Back in 1973, Malcolm and Angus Young, inspired by their older brother George, decided to start their own band. Malcolm, the older of the two, accepted the role as rhythm guitar player, giving his little brother Angus the spotlight as the lead guitarist.
The band achieved early success with singer Bon Scott, drummer Phil Rudd, and bassists Mark Evans (1974-1977) and Cliff Williams (1977-present). Early hits such as “High Voltage” and “Let There be Rock” put AC/DC on the map, but the band did not achieve true rock super-stardom until Brian Johnson replaced Bon Scott in 1980, who had died earlier that year from alcohol intoxication.
The “Back in Black” album in 1980 included songs such as “Back in Black” and “Hells Bells”, and reached number one on the charts. The album has sold 22 million copies since (sixth most of all time). With the same four guys, AC/DC stayed on top for the next ten years.
So what has made AC/DC so great? They stuck to their roots. From the punk-rock of the early 80’s, glam of the late 80’s, or the thrash metal of the early 90’s, AC/DC never seemed to buy into what was “cool” at the time. From their first album “High Voltage,” all the way to their newest album “Rock or Bust,” the same power chords and simple riffs have more than satisfied their fans for nearly half a century.
In 2015, how is it that a band as old as AC/DC is still able to leave their fans in awe after every show? Dedication and humbleness. No individual was ever greater than the band itself, and no matter what challenge AC/DC was faced with, they kept on succeeding.
Drugs, alcohol, superstar ego’s, the three factors that have hindered the success of some of the most accomplished bands of all time: Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses, The Doors, Nirvana, the list goes on and on. Not even The Beatles lasted a decade.
Sure AC/DC has dealt with drug/alcohol issues over the years (Bon Scott and Malcolm), but it never got in the way of their consistent success. Because of the dedication of the Young brothers, the train never stopped rolling. It was always about the music in the Young family. Not the fame, the girls, the drugs, just two dudes doing what they love.
Recently, AC/DC has had to go through a lot of changes, including one that may have been more vital than Scott’s death. Malcolm Young, the band’s quiet leader on and off the stage, was recently told by doctors that he could not play in the Rock or Bust tour due to dementia.
When people think of AC/DC, all that pops up is Angus in his schoolboy uniform, doing the duck walk in the front of the stage, but people rarely consider the essential contributions of Malcolm. On stage, Malcolm controls the songs and when they are played.
Angus’s legendary solos often overshadow some of the most iconic riffs ever written in rock n’ roll, by Malcolm. Most notably, the “Back in Black” riff, which before the song actually came out, Malcolm would often use as just a warm up exercise prior to each concert.
So how does a band replace such as key part to their musical success? The Young family can overcome anything. Instead of going public about a replacement rhythm guitar player, the Youngs looked no further than their own blood.
Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young, who filled in for Malcolm during the 1988 Blow Your Video Tour because of Malcolm’s alcohol issue, was given the call. Stevie knows every single chord and note from every AC/DC song, and is the perfect replacement for Malcolm.
Another member that contributed to much of AC/DC’s success over the years, Phil Rudd, will not be with the band on the Rock or Bust tour due to several allegations. AC/DC reached out to former drummer Chris Slade, who played on the Razors Edge album, featuring hits “Thunderstruck” and “Moneytalks”
With two key members no longer touring with the band, there was a lot of doubt as to whether AC/DC would still put on a good show. Not to mention the two members who bring the most energy in the shows, Brian Johnson (67) and Angus Young (60) are up there in age. Old men usually have a hard time bringing the same energy in their shows that their fans are accustomed to, just ask KISS or Van Halen. To add to all of this, AC/DC hadn’t performed live in six years.
Three of the longtime members, Johnson, Angus, and Williams, along with two replacements in Stevie and Slade, looking to take on one of the biggest music festivals in the world, at a time when Gene Simmons of KISS called rock music “dead”.
Not to mention all five of these guys are at least 58 years old. As you can expect, AC/DC did one thing: rocked. They played some of the earliest fan favorites such as “The Jack” and “T.N.T.” all the way to music fresh off their newest album, and everything in between. The headline of Coachella 2015 put on one of the best rock shows of the 21st century, showing that there is truly nothing that can slow this Australian band down.
For those rock n’ roll fanatics, if seeing Angus Young ripping out that powerful opening to “Thunderstruck” doesn’t give you the chills, I don’t know what does.
So what is it about AC/DC that just makes them so unique? Is it Angus’s schoolboy outfit that hasn’t changed in nearly forty years? Is it the fact that a rock band was able to be MORE successful with their second singer than they were with their first? Whatever way you may put it, there is no denying that AC/DC is like no other.
They are a well-oiled machine that continues to keep on hauling. They have always done it their way, and even at a time where rock is “dead”, their way still more than works. AC/DC has a chance to do what very few bands, artists, or even athletes have had the luxury of doing: go out on top.