by Keavin Wiggins
nicknamed “The Thunder From Down Under” by their hardcore fans, is perhaps
one of the most enduring hard rock bands in history. For almost 30 years
these hard rockin’ Australians have entertainment millions with their hard-edged
blues inspired music, their school boy uniform clad lead guitarist and
unrelenting desire to rock!
Like Led Zeppelin
before them AC/DC’s basic formula was taking American Blues music and turning
it up a few notches but unlike Led Zeppelin and other heavy blues
bands our of England in the late 60’s AC/DC’s secret ingredient was a gravely
voiced frontman by the name of Bon Scott. The group was first started by
two brothers Malcolm and Angus Young whose family had immigrated to Australia
in the early 60’s, in the early days members came and went almost weekly,
they did manage to recruit a lead vocalist by the name of Dave Evans and
began playing gigs around their hometown of Sydney in 1973.
In June of 74, AC/DC
recorded their first single “Can I Sit Next To you Girl” with the b-side
“Rockin' In The Parlour” they hired their older brother George Young to
produce the tracks along with Harry Vanda. When the single was released
in Australia in July of 1974 it became a minor hit and a club tour soon
followed. While on that tour they meet a night club owner by the name of
Michael Browning and soon after signed him on as their manager. The
band found the key to their success when their vocalist Dave Evans refused
to go on stage one day and the band’s chauffeur, Bon Scott got the gig
Once Bon’s throat
shredding vocals mixed with Angus’s high voltage lead guitar riffs a legendary
band was born. Shortly after Bon joined AC/DC the band went into the studio
to record their debut album “High Voltage” which was released in Australia
in February 1975 and became an instant success.
The bands lineup
solidified soon after when Angus and Malcolm recruited drummer Phil Rudd
and a bass
player by the name Mark Evans to join the band. With a hit album under
their belt they returned to the studio and recorded “T.N.T”, which was
released at the end of 1975 and helped cement the groups success in Australia.
However, no one outside of Australia or New Zealand had heard of them.
While the band was busy recording their third album, their manager Michael
Browning went to London to try and find the band a label outside of Australia.
They finally convinced the American label Atlantic to give them a deal
in mid ’76. By the end of that year the groups third album “Dirty Deeds
Done Dirt Cheap” was in record stores in Australia and Europe. When they
arrived in London to tour, they became an instant smash with the locals
and despite the popular punk movement at the time, they had no problem
filling the clubs while other rock bands were being dismissed as dinosaurs
and corporate whores. Their follow up album “Let There Be Rock” also became
a hit when it was released in 1977 and was followed by a headlining club
tour of Europe and an the support slot on Black Sabbath’s European tour.
The Sabbath tour didn’t last long though, rumor has it that Malcolm and
Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Bulter bumped heads and AC/DC was thrown off
The band made their
first trip to America in the summer of 1977, they began the tour playing
clubs and by the time it wound down they were playing arenas, opening up
for REO Speedwagon. They returned to Europe that Fall to headline their
own tour and then came back to the states toward the end of the year to
support KISS and Rush.
As 1978 dawned the
group went back into the studio and recorded their next album “Powerage”
which was released at the end of April. Their popularity in England was
growing in epic proportions so the band undertook the requisite headlining
tour before returning to the
states to open shows for bands like Aerosmith, UFO, Journey, Rainbow and
Alice Cooper. The band still was without a hit in the US but their underground
following had steadily grown since they first toured America. By the time
their live album, “If You Want Blood You've Got It” was released in October
of 1978 the group’s previous album “Powerage” had sold a quarter of a million
copies in the US. By releasing a live album, AC/DC had followed KISS’s
lead from three years previous, it seemed American fans were more receptive
to the excitement of the live album over a studio effort and “If You Want
Blood…” broke into the US Top 50. But it was their next album that
was poised to make the band international superstars.
With momentum pushing
them steadily forward the band wanted to make the best album of their career
so they enlisted the production wizardry of “Mutt” Lange and entered the
Roundhouse Studios and emerged six months later with “Highway to Hell”.
The title track was the band’s tongue and cheek answer to Led Zeppelin’s
“Stairway to Heaven”. The album was released in the
US in August 1979 and sold well. The band hit the road in North America
supporting bands like Cheap Trick, UFO and Ted Nugent. As they entered
1980 their popularity was climbing and it appeared that the floodgates
of superstardom were about to open for them, then tragedy struck.
On February 20th,
1980, Bon Scott’s friend Alisdair Kinnear, whom he had been out drinking
with the night before found Bon unconscious in his car. Kinnear rushed
Bon to the hospital but it was too late, the world had lost Bon Scott.
According to official reports Bon had far too much to drink the night before
and choked to death on his vomit because he was too drunk to regain consciousness
and the way he was laying prevented him from breathing.
The band was devastated
and didn’t know whether to carry on without their fallen frontman, Malcolm
and Angus finally decided that Bon would want them to continue so they
sought out a new vocalist to front the band. Replacing Bon Scott is an
impossible job, but it had to be done. They auditioned a number of singers
before settling on former Geordie lead vocalist Brian Johnson.
In April they traveled
to the Bahamas with their new lead vocalist and producer “Mutt” Lange and
began recording their next album “Back in Black”. By the end of May the
recording was completed and the band took some time off. They regrouped
on July 1st to perform a concert in Belgium. Not knowing how the audience
would respond to their new vocalist, the band was apprehensive about the
show, but as soon as they started into the first song the crowd exploded
with cheers and whole heartedly welcomed Brian Johnson to the band.
“Back in Black” was
released at the end of July, 1980 and the band was not prepared for what
was to come. The album shot to the top of the British charts, In Australia
it hit no. 2 and within a couple of months it had entered the American
Top 10 where it would remain for over five months. “Back in Black” catapulted
AC/DC into the big time, to date it has sold over 19 Million copies in
the US alone, outselling the Beatles “White Album” and placing it
as the 6th biggest selling album in US history according to the RIAA.
The floodgates had
been opened. The group’s popularity in America convinced Atlantic to issue
“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” for the first time to U.S. audiences and
the fans responded by sending the
album to No. 3 on the charts for four straight weeks. A worldwide tour
followed and then the band went back into the studio with “Mutt” Lange
to do the impossible, produce a follow up to a monster hit album.
Can they do it again? The fans obviously thought so because when “For Those
About To Rock We Salute You” was released in November 1981 it became an
international success, landing at No. 3 in the UK and hitting No. 1 in
the US. The band then spent most of 1982 on a world tour supporting the
It would be almost
two years before the band released another album. While they were recording
the next album all hell broke loose within the ranks, when the dust settled
Phil Rudd was out of the band. Eventually Simon Wright would be brought
in to replace Rudd. The rest of the group carried on with the recording,
this time not enlisting the help of “Mutt” Lange or any other producer
for that matter, they decided to do it all themselves. “Flick Of The Switch
“ hit stores in
November 1981 and sold well but was considered a let down by many fans,
it topped out at No. 15 in the U.S. not a bad accomplishment but this is
the band that went to No. 1 the last time out of the gate. While the band
would never again reach the dizzying heights of success they enjoyed with
“Back in Black” and “For Those About to Rock” they had established themselves
as one of the top bands in the world and to this day sell out arenas world
The band’s next
few albums also sold well but not spectacularly. “Fly On The Wall” emerged
in June of 85 and spawned the hit single “Shake Your Foundation”. They
followed up the next year with “Who Made Who” part greatest hits, part
soundtrack to Stephen King’s “Maximum Overdrive”. King who was a huge fan
of the group asked them to provide the music for the film while they were
on tour supporting “Fly On The Wall”.
The film and soundtrack only did moderately well, but it did contain a
hit single in the form of the “Back in Black” classic “You Shook Me All
Night Long” which the band filmed a new video for that received healthy
airplay on MTV and caused rock radio across the US to begin spinning the
song again in healthy rotation.
1988’s “Blow Up Your
Video” was a major hit in the UK where it reached No. 2 on the charts but
in the US it stalled out at No. 12. but the sales were steady and once
the band started their sold out North American tour the album began to
sell more and more become one of their best selling albums to date right
behind “For Those About to Rock”. But it was the group’s next album that
would put them back on top.
Almost ten years
to the day after the band had released “Back In Black” in 1980 they roared
back with “Razors Edge”, which pushed them right back to the top of the
charts world wide. A monster world tour followed but it would be
almost five years before fans got a new studio album from the group. In
1992 the band did release a live album recorded during the “Razors Edge”
tour, but it wouldn’t be until 1995 that fans would get a new full-length
studio album. In the interim the group
released the single “Big Guns” for the soundtrack to Arnold Schwarzenegger
film, “Last Action Hero”.
During the recording
of their next studio album the band reunited with former drummer Phil Rudd.
They enlisted Rick Rubin to produce the album, since his production of
the “Big Guns” single had done so well. The resulting album “Ballbreaker”
came out September 26, 1995 and spawned the hit single “Hard as a Rock”
that helped the band sell over a million copies of the album in the US
the first six months it was out. An enormous world tour followed with the
band selling out arenas the world over.
The band would once
again take five years to release a new studio album. In November of 1997
they gave fans a treat in the form of the “Bonfire” boxset which contained
studio out-takes, demos and live recordings featuring Bon Scott. Before
he died he used to joke with his bandmates that if he ever did a solo project
he’d name it “Bonfire” so when the band decided to release this tribute
boxset they felt it would be another tribute to Bon to use the title for
It was around this
time that Brian Johnson ventured into a small bar in Florida and discovered
a band that really impressed him. The band, Neurotica, had been formed
in 1994 by the former frontman of the prog-metal band Atheist, Kelly Shaefer.
Brian was blown away by the band’s energy and sound so he took them under
his wing, got them a record deal with an independent label in New York
and produced their debut album, “Seed”. The album received critical praise
when it was released in 1998 and seemed destined to break the band, but
unfortunately, the distribution company the label was using went out of
business and “Seed” died on the vine. But it did show that Brian was capable
of being a brilliant producer.
Fans meanwhile were
wondering when AC/DC would get back into the studio and give them a new
album! The answer came in February 2000 when they released “Stiff Upper
Lip” and album heralded as the band’s return to their heavy blues riffs.
The record buying public was receptive by the end of the year the album
had gone platinum in the US. A grueling world tour followed. For the first
of two North American legs of the tour, AC/DC took former Guns N’ Roses
Slash out on the road with his band Slash’s Snakepit, the band once again
sold out arenas world wide and proved that even after all of these years
they still knew how to rock and audience. Fans old and new, young and old
packed arenas as the band playing their greatest hits from the beginning
of their career to the singles from “Stiff Upper Lip”. Critical praise
followed the album and tour and AC/DC rocketed back to the top of the rock
In late 2001, the
band released a home video of the “Stiff Upper Lip” tour, an online promotion
where AOL streamed the full-length video to broadband customers was a major
success and the home video and DVD sold well.
What’s next for AC/DC?
The band admits five years is far too long to make fans wait for a new
studio album, so they hope to return to the studio soon to record the follow
up to Stiff Upper Lip.
It’s now 2002 and
AC/DC has been rocking audiences for almost 30 years. While a lot of the
band they played with in the early days have gone by the wayside, AC/DC
still remains strong, captivating audiences the world over with their high
octane concerts and blues
inspire hard rock. Plenty of bands have come out since AC/DC hit the scene
and a lot owe a debt to AC/DC for paving the way for hard rock. While some
may copy them, there will never be another band quite like AC/DC.
For those about to rock…. A salute to AC/DC and we look forward to watching
this legendary band continue to blow the minds and speakers of fans in
the years to come!
Hard Rock / Heavy Blues
Young - Guitar
Young - Guitar
Burgess - Drums
Van Knedt- Bass
Young - Guitar
Young - Guitar
Young - Bass
Young - Guitar
Young - Guitar
Johnson - Vocals
more information on the band
out our review of the "Stiff Upper Lip" Tour
Photos by Keavin Wiggins
and Debbie Seagle Copyright 2000-02 Iconoclast Entertainment Group, Groove
Quest Productions - All Rights Reserved