Gilly Looks Back… When AC/DC came to Colchester

Can you imagine one of the world’s biggest rock bands playing at a cinema in Colchester? Colchester legend DJ Gilly looks back at the night he roadied for AC/DC when they came to town.

ABC Colchester

It may be hard to, but it actually did happen on Thursday 18th May 1978. The band that night was AC/DC and the venue was the old ABC Cinema on St John’s Street, now the Playhouse pub. This was to be the first of two visits to our town, the second coming in October when they returned for a gig at the University as part of the BBC’s Rock Goes To College series. On this occasion though John Hessenthaler, a local promoter, had booked the Aussie heavy rockers, and yours truly was asked to go along and work as a roadie helping the band’s own road crew unload, and later reload, their truck full of amps, guitars, drums and other gear.


It was an exciting afternoon mixing with the band’s own crew, and even meeting AC/DC themselves, including Angus Young and original vocalist Bon.


Scott who tragically died less than two years later in London after a night of heavy drinking.

By the time AC/DC took to the stage that evening I was now working in my dual role as part of the security team protecting the band. The show was everything you would expect from them, LOUD and full of energy, the highlights for me coming when Angus disappeared from the stage only to reappear a couple of minutes later in one of the boxes up on the circle playing a guitar solo. He disappeared a second time too with Bon Scott, reappearing together from the back of the auditorium with Angus playing away at his guitar, dry ice pouring from his satchel, whilst sitting on Bon’s shoulders as they made their way back to the stage.

Bon Scott

It really was an amazing day which finally ended, once all the gear was safely back on the tour truck, with me eating pizza, which had been bought by the band, with the rest of the crew.

So next time you are in the Playhouse maybe stop for a moment, cast your eyes towards the stage, and imagine Malcolm, Phil, Bon, Angus and Cliff up there belting out Whole Lotta Rosie, Let There be Rock…

For those AC/DC aficionados amongst you 101 readers the set list that night consisted of:

  1. Riff Raff
  2. Problem Child
  3. Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be
  4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation
  5. Dog Eat Dog
  6. Bad Boy Boogie
  7. Down Payment Blues
  8. The Jack
  9. High Voltage
  10. Whole Lotta Rosie
  11. Let There Be Rock
  12. Rocker

I couldn’t find a video of the ABC Cinema gig, but there are a few on YouTube of the university gig. So just to prove AC/DC really did come to town… Let There Be Rock