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Brianna Parkins: AC/DC and other things the Irish get wrong about Australia

Even though many have observed us up close in our natural habitat, they still don’t get our true ‘boganity’

The Irish love to show off how much they know about Australia and Australians, but unless you know how ageing rockers AC/DC reflect our true inner essence, you’re likely to be, at least slightly, missing the point. Luckily, you’ll soon get the chance to educate yourselves fully on the subject, with the Aussie icons set to play an Irish concert this summer.

First though, you should engage in some preliminary study on the term “bogan”, a beloved Australian term that just doesn’t have a direct translation but can be found at the heart of AC/DC’s ethos. It can be an insult but it can also be a badge of honour. We are all at least part bogan. No one is above it, no one is below it, it’s our life force and we are all one with it. There’s a little bit of bogan in us all. Yes, even Margot Robbie, who’s self-described original “bogan accent” was so strong she had to have a voice coach to appear on Neighbours.

Money, education, social standing and race have nothing to do with it. In fact, cashed up bogans tend to be our most loud and proud cultural ambassadors. Instead it’s about leaning into life’s simple pleasures without worrying what others think of you. Enjoyment begins where class anxieties end. We are who we are and we don’t care what the neighbours think, because chances are they’re at the same thing. And when you don’t care about appearing vulgar or tasteless, you are free to experience life’s true pleasures – swimming in a dam in your undies on a hot day, not wearing shoes to the shop, watching rugby league (instead of pretending to enjoy union because you think it makes you look posh), tucking into service station sausage rolls, enjoying a rum and coke and blasting AC/DC out of a truck.

Hailed as one of the loudest rock bands by decibel levels measured at their concerts, let’s hope houses neighbouring Croke Park have decent double glazing when the torch-holders of boganity play there in August.


While AC/DC as a whole is getting on, and with the last original continuous member Angus Young a sprightly 68, the question remains – will they still reach the ear-splitting high voltage intensity of their earlier gigs? We can’t say for sure yet. Co-founder and guitarist Malcolm Young died in 2017 after a stint in a nursing home and a dementia diagnosis, but with his nephew Stevie stepping up in his place, the band remains a family affair.

Singer Brian Johnson is back on the tools after hearing loss saw him pull out of 2016 shows and replaced by Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses. Johnson, oddly, says fronting one of the loudest rock bands in the world wasn’t the culprit behind his scary inability to hear guitar tones. Instead it was “sitting in a noisy race car without ear plugs for too long”.

Like a lot of famous Australians, AccaDacca (as we bogan connoisseurs in the know call them) actually came from somewhere else. The Youngs emigrated from Scotland to Sydney’s western suburbs – the cultural melting pot where postwar migrants, £10 poms, refugees displaced by conflict in Asia, working class white Australians and Indigenous communities lived, mixed and made a distinct identity. Three of Australia’s most iconic songs come from musicians born in Glasgow – Down Under, Thunderstruck and Khe Sanh.

In some ways AC/DC is emblematic of a country where nearly 30 per cent of people are born abroad (close to 50 per cent in Sydney). To be Australian is often also to acknowledge you have roots in another culture – whether that be First Nations, Irish, Sudanese or Scottish. You can hear their uncompromised Scottish pride in that famous bagpipe solo in Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock ‘n’ Roll) that sits perfectly over quintessentially Australian pub rock.

The venues and surrounds of music often define the sound, with the heavy industry of Birmingham credited for inspiring the heavy metal sound of Black Sabbath. The lilting complexities and storytelling of Irish ballads down to the modern earnest yearning of Hozier hints at a culture where musicians are respected enough for everyone to shut up or at least shush each other pointedly when players sit down in a special corner in the pub for their performance.

It’s important to remember who had mullets, ugg boots, work pants, tracksuits, racing jackets, vintage sports jerseys, singlets (vests) and tattoos first

The Australian pub rock sound comes from a distinct lack of reverence shown to musicians competing with rowdy audiences and the greyhound racing turned up on the telly. That’s why it’s loud, simple and gets straight up your guts. AC/DC’s time on the rough pub circuit hardened them and gave birth to bands such as The Chats and the charmingly named Amyl and the Sniffers, beloved by modern Irish crowds. AC/DC’s Young once described outback pubs as “the toughest audiences in the world – you have to give them blood”.

So while it’s easy to mock Australians and their unofficial anthem of AC/DC as oversimplified, artless and crass – it’s overlooking their key values of going hard, getting the job done and going home without overthinking, faffing about and making such a bloody big deal of things.

As the core identity markers of bogans and working class Australia have been co-opted by Ireland’s posher and hipster classes, it’s important to remember who had mullets, ugg boots, work pants, tracksuits, racing jackets, vintage sports jerseys, singlets (vests) and tattoos first.

It’s very confusing to talk to a bloke with an ironic mullet, moustache and Carhartt/Dickies mechanic pants who is smoking rollies and find out that despite looking the spit of your uncle he isn’t a panel beater from Wagga Wagga but actually a creative consultant named Ruairí with a D4 accent.

Our culture is not your costume, okay? If you want to get some bogan cultural appreciation and not appropriation, get some AC/DC tickets and get a dog up ya!