From 1975 to 1977, Mark Evans played bass in AC/DC, which means he missed two of the band’s most earth-shattering moments: the death of original singer Bon Scott in 1980, and the triumphant release the same year of its crowning commercial triumph, Back In Black. Accordingly, Evan’s memoir, Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/Outside Of AC/DC, is a bit skimpy and shortsighted when measured against the group’s epic history. But Evans managed to render his book much like AC/DC’s iconic hard rock: lean, raw, unflinching, and heavy on the riffs.
To Evans’ benefit, his stint in AC/DC took place during the band’s most fertile, formative years. The son of working-class parents in Melbourne, Australia, Evans had his own modest brushes with rock abandon and wanton promiscuity before he joined Scott’s up-and-coming group at age 19. At the time, AC/DC wasn’t a household name in Melbourne, let alone around the globe—but as Evans found out very quickly, the group’s ambition barely fit in its pants. Guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young had stardom in their veins, being the younger brothers of George Young, a ’60s pop star as a member of The Easybeats. And with George producing, the drive to make AC/DC a world-class band overrode the basic camaraderie that the wild-yet-goodhearted Evans expected to find when he joined.
Since Evans never became close to the Youngs during his two years in the group, Dirty Deeds suffers from a lack of insight. “It’s Malcolm’s band, and you’d do best to remember that,” one of the band’s roadies advises Evans on the night of his audition. Sadly, Evans doesn’t have much more to say about Young. He does become chummy with the hard-partying, generous-spirited Scott, and Dirty Deeds offers some colorful anecdotes about the late singer—including the fact that Scott often couldn’t get Evans’ name right, resulting in the first batch of the bassist’s gold records to mistakenly read “Mike Evans.” But when Scott dies, Evans is only able to experience it—and relate its impact—from afar.
Then again, Dirty Deeds doesn’t claim to be a definitive history of AC/DC—only of Evans’ small but important chunk of it. At that, it succeeds; not only does he write warmly, clearly, and engagingly, he serves up penetrating detail about the group’s recording process, just as Young and crew were learning to turn their barroom blues-rock into stadium anthems. Evans is also an effusive, informed fan of rock music, and he does a good job of placing AC/DC’s music in historical context—especially seeing how the band ignored the reigning trends of the era, then bulldozed its own reckless path through glam, punk, and progressive rock.
But Evans’ fandom also works against him. Too often, he comes off as an AC/DC cheerleader rather than a vital member at a pivotal period in the group’s ascension. That said, he’s quick to downplay his simplistic contributions—”If you couldn’t play bass to Phil Rudd’s drums and Malcolm Young’s rhythm guitar, it was time to find another career path,” he humbly admits—and he even takes the high road when snubbed for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with his former bandmates in 2003. His reticence to speak ill of people who haven’t spoken to him in decades, though, renders Dirty Deeds a lot cleaner than it ought to be.