From left to right: Singer Brian Johnson, Rhythm Guitarist Malcolm Young, Bass Guitarist Cliff Williams, Lead Guitarist Angus Young, Drummer Phil Rudd.
AC/DC is an Australian rock band and considered pioneers of hard rock and heavy metal music. The group was formed in Sydney, Australia in December, 1973. Their albums have sold in colossal numbers — the total is now estimated to be around 100 million copies worldwide.
AC/DC is generally divided into 'Bon Scott era (1974-80)' and 'Brian Johnson era (1980-present)'. Some fans have a preference, others point to the merits of both singers and appreciate them equally.
Born in Scotland, the brothers Angus and Malcolm Young moved with their family to Australia as children. Malcolm began playing guitar first, soon followed by Angus. Malcolm first played with a Newcastle, NSW band called The Velvet Underground (not the Lou Reed group).
Their older brother George Young had been a member of Australia's most successful Sixties band The Easybeats, who were the first local pop act to score an overseas hit ('Friday On My Mind') in 1967. After Young and his Easybeats partner Harry Vanda returned to Australia in late 1973, they became the house producers for the newly-formed Albert Productions record label whose owner, Ted Albert (a scion of the venerable Albert & Sons music publishing family), had been the Easybeats' producer between 1965 and 1967.
Young asked the boys to do some session work for a project he was doing. Angus then formed a band called Tantrum. After The Velvet Underground, Malcolm decided to form a more pure rock and roll band, and enlisted Angus and they were soon signed to the new Albert label, and Vanda & Young produced their first seven LPs.
The early lineups changed often, but the 1974 enlistment of charismatic singer Ronald 'Bon' Scott as their driving frontman signified the beginning of real success. Another vital innovation was Angus Young's adoption of his now-famous school uniform as a regular stage outfit; the original was reputedly Angus' real uniform from his secondary school, Ashfield Boys' High, in Sydney.
Between 1974 and 1978, aided by regular appearances on the nationally-broadcast TV pop show Countdown, AC/DC became one of the most popular and successful acts in Australia, scoring a string of hits albums and singles including their perennial 1975 rock anthem 'It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll)'.
Relocating to London in the late 1970s, they worked all over the UK and Europe to establish themselves, touring almost constantly and gaining invaluable experience on the stadium circuit supporting the top hard-rock acts of the day including Alice Cooper, Rush, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Boston, Black Sabbath, Cheap Trick, Heart, The Scorpions, Molly Hatchet, Ronnie Montrose, Nazareth, UFO, Journey, Foreigner, Van Halen, Styx, Blue Öyster Cult, Alvin Lee, Rainbow, Savoy Brown, REO Speedwagon, The Doobie Brothers, Thin Lizzy and The Who.
Rhythm Guitarist Malcolm Young once recalled in AC/DC's VH1 Behind the Music Series an incident from an England tour with Black Sabbath. Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath's Bassist), in a drunken rage, pulled a knife on Malcolm. The incident was quickly resolved without conflict, and the conjoined tour promptly ended. Ozzy and Bon stayed in contact however.
They survived the punk rock upheavals of 1976-78, partly because they were (erroneously) tagged as a punk band by the British music press. They gained a solid cult following in the UK with their powerful performances and outrageous stage antics; Angus Young quickly became notorious for mooning (i.e. showing his buttocks) to the audience and the group was banned from several British venues because of this. Their meaty hard-rock sound and Bon Scott's provocative, leering stage persona are also reputed to have been significant influences on Johnny Rotten and The Sex Pistols. The band were also a pivotal influence to the then emerging New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene, with artists such as Def Leppard and Saxon clearly displaying simililarities to the trademark sound of AC/DC.
In 1980, Angus and Malcolm had begun working on the music and guitar riffs for their forthcoming new album when after a night of hard drinking, Bon Scott was found in the back seat of his friend's car. He died from both choking on his own vomit and hypothermia (Ozzy Osbourne would later write and record a song about Scott's death, the widely misinterpreted 'Suicide Solution'). Shortly after, the band brought in a new lead singer—Brian Johnson, formerly of the band Geordie—completed the song-writing and began recording Back_in_Black. This became their biggest-selling album to date, a hard-rock landmark that would ultimately be named in tribute to Bon.
Over the next eight years, the Young brothers and Johnson wrote nearly all of their songs, but in 1990, with Brian Johnson committed elsewhere, it was left to the Young brothers to carry on the creation of the group's music, while Johnson assumed all the vocals, lead and background, a feat unable to be duplicated in the band's live concerts (in the same manner Freddie Mercury's overdubbed vocal style could never have been duplicated when he and his band Queen toured live).
In 2002, Q magazine named AC/DC as one of the '50 Bands To See Before You Die'.
In 2003, the Recording Industry Association of America upgraded the group's U.S. sales figures, increasing their cumulative sales from 46.5 million to 63 million, making AC/DC the fifth-best-selling band in U.S. music history, behind The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Eagles.
In March 2003 the walls at New York's historic Waldorf Astoria hotel shook as AC/DC performed Highway To Hell during part of their induction to the American Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame. Along side Malcolm, Angus, Phil, Cliff and Brian were two of Bon Scott's nephews and in a brief acceptance the band again thanked the fans for their support.
On July 30, 2003, the band performed an amazing performance at Sarsfest in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with The Rolling Stones before an audience of 500,000 to help the city overcome the effects of the 2003 SARS epidemic.
2003 also saw the Recording Industry Association of America certify the classic Back_in_Black album as Double Diamond (20,000,000) sales in the US.
The name 'AC/DC' (alternating current/direct current) was suggested by their sister Margaret after she read it on a sewing machine label. The term has a bisexual connotation that they were supposedly unaware of at the time, and they often had to deny they were a gay band, a perception that was exacerbated by their 'glam rock' image at the time.
Some have suggested that the name stood for 'Anti-Christ/ Devil Children'; though this is certainly not the case, the rumour has long persisted both among conservatives who, already disliking the band's image, use it to paint the band as Satanists, and among some fans who, especially in the 1980s, enjoyed the counter-cultural offense such a meaning would cause.
On 1 October 2004 Melbourne's Corporation Lane was officially renamed ACDC Lane in honour of the band (street names in the City of Melbourne cannot contain the '/' character). It is near Swanston Street, the location where the band recorded their 1975 video 'It's a Long Way to the Top'.
The name AC/DC is pronounced one letter at a time, although the band is also known to its Australian fans as 'Acca Dacca'.
One country music band has named themselves Hayseed Dixie, as a parody of the AC/DC name.
Video: 'Let There Be Rock' features the band in a 1980 Porsche 928 racing a bi-plane.
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