Angus Young’s 1970/71 Gibson SG Standardaccess_time First seen circa 1971
This was Angus’ first SG. He bought it when he was around 16 years old – circa 1971, from a music shop just down the road from the family home in Sydney. He used this guitar exclusively for the first few years – up until around 1978.
This guitar was used extensively during the AC/DC 1975 “High Voltage” Australian Tour. At this point of time, it seems that Angus removed the chrome pickup covers, both of which were present on the guitar on photos taken in 1974.
However, according to a Guitar World article, the pickups were actually replaced at some point with a set of brand new Gibson humbuckers. That could’ve explained the absence of the covers, but the article seems to suggest the swap was done earlier. [Angus Young of AC/DC Opens Up in His First Guitar World Interview from 1984 – By Steven Rosen]
By 1976, and the “High Voltage” European Tour, things become somewhat confusing. Because almost all of the photographs taken during that period are black and white, and usually display a low amount of detail, it’s impossible to declare with certainty whether Angus is using this SG, or perhaps something else.
It seems though that the guitar was used quite a lot until at least July 1976. At that point, it is possible that it was replaced at least temporarily with another SG, this time in red (see AC/DC perform on stage at the Lyceum, London, July 1976, Angus Young. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)).
I, however, question whether the photo above was taken in 1976, as the title claims. The correct date is, most likely, around August 1979. If you search for photos from around that period, you’ll find Angus wearing the same clothes, with this exact same guitar in his hands.
So, this would suggest that the walnut SG was used throughout all this time and that he used no other SGs at that point at least.
Input Jack moved to the Bottom
Based on the photos, Angus modified his SG around July 1976, so that the input jack was now on the side of the body. At first, the guitar looked rather scuffed, because all work was held together with pieces of duct tape. By August, however, the top jack was completely removed and neatly taped over, and an actual jack plate was installed on the bottom.Embed from Getty Images
It’s fair to point out that the guitar in the photo above looks fairly good in comparison to what it looked like just a few months prior. It could mean that this was a different guitar, but for the sake of simplicity, and going by what makes sense, we’ll at this point assume it’s not.
To contribute to this theory, you’ll notice on the photo above (taken in late 1976) that the bridge pickup is now either completely different, or it just has the chrome cover installed. On the photos from 1977, Angus’ walnut SG guitar has the same exact setup. Plus, the way the neck pickup is held in place with black tape is identical to how it was on the guitar prior to this.
Input Jack back on Top?
On a few photos from 1977, it is apparent that the guitar cable is going into the old input jack (see Guitarist Angus Young of the Australian rock group AC/DC performing on August 24, 1977 at The Palladium in New York City. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Getty Images))
What could explain this whole ordeal about the input jack is the fact that Angus began using the Schaffer–Vega diversity system around this same time (1977). Perhaps it could be that Angus was doing something to the guitar in order to accommodate the wireless system into it, so maybe the inputs were used for different setups (wireless vs wired).
This also seems to be confirmed by Fil Olivieri from SoloDallas, who talked about the subject with Ken Schaffer – the person who invented the Schaffer–Vega diversity system.
In order to make some details work electronically, two sets of short SVDS cables were installed. Angus would use one at a time. One would turn on the X10; the other would turn it off and allow the guitar to be played with a regular cable from another jack output/input.ANOTHER LITTLE MYSTERY UNVEILED BY ANGUS YOUNG IN PERSON
Also according to Fil, Angus actually had the back of his guitar routed out so he could fit the transmitter unit inside of it. That explains some shots where you can basically see the back of the guitar covered in black tape.
More on the Schaffer–Vega
Most of what is known about Angus’ use of a Schaffer–Vega wireless system, comes from Fil Olivieri from SoloDallas. Through his own research, Fil had discovered that the SVDS had a major impact on Angus’ sound.
While everyone before just assumed a wireless system would not change the sound in an impactful matter, as Fil explains, the SVDS is unique in a way that it has a volume boost control which further overdrives the sound, and which Angus utilized.
But, since it’s not fair to further reveal Fil’s discoveries here, I would recommend that you visit his website at SoloDallas.com – and read the rest there. It’s also important to note that all this research eventually led to Fil developing a Schaffer Vega replica, and a SoloDallas Storm pedal (standalone pedal that replicates the sound), both of which are available on the website linked above.
Powerage tour, 1978
It seems that the guitar survived all the prior tours, and was used again during the Powerage tour in 1978. The photos and videos from the tour however, show some new mods done to the SG.
The most obvious is the removal of the original Lyre Maestro tremolo bridge, which was replaced by what appears to be a Leo Quan Badass wraparound bridge – the same type that Malcolm used on his 1960s Gretsch Jet Firebird. Also, there was a strip of duct tape added to where the old bridge piece was mounted, the purpose of which is unknown (it didn’t cover the holes).
The second change is the fact that there is no obvious cable going into the guitar. It is likely that at this point the SG had the wireless transmitter built into it, so there was no need for one. You’ll also notice a good amount of duct tape on the back of the body, which wraps to the front, and which likely held the transmitter in place.
The see all the mods in detail (because, admittedly, the photo featured above doesn’t show much) check this photo on Getty: Angus Young of AC/DC performs at the Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California, September 1978. (Photo by Baron Wolman/Getty Images).
At this point also note how much the guitar is beat-up and worn. One part of the body appears to have been glued on to it (bottom, where the controls are). The finish looks all scratched up and dirty – which fortunately enables us to identify this guitar easier in future photos.
The old SG Retired
1979 seems to be the first year that Angus used an SG that wasn’t his old 1970/71 Standard. According to an interview from Guitar Player magazine, Young purchased a few guitars in late 1978 – so most likely, the old SG was retired at that point.
I remember when I first went to America I bought some on that street in New York [48th Street]. There used to be a little shop on the corner there where I bought a couple of SGs. And one of them was great. The guy who sold it to me told me there was a “2” on the back of it, and apparently, that’s what they put on the rejects. So I said, “Yup, that’s me!” I used that guitar on Highway to Hell.AC/DC: Dirty Deeds Re-Done
The 1970/71 SG in Studio
Based on the fact that the guitar was used on tours between 1974 and 1978, it can be concluded that it was used during that time in the studio as well. This means that High Voltage, T.N.T., Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and Let There Be Rock were all recorded on this guitar. According to the quote above, Highway to Hell was the first one that wasn’t.
However, according to a statement that Angus made in an interview years later with Australian Tv (November 2014), it seems that the guitar was actually used on all of the AC/DC records, which obviously includes HTH.
Be that as it may, this 1970s Gibson SG Standard is the most important guitar in Angus’ collection and the one that started it all. Following this, Angus would go on to use probably 10s of different guitars over his career, all of which were, of course, SGs.