Young Southpaw chats to comedian and Whose Line Is It Anyway? star Greg Proops about late 70s concert adventures, life in London, Glasgow audiences, AC/DC, James Bond, and much more
Greg Proops: I saw AC/DC in 1978. My cousin Donny and I drove down to San José. They weren’t headlining, if you can believe this. It was Ronnie Montrose. Ronnie Montrose with Gamma, this was after he was in Montrose with Sammy Hagar. AC/DC was the middle act, and that’s who we went to see. We dressed up at my house and I still have pictures of us, Polaroids. I found them again in my garage during the beginning of the containment, cause I was going through everything. We’re being total idiots in the pictures and I’m wearing like a tweed jacket and a long scarf, and Donny’s got a ruffled shirt on. So on the way down we’re smoking weed and Donny goes ‘let’s just pretend to be English the whole time and see if we can fool those motorheads’. And I’m like ‘I’ll do it’. So we get there, we put on these cod English accents, and everybody’s talking to us and asking us about England. And we’re just lying, right? (adopts British accent) ‘oh yeah, Brighton, yeah, it’s great’. So that was 45 minutes in line of just pretending. And because we looked so fruitopian, everybody was like ‘ok’.
So AC/DC comes on and they were just sensational. They’re one of the best rock outfits. The first time I saw The Clash, The Ramones, and AC/DC were the most straight ahead fury. And really good. Bon had no shirt, the tightest jeans in the world, tennis shoes. Angus came out with the schoolboy uniform, the whole thing, with the bag and everything. And of course that’s shed, one by one by one. And there was no chanting ‘Angus’ in those days but we knew who he was. And the part of the show that blew everyone’s minds was, one, their attack. Phil, Malcolm, and Cliff in the back, then Bon up front with Angus as satellite. And they came at you. Angus never stopped banging his head. At a certain point you’re like ‘you must have brain damage’. So then Angus and Bon disappear from the stage and it’s just the three of them banging away. And everyone’s like ‘huh? what has happened?’ Cut to - great commotion towards the front of the stage. He had a sneaky cordless guitar with a radio transmitter, which was like unbelievably high tech in those days. This is the 70s. And Bon is carrying Angus on his shoulders like a child, and Angus is furiously headbanging, screaming away a solo, and he comes right through the crowd. Like the circus, like vaudeville. And people were just like (screams) ‘YES!’ It was the most awesome thing. Better than pyrotechnics. There were no flash pots, nothing. They were a straight, stripped down band with crappy lighting. And it was really exciting. Cause they’re rock n roll. And then Ronnie Montrose came on and we split. To show our contempt for him never being able to follow how awesome AC/DC were.
So cut to the 90s, I’m drunk and I’m in England. I come home late and we’ve just gotten cable. They didn’t get cable until the 90s in England. So now we’ve got all these channels, and there was one channel that just showed old shows. And I’m kinda high, I’ve come home from a gig, I turn on the TV and it’s AC/DC from 1978, at a U.K. university. And as I watch, I realize I saw this set. It was very exciting.
Greg Proops: When I was seven, I had to go to Sunday School that year for some reason. My mother got a notion that it would be real important for me to get some churchin’. They bought me a little navy blue suit, with a white shirt and this clip-on tie. I’d wear it to church with dress shoes. And then when church was over in the afternoon, I’d go ‘can I keep the suit on? I just need to wear it for the rest of the day.’ Then I’d get my Star Trek tracer gun and (sings James Bond theme), all around the apartment building, in the pool, just shooting other kids with the tracer gun. But when you have the suit on, my small mind equated James Bond, Sean Connery, the suit, the gun, it was what you could aspire to be as a seven-year-old. A friend of my dad’s bought me the James Bond kit, this attaché that opened up, a knife came out one end, then there was a radio that turned into a machine gun, and a camera that turned into a Luger. That was pretty hot stuff.
Young Southpaw: What’s your favourite Bond theme?
GP: I’m partial to ‘Thunderball’, only because it’s not popular and no one ever plays it. The words are kinda weird, but I love how Tom Jones sings it. I think the two best are Shirley Bassey ones - ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Diamonds Are Forever’. ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ is a classy little song. I was glad they brought her back a bunch of times, that was great. The other one I really love is ‘License To Kill’. Because it has nothing to do with Bond at all, it’s just so awesome that they got Gladys Knight to do it..... There’s a curry on Dean Street in London that we always ate at, right around the corner from Whose Line’s executive offices. It was cheap and shitty, and we’d just guzzle beer because it was open late, the only places you could get beer late in the those days. I think the only record they had was the album of ‘License To Kill’. Cause every 15-20 minutes you heard ‘License To Kill’. And the first time we went there, my English friend Paul pointed out to me that on every single chorus Gladys Knight goes ‘I’ve got a license to kilt’. So have a listen, cause I’m pretty sure she does.