AC/DC has a secret, and you won’t find it in the myriad of magazine articles, on-line biographies, books, and fansites dedicated to the band. Sure, you’ll see tons of photos and references to lead guitarist Angus Young’s frenetic stage energy while performing in his schoolboy short pants. But understand this : AC/DC was, is, and always will be his big brother Malcolm Young ‘s band.
My initial hunch that this was true came during my first interview with the band, as Angus, singer Brian Johnson, and I were discussing the breakthrough album Highway to Hell (the last with colorful ruffian singer Bon Scott, who died of alcohol poisoning shortly after) and the follow-up with Brian singing, Back in Black . Numerous times during the conversation, both Angus and Brian alluded to what Angus’s older brother, rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, thought, said, or did. It became increasingly apparent as the stories unfolded that, musically and spiritually, Malcolm Young was to whom the others looked. Angus Young may have been chosen early on to be the focal point of AC/DC, but big brother Malcolm has always been the heart and soul of this band, becoming even more so after the death of Bon Scott in 1980.
So a few years later when another AC/DC interview opportunity arose, I insisted that Malcolm be included, and my hunch was quickly confirmed. Malcolm was plain-spoken, unpretentious, wise, and doggedly determined. And while the excellent biographers at AllMusic.com correctly note that AC/DC’s popularity and sales waned from the mid-1980s through the end of the decade, they fail to grasp why: Malcolm’s drinking had increased to a debilitation whereby it was affecting not only his health but his creative leadership of the band, and Mal wisely took a leave of absence for over two years. So it was then no coincidence when a clean and sober Malcolm Young rejoined AC/DC for 1990’s The Razor’s Edge that it became the quintet’s biggest seller and best-reviewed album since Back in Black a decade earlier.Even unable to tour or record, nevertheless it’s Malcolm’s band.
AC/DC’s current Rock or Bust tour wraps up the European leg in Finland and Warsaw Poland this week before busting North America with stadium shows beginning August 22 in Boston/ Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium and running through September. Then AC/DC will be heading down under beginning November 4 in Sydney. -Redbeard