Interview with Mark Gable of The Choirboys
There’s no denying the influence Mark Gable and his band The Choirboys have had over Australian rock music in one form or another. Now, the legendary group is set to take on another Australian classic as they embark on a tour in homage to the icons that are AC/DC.
In this interview with Julie Leighton, Gable discusses the upcoming tour, AC/DC and Australian rock music in general.
I read the other day that you said you always loved AC/DC but they hate you and the rest of The Choirboys, which admittedly made me laugh. Is it related to the revelation of Malcolm Young is battling Dementia?
Absolutely, Malcolm Young’s son reported something on social media about his father. Malcolm Young’s son had become a good friend of mine and I will never judge his opinion on something that he says because he is a lovely guy. But he called me the other day and asked me my opinion because I have done radio over the years.
He wanted my opinion about AD/DC and he got my opinion, that I was saddened by the news of Malcolm’s dementia, and so the reference of what Malcolm’s son has said on social media, it went all over the world you see.
Then I always had a mouth on me, there is always people that don’t like me that say I go on a bit too much at times.
You are like a straight shooter sometimes do you mean?
I just have a mouth on me, and my father also had a mouth on him as well. So I say stuff and then people get annoyed. I can name some people that I’ve spoken about, but I won’t.
There are some big people in the Australian music pond that don’t like Mark Gable and there isn’t anything I can do about it. There was a documentary on Albert’s Productions, you know that AC/DC, was signed to, The Choirboys, The Angels, Rose Tattoo and a bunch of other people back in the 70’s.
Yes, I found that out the other day, I am a new recruit to Amnplify but I know about Albert’s productions and the bands that were signed to them in the 70s and 80s.
And so the consequence is that Albert’s did a documentary called Blood and Thunder on the Albert’s label and suspiciously Choirboys were left out of it. And they put a whole lot of other people on it that hadn’t done as much as us. We had spent 7 years in the same studio that AC/DC was recording in. And we released our first album and we had to do that through Albert’s Productions. And they left us out and put other people in that had done a whole lot less.
What was the explanation you were given, Mark?
I was given no explanation, and the thing is if someone hates you that much it is really cool. That means […]
That you are having an impact?
The notoriety is a really important thing, you have got to get people to hate you to become famous.
Is that true?
As a private citizen, I have no idea.
Oh yeah, look at Donald Trump, he is the one you know half of the world hates him and he is even more famous now.
He is, isn’t he? Well, you are paying homage to the 40th anniversary of Bon Scott joining AC/DC with a gig at the Oaks Hotel at the Albion Park Rail, is that right?
That is correct yes.
So how do you prepare to take on the songs of one of the best ever rock bands? Have you guys just played the material from the two albums, High Voltage and Highway to Hell, so often throughout your careers that you just simply know the two albums almost “automatically”? Has the band played the songs so much that you are just ready to go? Or have you had to put in some serious preparation for it?
It is a lot of preparation, you know, we are The Choirboys so it is a separate entity. What we wanted to do is to pay a tribute to the band and forget the relationship that we had with them. They are an incredible, amazing band and it is like being in love with somebody that doesn’t love you back. But it’s like, you know we don’t care that you’re not fans of ours, we love you anyway.
There are lots of tribute bands, AC/DC, KISS, ABBA, and so on.
I have seen some of them over the years Mark, and thoroughly enjoyed them.
There must be, I don’t even know how many AC/DC tribute bands are out there but there is no band like us that is actually cool with identifying ourselves as AC/DC fans, that we are from that era, we’re from that time, we’re from the same label, and we love to play their stuff. We feel we can get closer to the mark because of our shared recording history and being signed to the same label. If you see The Choirboys do it, you get some authenticity about it.
I would love to see you guys playing AC/DC, I really hope I can see the show at some point.
Well, I hope so too because we are enjoying a limited period, what is it now January, February, March and then I think it’s done.
Are you playing any gigs in Sydney, Mark?
Yes we are but I can’t remember the dates.
That’s okay, I’ll find out when and where you’re playing. I can’t wait!!
You know we are doing Rooty Hill RSL and … I can’t remember, sorry.
So you mentioned in the 70’s you were assigned to Albert’s. Did you ever cross paths with AC/DC or peak through the windows or doorways to see what they were doing, if they were songwriting or watch their recording processes at all?
Well, AC/DC had finished when we really started at Albert’s in ’78. We met the guys but we never met Bon Scott unfortunately. We met them but we never got to see them working but we got to work with their original producers, Vanda and Young, Harry Vanda and George Young.
Yes, I have heard a lot about them over the years.
And so I spent a lot of time watching Vanda but George Young was the one who really molded AC/DC and helped create them, most especially with Angus and Malcolm who were/are the core of the band.
George Young was The Easybeats songwriter, arranger and an amazing producer. So it was amazing to watch him in action because really at that time he was the core existence of why AC/DC broke.
And then Malcolm took over the whole thing because it was really his band, it was really Malcolm who ran it I think, he was the real driving force behind the whole thing, the anchor point. So it was really amazing to watch the whole studio create Australian rock history and the people who made it all happen, it was incredible times.
Yes, it sounds like it was an incredibly creative time in Oz rock history.
You were quoted as saying The Easybeats were better than The Kinks and as good as The Who. Can you explain what you mean by that?
The Easybeats were an incredible band. The thing is that had they had overseas success, because they had Friday On My Mind, if they had existed overseas, I think they would have been bigger than The Kinks and as big as The Who, because their songwriting capability was astonishing.
But the sad thing is that the Young family immigrated to Australia, you came to Australia because it was a better life anyway, but had they known their kids were so talented, but the sad thing for The Easybeats was that they had to throw themselves up against a wall so that AC/DC could then come through … George’s younger brothers could then come through, and imparted all that knowledge and information to AC/DC who were able to utilise it in the most amazing way, they invented pub rock and everyone was inspired by pub rock.
You know Australians beat the hell out of their instruments and I think AC/DC really got a drift of that and it really helped them break through overseas.
I saw an interview you did where you said The Easybeats songs and their music was significantly under-appreciated. Would that be true?
Oh, absolutely! Radio does not play their songs and it is the most amazing collections of songs.
I have to take note and try and find some of them and have a listen.
You have to be a musician to appreciate this, but Friday On My Mind probably has more key changes to it in the history of songwriting. It was just a work of genius, and even David Bowie covered it.
Yeah, he just thought it was an astonishing song and even Paul McCarthy rang in a radio station after playing St Louis and wanted to know what song that was and who did it. St Louis was another single that came after Friday On My Mind. They were just an incredible band. And in the end of their road they just cracked it in England with Friday On My Mind but by then it was almost all over and they were going downhill.
I hate to ask the question Mark because I don’t like sitting in judgement over anyone’s challenges with addiction, but do you believe addiction was problematic for them?
Well, they were all kids and they were all going crazy with the Rock and Roll thing but drugs and alcohol got the better of them at that moment unfortunately particularly with Stevie at that point.
It was heart breaking.
Yes, it was heart breaking but it was not abnormal.
Oh I see.
But I think that Harry and George survived it all and they turned into the most amazing songwriters and producers. You know Love is in the Air by John Paul Young and all of the hits they had with William Shakespeare.
Oh, yeah that was my childhood I was born in ‘65.
Fantastic songs, Countdown was my favorite show, I never missed it and thank God for Molly Meldrum.
It really was amazing times but will never be repeated and will not come back.
I completely agree it was a very special time. The first time you saw AC/DC was in the 80’s when Brian Johnson had taken over the lead vocals and you snuck in with your mate is that right and saw the band?
We snuck into a wide fence that had a hole in it and we made it bigger and snuck in. And we watched the show, we asked Albert’s if we could get free tickets to go to AC/DC and they didn’t give us any, so we broke in.
How do you feel about Axl Rose taking on the lead vocals of AC/DC, if only temporarily?
The actually footage that I saw, he was doing a great job. And Brian Johnson was incapable of doing it anymore so they recorded it and spoke to Malcolm’s son and he said that Axl did a great job as well.
Now your band has been rocking the burbs since 1978. I have seen some of your shows through the years and I loved every one. Run to Paradise is one of the songs from my younger years that when it comes on in the car, the volume goes right up and I do not care if I have all my windows down. And I will sing like a maniac! Are you proud of that song Mark? It had such an impact on Aussie music and it is an awesome song by the way.
Thank you very much. It’s really satisfying, it was just a bunch of guys getting together and doing it. And when we did it we thought that it was going to be a hit.
You just knew, right?
Yeah we knew, and now 30 years have passed and it has become part of Australian rock folklore. When we play it live, people go nuts for it.
Now you said when you leave the world, you want to go out with a bang, something like a heart attack or a major death provoking health hazard. But dying with a heart attack on stage might be a bit distressing for some of the audience members, don’t you think?
It will be awesome.
They might have a heart attack themselves!
No, it would be like an explosion on stage. It is the way to go, not like having cancer and you sit in bed for six months, slowly ebbing away. I want to go bang! It will make YouTube, it will be incredible.
Is Run To Paradise primarily about young people abusing drugs and alcohol on the Northern Beaches? Is that what you were envisioning when you wrote the song?
No, that is only a part of it. It’s about people that I knew on the Northern Beaches and although we lived in Paradise, many were wasting the opportunity to really enjoy something that the rest of the world couldn’t, being the Northern Beaches. It’s a beautiful part of the world.
Connect with The Choirboys
- Julie Leighton
Don’t miss your chance to see The Choirboys perform AC/DC hits live!
Friday March 3: Astor Hotel, Goulburn, NSW
www.astorhotelmotel.com.au / (02) 4821 1155
Saturday March 4: The Oaks Hotel, Albion Park, NSW
www.theoakshotel.com.au / (02) 4257 1211
Friday March 10: Blue Cattle Dog, St Claire, NSW
www.moshtix.com.au / (02) 9670 3050 or the venue
Saturday April 1: Ettamogah Hotel, Rouse Hill, NSW
www.ettamogahhotel.com.au / (02) 9629 1130
Saturday April 8: Wenty Leagues, Wentworthville, NSW
www.wentyleagues.com.au / (02) 8868 9200
Friday April 21: Dee Why RSL, Dee Why, NSW
www.deewhyrsl.com.au / (02) 9454 4000
Saturday April 22: Rooty Hill RSL, Rooty Hill, NSW
www.rootyhillrsl.com.au / (02) 9625 5500