AC/DC are ending their 41 year career on a terribly sad note.
Plans were underway for a new studio album, their first since 2008’s monumental Black Ice, and a ‘40th Anniversary’ world tour, 40 huge shows across the globe.
More than a month ago, founding member, rhythm guitarist, co-producer and co-songwriter Malcolm Young had a stroke, which left a blood clot on his brain.
When AC/DC reunited at the start of April to begin a month of rehearsals, in the lead-up to new album recording sessions, Malcolm discovered he couldn’t play. At least, he couldn’t play like he used to play.
Nothing has been officially confirmed, as of this writing, but friends and family members have been discussing what happened to Malcolm for the past couple of weeks. The blood clot, resulting from the stroke, is believed to be why Malcolm couldn’t keep working.
Although friends have described Malcolm’s condition as serious, it doesn’t mean he won’t recover. People do get better after strokes, and people do recover lost skills.
But friends and family of band members believe the decision was made last week to call it quits.
Media in Australia have gone ballistic today on rumours of The End Of AC/DC, and it appears the news got out ahead of a planned official announcement from the band and management.
Right now, that announcement is expected Wednesday, April 16, and a press conference has been scheduled.
Angus, Malcolm and George Young working on AC/DC songs in the mid-1970s, on piano
AC/DC won’t continue playing and recording without Malcolm. It can’t be done.
While Angus Young is the more famous, and more recognisable, AC/DC is most definitely Malcolm Young’s band, he started AC/DC, under the guidance of big brother George Young (ex-Easybeats, and co-producer) and encouraged his younger brother Angus to join him, and take on the world.
Malcolm Young has been the quiet motivator and boss of the band for four decades, co-writing nearly all of AC/DC’s classics, and making sure nothing happened to harm or damage the band’s reputation, or disappoint the fans who’ve stuck by them for decades.
His passion for the band and its music, and integrity, were so intense, back in the 1970s he used to have fistfights with his younger brother, Angus, in the studio, when disagreements about a sound or riff couldn’t be resolved. Proper punch-ups, teeth were lost, blood was drawn.
So that’s it. AC/DC are coming to an end.
But what a career. AC/DC set out to conquer the world, and they did it, multiple times. Even the death of singer Bon Scott barely slowed them down, and only slightly delayed recording sessions for Back In Black.
Back In Black is still one of the biggest-selling albums in rock history, and AC/DC have easily sold more than 180 million albums, and probably half as many singles and DVDs and videos and special edition packages. They’ve influenced pretty much every hard rock, heavy rock and heavy metal band that has followed in their wake, including Nirvana, Metallica, you name them, they probably grew up loving AC/DC. And AC/DC are still in the record books for one of the biggest live audiences in rock history, playing to more than 1.6 million people in Moscow, in 1991. They were invited to play by the youth of Russia, who grew up on AC/DC bootlegs, after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The band have been written off by critics, numerous times, but they stuck to their guns and beliefs and never compromised their sound. They were rarely, almost never, tempted by the musical fads that came and went over the decades. They dabbled in glam rock at the start of their career, but that barely lasted through the recording sessions of their debut album. Their fans wanted rock n roll, heavy rock, they could rely on, and that’s what AC/DC delivered, across more than 14 albums, and numerous live-in-concert releases.
Malcolm Young never gave up on his belief that 1950s and 1960s rock n roll was rarely bettered, and he used the riffs and rhythms of black blues players as the basis for AC/DC’s sound. He’s also cited The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards as a key influence, and talks about that influence in the below interview.
The secret to Malcolm’s playing, as Guitar Magazine explained, was open chords with the amps turned down, not up, and mics shoved right up close to capture all the details. He didn’t churn out huge rock riffs through blasting amplifiers, his playing, and magic, is much more subtle than that, despite the rawness of the early studio albums.
I still reckon AC/DC’s 2008 album Black Ice was amongst the best they made, right up their with Back In Back and Highway To Hell (their last album with Bon Scott), it’s absolutely killer, and filled with excellent playing, classic AC/DC songs about rock n roll and some of Brian Johnson’s better vocal performances. It’s also pretty much a live-in-the-studio album, with minimal overdubs, just like they did it back in the Alberts Studio days in the mid-1970s.
Malcolm’s work on Black Ice, in particular, is superb, not just the detail of his playing, but also his songwriting with brother Angus. They worked on the writing of the Black Ice songs for five years, and gave themselves the time to get it right. They nailed every single one, and Black Ice became the 2nd highest selling album of 2008.
Rock N Roll Dream, from Black Ice, is everything AC/DC was about. They wanted the rock n’ roll dream, they got it, then they lived it.
"And it could be the very last time…"
Malcolm Young and his family have now returned to Australia. Everyone is hoping he makes a recovery, but close friends are saying the situation is not looking good, right now. Things may change. We can hope they change, and Malcolm recovers.
Instead of linking to an AC/DC classic, most of which you’ve probably heard a thousand times already, here’s a rare treat instead - Malcolm Young’s rhythm guitar from Let There Be Rock, way back in 1976.
Updates to follow
Mark Gable, from The Choirboys, provides another confirmation on the sad news about Malcolm Young:
"That is true, Malcolm is sick.
"From what I understand, and it’s even been confirmed in part by his son Ross (Young), that it would appear Malcolm is unable to perform anymore.
"It’s not just that he is unwell, it’s that it is quite serious. It will constitute that he definitely won’t be able to perform live.
"He will probably not be able to record."
An official comment/announcement from AC/DC management is still expected today.
Fairfax media claims the following is from a “family source”:
It is understood Young returned to Sydney with his family before Christmas and was having in-home care at his house in East Balmain. He is now said to be having difficulty remembering familiar faces and having increasing problems communicating.
"His memory loss is so bad it is consistent with Alzheimers or dementia although we do not know that is what it is. There has been talk about cancer too."