Susan Masino with the boys in the band, 1978.
Few music journalists are connected to one band as much as Madison-based rock writer Susan Masino is to AC/DC.
Masino has written multiple books about the brash and ballsy Australian headbangers known for their simple and memorable three chords. As a young reporter for Madison’s long-forgotten Emerald City Chronicle music newspaper in 1977, Masino was among the first writers in the United States to snag an interview with the band. AC/DC would go on to record some of rock’s most enduring anthems, including “Highway to Hell,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Back in Black” and “For Those About to Rock.”
The transcript of that early interview is included in AC/DC FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the World’s True Rock ’n’ Roll Band — a compelling combination of band history, musical analysis and personal anecdotes. To her credit, Masino includes recent details about founding guitarist and AC/DC anchor Malcolm Young’s dementia and longtime drummer Phil Rudd’s bizarre legal battles surrounding drug possession and hiring a hit man.
Given her nearly 40-year history with the band, Masino, who now teaches UW extension courses on rock ’n’ roll history and journalism, is the perfect person to pen this latest title in Backbeat Books’ FAQ series, which also includes books about Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and KISS. In fact, Masino might be a little too perfect for this project: She indulges in fangirl behavior by claiming that the “Suzy” mentioned twice in “Down Payment Blues” from the band’s 1978 Powerage album might be referring to her.
That said, Masino is no groupie, and AC/DC FAQ is a must-read for the band’s fans. Thirty-seven chapters cover everything from the death of original lead vocalist Bon Scott to the significance of the number 17 in the band’s evolution — and Madison is featured often.
For example, an early chapter focuses on the Stone Hearth, a rock club on the University of Wisconsin campus, which hosted an AC/DC gig on Aug. 16, 1977 — the day Elvis Presley died. Among the book’s best black-and-white images is a poster for that show that features manic guitarist Angus Young in his signature schoolboy outfit, tongue out. Tickets cost $3 at the door.
The book’s subtitle is a misnomer because much of this information has been published previously; Masino relies on a lengthy list of books, articles and videos for source material. Still, if you only need to read one AC/DC book, this could be it.