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Artist: AC/DC

AC/DC

Bio

AC/DC is an Australian rock band formed in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in December 1973 by Angus and Malcolm Young. Their albums have sold in colossal numbers; the total is now estimated at well over 200 million copies worldwide, with the 1980 album Back In Black selling over 21 million in the US alone and 40+ million worldwide, making it, according to statistics, one of the best selling albums in the world, outsold only by Michael Jackson's 'Thriller', and tied with Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon'. Their newest album released in 2008 entitled Black Ice is critically acclaimed even ahead of its release. The band has had two distinctive lead singers, and fans tend to divide its history into the "Bon Scott era (1974-80)" and the "Brian Johnson era (1980-present)". Most fans will agree that lead guitarist Angus Young (Now living In The Netherlands) is the face of AC/DC, appearing on the cover of most albums. His wild stage antics and schoolboy uniform have made him one of the most loved guitar players of all time. He has the unparalleled ability to captivate an audience of over 50,000 people with just the sounds of his guitar and his facial expressions. Most footage of Angus consists of him either doing Chuck Berry's patented Duck Walk across the stage, or of his mop of hair flying around as he rocks through one of his famous solos. Aside from captivating solos, he has also created some of the most well-known riffs together with his brother Malcolm Young. Bon Scott was the second man to front AC/DC back in 1973 (Dave Evans was the first). He would always smile when he was singing and often made a sideways glance towards a camera if it was there with a grin on his face. Also known for wearing a School Girl outfit with pigtails and smoking a cigarette on their first TV performance, with his duties as lead vocalist, Scott also helped to write many of the band's most popular songs. He was lyrically at his best on such songs as "Let There Be Rock" and "Shot Down in Flames". Sadly, Bon died February 19th 1980 due to alcohol poisoning after a night of heavy drinking in London. It was around this time that AC/DC were starting to get global recognition. The rhythm section of AC/DC included Malcolm Young (rhythm guitar), Cliff Williams (bass) and Phil Rudd (drums). Other drummer
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Articles

AC/DC Auckland Star, Jan 1990

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"Just what are the East Germans who flock across the crumbled Berlin Wall spending their money on? While champagne and fresh fruit were once hot items, recorded music is becoming the purchase of choice. Business in West Berlin record shops is up 300 per cent. Wagner and the Ring cycle? Otto Klemperer and Beethoven? No. The top sellers: AC/DC and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack" (Newsweek 1990)

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YOU DON'T need to visit Berlin or read Newsweek to know that heavy metal – alongside commercial dance music – is earth's number one soundtrack (although maybe we should ask the Chinese first). The charts will tell you in a flash, but Berlin's tale of freedom speaks volumes – at least as loud as AC/DC themselves, Australia's lean, primal rock'n'roll blast.

The band's success story speaks volumes too. They've outsold every other Australian band; been lauded worldwide since 1977's High Voltage and rewarded by multi-multi-platinum sales for 1979's Highway To Hell, 1980's Back In Black and 1981's For Those About To Rock (We Salute You). More recently, they've been lauded by The Beastie Boys and The Cult who've sampled some of their crushing guitar riffs, while their 11th album, 1988's Blow Up Your Video, was acknowledged as a return to top form after a few lean years. Angus Young, the band's physical and spiritual focus, the one who dresses – on stage only – in a school uniform, shorts and all, sits in front of me, beaming away, happy to chat about AC/DC's new album The Razor's Edge. What could be wrong?

Yet Young still feels there's a point to prove. So much so that the title of the new album has a serious meaning rather than just another statement of rock'n'roll bravado. "We wanted a title that sounded tough, to cut the bullshit," the diminutive lead guitarist admits, cutting through the smoke of his first cigarette. "Because that's what we are, in our music, though not as people. We aren't Mike Tysons! But the music we're playing comes in for a lot of fire – not from the public, but it's never been the media's most favourite music."

Not just the media – the authorities aren't than keen on metal either. "In some European countries a few years ago, they were arresting people – not punks, but people in denim jackets and long hair who were walking into clubs, wanting to hear this music. They'd close those clubs down and put those people in their place. It seems to be bearing fruit again as you're getting more and more younger bands, getting out there and playing, but these people are not a bunch of murderers and thieves."

Young says he's always regarded his audience as his real critics. So why the aggrieved feeling about acceptance? Maybe it's because AC/DC's version of having a good time – raw, loud and lewd good times – has, for 13 years, taken the brunt of media antagonism. "When we first toured in the West, they called us 'The Chunder from Down Under', he sighs. But metal is rebel music, whatever it sells, and AC/DC have long enjoyed high rebel status, from Young's popular on-stage habit of mooning to their first English tour which caught the attention of the vice squad "because they claimed I was obscene, not for mooning, but because someone said I was masturbating on stage. But I was just having a joke."

At least claims that AC/DC were dangerous to your health, and sexist oiks too, have been retired. British weekly Sounds claimed, "to castigate AC/DC for sexism is a bit like castrating your dog for trying to shag everyone's leg." Titling one new song 'Mistress For Christmas' and singing about "three in a bed" isn't likely to change that perception.

"I'd like three in a bed, I can tell you!" Young keeps grinning. "That's no moral issue! Nah, we're not there to preach people morals, or dictate how someone wants to live. For us, a song like that is good fun and meant to be taken that way. I've never worried about being called sexist. They'll think that anyhow. A lot of people read other meanings into our songs, like the sheriff of one county in Los Angeles who said 'this band was directly involved in a murder' because some guy on a radio station had said our lyrics inspired some maniac to go out and carve up people."

If albums like 1983's Flick Of The Switch and 1985's Fly On The Wall didn't sound – or sell – like prime AC/DC, Blow Up Your Video was produced by elder brother George Young and partner Harry Vanda, who oversaw all their early classics. "It was great to turn around and say, 'excuse me, I'm just gonna play a bit of rock music here', and it was the best thing we've recorded for a while," Young remembers. "We just ignored the influence of the record company and any producers." For The Razor's Edge, they worked with Canadian producer Bruce Fairburn. "When I sit on that side of the world, I always think producers are going to be high-powered, y'know, more business than pleasure. But Bruce was really good. I was shocked in a way because the guy said, 'I want you to sound like AC/DC when you were 17'."

They do. The Razor's Edge is undiluted AC/DC: it crackles and stomps with manic, bluesy take-no-prisoners tension; vocalist Brian Johnson still screams more than sings and Young still flips out the most murderous riffs this side of Jimmy Page. Only Young's respectably shorn locks have changed. "Everyone's the same – we still take our vitamins," he laughs. "We're keeping our pecker up and getting laid at the end of the day – if you're lucky!" Talking of which, there are still the same schoolyard boasts and gut-level metaphors. Young admits 'Fire Your Guns' is just another sexual metaphor to match 'Sink The Pink', 'Give The Dog A Boner' and 'Let's Get It Up', "but in a little way, y'know, nothing too deep, just fire your guns, have a good time."

Nothing to do, then, with the fact American troops tried to blast Panama's dictator General Noreiga out of his fortress with AC/DC music? "No, but I wonder what they're going to do with Sadam Hussein. I once heard of a general, many moons ago, who tortured someone with our music. They held him captive and put a headset on him and played it very loud so that he wouldn't know where he was."

The band has no such problem, despite being flung across all four corners of the globe. Angus and Malcolm still live in Sydney, Brian Johnson in Florida, bassist Cliff Williams in Hawaii and new drummer Chris Slade remains in the UK. Young reckons it hasn't harmed their working relationships; in fact, the band pushed themselves harder than ever for The Razor's Edge, he says. "instead of being riffmakers all the time and thinking we could make tunes out of them, we started from the other end of the scale and concentrated on coming up with full songs."

Their last drummer Simon Wright, "got itchy feet," Angus explains, with no trace of ill-feeling. "He felt he wanted to be doing more." What about Angus himself? After initially pleading not to ask him "deep questions 'cos I've only got the education of a 14 year old!", we talked about his schooldays, which made sense considering his errant-schoolboy image that launched the band. "I left just turned 15 because school's school and I was a bit of a truant," he remembers. In crowded classrooms, teachers would "cane you on the hand because you didn't have the ability, if you genuinely didn't know answers. Art and history were OK, but all the other stuff...aaah, you didn't need it."

Has he been proved right? "I don't know! Maybe I should have stayed there. There's a lot I missed, especially if you've playing in a band. You've probably seen more of life than I would. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy it, but sometimes you feel a bit hemmed in, because you think, 'jeez, I'd like to nick out and go down the road and spend a couple of hours reading a book, or nicking off down the art gallery or something."

Somehow it doesn't go with the image. Did Young ever try writing lyrics about such feelings? "Oh, no, I think people get bored with others going on, especially when it comes to music. People sing about politics and green issues, things that are happening in the world, but I genuinely think people don't care because it's a bit distant. People do like an underlying meaning, but in general, it doesn't matter what you sing – in our case, it's a bit rebellious, but we aren't anarchists. We're not out there to wipe out things. For us, it's mainly a good time, lots of women, like male studs!" He starts cracking up. "That would be a bold effort, me being only five foot two and underdeveloped!"

Still, Young admits they've, "warned," fans about certain things, like heroin – "the whole thing about 'you don't have to get wasted', to kill yourself to like a rock song and to have a good time." Their former singer Bon Scott being a case in point. But the hard-livin' stereotype of Guns N'Roses has romanticised life on the razor's edge, while the recent case where Judas Priest escaped being held responsible for two suicides shows Big Bad Metal must still keep fighting for the right to party. But Young is unrepentant. "Our music makes me jump up and down but I don't expect the person who's buying it to go out and kill their next door neighbour. I hope people use the music as fun, to have a party and get out their AC/DC records."

We finish up talking about heavy metal's taste for Satanism and sorcery, remembering the sleeve to Highway To Hell, where lil' Angus had sprouted two little horns. "That was a result of being asked what we'd call one of our tours, and I replied 'a highway to hell!'. It was a joke again! When we arrived in America, I didn't know what a fundamentalist was, and I didn't really care. All that satanic stuff is more groups pretending because it goes with their image. But if someone talked to me on a religious scale about heaven, I wouldn't enjoy a place like that. I mean, what's going on there? I couldn't hack it! A couple of angels, a lot of peace and love – it doesn't sound like much fun, or that there'd be any rock music for a start! If the other place has got rock music and a few mini-skirts, then, hey, I'm the first member!"

AC/DC: Marquee, London Melody Maker, Aug 1976

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THOSE PUZZLED by the Status Quo phenomenon should beware. AC/DC, from the same rock family, could wreak similar havoc, but they will only realise their full potential if, amid all the raucousness that inevitably surrounds power-chord bands, they better organise their assaults.

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But whatever they do lack in presentation at the moment, the band is certainly making great strides towards becoming a major attraction, as was suggested by their Monday night residency at London's Marquee club. When I caught the band there last week, they had just broken another house attendance record, which, I'm told, they'd set themselves the previous week.

AC/DC have been tagged as an Australian band, though three of the members, brother guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young and singer Bon Scott, are Glaswegians, with only the rhythm section of drummer Philip Rudd and bassist Mark Evans being children of Melbourne.

Although I'm sure that the gig I saw at the Marquee, where sweat was shed by the bucketful, was an off-night for the band – sound troubles (twice), brought the gig to a halt – they did enough to show that they're a good boogie band, with apparently no pretentions about being anything else.

But I was left hoping, somewhere around the middle of their set, that they'd shatter the uniformity of riff, vocal and solo (in that order), which all tended to become much of a muchness after a while, and widen the scope a little.

The potential is there to do it if they'd only harness and direct the music, and vocalist Scott and punk guitarist Angus Young have certain charismatic qualities.

Scott, with his moody stare and distinctive Scottish voice, could be a first-class frontman instead of, as he strikes me, a poor cross between Alex Harvey and Stevie Marriott. His enthusiasm did seem a trifle contrived at times.

Seventeen-year-old Young, with his schoolboy uniform (discarded after the fourth number of the set because of sauna bath conditions), has hit on the really good gimmick of looking like a rock and roll Norman Wisdom, only more retarded.

Though not a great guitarist (solos over the one-minute mark became, to say the least, repetitive), he's a great showman.

Where do AC/DC go from the Marquee in murky Wardour Street? Judging from the wild reaction of their audiences, they could just about slip comfortably into Status Quo's shoes once they have pulled their socks up.

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Top Albums

Back in Black cover art

Back in Black

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Highway to Hell cover art

Highway to Hell

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The Razors Edge cover art

The Razors Edge

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High Voltage cover art

High Voltage

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Who Made Who cover art

Who Made Who

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Top Songs

Back in Black cover art

Back in Black

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Highway to Hell cover art

Highway to Hell

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You Shook Me All Night Long cover art

You Shook Me All Night Long

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Thunderstruck cover art

Thunderstruck

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Hells Bells cover art

Hells Bells

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Shoot to Thrill cover art

Shoot to Thrill

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T.N.T. cover art

T.N.T.

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Recommended Songs

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Paranoid by Black Sabbath

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