William and Margaret Young left Glasgow, Scotland in ’63 for Sydney, Australia. With a low population and abundant resources Australia promised a better life. Their eldest son George started a group in the mid-60s called the Easybeats, who were best remembered for the hit “Friday On My Mind.” By ’72 he had a new band and invited younger brothers Malcolm and Angus to join. George didn’t really think the project would fly but he thought it would be good experience for his brothers. Angus and Malcolm launched AC/DC a year later playing their first performance New Year Eve ’73. Their set included covers of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, and Chuck Berry. Over the next six months members came and went.

AC/DC took its name from a vacuum cleaner voltage label – Alternating Current/Direct Current. Angus and Malcolm’s sister Margaret came up with the idea. It probably made sense that a band with electric instruments should have some electrical reference. However, the term also had bi-sexual connotations that caused the band some embarrassment in the early days.

In ’74 Bon Scott replaced Dave Evans as lead singer. Scott had first auditioned as a drummer. However, a second chance as a singer turned the trick. By January ’75 the band was in the studio to record their debut “High Voltage” which was a success in Australia. The band had George on bass but he was soon replaced by Mark Evans with Phil Rudd on drums. In early ’76, AC/DC signed a deal with Atlantic Records and began their worldwide siege, playing U.K club dates and touring Europe with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.

Then they hit the U.S., opening for REO Speedwagon, Rush and KISS.

With producer Mutt Lange, AC/DC broke through with “Highway To Hell” which included “Touch Too Much.” Everything was on track – right? Wrong. Bon Scott was found dead in a parked car in London on 2/20/80. He had gone out for a night on the town with the friend. Late in the evening he passed out and his friend was unable to move him so he figured he’d let Scott sleep it off. When the friend checked on Scott in the morning, he found him unconscious. Scott was rushed to the hospital but it was too late. The official cause of death was “Death by Misadventure-Acute Alcoholic Poisoning.” The Young brothers didn’t know what to do – break-up or continue. They decided to continue with Brian Johnson. He auditioned singing “Whole Lotta Rosie” and the Ike & Tina Turner classic “Nutbush City Limits.” Again with Mutt Lange, they recorded “Back In Black.” They followed that success with “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You).”

Visually, the thing that stood out most was Angus Young’s schoolboy outfit, which happened by accident. Angus came home from school and without changing, rushed off to band practice. Sister Margaret suggested he wear the uniform on stage. Angus thought it was a horrible idea until George said it would help people remember the band. No kidding.

Key AC/DC Moments of the 21st Century:

I: It’s rare that a group is still relevant or even active when they get inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. But AC/DC were both in ’03. During the ceremony, host Stephen Tyler said the band’s power chords were “the thunder from down under that gives you the second-most-powerful surge that can flow through your body.” Then the band performed “Highway To Hell” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” with the Aerosmith frontman joining in.

II: In February, ‘07, a tribute to Scott attracted more than 10,000 fans to Perth, Australia’s Claremont Showgrounds. Performers included former AC/DC bassist Mark Evans and Dave Evans, the singer who preceded Scott in the band. Organizers raised more than the $80,000 needed to fund a statue of Scott to be erected in his hometown of Fremantle.

III: That same year, AC/DC’s DVD box set titled “Plug Me In” was unfurled. The two-disc collection contained rare concert and television footage. One disc focused on the Scott era while the other delved into Johnson’s tenure.

IV: Ever Google AC/DC to get to their website and wind up somewhere else? Well it won’t happen any more. In ’07, AC/DC secured the rights to, which was previously held by a pornographic site. The band’s announcement was straight-forward enough. “Feel free to visit us from work, school or, for longtime visitors to the site, from the usual privacy of your basement.”

V: ’08 saw the release of No Bull: The Directors Cut, a re-edited yet comprehensive Blu-Ray of the band’s ’96 Plaza De Toros de las Ventas (a bull fighting ring – the title being a play on words) concert in Madrid, Spain.

VI (Back In Black – sort of): Later in the year, AC/DC finished “Black Ice,” their first studio album in eight years. “I was trying to just make people remember, ‘This is the same band. I have missed this band. I love this band,'” explained producer Brendan O’Brien. The album, available exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores, could also be ordered on group’s website.

Accused of “selling out” to corporate America (or the Wal-Mart segment of it), Johnson said, “Wal-Mart were the only big store to stock all of our albums . . . and they’ve never deviated. And they sold AC/DC shirts and pajamas for kids, which we thought was really cool.” Some U.S. record stores sold imported copies of the album to get around the exclusive deal. AC/DC also began a series of album supporting North American arena shows beginning in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

“Rock N Roll Train,” the set’s first single, was heard in an episode of the CBS show Criminal Minds and used in the show’s promos.

Though “Black Ice” only made it to #3 on the ’08 Rolling Stone Readers Poll (behind Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends” and Kings Of Leon’s “Only By The Night,” respectively), the group was named Best Hard Rock Band and the Best Comeback. But there was more. “Rock N Roll Train” landed in the survey’s Top 5 songs. Also, AC/DC picked up a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance (“War Machine,” the b-side to “Rock N Roll Train”).

VII: “Backtracks,” an ‘09 retrospective of the band’s lengthy career, arrived containing studio and live renditions of some of the AC/DC’s best-known songs.

VIII: AC/DC songs comprised the Iron Man 2 soundtrack. There were 15 tracks including “Shoot To Thrill” (the film’s first promo video), “Highway To Hell,” “The Razor’s Edge” and “Let There Be Rock.” The soundtrack debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200, moving 76,000 copies in its first week.

“{Director} Jon Favreau’s vision and passion for AC/DC’s music blend seamlessly into this incredible film,” said Steve Barnett, co-chairman of Columbia Records, in a statement. “The music really underscores the high energy and excitement of the film.”

A special soundtrack edition had a 50-minute DVD featuring band footage and movie clips.

IX: “AC/DC Live At River Plate” was recorded in Buenos Aires in ’09. The three sold-out shows, the group’s first Argentina concerts in 13 years, drew nearly 200,000 fans. A concert DVD came two years later and debuted at #1 in 17 countries. From the DVD, clips of “Thunderstruck” and “Shoot To Thrill” from the DVD garnered 36 million YouTube views or half the total online views of AC/DC videos. The album, “AC/DC Live At River Plate,” the group’s first live album in 20 years,” dropped in ’12.

X: Let There Be A Book. Former bassist Mark Evans published Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/Outside AC/DC in ‘11 through Bazillion Points Books. It was the first memoir written by a band member about the group’s early years. “The aggressive attitude that AC/DC had towards Australian bands continued when we shifted overseas,” Evans wrote in the book. “The world’s bigger bands became our new targets. We saw a few of the so-called headline acts and straight away knew that we had nothing to fear.” While Evans was in AC/DC they released “High Voltage,” “TNT,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “Let There Be Rock” and the “Jailbreak” EP.

XI: Man Down – Potential Title. Just prior to Johnson receiving an honorary doctorate degree from University of Northumbria, located in Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K., he noted that the group had completed work on their next album (“Rock Or Bust”) which he wanted to name “Man Down” in reference to Malcolm who had been forced to take a leave from the band due to health issues. “But it’s a bit negative and it was probably just straight from the heart. I like that,” explained Johnson.

XII: Man Down – For Real. Rudd released his first solo album, “Head Job,” in September, ’14. But the set was overshadowed by daunting news. Following months of rumors, Malcolm’s family confirmed that the guitarist had been diagnosed with dementia.

News also surfaced that Malcolm had been moved into a nursing home facility in Sydney’s eastern suburbs that specialized in dementia. Meanwhile, Steve Young, Malcolm’s nephew, was brought into the AC/DC fold. According to Johnson, Steve was “just doing a brilliant job” standing in for Malcolm.

XIII: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (or Not). Rudd was mysteriously missing during the filming of two music videos for “Rock Or Bust.” Rudd’s absence went unexplained even after he was arrested and charged with attempting to have a personal assistant murdered over the failure of “Head Job.” A New Zealand court also charged Rudd with possession of methamphetamine and cannabis.

Almost immediately, Rudd was released on bail.

However, Rudd was out in another way. When AC/DC played the ’15 edition of the Coachella Festival, the group’s first live performance in six years, Chris Slade was on drums. Also, Stevie Young handled rhythm guitar.

Just days later, Rudd pleaded guilty in Tauranga District Court to the drug charges and threatening to kill a former assistant. He was eventually sentenced to 8 months of home detention.

XIV: Welcome To The Jungle. In ’15, AC/DC were one of 10 acts inducted into The Age Music Victoria Hall Of Fame in Australia. They were honored alongside Olivia Newton-John and The Seekers. They returned the favor by creating their own Bourbon & Cola. A portion of proceeds went to the band’s Let There Be Rock Fund that benefited Australian musicians.

As a touring act, AC/DC was as strong as ever – at least initially. Their Rock Or Bust trek landed at #3 on the Hot Tours list behind Nicki Minaj and Shania Twain with $4 million in ticket sales from a single outdoor performance in Quebec City. They were also recognized for selling the most concert tickets during the year beating out Taylor Swift. However, Swift had a higher gross revenue – $250.4 million worldwide compared to $180 million for AC/DC, who landed at #2.

And for a blast from the past, Live Wire, a Bon Scott bio, came out. The book was written by AC/DC roadie John Darcy, his wife Gabby, who was the late singer’s close friend, and Mary Renshaw who was Scott’s soulmate and companion. It seemed Scott’s tale of doom and destruction being just around the corner hit home.

A short time later, AC/DC announced the postponement of the U.S. leg of their Rock or Bust World Tour because Johnson had been told by doctors to stop touring immediately or risk total hearing loss.

Following weeks of uncertainty, the group announced that Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose (who was touring with original GN’R members for the first time since God knows when) would step in for the remainder of AC/DC’s ’16 tour. On the very same day as that announcement (4/16/16) Angus Young appeared with Guns N’ Roses during their headlining set at Coachella.

XV: Man Gone. Though it probably wasn’t a surprise to family and friends, it was still a shock when Malcolm Young died (11/18/17) at the age of 64 after suffering from dementia for the past three years.


Leave a Reply