rest of the guys were full on one hundred percent. I was just a young happy kid. I was just enjoying the whole thing, watching everybody else do their thing. I didn´t think that he was anymore excessive than some of the guys in our band.
You being a singer yourself, how did you look at Bon as a singer?
I was a hard singer back then. I used to sing really loud and really just go for it. I changed my singing style a little bit over the years to making sure my voice lasts from year to year. At that time I used to sing really loud and really hard and I felt the same way about Bon and he was even another notch above that. He was singing hard but it was also the grit he was getting out of his voice. I didn´t know if he was adding that or if he was just singing so hard it was just coming out or if it was all the Jack before he went on stage or what it was? I was just blown away. I´ll be honest with you, it wasn´t like “Wow, I hope he doesn´t hurt himself.” It was more like “Wow, this is awesome!”
Do you remember hearing about Bon´s death?
Oh yeah, absolutely! When we heard about it, it was a shock to the system like it was for probably most fans. I considered myself a fan and by the time he passed away, we had learnt plenty more about AC/DC and we already became instant fans when we played with them, but after that we knew they´re material. It was a huge shock to everybody and when we found out it was a drinking thing, of course we related that to the very short period of time we had spent with him and how much he was getting into it. I remember another story… we used to have problems later on when we´d be touring through the US and the bus would be leaving and we couldn´t find our bass player. At that time we didn´t have cell phones, so how the hell were we gonna know where he is? And if he didn´t tell somebody where he was or where he was going, we didn´t know what the hell was going on. Could we leave? Could we go to the hotel? Does he have his itinerary? That was that same kinda thing one night after one of those three shows in Texas. The band and the crew were ready to leave for AC/DC and the bus and it was like “Where´s Cliff?” and somebody said “Well, I think I saw him go off with some chick somewhere.” They were completely beside themselves and they didn´t know what to do and they were pissed off because they had to sit at the venue in the parking lot well after all the fans had left and everything. I thought about that years later when that same thing happened to us numerous times when it came to our bass player Phil. I thought “Wow, it must be a thing about bass players!”
Then you opened up for AC/DC in 1982 (For those about to rock tour) in the UK and Europe. Was that the next time you saw them or did you come across them again before that?
That was the next time. We were playing the Reading Festival in the UK and we were special guests on one of the nights, we were next to the headliner which was Michael Schenker Group. We had a great set and we had just gotten through touring the UK our very first time on our own earlier that year, so we´d already set the precedents and we´d already had a lot of people talk about us. There was a lot of buzz about the band and at the time we had just released the “Black tiger” record and we had a great show. Evidently a couple of guys from AC/DC´s management company were there and they saw the band and said “Hey, I remember this band! We played with them years ago in Texas. We gotta have these guys!” We didn´t know about that at the time because we had flown home after the Reading Festival and our manager called us and said “Hey, we just got an offer to go out and do the UK tour with AC/DC and we´re gonna do it.” And I said “Absolutely!” It was just a couple of weeks after that and we flew right back and started the tour and that was the first time we saw them again since 1978. Again, everybody was so cool. Very accessible, with one exception being Malcolm. Malcolm was accessible, but he was definitely the guy that you didn´t wanna get on the wrong side of. He was kinda like the man in charge. I think their road crew maybe or somebody told us early on “The guys in AC/DC wanna have you guys come after the show and hang out with them while they´re eating their dinner after their set.” and we were like “Really? Are you´re sure they want us there?” and they said “Yeah, they want you to hang out.”, but I remember somebody telling us “Just a warning! Don´t say anything negative to Malcolm or you´ll be off the tour the next day.” I remember them saying that and us telling Leonard, because he didn´t take anything. If somebody pissed him off, he´d start barking back and get in a verbal fight with him. Somebody warned us that Malcolm might say something negative about the US and we should watch out that we don´t say anything and piss him off, because Malcolm kinda ruled the ruse on that and if he didn´t like somebody, they were gone. He did say some things but it was not a big deal. He hated the freeways of the US and how could people drive 55 in the US, that was ridiculous? There were certain things that bugged him about it and he was just venting like people do. Just bullshitting. There was never anything to really worry about. The guys were great and they were really great to us. Everybody was always nice and I think the guys that would be the most accessible as we kept going on the tour would be Cliff and maybe we´d see Malcolm once in a while and Brian was a super good guy. I´d see him in the lobby at the hotel every once in a while and he´d go “Come on over Dave! What are you gonna do today before the show?” I could barely understand him because his Geordie accent was really strong. I just smiled and laughed.
They seem like very down to earth kinda people.
Absolutely. That was kinda the vibe we got from them all through the whole thing. We knew they were important obviously and they were monster huge at that time, but they had this vibe about them and it was kinda like “We´re not gonna be anything other than what we were born and raised to be and that´s what we´re going with all the way through.” If anything, it was anti rockstar. It was almost like “Fuck that bullshit! We´re down to earth and we are our own people.” I really admire them for that, because that was the way that we were at the same time and that´s probably why we got along so well. We were born and raised to not be that kinda person. We were all about the music and the camaraderie and not about that. It was a cool thing.
Brian has quite a different voice compared to Bon´s. It always sounded like he was about to blow out his voice any minute.
Oh, yeah! If there was a guy that we worried about that would´ve been the guy. As a singer, when you´re doing this high rock and roll stuff like we all do, that´s certainly a concern and every once in a while you wonder if you´re doing it right and over the years I realized that I didn´t need to sing as hard to get the same tone out of my voice and that´s what saved my voice for the last 30 something years. I used to listen to Brian and go “Is he doing that naturally, because if he isn´t, he´s not gonna make it all the way through these 20 shows?”, but he did. He had some nights where he was a little rougher than others, but that´s normal for anybody playing these big shows every night. He did a great job and I was impressed that he could sing that rough for that long every night and still seemingly keep it up night after night.
What do you remember about hearing the cannons for the first time on that tour?
Man, that was just unbelievable! When those things fired off for the first time at soundcheck. They had their own pyro guy and these guys were serious. When they were getting ready to check the pyro for soundcheck, they literally roped off the area and said “Alright, everybody out of the backstage area!” They were very good about being safe, but when those suckers went off every night, oh my God! It just pounded you in the chest. It was just this huge blast and seeing those things go up, because they would bring them up behind the stage and then put the lights on them. They had them timed really well and still to this day, when the song “For those about to rock” comes on, it brings me back to that. I recently made my cell phone´s main ring “For those about to rock”. I´ve got another story. It happened on the first show of that tour. We had just flown in and the first show was coming down and we were ready to go on stage and their crew basically huddled us all together and gave us this little speech and the speech was basically “You´re opening for AC/DC and in the UK and in Europe their fans are gonna give you a hell of a time. They´re gonna throw coins at you, they´re gonna throw stuff at you, they´re gonna shout AC/DC, they´re gonna boo you or whatever it is and you just gonna have to take it.”. We were like “Ok, we can deal with that.”. In our hometown our fans were doing the same thing to opening acts before us, so we got that. Anyway. We went out and played that first show and it was in Birmingham. We did the show and nobody booed, nobody threw anything and in fact, they yelled for an encore after the last song. We came backstage and looked at their crew for the ok if we could go out again and play the encore, because they were very strict about how long we could play. The guys were in shock and you could see it in their faces and they said “Go ahead and play one song!”. We played the song and came back and the crew said “We´ve never seen that happen before for a band opening for AC/DC.”. It so happened that for every single show we played with them, we got an encore and for every show they let us do it. It was just amazing. I think that´s part of the reason why they asked us back for the next leg of the tour. They knew it was a good show for the fans.
Were there any pranks at the last show?
Oh yeah! We knew it was gonna happen because we were told that their crew loves to prank people at the very last show of a tour. First things first. One of our crew guys that would come up on stage and introduce the band, he would come on my microphone and say something like “California, USA! Y&T!”. They waited for this guy and they used to bug him anyway because he was like a good looking guy and he´d wear like fancy looking clothes and stuff. In fact, he looked more like a rockstar than we did. They used to just bug the hell out of him because they thought that was funny. They couldn´t wait to get this guy. Sure enough, as soon as he came out on stage, two guys ran across from each side of the stage and smashed pies in his face. That was the intro. Then they put a stink smell on my microphone so it was just really hard to put my face up to the microphone and sing. Then we did “I believe in you”, which is our ballad and it was a moment when we brought everything down and it was supposed to be very emotional and they would bring out this 16 foot ladder and set iy up in front of Leonard´s drum riser and act like they were gonna go up and adjust some of the lighting. Just to completely mess with us. Then when we were playing our last song of the set, they started coming up on stage and taking the drums down little by little. First I think they took off the cymbal stands and then his floor toms and he was just left with a kick and a snare and a hihat.
As a guitar player yourself, how did you look at Angus´ playing?
I thought he was really an honest to goodness straight ahead rock and roll guitar player, that´s how I feel about Angus. When I look back at him and I still see him on some footage when he´s been playing recently, I have a lot of respect for the guy, because he was always on it every night. His rhythms were solid, they were in time, even though he was moving around like crazy and jumping around on stage and on his back, he always kept his playing in check. It was always perfect, it was always right on the money and very few lost notes or bad notes. He was just as consistent as you could ever be and his tone was great. I have a lot of respect for the guy.
What´s your take on AC/DC with Axl Rose? Have you heard any of it?
I only looked at the footage when he was off of his feet and he was sitting in that throne or whatever. To be honest with you, when I first heard about that and even when I knew it was happening, I wasn´t really a big fan of that. I thought it was a strange situation, but then I kinda thought “Well, I know Axl´s voice and I get that it would be appropriate for that sort of grungy kinda hard edged stuff.”. Then when I heard it I thought “Well, it´s working.”. I´m still not a big fan of Axl being in AC/DC. Knowing how the AC/DC band was as a group and how their attitude was and how they kinda looked down on people that were rockstarish, it just seems odd to me. If anything, all those guys in the original band (GNR) were very rockstarish. It was about the LA rock scene and to me that would be like the exact opposite of what AC/DC´s attitude would be about, but at the end of the day, many years have passed and obviously everybody´s a different person today and all of those guys have changed their attitudes over the years. Malcolm was no longer in the band and didn´t have his say and obviously Axl has changed his attitude over the years. Maybe that was part of the reason why it was now accepted.