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How AC/DC and Journey Ended Up Playing Their First Concerts on the Same Night

Neal Schon, Angus Young
Richard McCaffrey / Michael Putland, Getty Images

It’s impossible to predict the future, but it seems safe to say that no matter what happens this New Year’s Eve in the world of classic rock, it won’t measure up to Dec. 31, 1973, when future rock titans Journey and AC/DC both played their very first concerts on the same night.

The Journey lineup featured at this San Francisco, California show was very different from the pop-friendly version of the band that ruled arena rock in the ’80s. Keyboardist Jonathan Cain (who joined in 1980) and singer Steve Perry (1977) were nowhere to be found. Instead, attendees witnessed a progressive rock-leaning semi-supergroup led by former Santana members Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie. The lineup also featured Ross Valory and George Tickner from Frumious Bandersnatch, as well as drummer Prairie Prince.

Rolie sang lead vocals, but the primary focus was on the group’s instrumental prowess, which they displayed during a nine-song set at their hometown’s Winterland Arena. Highlights included a cover of the Beatles‘ ‘It’s All Too Much’ and several tracks (‘Mystery Mountain,’ ‘Topaz’) that would wind up on their 1975 self-titled debut album.

Meanwhile, 7,400 miles away and somewhere around 19 hours ahead on the clock — so if you had a Concorde jet, you could have attended both shows — AC/DC were launching their live career with a marathon performance at their hometown Sydney, Australia’s popular Chequers nightclub. Much like Journey’s Schon, guitarist brothers Malcolm and Angus Young hadn’t found the vocalist who would help them become superstars yet — Bon Scott didn’t join until September of 1974.

Instead a lineup featuring the Young brothers, singer Dave Evans, bassist Larry Van Kriedt and drummer Colin Burgess played nearly 30 songs during two covers-heavy sets. They also performed Beatles music — ‘Get Back’ and ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy),’ as well as songs from Little Richard, Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones. According to one account of the evening, Angus Young engaged his brother in a guitar duel and also played his own 30-minute solo.

So the obvious question is, which of these two shows would you rather have attended?

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