Thursday, January 14, 2010


After the meeting with Alan aka the Rock'n'Roll Nonno, AC/DC Abruzzo has another special guest. He goes by the name of Looy and his fame and legendary deeds are well known in the AC/DC hardcore fan community. AC/DC Abruzzo had the privilege to meet him in person several times during the European tour and his stories and advice have been very educational and inspirational for AC/DC Abruzzo for the rock’n’roll journey we embarked on Europe.

Looy, thank you for being with us. The last time we talked was just before the final European gig in Glasgow last summer. Memorable day. So, how is it going? Any more shows since then?

Oh it’s been a strange year, but I’m doing well thanks. No, Glasgow was my last gig of the year. I thought maybe if I could get the money together I’d try to go to some of the shows in the US, but it didn’t work out. So it was back to work trying to make some money for Europe next year.

The first time we actually met was in front of the Paris Bercy arena last February before the first of the two historic sold out shows. It was a brief encounter… Then we had the chance to talk a bit more in Antwerp a few days after. You told us some of your incredible Rock’n’Roll stories… Including your record breaking experience in the Ballbreaker tour! Amazing!

Well, that was my most Over The Top tour, a real Ballbreaker! I went a bit mad and did the first 95 shows (the complete US tour first leg from January to April and the complete European tour first leg from April to July). I did some rough calculations a few years later and it worked out at about 40,000 km travel on the ground, and another 40,000 km flying.

In America I didn’t stay in (cheap) hotels very often, mostly I slept in bus stations, the airport, or somewhere around the arena, or I tried to get overnight buses or flights. It got so bad towards the end that the band took pity on me and gave me some pocket money so I could take a cheap hotel at least for a couple of nights a week! I think I must have looked pretty bad by then!

Europe was much easier. I had a rail card for Scandinavia and some friends who were travelling to batches of shows, and I made new friends along the way who helped me get to other shows. Everyone was keen to help and no-one wanted petrol money, which I couldn’t have afforded anyway! Those helping friends really made Europe possible and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them all. It would have been almost impossible without them.

Impressive! Any funny/interesting stories to share?

Lots! Many I’m afraid are now forgotten, some are just too long to go into here! A couple of interesting moments regarding the Ballbreaker stage production might raise a smile, both happened somewhere in the US.

One night as they started the song Ballbreaker, Brian went behind the Amps to climb on the ball (originally the plan was for Angus to do this each night, but he had other ideas! So Brian the ex-paratrooper stepped in). As the song started the ball rose as usual, but halfway up Brian’s sweat soaked hands dropped the microphone. The band riffed on and Brian was trying desperately to get the crane operator’s attention, no-one noticed until the moment he was supposed to start singing. The band riffed on. Finally the ball started to lower to the stage and Brian jumped off and ran to the side of the stage for a new microphone. The band riffed on. Brian returned to centre stage, and Phil played a quick “de-de” to time everyone, Brian stepped forward and started to sing – nothing, the new microphone didn’t work! The band riffed on. Brian collected another microphone (professional band this!) and then tried again, finally everything worked and the song was completed without further problems. It was the longest intro to Ballbreaker ever played!

On another night, the show was about to start, the house lights went out and the long production intro used on the Ballbreaker tour started (as on No Bull). Eventually the crane swung out, but the ball never lowered. After a few minutes the faithful roadie appeared on the crane arm and tried to get it moving. After several attempts the ball finally lowered and the band came on. At the end of Back in Black, Brian turned and looked up at the ball , then looking back at the audience said “Sorry about that, everyone gets their ball’ stuck once in a while, hey lads?”. Another great Johnson Moment!

AHAHAH. We just love Brian's humour... Looy, please tell us more about your passion and dedication for AC/DC. How did it start? How did it develop? And how has it affected and enriched your life?

Well, that’s three questions that I’ve taken a lifetime to answer for myself! How to keep it short? Umm.

I first heard DC (as they were known in England) around late `78 when I was 13 and heard a school friend’s couple of singles. I also had some older friends who were listening to hard rock, so I heard more stuff from them. Sometime towards the end of `79 I asked one of them which album was a good starting point, and he recommended If You Want Blood. I went to town and bought a copy, but when I got it home and played it the needle just kept jumping. I took it back and got another copy, but it too jumped. I took that back and the shop ordered another copy for me which took about 5 weeks to arrive! Finally I got to hear the full album, and I was hooked. (Collectors note: if you find a UK pressed If You Want Blood with the track times on the label, don’t be surprised if it jumps, as far as I know, all these pressings did!) I now own around 30 international vinyl pressings of IYWB, and I blame a lot of this collecting habit on the problems with this first purchase.

How did it develop?.... I just kept buying!

How has it affected and enriched my life? Profoundly and beyond all measure. I’ve seen, and more importantly heard, things I would never have thought possible. I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting the band in person on many occasions and some of the concerts I’ve attended have become legendary. Many others would have been legendary if they hadn’t just been another night of a tour, but sometimes the magic that every performer and fan seeks arrives unannounced and makes for one magical night of rock’n’roll. Some people would kill for it, I’ve nearly died for it!

Certainly meeting my very good friend Goulash for the first time, at the back of Wembley Arena on a freezing cold January day in ’86, was a moment that has gone on to often enrich my life (you have to know him!). Since then we’ve met up at many concerts around the US and Europe and the laughs we’ve had along the way certainly helped us through the pain! Like me, he’s another chap who just wants to go to the show, and he won’t be stopped either. We rarely ever make any plans to travel together, but we always find us!

In fact that’s something all of us who meet up on the road laugh about. Most friends intending to meet at a concert will plan to meet “at the main entrance” or “the third burger stand on the right”. We leave it at “see you in New York” or wherever, and we always end up together somehow (chaos theory?), meeting in a Subway station, record store, airport arrivals hall or some such place.

We actually experienced this “chaos theory” ourselves several times during this tour…. From Wilkes Barre to Glasgow... If we remember correctly in England you told us that you were going to attend your 100th AC/DC concert. Unbelievable! Around the world there must be only a few people with more than 100 shows under their belt. Pretty hardcore….

Well this will just sound like bravado, but actually my 100th show was in Stuttgart `96. This year’s tour included my 200th gig, in Birmingham, which being the last indoor show in Europe was good timing. I didn’t set out to “do more concerts than anyone else”, and in fact there are fans out there who’ve done more, it just ended up getting out of control. All that motivated me was to go to the show, regardless where or how often. Just go to the show and enjoy. No matter how tired or rundown you are, the house lights go out, the roar goes up, and the world and its problems are insignificant.

WOW! 200 shows!!!!... I guess in Birmingham we were a bit tired after so many shows in a row... Anyway, now a classic question. Which was your favourite tour? Any memorable show in particular?

Ask anyone who’s lost their virginity and the answer’s the same: the first time! In my case Hammersmith Odeon 13.10.82. I heard the Bell and saw the light, so to speak! I went the next night too when they added The Jack and Have A Drink On Me, but I couldn’t afford to see them the following two nights and leaving Hammersmith on the morning of the 15th (I slept out on the street, something I’d get used to!) knowing they’d be playing again that night was awful. Like with the IYWB record story, it’s probably responsible for my need to go again and again. I hate the feeling I have when I’ve seen them a few nights in a row and then know that tonight they’ll play again and I won’t be there.

Riding to Holland from England (using the ferry as well of course!) on my Honda 90 for the show in Leiden ’91 was a great laugh as well.

Maybe one concert of note to your Italian readers would be Modena ’91, when on the day before the concert I was allowed to get on stage and take several swings at the Hells Bell with Brian’s hammer (see photo). That was on Friday the 13th September 1991 and the photos (taken by the Tour Manager Jake Berry) are among my most treasured items. What AC/DC fanatic wouldn’t want to do that? And on Friday the 13th!

Greensboro ‘96 was of course exceptional. Everything came together at the right time to make it possible. Phil was back, I’d been to the video shoot for Hard As A Rock, and to find myself in Greensboro in the worst snowstorms for decades was exhilarating! Unfortunately I missed the tour rehearsals as, sensibly enough, the band had those in Florida and I couldn’t change arrangements to get there. But that first night with Phil back was magic, the only time he ever played a Simon Wright track (Who Made Who) on stage! And Down Payment Blues!!!!! Later in Europe I fell in love (yes, we’re still together) and the band kindly agreed to play DPB on the 8th May in Dortmund for her (if you know the lyrics you can guess her name). I think, if I remember correctly, in Europe they only played it then and on the third night in Madrid, and in Dortmund Angus got the intro wrong, so that was unique!

As for a favourite tour. Hmmm. It’s always hard to pick a favourite when you’ve enjoyed so much. The Cannon and Bell Tour ’82 was amazing. The volume was incredible, and the sound in Hammersmith Odeon is wonderful. But then those tours in the ‘80s with Simon are very unfairly dismissed in the history books. They really were the only Rock’n’Roll band fighting back against the stupid hair and soft production techniques that the ‘80s music industry thought was the future. It must’ve been a real struggle, and it certainly took its toll on Mal (I’d love to have seen the band with Stevie Young standing in. Did it work….?). Ballbreaker was, from my point of view, in a different league to the other tours. With Phil back and a great setlist, it’s hard to beat. But I think The Razors Edge Tour was pretty significant as well. It put the band back in the spotlight and got them a lot more attention. For me personally, it was the first time I travelled to a lot of shows, ten indoors and then 15 of the Open Airs, during which I was given a VIP tour pass. I’d planned to only do 8 or so outdoor shows, but with a pass in my hand, I did more. When it was decided that the show would go to Moscow, (only 2 weeks before the show!) Malcolm asked me if I was going and I told him financially and planning wise it just wasn’t possible. Next day Jake Berry told me “Mal wants you to come to Moscow, you’ll fly in with the band!” That would have been amazing, but when the tours lawyers found out they immediately said no! Taking me without a Visa into Russia at that time when I wasn’t even working for the band was just to much of a risk. I could see their point, but…..

Looy with the Hell's Bell in Modena 1991

INCREDIBILE!!! ... Any other funny/curious stories about your life on the road you want to share with us?

Oh God yes, many! Poland ’91 for instance. I had to collect my ticket from the crew hotel the day before the show (as it had value, like currency, it could not be sent out of the country back then). After collecting it I went into the hotel’s bar and being in Poland I ordered a vodka. The girl at the bar got out a large (oh dear) glass and one-third filled it with vodka. She then went to add orange juice, which I didn’t want, so instead she filled the glass to the top with vodka (oh dear, oh dear). I guess back then orange juice was rarer and more expensive than local vodka. Anyway, on the barstool next to me was an American, who I assumed was roadcrew, and we got rather drunk as the evening went on and talked as strangers do. At one point I gave my not too kind views of the smooth sound production used by Queensryche. The next day as they played, I realised what a really great guy the guitarist in Queensryche is, he could have been quite upset in the bar, but he never let on who he was, nor did he start a fight!

On the morning of the concert I’d been talking with two Polish girls at the backstage entrance to the stadium. They told that on the trains heading south out of Warsaw, gangs of youths were going through the trains beating anyone who looked like they might have a ticket for the concert! While we were talking a young guy appeared and sort of just hung around us. He tried to speak to the girls and they were very dismissive of him. I asked why, and they said he was Russian. I wondered what a Russian was doing here and although the girls didn’t really want to, we managed a 3-way, 3 language exchange of information. He told us he’d heard AC/DC and Metallica were playing in Poland and he just had to be there, so without documentation, travel papers, visa or even a rail ticket, he hid on a train to Warsaw believing such a great concert must be in the capital. He got through all the controls and the border only to find the concert was in Chorzow, so he managed to hide on several more trains and found his way to the venue. Still without a ticket for the show, he was hoping something would happen. It did. When the band arrived I told their then manager (Stewart Young, no relation) about this mad Russian, and he gave me a ticket to pass on to him. Can you imagine how this guy felt in 1991? He took his life in his hands and it paid off big time! OK, they played in Moscow a month later, but that wasn’t known to anyone then. And at such a huge concert there wouldn’t be much guarantee of actually seeing very much, compared to having a ticket for the front of stage in a proper stadium. I think he had balls! I really hope he made it home safely.

Yeah, we remember this incredible story: you told us when we met before the shows during this tour... The power of rock'n'roll!!! You also gave us some useful pieces of advice during the tour. About the importance of planning and being prepared to face difficulties and moments of discouragement, also facing average people who keep criticizing and will never understand what’s behind this hardcore passion and unusual lifestyle…

Yes? Ah, logistics is the key. You need a lose framework of a plan, and then just keep adapting until you get home. As for others, what do they know? If you’re not doing it for yourself, then something’s fundamentally wrong with your plan.

Another important tip was about how to manage your calendar when you’re on tour: you taught us that knowing the weekday is virtually useless. The question “What day is it today?” should be answered as follows. “Today it’s Dusseldorf!” “Tomorrow is the day before Oberhausen” and so on…Ahahaha. This method actually worked pretty well for us when we would wake up in some hotel room wandering where we were….

I’m glad it’s proved useful! But I can’t claim to have invented the method. Anyone who’s been on the road with a timetable to follow will quickly learn this basic adjustment to the clock system. See, you did!

Looy, we also know about your other passion! Italian motorbikes… Guzzi in particular… What can you tell us about that?

Ahhh, my third passion and vice! Yes it’s true. I am the very proud owner of a V1000G5. She was first registered in August 1979, so she was in the showroom when Highway to Hell was released! I bought her in 1994 after having three V50 mark 3’s in 5 years. I had a bad accident in 1989 on the first one (car drivers!), and the insurance money I finally got for that paid for the G5 and the Ballbreaker tour with not a penny left over!

For me, the G5 is the last “Gentlemen’s Motorcycle”. When you are built like a north of the Alps Barbarian, you can only dream of fitting on a LeMans or V7Sport. The G5 is laid out for bigger people, and with the way mine has been modified it’s possible to remove the boxes and screen in 15 minutes and turn the “Gran Turismo” into a “Strada” bike , very versatile and “user friendly”.

Last year, I found out the studio where the video for Rock’n’Roll Train was being filmed, but only the day before it happened. So I loaded the trusty G5 and set off from my new home here in Bavaria to get to London as quickly as possible. 140-160 kph on a 30 year old bike for 1000 km each way was a bit crazy, and on the journey home I did some damage to the valves because of overheating, but she got me home as always…BELLA GUZZI! Since then I’ve found out I also did some damage to the gearbox, and the clutch fell apart about 1000 km after I got home. But that’s how it goes, followin’ a band……It’s a long way…

"Two of Italy's greatest creations"

Yes... It's a long way... But we're gonna RIDE ON!!

It was a pleasure talking to you Looy. And thank you very much! We hope to see you soon at an AC/DC show…

Ah, thank you! Well… that’s the most likely place! Ave Abruzzo! Ave Italia!

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