|Origin||Sydney, New South Wales, Australia|
|Years active||1973–present (On hiatus: 2016–2018)|
|Spinoff of||Marcus Hook Roll Band|
|Past members||See Former members to see the list|
AC/DC are an Australian rock band formed in Sydney in 1973. It was founded by rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Malcolm Young and lead guitarist Angus Young. The band's current lineup comprises Angus, rhythm guitarist Stevie Young, bassist Cliff Williams, drummer Phil Rudd, and long-time lead vocalist Brian Johnson. Their music has been variously described as hard rock, blues rock, and heavy metal, but the band calls it simply "rock and roll". They are cited as a former influence on the new wave of British heavy metal bands, such as Iron Maiden and Saxon. AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.
AC/DC underwent several line-up changes before releasing their debut album, High Voltage (1975). Membership subsequently stabilised after the release of Let There Be Rock (1977), with Bon Scott (lead vocals), Cliff Williams (bass) and Phil Rudd (drums). Seven months after the release of Highway to Hell (1979), Scott died of alcohol poisoning, and the other members considered disbanding. However, at the request of Scott's parents, they continued together and recruited English singer Brian Johnson as their new frontman. Their first album with Johnson, Back in Black (1980), was dedicated to Scott's memory. It became the second-best-selling album of all time.
The band's eighth studio album, For Those About to Rock (1981), was their first album to reach number one in the Billboard 200. Prior to the release of Flick of the Switch (1983), Rudd left AC/DC and was replaced by Simon Wright, who was himself replaced by Chris Slade six years later. AC/DC experienced a commercial resurgence in the early 1990s with the release of The Razors Edge (1990); it was their only record to feature Slade, who was replaced by Rudd in 1994. Rudd has since recorded five more albums with the band, starting with Ballbreaker (1995). Their fifteenth studio album, Black Ice was the second-highest-selling record of 2008 and their biggest chart hit since For Those About to Rock (number one in the United States), eventually reaching number one worldwide.
The band's line-up remained the same for 20 years until 2014, when Malcolm retired due to early-onset dementia (from which he died three years later) and Rudd was involved in legal troubles. Malcolm was replaced by his nephew Stevie Young, who debuted on the album Rock or Bust (2014). On the accompanying tour, Slade filled in for Rudd. In 2016, Johnson was advised to stop touring due to worsening hearing loss, and Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose stepped in as the band's frontman for the remainder of that year's dates. Long-time bassist Williams retired at the end of the tour in 2016, and the band entered a four-year hiatus. A reunion of the Rock or Bust line-up was announced in September 2020, and the band's seventeenth studio album Power Up was released two months later. In September 2023, it was revealed that American drummer Matt Laug will be filling in for the upcoming Power Trip festival.
Formation and name (1973–1974)
In November 1973, brothers Malcolm and Angus Young formed AC/DC in Sydney with bassist and saxophonist Larry Van Kriedt, vocalist Dave Evans and drummer Colin Burgess. The band's first official gig was at Chequers nightclub in Sydney on 31 December 1973.: 15, 17 By that time, Angus Young had adopted his characteristic school-uniform stage outfit. The idea was his sister Margaret's. In its early days, most members of the band dressed in some form of glam or satin outfit. On stage, Evans was occasionally replaced by the band's first manager, Dennis Laughlin (ex-Sherbet). In Paul Stenning's book AC/DC: Two Sides To Every Glory it was stated that Evans and Laughlin were incompatible, consequently other members developed bitter feelings toward Evans.
Malcolm and Angus Young developed the idea for the band's name after Margaret saw the initials "AC/DC" on the AC adapter of a sewing machine. "AC/DC" is an abbreviation meaning "alternating current/direct current" electricity. The brothers felt that this name symbolised the band's raw energy, power-driven performances of their music.: 20 "AC/DC" is pronounced one letter at a time, though the band are colloquially known as "Acca Dacca" in Australia. The AC/DC band name is stylised with a high voltage sign separating the "AC" and "DC" and has been used on all studio albums, except the international version of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.
In January 1974, the band recorded a session at EMI Studios in Sydney, with brother George Young and Harry Vanda as the producers. A number of songs were recorded, including "Can I Sit Next to You, Girl", "Rockin' in the Parlour", and an early version of "Rock 'n' Roll Singer".: 21 A week after this session Burgess was fired, followed shortly thereafter by Van Kriedt, his recorded bass lines for the January recording session replaced by ones played by George Young. Their replacements, Neil Smith on bass and Noel Taylor on drums, lasted six weeks, replaced in turn by Rob Bailey on bass and Peter Clack on drums. "Can I Sit Next to You, Girl" backed with "Rockin' in the Parlour", taken from the January session, was released in July 1974 as the band's first single.: 21 : 54–56, 59–60
By mid-1974, the band had a strong live reputation, resulting in supporting Lou Reed in August. During that tour, Malcolm switched to rhythm guitar, leaving Angus the lead, the roles the two guitarists would play from then on.: 61–62 Sometime in 1974, on the recommendation of Michael Chugg, veteran Melbourne promoter Michael Browning booked the band to play at his club, the Hard Rock. He was not pleased with their glam rock image and felt that Evans was the wrong singer for the band, but was impressed by the Young brothers' guitar playing.: 100–256
Shortly afterwards, he received a call from the band; Laughlin had quit as manager, and they were stuck in Adelaide with no money. Following the gig, they agreed to take him on as their new manager, with the co-operation of George and Vanda.: 100–256 The Young brothers decided to abandon the glam rock image which had already been adopted by Melbourne band Skyhooks and pursue a harder blues-rock sound. To this end, they agreed that Evans was not a suitable frontman for the group.
Bon Scott joins (1974–1976)
In September 1974, Bon Scott, an experienced vocalist from Fraternity, joined AC/DC after former bandmate Vince Lovegrove recommended him to George Young. Scott's appointment coincided with him working as a chauffeur for the band at the time until an audition promoted him to lead singer. Like the Young brothers, Scott was born in Scotland and emigrated to Australia in his childhood. Their debut single's tracks were re-written and re-recorded with Scott.
In November 1974, AC/DC had recorded their first studio album, High Voltage. Bailey and Clack were still in the band during its recording, however, Clack played on only one track, and the rest was being played by session drummer Tony Currenti, while George Young handled some of the bass parts and later redid others.: 31 Recording the album took only ten days and was based on instrumentals written by the Young brothers, with lyrics added by Scott.: 91–92 In January 1975, Both Bailey and Clack were fired. with Paul Matters taking over bass duties briefly before being fired in turn and replaced temporarily by George or Malcolm Young for live duties, while on drums, Ron Carpenter and Russell Coleman also had brief tenures before Phil Rudd joined the band in January. Bassist Mark Evans joined in March 1975, setting the line-up, which lasted two years.: 98, 100, 102–103, 109–111
The band were scheduled to play at the 1975 Sunbury Pop music festival in January; however, they went home without performing following an altercation with the management and crew of headlining act Deep Purple. High Voltage was released exclusively in Australia on 17 February 1975,: 32 along with a single "Baby, Please Don't Go". Later that year they released the lead single of their second studio album T.N.T, "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)", for which a well-known promotional video was made for the program Countdown, featuring the band miming the song on the back of a flatbed truck. AC/DC released T.N.T. on 1 December 1975, which was also released only in Australia and New Zealand.: 40
Initial success and record deal (1976–1977)
Browning sent promo material to contacts in London, which came to the attention of Phil Carson of Atlantic Records. In 1976, the band signed an international deal with Atlantic Records. On arrival in London, their scheduled tour with Back Street Crawler was cancelled following the death of Paul Kossoff. As a result, they went back to playing smaller venues to build a local following until their label organised the Lock Up Your Daughters tour sponsored by Sounds magazine. At the time, punk rock was breaking and came to dominate the pages of the major British music weeklies, NME and Melody Maker. AC/DC were sometimes identified with the punk rock movement by the British press, but they hated punk rock, believing it to be a passing fad; Browning wrote that "it wasn't possible to even hold a conversation with AC/DC about punk without them getting totally pissed off".: 100–256 Their reputation managed to survive the punk upheavals and they maintained a cult following in the UK throughout this time.
The first AC/DC album to gain worldwide distribution was a 1976 compilation of tracks taken from the High Voltage and T.N.T. LPs. Also titled High Voltage, and released on the Atlantic Records label, the album has in 2005 sold three million copies according to the RIAA. The track selection was heavily weighted toward the more recent T.N.T., including only two songs from their first LP. The band's third studio album, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, was released in the same year in both Australian and European versions, like its predecessor.: 56 Track listings varied worldwide, and the international version of the album also featured the T.N.T. track "Rocker", which had previously not been released internationally. The original Australian version included "Jailbreak" (now more readily available on the 1984 compilation EP '74 Jailbreak,: 57 or as a live version on the 1992 Live album).: 185 Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap was not released in North America until 1981, by which time the band were at the peak of their popularity.: 57
After a brief tour of Sweden, they returned to London where they set new attendance records during their residency at the Marquee.: 49 However, their appearance at the 1976 Reading Festival failed to get a positive response from the crowd.: 53 They continued to tour throughout Europe, and then Australia. From late 1976, after rebuilding their finances, they started recording their fourth studio album, Let There Be Rock. In early 1977, they returned to Britain and began a European tour with Black Sabbath. While Bon Scott and Ozzy Osbourne quickly became friends, relations were less than cordial between the other members of the respective bands. In one incident, Geezer Butler pulled a "silly" flick-knife comb at Malcolm, which resulted in the band being taken off for the rest of the tour.
Cliff Williams joins and death of Bon Scott (1977–1980)
In mid-1977, Mark Evans was fired. He described disagreement with Angus and Malcolm as a contributing factor. He was replaced by Cliff Williams, an experienced bass guitarist for several UK bands since the late 60s. Neither of the Young brothers has elaborated on the departure of Evans, though Richard Griffiths, the CEO of Epic Records and a booking agent for AC/DC in the mid-1970s, later commented, "You knew Mark wasn't going to last, he was just too much of a nice guy." Mark Evans' autobiography, Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/Outside of AC/DC, released in 2011, predominantly dealt with his time in AC/DC, including being fired.
AC/DC's first American radio exposure was through Bill Bartlett at Jacksonville station WPDQ/WAIV in 1975,: 107–111 two years before they played their first US concert as support band for Canadian group Moxy in Austin, Texas, on 27 July 1977.: 67 : 29 From booking agent Doug Thaler (American Talent International) and management of Leber-Krebs, they experienced the US stadium circuit, supporting rock acts, such as Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Kiss, Styx, UFO, and Blue Öyster Cult, and co-headlined with bands such as Cheap Trick. AC/DC released their fifth studio album, Powerage, on 5 May 1978, and with its harder riffs, followed the blueprint set by Let There Be Rock. Only one single was released from Powerage, "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation". An appearance at The Apollo in Glasgow during the Powerage Tour was recorded and released as If You Want Blood You've Got It (1978).
In 1979, the band recorded their sixth studio album Highway to Hell, with producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange.: 89 The album was released on 27 July 1979.: 101 Eddie Van Halen notes this to be his favourite AC/DC record, along with Powerage. It became the first AC/DC LP to break into the Billboard 200, eventually reaching number 17, and it propelled AC/DC into the top ranks of hard rock acts. Highway to Hell had lyrics that shifted away from flippant and comical toward more central rock themes, putting increased emphasis on backing vocals but still featured AC/DC's signature sound: loud, simple, pounding riffs and grooving backbeats.
In February 1980, the band began to work on their seventh studio album Back in Black, with Scott on drums, instead of vocals.: 106 On 18 February, Scott purportedly passed out in the car on the way back to the apartment of his friend Alistair Kinnear, after a night of drinking at The Music Machine in Camden Town, London.: 106 According to Kinnear, upon arrival at his home, he was unable to move Scott from the car into his home for the night, so he left him in the car overnight to sleep off the effects of the alcohol. Unable to wake Scott early on the evening of 19 February, Kinnear rushed him to King's College Hospital in Camberwell, where Scott was pronounced dead on arrival.: 106 The official cause of death was listed as "acute alcohol poisoning". Scott's family buried him in Fremantle, Western Australia, the area they emigrated to when he was a boy.
Brian Johnson joins and rebirth (1980–1983)
Following Scott's death, the band briefly considered quitting, but encouraged by the insistence from Scott's parents that he would have wanted them to carry on, they decided to continue, and went about finding a new vocalist. Fat Lip vocalist Allan Fryer, ex-Rick Wakeman vocalist Gary Pickford-Hopkins,: 318 and the Easybeats' singer Stevie Wright were touted by the press as possible replacements.: 308 Various other candidates were also considered, including ex-Moxy member Buzz Shearman, who was not able to join because of voice issues, Slade vocalist Noddy Holder, and ex-Back Street Crawler vocalist Terry Slesser.: 211–212
At the advice of Lange, the group brought in ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson, who impressed the group.: 309 For the audition, Johnson sang Ike & Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits" and then "Whole Lotta Rosie" from Let There Be Rock.: 121 After the band begrudgingly worked through the rest of the list of applicants in the following days, Johnson returned for a second rehearsal.: 317–318
Angus Young later recalled, "I remember the first time I had ever heard Brian's (Johnson) name was from Bon. Bon had mentioned that he had been in England once touring with a band and he had mentioned that Brian had been in a band called Geordie and Bon had said 'Brian Johnson, he was a great rock and roll singer in the style of Little Richard.' And that was Bon's big idol, Little Richard. I think when he saw Brian at that time, to Bon it was 'Well he's a guy that knows what rock and roll is all about.' He mentioned that to us in Australia. I suppose when we decided to continue, Brian was the first name that Malcolm and myself came up with, so we said we should see if we can find him."
On 29 March, Malcolm Young called the singer to offer him a place in the band, much to Johnson's surprise. Out of respect for Bon Scott, the band wanted a vocalist who would not be a mere imitator of him. In addition to his distinctive voice, demeanor and love of classic soul and blues music, the group was impressed by Johnson's engaging personality.: 319–320 Johnson was officially announced as the new lead singer of AC/DC on 1 April 1980.
With Johnson as the new vocalist, the band completed the songwriting that they had begun with Scott for the album Back in Black. Recording took place at Compass Point Studios in The Bahamas a few months after Scott's death. Back in Black, produced by Lange and recorded by Tony Platt, became their biggest-selling album and a hard-rock landmark; hits include "Hells Bells", "You Shook Me All Night Long", "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution" and the title track. The album peaked number 1 in the UK, and number 4 in the US, where it spent 582 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart.
The band's eighth studio album, For Those About to Rock We Salute You, was released on 23 November 1981,: 153 also sold well and received mixed reviews by critics.: 150 The album featured two of the band's most popular singles: "Let's Get It Up" and the title track, "For Those About to Rock", which peaked number 13 and number 15 in the UK, respectively.
Line-up changes and commercial decline (1983–1990)
AC/DC parted ways with producer Mutt Lange for their ninth studio album, Flick of the Switch, released on 15 August 1983, which was produced by the band themselves.: 158, 167 The album was an effort to return to the rawness and simplicity of their early albums, but received mixed reviews and was considered underdeveloped and unmemorable;: 158  one critic stated that the band "had made the same album nine times". AC/DC were voted the eighth-biggest disappointment of the year in the 1984 Kerrang! readers' poll. However, Flick of the Switch eventually reached number 4 on the UK charts, and AC/DC had minor success with single "Guns for Hire", reaching number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100.
After having problems with drugs and alcohol,: 366–367 Rudd's friendship with Malcolm Young deteriorated and eventually escalated to a physical confrontation after which Rudd was fired halfway through the Flick of the Switch sessions. Rudd was replaced by Simon Wright in July 1983 after the band held over 700 auditions in the US and UK.: 368 Simon Kirke of Free and Bad Company fame, and Paul Thompson of Roxy Music were two of the drummers auditioned.: 367
The band's tenth studio album, Fly on the Wall, produced by the Young brothers in 1985, was also regarded as uninspired and directionless. A music concept video of the same name featured the band at a bar, playing five of the album's ten songs. In 1986, the group returned to the charts with the made-for-radio "Who Made Who", reaching number 9 in Australia and number 16 in the UK.: 164 The album Who Made Who was the soundtrack to Stephen King's film Maximum Overdrive; it brought together older hits, such as "You Shook Me All Night Long", with a few new songs (the title track and two new instrumentals, "D.T." and "Chase the Ace").
In February 1988, AC/DC, George Young and Harry Vanda were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association's Hall of Fame. AC/DC's eleventh studio album, Blow Up Your Video, released in 1988, was recorded at Studio Miraval in Le Val, France, and reunited the band with producers Vanda and George.: 169 The group recorded nineteen songs, choosing ten for the final release; though the album was later criticised for containing excessive "filler", it was a commercial success. Blow Up Your Video reached number 2 on the UK charts—AC/DC's highest position since Back in Black in 1980. The album featured the UK top-twenty single "Heatseeker" and popular songs such as "That's the Way I Wanna Rock 'n' Roll".
The Blow Up Your Video World Tour began in February 1988, in Perth, Australia. That April, following live appearances across Europe, Malcolm Young announced that he was taking time off from touring, principally to begin recovery from his alcoholism. Angus and Malcolm's nephew, Stevie Young, temporarily took Malcolm's place. In 1989, Wright left the group to work on British heavy metal band Dio's fifth studio album Lock Up the Wolves (1990), and was replaced by session veteran Chris Slade. Johnson was unavailable for several months while finalising his divorce, so the Young brothers wrote all the songs for the next album, a practice they continued for all subsequent releases through Power Up in 2020.: 173
Popularity regained (1990–1999)
The band's twelfth studio album, The Razors Edge, was recorded in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and was mixed and engineered by Mike Fraser and produced by Bruce Fairbairn, who had previously worked with Aerosmith and Bon Jovi. Released in 1990, it was a major success for the band, and included the hits "Thunderstruck", which reached number 5 Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, number 4 on the ARIA Singles charts, and number 13 on the OCC's UK Singles Chart, and "Moneytalks", which peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album has in 2006 reached 5× Platinum according to the RIAA, and reached number 2 on the Billboard 200.
Several shows on the Razors Edge World Tour were recorded for the 1992 live album, titled AC/DC Live. It was produced by Fairbairn, and has been called one of the best live albums of the 1990s. AC/DC headlined the Monsters of Rock show during this tour, which was released on VHS as Live at Donington in 1992. During the tour, three fans were killed at a concert at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on 18 January 1991: when the concert began fans rushed the stage crushing the three and injuring others. It took 26 minutes before venue security and the group understood the severity of the situation and halted the concert. AC/DC settled with the victims' families out of court. As a result of this incident, the Salt Palace eliminated festival seating from future events. In September 1991, AC/DC performed in Moscow for the Monsters of Rock festival in front of 1.6 million people. It first open-air rock concert to be held in the former Soviet Union.
In 1993, AC/DC recorded "Big Gun" for the soundtrack of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Last Action Hero. Released as a single, the song reached number 1 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart—the band's first number 1 single on that chart. In 1994, Pacific Gameworks created a proposal for a beat 'em up video game project intended for the Atari Jaguar CD titled AC/DC: Defenders of Metal, which would have prominently featured the AC/DC crew, however, production of the game never started and it was left unreleased.
In 1994, Angus and Malcolm invited Rudd to several jam sessions. He was eventually rehired to replace Slade, whose departure arose in part because of working with Rudd. Recording began in October 1994 at Record Plant Studios in New York City. After 10 weeks, the recording process was moved to the Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles.: 183 On 22 September 1995, the band's thirteenth studio album Ballbreaker, was released.: 183, 186
In November 1997, a box set named Bonfire was released.: 184, 186 It contained four albums – a remastered version of Back in Black, Volts (a disc with alternative takes, outtakes, and stray live cuts, all recorded with Scott) and two live albums, Live from the Atlantic Studios and Let There Be Rock: The Movie. Live from the Atlantic Studios was recorded on 7 December 1977 at the Atlantic Studios in New York. Let There Be Rock: The Movie was a double album recorded in December 1979 at the Pavillon de Paris and was the soundtrack of a motion picture, AC/DC: Let There Be Rock.: 184
Popularity confirmed (1999–2014)
In 1999, AC/DC recorded their fourteenth studio album, Stiff Upper Lip, produced by brother George at the Warehouse Studio, again in Vancouver. Released in February 2000, the album was better received by critics than Ballbreaker but was considered lacking in new ideas. The Australian release included a bonus disc with three promotional videos and several live performances recorded in Madrid, Spain in 1996. The first single, "Stiff Upper Lip", remained at number 1 on the US Mainstream Rock charts for four weeks. The band also performed that song live when they appeared as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live on 18 March 2000. The other singles "Satellite Blues" and "Safe in New York City" reached number 1 and number 7 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks.
The band signed a long-term, multi-album deal with Sony Music in December 2002,: 195  which issued their remasters series. Each release contained an expanded booklet featuring rare photographs, memorabilia and notes. In 2003, the entire back-catalogue (except Ballbreaker and Stiff Upper Lip) was remastered and re-released.: 195, 197  Ballbreaker and Stiff Upper Lip was re-released in 2004. AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.: 197–198
The band performed with the Rolling Stones and Rush at Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto on 30 July 2003. The concert, held before an audience of half a million, was intended to help the city overcome the negative publicity stemming from the effects of a 2003 SARS epidemic. The concert held the record for the largest paid music event in North American history. The band came second in a list of Australia's highest-earning entertainers for 2005, and sixth for 2006, despite having neither toured since 2003 nor released an album since 2000. Verizon Wireless has gained the rights to release AC/DC's full albums and the entire Live at Donington concert to download in 2008.
On 16 October 2007, Columbia Records released Plug Me In as both double or triple DVD video album. The set consists of five and seven hours of rare footage, and even a recording of AC/DC at a high school performing "School Days", "T.N.T.", "She's Got Balls", and "It's a Long Way to the Top". As with Family Jewels, disc one contains rare shows of the band with Bon Scott, and disc two is about the Brian Johnson era. The collector's edition contains an extra DVD with 21 more rare performances of both Scott and Johnson and more interviews.
AC/DC made their video game debut on Rock Band 2, with "Let There Be Rock" included as a playable track. The setlist from their Live at Donington live album was released as playable songs for the Rock Band series by means of a Wal-Mart-exclusive retail disc titled AC/DC Live: Rock Band Track Pack. No Bull: The Directors Cut, a newly edited, comprehensive Blu-ray and DVD of the band's July 1996 Plaza De Toros de las Ventas concert in Madrid, Spain, was released on 9 September 2008. Black Ice, their fifteenth studio album released in Australia on 18 October 2008 and issued worldwide two days later. Produced by Brendan O'Brien, mixed and engineered by Mike Fraser, its 15 tracks were their first studio recordings in eight years. Like Stiff Upper Lip, it was recorded at The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. Black Ice was sold in the US exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club and the band's official website. Black Ice reached number 1 on 29 countries, including Australia, the UK, and the US.
"Rock 'n' Roll Train", the album's first single, was released to radio on 28 August. On 15 August, AC/DC recorded a video for "Rock 'n' Roll Train" from the new album in London with a special selection of fans getting the chance to be in the video. The Black Ice World Tour supporting the new album was announced on 11 September and began on 28 October in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. On 15 September 2008, AC/DC Radio debuted on Sirius Channel 19 and XM channel 53. The channel plays AC/DC music along with interviews with the band members.
AC/DC rescheduled six shows due to Brian Johnson recovering from a medical procedure on 25 September 2009. On 29 September, the band announced a collection of studio and live rarities, Backtracks, which was released on 10 November 2009 as a 3×CD/2×DVD/LP box set. On 4 November, AC/DC were announced as the Business Review Weekly top Australian earner (entertainment) for 2009 with earnings of $105 million. This displaced the Wiggles from the number one spot for the first time in four years. On 19 April 2010, AC/DC released Iron Man 2, the soundtrack for the eponymous film which compiled earlier tracks from the band's studio albums.
In June 2010, the band headlined Download Festival at Donington Park, and closed the Black Ice World Tour in Bilbao, Spain on 28 June 2010, after 20 months in which the band went to 108 cities in over 28 countries, with an estimated audience of over five million people. Three concerts in December 2009 at the River Plate Stadium in Argentina were released as the DVD Live at River Plate on 10 May 2011. An exclusive single from the DVD, featuring the songs "Shoot to Thrill" and "War Machine", was issued on Record Store Day.
In June 2011, AC/DC issues AC/DC: Let There Be Rock on DVD and Blu-Ray, which had its theatrical release in 1980. On 19 November 2012, AC/DC released Live at River Plate, their first live album in 20 years. The entire catalogue (excluding T.N.T. (1975), and the Australian versions of the albums High Voltage (1975), Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976), and Let There Be Rock (1977)) became available on the iTunes Store the same day.
Malcolm Young retires (2014–2018)
On 16 April 2014, in response to earlier reports that the band may be disbanding due to Malcolm Young's illness, Brian Johnson commented that AC/DC were not completely disbanding, stating "We are definitely getting together in May in Vancouver. We're going to pick up guitars, have a plonk and see if anybody has got any tunes or ideas. If anything happens we'll record it." In July 2014, AC/DC announced that they had finished recording their next album and that Stevie Young, replaced Malcolm in the studio. On 23 September 2014, AC/DC confirmed that Malcolm had officially departed from the band. Malcolm's last show with the band was on 28 June 2010 in Bilbao, Spain; he died on 18 November 2017 at the age of 64, due to his dementia.
Rudd released his first solo album, Head Job, on 29 August 2014. He confirmed that there would be another AC/DC tour, and stated that the band had no intention of retiring. On 23 September 2014, The band revealed that the band's sixteenth studio album, Rock or Bust, featuring eleven new tracks, would be released on 28 November 2014 as the first AC/DC album in the band's history without Malcolm Young on the recordings. The band also announced plans for a world tour to promote the new album with Stevie Young as Malcolm's replacement.
On 6 November 2014, Rudd was charged with threatening to kill, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of cannabis, following a police raid on his home. AC/DC released a statement clarifying that the tour promoting Rock or Bust would continue, but did not say whether or not Rudd would participate, or if he was still a member of the band.
At the charity signing before the Grammy Awards, the band were photographed together with former drummer Chris Slade. It was later confirmed that he had rejoined the band for the Grammys and upcoming tour. In April 2015, Rudd pleaded guilty to drug charges and threatening to kill a former assistant. Shortly thereafter, the band's web site removed Rudd as the band's drummer and replaced him with Slade. On 9 July 2015, Rudd was denied a discharge without conviction and sentenced to eight months of home detention.
On 7 March 2016, the band announced that the final ten dates of the Rock or Bust World Tour would be rescheduled as Johnson's doctors had ordered him to stop touring immediately – he risked complete deafness if he persisted. The ten cancelled dates would be performed "likely with a guest vocalist" later in the year, leaving Johnson's future in touring with the group uncertain. His most recent show with AC/DC was on 28 February 2016; at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. On 16 April 2016, Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose was announced as the band's lead vocalist for the remainder of their 2016 tour dates.
On 8 July 2016, Cliff Williams indicated he was leaving the band in an interview with Gulfshore Life, saying "It's been what I've known for the past 40 years, but after this tour I'm backing off of touring and recording. Losing Malcolm, the thing with Phil and now with Brian, it's a changed animal. I feel in my gut it's the right thing." At the end of the Rock or Bust World Tour, he released a video statement confirming his departure. His most recent show with AC/DC was in Philadelphia on 20 September 2016.
After completing the tour in 2016, AC/DC went on hiatus. Over the next few years, speculation began that former members Johnson and Rudd were back and working with the band again, after a fan living near the Warehouse Studio in Vancouver claimed to have observed them in the outdoor area of the studio from her apartment window.
Reunion and Power Up (2018–present)
On 28 September 2020, the band updated their social media accounts with a short video clip depicting an illumination of a neon light in the shape of the band's lightning bolt logo. This led to speculation that they were "preparing to announce its comeback, possibly as early as this week or next week." AC/DC officially confirmed, on 30 September 2020, the return of Johnson, Rudd and Williams to the line-up alongside Angus and Stevie Young, reuniting the Rock or Bust version. On 1 October 2020, AC/DC released a snippet of their new song "Shot in the Dark". On 7 October, the band confirmed the upcoming release on 13 November 2020 of their new studio album, Power Up, and released the first single taken from it, "Shot in the Dark". The album's track listing was revealed on their website the same day.
On 31 March 2023, AC/DC revealed that they are set to officially co-headline Power Trip festival, at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, on 7 October, making it their first show in seven years. On 9 September, AC/DC has revealed that Williams will be performing for the festival, after coming out of retirement. They also revealed that American drummer Matt Laug, who also played for many bands/artists such as Slash's Snakepit and Alice Cooper, will also be part of the line-up, while posting rehearsal audio of them playing "If You Want Blood (You've Got It)" to their social media accounts. The band have dropped clues, giving "speculation" that they would be going on another tour in 2024.
According to Vulture music journalist David Marchese, the instrumental foundation of the band's simple sound was the drummer—Rudd, Wright, or Slade—striking the kick drum on the first and third beat of every measure, and the snare drum on the second and fourth beat; bassist Williams consistently downpicking an eighth note; Angus Young performing lead parts that possessed "a clear architecture and even sort of swing, in a frenzied, half-demented way"; and Malcolm Young's "propulsive" yet nuanced rhythm guitar featuring "little chuks, stutters, and silences that give the monstrous riffs life". For the majority of Malcolm Young's tenure in AC/DC, he used a Marshall Super Bass head to amplify his rhythm guitar while recording in the studio. According to Chris Gill of Guitar World, the amplifier helped define his signature guitar tone: "clean but as loud as possible to ride on the razor's edge of power amp distortion and deliver the ideal combination of grind, twang, clang and crunch, with no distorted preamp 'hair,' fizz or compression", as heard on songs such as "Let There Be Rock", "Dirty Deeds", "For Those About to Rock", and "Thunderstruck". During 1978 to 1980, however, Young used a Marshall 2203 100-watt master volume head, which Gill speculates may have contributed to a "slightly more distorted and dark" guitar tone on the albums from that period, including Powerage and Back in Black.
In a comparison of AC/DC's vocalists, Robert Christgau said Bon Scott exhibited a "blokelike croak" and "charm", often singing about sexual aggression in the guise of fun: "Like Ian Hunter or Roger Chapman though without their panache, he has fun being a dirty young man". Johnson, in his opinion, possessed "three times the range and wattage" as a vocalist while projecting the character of a "bloke as fantasy-fiction demigod". By the time Johnson had fully acclimated himself with 1981's For Those About to Rock We Salute You, Christgau said he defined "an anthemic grandiosity more suitable to [the band's] precious-metal status than Bon Scott's old-fashioned raunch", albeit in a less intelligent manner.
Several musicians have credited AC/DC for reasserting hard rock's popularity after it had ceded mainstream attention to other musical genres in the late 1970s. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave noted: "Disco was huge and punk and new wave were ascendant, and along came this AC/DC record (Back in Black) which just destroyed everybody. It put hard rock music back on the throne, where it belongs!"
AC/DC's music was a formative influence on the new wave of British heavy metal bands that emerged in the late 1970s, such as Saxon and Iron Maiden, in part as a reaction to the decline of traditional early 1970s hard rock bands. In 2007, critics noted that AC/DC, along with Thin Lizzy, UFO, Scorpions, and Judas Priest, were among "the second generation of rising stars ready to step into the breach as the old guard waned." Over the years, many prominent rock musicians have gone on to cite AC/DC as an influence, including Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and Kyuss, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, Scott Ian of Anthrax, Eric Peterson of Testament, Dexter Holland of The Offspring, Brian Baker of Bad Religion, Minor Threat, Dag Nasty and Junkyard, and bands such as Metallica, Exodus, and The Living End.
Gene Simmons of hard rock contemporaries Kiss remarked that, "A lot of people look the same and act the same and do the same thing. Every once in a while you see a band like AC/DC. Nobody's like them. We'd like to think we're unique in that way too." Slash of Guns N' Roses called them "with the exception of the [Rolling] Stones, the greatest rock 'n' roll band ever." "I always liked them," said Australian compatriot and singer-songwriter Nick Cave. "We had this TV show called Countdown and they were often on and they were always a riot and absolutely unique. They were a heavy rock band, but Bon Scott would go on Countdown dressed as a schoolgirl and stuff like that. They were always very anarchic and never took the thing too seriously."
With the recording of Back in Black in 1980, rock journalist Joe S. Harrington believed the band had departed further from the blues-oriented rock of their previous albums, and toward a more dynamic attack that adopted punk rock's "high-energy implications" and transmuted their hard rock/heavy metal songs into "more pop-oriented blasts". The band would remain faithful for the remainder of their career, to this "impeccably ham-handed" musical style: "the guitars were compacted into a singular statement of rhythmic efficiency, the rhythm section provided the thunderhorse overdrive, and vocalist Johnson belowed and brayed like the most unhinged practitioner of bluesy top-man dynamics since vintage Robert Plant."
AC/DC have referred to themselves as "a rock and roll band, nothing more, nothing less". In the opinion of Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic, they are "one of the defining acts of '70s hard rock" and reactionary to the period's art rock and arena rock excesses: "AC/DC's rock was minimalist – no matter how huge and bludgeoning their guitar chords were, there was a clear sense of space and restraint." According to Alexis Petridis, their music is "hard-edged, wilfully basic blues-rock" featuring humorous sexual innuendo and lyrics about rock and roll. Music academic Robert McParland described the band's sound as being defined by the heavy rock guitar of the Young brothers, layered power chords, and forceful vocals. "For some, AC/DC are the ultimate heavy metal act", Tim Jonze wrote in The Guardian, "but for others, AC/DC aren't a heavy metal act at all, they're a classic rock band – and calling them heavy metal is an act of treachery." On the controversy of categorising their music, McParland wrote:
AC/DC will assert that they are not specifically a metal band. Their music—loud, hard, and guitar-driven—may best be described as hard rock. However, there are people who will say that they are indisputably metal. Therein lies the ongoing problem of categorisation. While AC/DC has referenced the underworld and they have given their listeners 'Highway to Hell' and 'Hell's Bells,' their songs are constructed on straightforward major and minor power chords. They are not modally developed as are a good deal of heavy metal compositions. Their sound is loud and crisp, not muddy or down-tuned.
Throughout the band's career, their songs have been criticised as simplistic, monotonous, deliberately lowbrow, and sexist. David Marchese from Vulture wrote that, "regardless of the lyricist, whether it was Scott (who was capable of real wit and colour), Johnson, or the Young brothers, there's a deep strain of misogyny in the band's output that veers from feeling terribly dated to straight-up reprehensible." According to Christgau in 1988, "the brutal truth is that sexism has never kept a great rock-and-roller down—from Muddy to Lemmy, lots of dynamite music has objectified women in objectionable ways. But rotely is not among those ways", in regards to AC/DC. Fans of the band have defended their music by highlighting its "bawdy humour", while members of the group have generally been dismissive of claims that their songs are sexist, arguing that they are meant to be in jest. In an interview with Sylvie Simmons for Mojo, Angus called the band "pranksters more than anything else", while Malcolm said "we're not like some macho band. We take the music far more seriously than we take the lyrics, which are just throwaway lines." Marchese regarded the musical aspect of the Youngs' songs "strong enough to render the words a functional afterthought", as well as "deceptively plain, devastatingly effective, and extremely lucrative".
For the book Under My Thumb: Songs That Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them, The Guardian arts critic Fiona Sturges contributed an essay evaluating her love for AC/DC. While acknowledging she is a feminist, and that the band's music is problematic for her, she believed it would be "daft, as opposed to damaging", for female listeners if they can understand the band to be "a bunch of archly sex-obsessed idiots with sharp tunes and some seriously killer riffs". In spite of the "unpleasant sneering quality" of "Carry Me Home"'s claims about a woman who "ain't no lady", the "rape fantasy" of "Let Me Put My Love into You", and the generally one-dimensional portrayals of women, Sturges said songs such as "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "You Shook Me All Night Long" demonstrated that the female characters "are also having a good time and are, more often than not, in the driving seat in sexual terms... it's the men who come over as passive and hopeless, awestruck in the presence of sexual partners more experienced and adept than them."
As with many bands of their era, AC/DC ran afoul of the Satanic panic of the 1980s. This general fear of modern hard rock and heavy metal was greatly increased in the band's case when serial killer Richard Ramirez was arrested. Ramirez, nicknamed the "Night Stalker" by the press, told police that "Night Prowler" from the 1979 Highway to Hell album had driven him to commit murder. Police also claimed that Ramirez was wearing an AC/DC shirt and left an AC/DC hat at one of the crime scenes. Accusations that AC/DC were devil worshippers were made, the lyrics of "Night Prowler" were analysed, and some newspapers attempted to link Ramirez's Satanism with AC/DC's name, arriving at the conclusion that AC/DC actually stood for Anti-Christ/Devil's Child (or Devil's Children).
Awards and achievements
In 1982, the band's first ever nomination from an award show were from the American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Band/Duo/Group. In 1988, AC/DC were inducted in the ARIA Hall of Fame. The municipality of Leganés (near Madrid) named a street in honour of the band as "Calle de AC/DC" ("AC/DC Street") on 22 March 2000. Malcolm and Angus attended the inauguration with many fans. The plaque had since been stolen numerous times, forcing the municipality of Leganés to begin selling replicas of the official street plaque. On 1 October 2004, a central Melbourne thoroughfare, Corporation Lane, was renamed ACDC Lane in honour of the band. The City of Melbourne forbade the use of the slash character in street names, so the four letters were combined. The lane is near Swanston Street where, on the back of a truck, the band recorded their video for the 1975 hit "It's a Long Way to the Top".
AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 10 March 2003. During the ceremony the band performed "Highway to Hell" and "You Shook Me All Night Long", with guest vocals provided by host Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. He described the band's power chords as "the thunder from down under that gives you the second most powerful surge that can flow through your body." During the acceptance speech, Brian Johnson quoted their 1977 song "Let There Be Rock". In May 2003, the Young brothers accepted a Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Service to Australian Music at the APRA Music Awards of 2003, during which Malcolm paid special tribute to Bon Scott, who was also a recipient of the award.
In 2003, Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list included Back in Black at number 73, and Highway to Hell at number 199. They also ranked number 72 on the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, as American record producer Rick Rubin wrote an essay called them the "greatest rock and roll band of all time". In 2004, on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, Rolling Stone included "Back in Black" at number 187, and "Highway to Hell" at number 254. They ranked number 4 on VH1's list of 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock, and number 7 on MTV's Greatest Heavy Metal Band of All Time. They ranked number 23 on VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2010.
They sold over 1.3 million CDs in the US during 2007 despite not having released a new album since 2000 at that point. Additionally, the group's commercial success continues to flourish despite their choice to refrain from selling albums in digital online formats for many years. As of 2023, the band's RIAA US sales figures from 75 million, making AC/DC the fifth-best-selling band in US history and the tenth-best-selling artist, selling more albums than Pink Floyd and Mariah Carey. The RIAA also certified Back in Black as 25× Platinum (25 million) in US sales, which made it the fourth-best-selling album of all time in the US. On 20 November 2015, the band was inducted in the Music Victoria Awards 10th Anniversary Hall of Fame. Angus Young offered a statement, to which he said that it was "an absolute honour" to be recognised in the tenth year of the Hall of Fame.
- Angus Young – lead guitar, occasional backing vocals (1973–present)
- Phil Rudd – drums (1975–1983, 1994–2015, 2018–present)
- Cliff Williams – bass, backing vocals (1977–2016, 2018–present)
- Brian Johnson – lead vocals (1980–2016, 2018–present)
- Stevie Young – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2014–present; touring 1988)
- George Young – bass guitar, rhythm guitar, drums, backing vocals (1974–1975; died 2017)
- Denis Loughlin – lead vocals (1974; died 2019)
- Bruce Howe – bass (1975)
- Paul Gregg – bass (1991)
- Axl Rose – lead vocals (2016)
- Matt Laug – drums (2023–present)
- Malcolm Young – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1973–2014; died 2017)
- Larry Van Kriedt – bass (1973–1974, 1975)
- Dave Evans – lead vocals (1973–1974)
- Colin Burgess – drums (1973–1974; substituted 1975)
- Neil Smith – bass (1974)
- Ron Carpenter – drums (1974)
- Russell Coleman – drums (1974)
- Noel Taylor – drums (1974)
- Rob Bailey – bass (1974–1975)
- Peter Clack – drums (1974–1975)
- Bon Scott – lead vocals (1974–1980; died 1980)
- Paul Matters – bass (1975; died 2020)
- Mark Evans – bass (1975–1977)
- Simon Wright – drums (1983–1989)
- Chris Slade – drums (1989–1994, 2015–2016)
- High Voltage (1975) (Australia only)
- T.N.T. (1975) (Australia only)
- High Voltage (1976) (international version)
- Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976)
- Let There Be Rock (1977)
- Powerage (1978)
- Highway to Hell (1979)
- Back in Black (1980)
- For Those About to Rock We Salute You (1981)
- Flick of the Switch (1983)
- Fly on the Wall (1985)
- Blow Up Your Video (1988)
- The Razors Edge (1990)
- Ballbreaker (1995)
- Stiff Upper Lip (2000)
- Black Ice (2008)
- Rock or Bust (2014)
- Power Up (2020)
- High Voltage European Tour (1976)
- Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap Tour (1976–1977)
- Let There Be Rock Tour (1977)
- Powerage Tour (1978)
- If You Want Blood, You've Got It Tour (1978–1979)
- Highway to Hell Tour (1979–1980)
- Back in Black Tour (1980–1981)
- For Those About to Rock Tour (1981–1982)
- Flick of the Switch Tour (1983–1985)
- Fly on the Wall Tour (1985–1986)
- Who Made Who Tour (1986)
- Blow Up Your Video World Tour (1988)
- Razors Edge World Tour (1990–1991)
- Ballbreaker World Tour (1996)
- Stiff Upper Lip World Tour (2000–2001)
- Black Ice World Tour (2008–2010)
- Rock or Bust World Tour (2015–2016)
- AC/DShe – an all-female tribute band who covers Bon Scott-era material
- Hell's Belles – another all-female tribute band
- Hayseed Dixie – a parody band performing bluegrass-inspired renditions of songs by AC/DC and others
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