AC/DC's mammoth power chord roar became one of the most influential hard rock sounds of the '70s, and is now one of the defining sounds of rock and metal. In its own way, it was a reaction against the pompous art rock and lumbering arena rock of the early '70s. AC/DC's rock was minimalist -- no matter how huge and bludgeoning their guitar chords were, there was a clear sense of space and restraint. Combined with larynx-shredding vocals, the band spawned countless imitators over the next two decades and enjoyed commercial success well into the 2000s,. Since forming in 1973, AC/DC's high voltage rock 'n' roll has flowed out into the world via consistently sold-out concert tours and global sales totaling more than 150 million albums and counting.
Sony BMG Music Entertainment's #1 best-selling catalog act worldwide, AC/DC has sold nearly 70 million albums in the U.S. alone, making AC/DC one of the five top-selling bands in American music history. One of the group's best-loved works, the enormously successful and influential Back In Black, has achieved RIAA "Double Diamond" status, for sales in excess of 22 million copies in the United States, and is the U.S.'s fifth largest-selling album ever.
But the roots of AC/DC lie back in Australia, and before that Glasgow, Scotland, where Angus and Malcolm Young, the musical core of the band (and still the most formidable guitar team in rock history), were born (in 1958 and 1953, respectively). In 1963, the Young family migrated to Sydney, Australia, where music would make its mark on the brothers. (As a member of the Easybeats, Angus and Malcolm's older sibling, George Young, was responsible for one of Australia's first international hits, "Friday On My Mind," in 1966. From 1974 through 2000, George and musical collaborator, Harry Vanda, produced a number of AC/DC albums including High Voltage, T.N.T., Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Let There Be Rock, If You Want Blood You've Got It, Powerage, '74 Jailbreak, Who Made Who, Blow Up Your Video, and Stiff Upper Lip.
Taking a cue and encouragement from their older brother's musical success, Angus and Malcolm Young formed their own rock 'n' roll combo and premiered their inimitable interlocking guitar sound on December 31, 1973 at a New Year's Eve gig at Sydney's Chequers Club.
Calling their new rock band AC/DC (from the back of a sewing machine owned by their sister, Margaret), Angus and Malcolm moved from Sydney to Melbourne and began plowing through numerous line-ups searching for a solid rhythm section and a lead singer whose voice could match the manic assault of the Young brothers' guitars. The newly-christened AC/DC found its spiritual sparkplug in Bon Scott, a hard-living, hard-loving, hard-playing wild-eyed rabble-rousing singer who'd once "auditioned" for the band when he'd worked for them as a roadie and driver back in Sydney. With Bon Scott, another born Scotsman who'd relocated to Australia as a lad, in place as co-frontman to Angus' trademark raffish schoolboy-in-knickers, AC/DC was ready to electrify the world.
Quickly signed by George Young to the Albert Records label in Australia, AC/DC kicked out its first Australian album releases, 1974's High Voltage (a somewhat different album from the US High Voltage) and 1975's T.N.T. With each album achieving silver, gold, and platinum status in Australia, AC/DC embarked on a regime of relentless touring that would become one of the most enduring hallmarks of the band's career.
In 1976, having conquered their very first continent, AC/DC set off for Great Britain. When the band's no-holds-barred double-barrel rock 'n' roll landed them a residency at the prestigious Marquee Club, AC/DC promptly broke the venue's all-time house attendance record. AC/DC's days in clubland would not last much longer. Within a year, Let There Be Rock, the band's first simultaneous world release and first to use the unmistakable AC/DC logo—raised metallic Gothic lettering separated by Zeus's own lightning bolt—would catapult them into the stadium strata. AC/DC was ready to take on America.
The summer of 1977 found AC/DC performing a dizzying crisscross of American gigs, ranging from clubs like the Palladium and CBGB in New York and the Whiskey in Los Angeles to sprawling venues like the Jacksonville Coliseum. By 1978, AC/DC was one of the hottest concert attractions in the world. For the group's next studio album, they teamed up with producer Mutt Lange to create the undeniable hard rock masterpiece, 1979's Highway To Hell, the first AC/DC album to break into the US Top 100 and the first to go gold in America. In November of that year, the band went to Paris to film the monumental Let The Be Rock concert film, a quintessential document of a golden moment in the band's rise to world fame.
On February 19, 1980, with the band finding genuine success around the world, lead singer Bon Scott died in London at the age of 33. Reeling from the shock of the loss of their boisterous soulful lead singer, the surviving members of AC/DC decided there was only one way to pay proper tribute to Bon Scott: carry on and create the music he'd want them to make.
The group found an incredibly simpatico new lead singer and frontman in Brian Johnson, a Newcastle native who'd sung in a band Bon Scott raved about called Geordie. Returning to the studio with Mutt Lange, AC/DC and the group's new vocalist created Back In Black, one of the best-selling albums, in any musical genre, of all-time. Powered by the title track and the anthemic "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Back In Black" hit #1 in the UK and #4 in the US, where it has gone on to achieve 22x platinum (double Diamond plus) status.
AC/DC continued releasing best-selling albums through the 1980s and 1990s accompanied by strings of sold-out tours and major headlining concert and festival performances—including attendance-record-smashing concerts on the "Monsters of Rock," Castle Donington, "Rock In Rio," and 1991's "Rock Around The Bloc" festival at Tushino Airfield in Moscow, a free concert attended by close to one million fans.
On September 15, 2000, AC/DC was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame and had their hands imprinted in the cement in front of the Guitar Center on Hollywood Boulevard.
On March 10, 2003, AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Aerosmith's Steve Tyler performed the induction, sang "You Shook Me All Night Long" with AC/DC during the ceremony and described the group's signature power chords and timelessly enduring rock 'n' roll as "...the thunder from Down Under that gives you the second-most-powerful surge that can flow through your body."
As AC/DC began work on a new album with producer Brendan O'Brien in 2014, they announced that Malcolm Young was suffering from dementia and had left the band; his nephew Stevie Young took his place at the recording sessions and the accompanying 40th anniversary tour, and subsequently joined the group full-time. Just prior to the December release of Rock or Bust, drummer Phil Rudd was arrested under charges of attempting to procure a murder, threatening to kill, and possession of cannabis and methamphetamine. Although the arranged murder charges were dropped, the other charges remained and the drummer's future with the band was uncertain. Nevertheless, AC/DC marched forward with the release of Rock or Bust and plans for a tour in 2015. Two years later, Malcolm Young died in November 2017 at the age of 64.
AC/DC started my love affair with blues based Rock N Roll. Most kids my age got turned on to rock by Kiss. I never really was moved by Kiss and I preferred my Mom's Elvis Presley records. When I was ten years old I heard Back In Black and that was it. It had the blues sound I liked in Elvis but it had power! I wore out my cassette and had to buy a second one!
There are two camps of AC/DC fans - those who prefer vocalist Bon Scott and those who like Brian Johnson. It is almost like asking someone who their favorite James Bond is. It is usually the singer they grew up with. For me, that is Brian Johnson. Having said that, I am a fan of both singers but I feel Johnson's voice was more suited for mass commercial appeal. On the other hand, Bon was a wild eyed rock n roll poet and helped shape the sound and legacy of the band.
I believe that a huge part of AC/DC's is due to producer Mutt Lange. To me, he produced and helped shape the greatest recorded moments of the band which spanned both vocalists. He pushed the band musically, thematically and vocally. He helped take the bands powerfully raw sound and refine it for mass appeal without diluting it's integrity and spirit.
Here are my favorite AC/DC albums:
1. Back In Black
2. Highway To Hell
3. For Those About To Rock
4. Let There Be Rock
5. Razor's Edge
6. High Voltage
7. Blow Up Your Video
8. Rock Or Bust
10. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
The Winner Is...
The Fans Pick Highway To Hell as the best AC/DC album