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by Keavin Wiggins

AC/DC, 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 by default. 

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 tour. 

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 album. 

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 wide. 

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 the release. 

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 axeman  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 world. 

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! 

Genre: Classic Hard Rock / Heavy Blues

Original Lineup:

    • Malcolm Young - Guitar
    • Angus Young - Guitar
    • Dave Evans - Vocals
    • Colin Burgess  - Drums
    • Larry Van Knedt- Bass
First Album Lineup:
    • Malcolm Young - Guitar
    • Angus Young - Guitar
    • Bon Scott - Vocals
    • Tony Kerrante- Drums
    • George Young  - Bass

Current Lineup:

    • Malcolm Young - Guitar
    • Angus Young - Guitar
    • Brian Johnson - Vocals
    • Cliff Williams -Bass
    • Phil Rudd - Drums

Get more information on the band

Purchase AC/DC Music.

Check 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 


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