Band formed 1973, in Sydney, Australia; original members included Angus Young (born March 31, 1951, in Glasgow, Scotland), guitar; Malcolm Young (born January 6, 1953, in Glasgow), guitar; Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott (born July 9, 1946, in Kirriemur, Scotland; died of acute alcohol poisoning February 19, 1980, in London, England), vocalist. In 1974, Phillip Rudd (born May 19, 1946, in Melbourne, Australia) and Mark Evans (born 1957, in Melbourne) joined AC/DC on drums and bass. In 1977, Evans was replaced by Cliff Williams (born December 14, 1949, in Rumford, England). In 1980, Brian Johnson (born October 5, 1947, in North Shields, England) replaced deceased vocalist Scott. In 1982, Rudd was replaced by Simon Wright (born 1963).
"A heavy metal band must have a vocalist who can imitate a man having an impacted wisdom tooth removed without anesthesia, a rhythm section that can pummel an innocent riff into submission, a lead guitarist/showoff, and lyrics that deal with sexism, satanism, and militarism. AC/DC scores high in each of the categories, and it has been rewarded accordingly," declared a High Fidelity reviewer. Songs such as "Hell's Bells," "Big Balls," and "Highway to Hell," have assured the Australian group of an enduring reign at what an Audio contributor called "the zenith of simple head-banger heavy metal." Protests by conservative organizations associating AC/DC with Satanism have probably only increased the group's popularity.
Angus and Malcolm Young, who form the nucleus of AC/DC, had emigrated from Scotland along with the rest of their family in the 1960s. Their eldest brother, George, was a member of The Easybeats, known for their hit "Friday on My Mind." George gave Angus and Malcolm their grounding in guitar work and also helped arrange a contract for them with Albert Records, an Australian company, after AC/DC had built up a local following. The band's early days of constant touring on the rowdy Australian bar circuit certainly influenced their no-holds-barred, attention-grabbing style. Angus Young explained to Newsweek' s Jim Miller, "An Australian audience likes to drink a lot.... So I used to jump on tables--anything to get them to stop drinking for ten seconds." Angus further riveted his audience by dressing in knickers and a beanie, in the manner of an English schoolboy. Onstage he jerked his head up and down savagely, thereby developing a hugely muscled neck. He charged up and down the stage like an enraged bull, pausing occasionally to drop his pants and moon the audience. The more outrageous and raunchy his antics became, the more AC/DC's Australian fans liked it. Both albums on the Albert label were number-one sellers in Australia.
A compilation of those two albums, released in the United States and England in 1976 as High Voltage, introduced AC/DC to an international audience. Supporting their albums with constant touring, the band gradually built up a loyal following. By the time of their 1978 world tour, they were drawing roaring crowds of over 15,000. Tapes from these concerts were edited into AC/DC's first live album, If You Want Blood--You've Got It. Highway to Hell followed. Its domination of the U.S. charts signalled that AC/DC had indeed become a major heavy metal presence.
Tragedy struck the band just as sales of Highway to Hell peaked. Leader singer Bon Scott choked on his own vomit and died after a marathon drinking session. His presence had been considerable within the group, yet the surviving members decided almost immediately to replace him and continue on. Brian Johnson, formerly of the group Geordie, seemed to click immediately with the other band members when he joined AC/DC shortly after Scott's death. He even co-wrote the music on Back in Black, the group's tribute album for Scott. Released in mid-1980, the album was certified platinum by the year's end. Rolling Stone named Back in Black "one of the milestone hard-rock albums of the decade," and commended its "brute force and raunchy humor."
For Those about to Rock, We Salute You is considered by some critics to be AC/DC's most effective album, epitomizing the crushing guitar attack on which they'd built their success and from which they seldom varied. It was released in 1981 and swiftly became the top-selling album in the United States. The band seemed to lose momentum after that, however; '74 Jailbreak and Flick of the Switch were only moderately successful, and by 1984 AC/DC was playing to less than full houses for the first time in years. Controversy swirled around the group in 1985 after the "Night Stalker," Los Angeles mass murderer Richard Ramirez, cited the album Fly on the Wall as a source of Satanic inspiration for him.
Conservative groups called for a boycott of AC/DC's albums and concerts, but their efforts only rekindled interest in the group. As heavy-metal groups became increasingly acceptable to the music establishment, AC/DC began to be respectfully referred to as one of the foundation bands of the genre. Reviewing their 1988 release, Blow up Your Video, Jim Farber wrote in Rolling Stone: "It's time the world stopped thinking of AC/DC as just a heavy-metal band. For thirteen albums now, Angus and Malcolm Young have been crafting the kind of guitar riffs any Who-style rock & roll band would kill for. Yet, the members of AC/DC have allowed no production compromises whatsoever: They've carved every one of these irresistible guitar hooks out of pure stone.... Perhaps Blow Up Your Video will finally convince those who have doubted the truth about AC/DC: it's the metal band that plays solid-gold rock & roll."
by Joan Goldsworthy
- Selective Works
- High Voltage Albert, 1974.
- T.N.T. Albert, 1975.
- High Voltage (compilation of tracks from the previous High Voltage and T.N.T. ), Atlantic, 1976.
- Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap Atlantic, 1976.
- Let There Be Rock Atlantic, 1977.
- Powerage Atlantic, 1978.
- If You Want Blood, You've Got It Atlantic, 1978.
- Highway to Hell Atlantic, 1979.
- Back in Black Atlantic, 1980.
- For Those About to Rock, We Salute You Atlantic, 1981.
- Flick of the Switch Atlantic, 1983.
- '74 Jailbreak Atlantic, 1984.
- Fly on the Wall Atlantic, 1984.
- Who Made Who (soundtrack from the film Maximum Overdrive ), Atlantic, 1986.
- Blow Up Your Video Atlantic, 1988.
October 1, 2004: The City Council of Melbourne, Australia, honored AC/DC by changing the name of Corporation Lane to AC/DC Lane. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com, October 31, 2004.
- Audio, December 1983.
- High Fidelity, March 1982.
- Newsweek, April 19, 1982.
- Rolling Stone, April 7, 1988; November 16, 1989.
- Stereo Review, May 1982.