Hailing out of Sydney, Australia, electric rockers AC/DC have been bring high voltage riffs, beats and vocals since the early 1970’s. Their status in the pantheon of hard rock is of high regard, as AC/DC is still to this day one of the most recognizable acts in all of music. Their music has been featured in blockbuster Hollywood films, television commercials, sitcoms and dramas, professional sporting events, video games and much, much more. People young and old, from all walks of life, religions and musical backgrounds have at least heard of, if not thoroughly enjoy, the music of AC/DC.
In November 1973 Malcolm (guitar) and Angus Young (guitar) formed AC/DC and recruited bassist Larry Van Kriedt, vocalist Dave Evans, and Colin Burgess, ex-Masters Apprentices drummer. The inspiration for the band name came from the Young brother’s sister, Margaret Young, saw the initials on a sewing machine. AC/DC stands for “alternating current/direct current” electricity. The brothers felt that this name symbolized the band’s raw energy, power-driven performances of their music.
The brothers convinced a local entertainment manager, Gene Pierson, to play at a nightclub he was working at, the popular Sydney joint Chequers. Pierson agreed to allow the band to perform a set on New Years Eve of 1973. The band was so loud that club managers complained about the noise; but Pierson took an interest and booked the band to perform at other areas clubs as the refined and crafted their signature sound. It was around this time that Angus Young adopted his signature, and now iconic, school boy on stage persona. This idea was another brainchild of his sister, after trying many other costumes and personas; including: Spider-Man, Zorro, a gorilla, and a parody of Superman, named Super-Ang. By 1974, the band finalized their lineup, with Phil Rudd on drums and Mark Evans on bass.
The band members did not meld very well with vocalist Dave Evans. They felt that he was much more of a glam-rocker and did not fit the style or image that they were trying to achieve. Evans was replaced onstage numerous times by the band’s first manager, Dennis Laughlin, who was the original lead singer of a band called Sherbet. Evans and Laughlin did not get along, feeding fuel to the band’s fire of animosity towards Evans. Dennis Evans was eventually replaced by Bon Scott as the band’s lead singer and frontman.
With Scott now in the fold, AC/DC embarked on a successful musical journey that garnered classic releases such as the Australian only releases High Voltage (1975) and T.N.T. (’75), Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (’76), Let There Be Rock (’77), Powerage (’78) and Highway to Hell (’79). High Voltage was re-released in 1976, with the best tracks for the Australia only releases making up the international re-release. All of the Bon Scott era albums were big time commercial successes, with the greatest being Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Highway to Hell, going six and seven times platinum respectively.
As 1980 began, the band began work on a new album that would eventually become Back in Black, but Bon Scott would not live to see it finished. On 19 February 1980, Scott passed out in the car on the way back to friend Alistair Kinnear’s house after a night of heavy drinking at the Music Machine club in London. Upon arrival at his home, Kinnear was unable to move Scott from the car into his home for the night, so he left him in the car overnight to sleep off the effects of the alcohol. Unable to wake Scott late the next morning, Kinnear rushed him to King’s CollegeHospital in Camberwell, where Scott was pronounced dead on arrival. Pulmonary aspiration of vomit was the cause of Scott’s death, and the official cause was listed as “acute alcohol poisoning”. Scott’s family buried him in Fremantle, Western Australia, the area they emigrated to when he was a boy. Inconsistencies in the official accounts of Scott’s death have been cited in conspiracy theories, which suggest that Scott died of a heroin overdose, or was killed by exhaust fumes redirected into the car, or that Kinnear did not exist. Additionally, Scott was asthmatic,and the temperature was below freezing on the morning of his death.
After the death of Bon Scott, there was speculation, by fans and the band itself, on whether or not AC/DC should unplug for good and call it quits. Fortunately for hard rock enthusiasts, the band decided to carry on. After many considerations for Scott’s replacement, the band decided on ex-Geordie lead singer Brian Johnson. Angus Young later recalled, ‘I remember the first time I had ever heard Brian’s (Johnson) name was from Bon. Bon had mentioned that he had been in England once touring with a band and he had mentioned that Brian had been in a band called Geordie and Bon had said ‘Brian Johnson, he was a great rock and roll singer in the style of Little Richard.’ And that was Bon’s big idol, Little Richard. I think when he saw Brian at that time, to Bon it was ‘Well he’s a guy that knows what rock and roll is all about.’ He mentioned that to us in Australia. I suppose when we decided to continue, Brian was the first name that Malcolm and myself came up with, so we said we should see if we can find him.”
After a falling with band members because of a fight with personal friend Malcolm Young due a decline of their friendship due to drug and alcohol problems, Phil Rudd was fired from the band. Simon Wright was eventually recruited to replace Rudd; but the falling out was not the band’s only professional issues at the time. AC/DC saw a steep commercial decline from 1983-1987 which had the music industry questioning the band’s creativity, versatility and staying power. After the drab release of Flick the Switch, the band caught many harsh criticisms; including being voted the eighth-biggest disappointment of the year in the 1984 Kerrang! readers’ poll. But the AC/DC would bounce as only they could, starting off with an induction into the Australian Recording Industry Association’s Hall of Fame in February 1988.
AC/DC embarked on e new journey to regain the monstrous commercial success they enjoyed in the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. The band would release a number of successful titles in the 1990’s and 2000’s; including: The Razor’s Edge (1990), Ballbreaker (’95), Stiff Upper Lip (2000) and Black Ice (2008). The band had their crowning achievement during this time period, when on March 10, 2003, AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. During the ceremony the band performed “Highway to Hell” and “You Shook Me All Night Long”, with guest vocals provided by host Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. He described the band’s power chords as “the thunder from down under that gives you the second-most-powerful surge that can flow through your body.” During the acceptance speech, Brian Johnson quoted their 1977 song “Let There Be Rock”.
Fans world wide are patiently waiting for a planned follow up release to 2008’s Black Ice and the tour that will surely follow. With proof from the Black Ice World Tour that the band still has one of the best live shows in all of music, fans are certainly chomping at the bit for more AC/DC material and shows. One thing is for certain, no matter how long the wait, whenever AC/DC comes back with some new rock, the hard rock genre worldwide will be greatly beneficial and grateful for more electric charged power chords!