In The Beginning...
Glasgow, Scotland, in the early 1960s was a rough, crowded industrial town
whose depressed economy offered few options for working-class families. At
the same time that much of Britain was experiencing economic hard times, a
postwar boom was still in force in Australia. That underpopulated continent,
bursting with natural resources but lacking sufficient population to fully
exploit them, was particularly eager to encourage struggling Brits to
emigrate to its shores. In addition, the Australian government had
instituted a massive immigration program, which allowed immigrants to sail
southward for a mere ten pounds a head.
So, in 1963, William and Margaret Young emigrated to Australia with eight of
their nine children. They settled in Sydney, New South Wales. When the Young
family moved to Sydney, George formed The Easybeats with Johannes Jacob
Hendrickus Vandenberg, better known as Harry Vanda. The quintet quickly made
their mark on the Sydney scene and were to become Australia's biggest pop
act during the mid-'60s. In 1966, the band headed to the UK and quickly
established themselves in Britain. However, in 1970, The Easybeats
disbanded; Vanda and Young returned to Sydney to work for Ted Albert in his
newly formed Albert Productions organisation. But the success of The
Easybeats was to have an enormous impact on George Young's brothers Malcolm
Malcolm picked up the guitar first, graduating quickly from acoustic to
electric. With ad hoc advice along the way from George he made rapid
progress. Angus messed around with his older brother's guitars before his
mother finally bought him his own.
Malcolm left school at 15 and found gainful employment as a machine
maintenance engineer for a bra company (Berlei Bras). In 1971, he joined up
a band called Velvet Underground (no relation to the Lou Reed band).
Ironically, the original singer in the band was called Brian Johnson.
In 1972, George invited Malcolm and Angus to join with his new band, the
Marcus Hook Roll Band, for the recording sessions of his album 'Tales of Old
Granddady'. In fact, George and Harry didn't take the project very seriously
so they though it would be a good idea to include George's brothers to give
them an idea of what recording was all about. That was the first thing
Malcolm and Angus did before AC/DC.
At fourteen and nine months (the legal age you could leave school), Angus
left and went to work for a soft porn magazine called Ribald as a printer.
Meanwhile, Angus had already formed his own band, Tantrum, and had become
proficient as a musician through playing along to any records he could find.
When the Velvet Underground fell apart in 1973, Malcolm determined to put
together a new one-guitar band with a keyboard player. But Malcolm changed
his mind and decided he needed a second guitar player to fill out the sound
and turned to Angus for help.
Malcolm's vision for his new band was a hard-edged boogie sound married to
the in-vogue image of long hair and stack-heeled boots. For experience,
Malcolm called on the services of drummer Colin Burgess, who had experience
in several bands, bassist Larry Van Knedt and singer Dave Evans. Their name,
AC/DC, came from the back of a vacuum cleaner. "AC/DC, it has something to
do with electricity", Malcolm's sister Margaret said.
The abbreviation stands for Alternating Current/Direct Current in
electrical parlance. However, in their naivety the Young brothers were
ignorant of the term's bisexual connotations, and the band were to spend the
next few years vehemently insisting on their heterosexuality.
Their first performance was on New Year's Eve, 1973, in a small Sydney club
called Chequers. They played a covers set of the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry
and the Beatles. AC/DC was born!
It's A Long Way To The Top
In the next six months following their first concert, the AC/DC lineup
changed a lot. Drummer Colin Burgess was successively replaced by Ron
Carpenter, Russel Coleman and Peter Clack whilst Rob Bailey replaced Larry
Van Knedt on bass.
In June 1974, AC/DC record their first single in Albert Studios, Sydney. The
current lineup was then Malcolm Young, Angus Young, Dave Evans, Rob Bailey
and Peter Clack. Two songs were recorded, 'Can I Sit Next To You Girl' and
'Rockin' In The Parlour', produced by Harry Vanda and George Young. The
single was released in Australia during July on Albert Records and in New
Zealand on Polydor. It became a minor regional hit in Perth and Adelaide.
Then began a heavy club tour across Australia. In Melbourne, they played at
the Hard Rock Café which was owned by Michael Browning who became AC/DC's
manager. Browning proved to be a shrewd choice as manager and was to make
some vital decisions for the band during the next few years. His first and
most important decision was the hiring of a driver to ferry the band around,
a guy called Ronald Belford Scott, know to all as 'Bon'. Bon Scott persuaded
the Young brothers to give him a chance as drummer and then as singer. After
they tried him out, Bon took Dave Evans' place as AC/DC's frontman.
In January 1975, AC/DC recorded their debut album called 'High Voltage' with
the lineup Malcolm young, Angus Young, Bon Scott, George Young (on bass) and
Tony Kerrante (on drums). The record was cut in 10 days and came out in
February 1975. 'High Voltage' was an immediate success in Australia. The
album and its first single, 'Baby Please Don't Go', entered the Australian
charts in March.
In June 1975, the band released a non-LP single, 'High Voltage' (originally
written for the 'High Voltage' album but not completed in time). The single
coincided with a show at Melbourne's Festival Hall. AC/DC's set was shot by
a four-camera film crew, for the purpose of producing a promotional video
clip to be used by management in its attempts to raise overseas record
company interest in the band.
Finally, AC/DC found a stable lineup when Phil Rudd and Mark Evans came in
on drums and bass. Their second album called 'T.N.T.' was released at the
end on 1975. It was a huge success, selling more than 100,000 copies and
AC/DC became by the way the biggest rock'n'roll band in Australia. But what
does it mean on a worldwide level.
While their popularity in Australia was growing at a faster rate than the
band could have anticipated, AC/DC's attempts to achieve international
recognition had thus far failed to bear fruit. But if the band was to make a
significant long-term impression on overseas markets, it would need the
support of a powerful record company with the experience and marketing clout
to match the band's ambition. Michael Browning found that support in the
London office of the US-based Atlantic Records. So, in the Spring of 1976,
AC/DC signed a worldwide deal with Atlantic Records. They decided to
relocate to the UK to further their career. They landed in Britain on April
Meanwhile, AC/DC had recorded their third album in January 1976 in
Australia. The first single taken from the album was 'Jailbreak' on the
A-side and 'Fling Thing', a traditional Scottish folk song arranged by the
Young brothers, on the B-side. The album itself came out in Australia in
September and was titled 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap'.
When they arrived in the UK, the Punk was sweeping the nation. AC/DC made
their first live performances in the UK during April 1976 at the Red Cow pub
in Hammersmith, West London, followed by other dates at small clubs across
Britain. Before touring on a large scale, AC/DC made other debut
appearances, opening for the Back Street Crawlers. The tour was a great
success for AC/DC.
At the end of the tour, on May 14, Atlantic's British division issued 'High
Voltage' in the UK. The British 'High Voltage' is a compilation of tracks
from their first two Australian albums. All of Side One is taken from the
'T.N.T.' album, Side Two takes 'T.N.T.', 'Can I Sit Next To You Girl' and
'High Voltage' from 'T.N.T.', plus 'Little Lover' and 'She's Got Balls' from
the Australian 'High Voltage' album.
With this first album now officially on the British market, a tour of twenty
venues around Britain was set up, dubbed 'Lock Up Your Daughters'. AC/DC's
fifty-minute live set was part of a program featuring a live DJ and film
clips of other bands. The tour was a success even if some venues ran into
In July 1976, AC/DC got a weekly Monday residency at the Marquee Club in
London. The gigs eventually attracted more than 1,000 people at a time while
the official capacity of the club was not more than 700. The Marquee gigs
firmly established AC/DC as virtually the only non-Punk band doing anything
exciting in London in 1976.
This Marquee residency led to an offer to support Ritchie Blackmore's
Rainbow in Europe during August for a nineteen-date tour. It was preceded by
three headlining gigs in Germany, where 'High Voltage' had sold 16,000
copies in its first week of release.
On August 29, AC/DC played their biggest show at England's Reading
Rock Festival, in front of a crowd numbering fifty thousand. Unfortunately,
AC/DC's set was something of a misfire, apparently due more to an
unenthusiastic crowd than a substandard performance.
In December 1976, 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' was released in Britain. The
British version of the album did not contain 'Jailbreak' and 'R.I.P. (Rock
in Peace)' that were replaced by 'Rocker' (from the 'T.N.T.' album) and the
previously unreleased 'Love At First Feel' that the band would release as a
single in Australia in January 1977.
In December, the band flew back to Australia. The Australian tour, which
marked AC/DC's return home after an eight-month absence, saw the group
welcomed as conquering heroes. After the tour, the band took a short break
around Christmas. They remained in Australia during the first two months of
1977 to record their fourth album 'Let There Be Rock' at Albert Studios in
After a few more gigs in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, AC/DC returned to
the UK in February 1977 to begin a 26-date tour around the country from
February 18 to March 1. The tour was immediately followed by a second
European tour supporting Black Sabbath. AC/DC was widely reported to be
blowing the headliners off the stage every night. Unfortunately, an
altercation occurred between bassist Geezer Butler and Malcolm Young. AC/DC
were kicked off the tour and returned to London.
At the end of June 1977, AC/DC and Mark Evans parted company. Within 24
hours of Evans telling the band that he was off, the name of Cliff Williams
came to the fore. Michael Browning had heard about him from a mutual
acquaintance, and immediately made contact. Cliff Williams walked into his
audition and got the job.
The next step in AC/DC's conquest of the world was the conquest of the
United States. Meanwhile, the British version of 'High Voltage' had been
released in America during October 1976. 'Let There Be Rock' was to be
released in the US in June, four months before Europe and three months after
AC/DC's first US tour started in the Southern part of the country during the
Summer and ended in the Winter, taking them from Texas to Florida. In
Florida, they played their first major US gig in front of 13,000 people at
the outdoor Hollywood Spartatorium.
AC/DC's first trek across the States was a case of small clubs at one end
and huge arenas, opening for Reo Speedwagon, in the other. The US tour
reached a peak at the Palladium and the CBGB's club in New York. At New
York's Palladium, Angus used a cordless guitar for the first time.
On October 14, 'Let There Be Rock', recorded in January/February 1977,
finally saw the light in Britain after lengthy delays. In November, the
album reached No. 17 in the British charts. The US tour was broken in the
Fall by a third tour of Europe and Britain in order to promote their new
album. As expected, this time they toured Europe as headliners.
In November/December 1977, back in the States, AC/DC opened for Rush and
Kiss. In New York, the band performed a show for radio broadcast at
Atlantic's own recording studios on Broadway, on December 7. The set was
sent out to radio DJs as a 'For Promotional Use Only' LP titled 'Live From
The Atlantic Studios'. These days very few copies of that limited edition
record exist, but it has been released as different bootleg albums since
After the traditional New Year break in Sydney, AC/DC returned to Albert
Studios with Harry Vanda and George Young to record their next album between
February and March 1978. The album called 'Powerage' was released in the UK
on April 28. A month later it reached No. 26 in the British charts.
The Powerage World Tour began on April 26 with 28 major venues in Britain.
The UK tour finished on May 29 and AC/DC took flight for the United States
once more for support slots with Rainbow, Savoy Brown, Alice Cooper,
Journey, Aerosmith, Scorpions and UFO.
The band played nearly 100 shows during this period in the States, ranging
from small clubs to an appearance at the prestigious Day On The Green
outdoor festival in San Francisco during August. AC/DC's reputation was
growing considerably in the States. By the end of the US tour, 'Powerage'
had sold on a quarter of a million copies in America.
The design of the Powerage tour brochure prefigured the cover for the band's
long awaited live album. 'If You Want Blood You've Got It' was recorded
during the earlier months of 1978 and released at the end of the US tour in
October, mere six months after the release of 'Powerage'. The album reached
No. 13 in the UK charts and breached the US Top 50 for the first time. A
maxi-single, available on both seven-inch and 12-inch format, was issued by
Atlantic shortly after the album. It combined live rendition of 'Whole Lotta
Rosie' and 'Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be'.
AC/DC promoted the live album by heading straight out on tour in the UK
during early November for a series of 16 dates in just 18 days. Extra nights
were slotted in everywhere along the way, as the band literally exploded in
On The Highway To Glory
'If You Want Blood You've Got It' closed the first stage of AC/DC's career.
Atlantic suggested a change of producer. Eddie Kramer, who in the past had
been associated with Jimi Hendrix, Kiss and Led Zeppelin, was the first
choice to produce AC/DC's next album. But things just didn't work out.
Eventually, Robert John 'Mutt' Lange was chosen to produce the album.
As well as changing producer, AC/DC also changed studios, moving into the
Roundhouse Studios in Chalk Farm, London. Those changes were followed by a
change in management, from Michael Browning to Peter Mensch of the powerful
New York-based Leber and Krebs organization.
AC/DC which had not previously recorded outside Australia and had never
spent more than three weeks working on an album, spent six months in the
Roundhouse Studios with 'Mutt' Lange working on the new record. Lange did an
admirable job of refining and sharpening AC/DC's sound without losing the
raw edge that was the source of the band's original appeal.
Released on July 27, 'Highway To Hell' quickly became the band's first UK
Top Ten hit, peaking at No. 8, and their first US Top Twenty, reaching No.
17. It was even a hit in Australia, where it made it to No. 24, making it
the first AC/DC album to chart there in nearly three years. 'Highway To
Hell' received the most positive press of the band's career.
The band spent the remainder of 1979 touring in the United States and
Britain, though still not in Australia, where the album was not released
until October. In the States, AC/DC played a handful of headlining shows
while opening other concerts for the likes of Cheap Trick, UFO and Ted
Nugent. But not all headliners regarded the idea of sharing the stage with
AC/DC with enthusiasm. In attempting to book the US Highway To Hell Tour,
AC/DC was turned down by Foreigner, Van Halen and Sammy Hagar.
The British leg of the Highway To Hell tour took in dates in Newcastle,
Glasgow, Liverpool, Stafford and London's Hammersmith Odeon, with Def
Leppard as support act. It began on October 26 at the Mayfair in Newcastle
and ended on November 9 at Leicester's De Monfort Hall.
On August 18, AC/DC played the biggest show of their career thus far in the
UK. It was at Wembley Stadium in London, opening for The Who. Despite sounds
problems, AC/DC's set won excellent notice and was undoubtedly helpful in
expanding the group's audience. The Wembley gig did a lot for AC/DC's
credibility and confidence, and led to more outdoor dates with The Who in
Before the by-now-traditional Christmas break in Australia, the band made an
extensive tour of Europe. AC/DC ended the year by playing a date in Paris
which was filmed for a long-form video issued in 1980 and titled 'Let There
In January 1980, the band flew to France at the annual Midem music-industry
convention, at which they were presented with an armload of gold and silver
discs for sales in France and Canada. They also played some dates in
Newcastle and Southampton for shows canceled on the last British tour and
taped an appearance on British TV's 'Top of the Pops' to promote the current
UK single 'Touch Too Much'.
On January 27, 1980, Bon Scott appeared for the last time onstage with the
A Touch Too Much
"Body of 33-year old Bon Scott was found dead last night in a parked car in
Dulwich, South London"
(BBC Radio London, February 21, 1980)
On Tuesday, February 19, Bon Scott went to tour manager Ian Jeffrey's house
for dinner, leaving at about 6.30 p.m. to go to the Music Machine in London.
When the club closed up its bar at 3 am, Bon left with an old friend,
Alisdair Kinnear. Kinnear drove Bon back to his flat at Ashley Court but
upon arrival, he couldn't move Bon. He was then left with the one
alternative of driving Bon back to his own pad in Dulwich. On arriving home,
however, he still couldn't wake Bon. He tried to lift him out of the car,
but was unable to. He eventually decided to leave him in the car for the
night and went to bed.
Kinnear awoke early in the evening on the 20th, checked on Bon, and found
him unconscious in the car. He rushed him to King's College Hospital, but by
then it was too late to save Bon's life. Bon was pronounced dead on arrival
The autopsy was held on Friday, February 22. The verdict was 'Death by
Misadventure - Acute Alcoholic Poisoning'. The coroner reported that Bon's
stomach had been found to contain the equivalent of half a bottle of whiskey
at the moment of death. Sometime during the night Bon, who had been lying in
an awkward position with his neck twisted, had vomited and choked to death.
After the autopsy, Bon's body was flown out to Australia to be cremated by
his family. Bon was cremated in Fremantle, on Friday, February 29, his ashes
buried the following day in the Fremantle Cemetery's Memorial Garden.
Back In Black
During the first weeks after Bon's death, the members of AC/DC didn't know
what to do: whether to continue without Bon or split up. Of course, AC/DC
could never be the same without Bon; when he died, something of AC/DC died
with him. But Malcolm and Angus decided Bon would have wanted AC/DC to
continue. So they pulled themselves together, and got down to the task of
finding a new singer.
By the beginning of March, the media had lined up a number of likely
candidates: former Easybeats vocalist Stevie Wright, an Australian called
Alan Fryer (who was found too similar to Bon), and Londoner Gary Holton.
Eventually a shortlist of two was drawn up: Terry Schlesher and Brian
At the time, Brian Johnson was busy trying to get Geordie back together. But
he took time out to audition, running through just two numbers with the
band, namely 'Whole Lotta Rosie' and the Ike and Tina Turner 'Nutbush City
Limits'. The following Saturday night, Malcolm called him and told him he
had the job.
The recording sessions of AC/DC's eighth album took place at Compass Point
Studios, in the Bahamas, under the production guidance of John 'Mutt' Lange.
It was recorded during April and throughout May, over a period of six weeks.
The album was completed by the end of May. On July 1, Brian Johnson made his
debut appearance onstage with AC/DC at Namur in Belgium.
'Back In Black' was released on July 31. Within a couple of weeks, it was
top of the UK charts and it stayed No. 1 for two weeks. In November, it
reached No. 4 in the US charts and lingered in the top ten for over five
months. In Australia, it went to No. 2. By now, Back In Black has sold over
ten million copies worldwide, making it the biggest selling 'Heavy Metal'
album of all times.
AC/DC hit the road for the first time with Brian Johnson in August. They
toured in America for two months, then Britain through into November, and
then in December finally returned to Australia. They toured in their home
country for the first time since 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap'. The year
1981 began with some more dates in Japan and Australia.
Demand for AC/DC grew to such a point in America that Atlantic finally
released the initially rejected 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' album in May
1981. It went No. 3 in the US charts where it sat for four weeks (from May
23 to June 20) and even topped 'Back In Black'.
In June 1981, in the very first issue of Kerrang!, AC/DC were officially
credited as having recorded the greatest Metal song of all times, when
'Whole Lotta Rosie' was voted top Heavy Metal song.
On August 22, 1981, AC/DC received the final confirmation that they were now
one of the very biggest rock bands in the world. They were offered the
chance to headline the second annual Castle Donington Monsters Of Rock
Load Up Your Cannons
The recording of AC/DC's next album took place in Paris with 'Mutt' Lange.
The task wasn't proving easy. The main cause of concern was the fact that
Lange was apparently finding it very difficult to get the right kind of
sound for the record. Lange solved the sound problems by hiring a mobile
recording unit from England.
The album, titled 'For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)' was released in
November 1981 and was immediately a worldwide commercial success. It climbed
to No. 3 in the UK charts. Just prior the release of their new album, no
less than seven AC/DC albums appeared in Kerrang!'s All-Time Top 100 Heavy
Metal Albums chart. In February 1982, 'Let's Get It Up' became the band's
biggest hit single to date, making No. 13. Later in July, the title track
itself made No. 15 in the UK charts.
In America, AC/DC were still increasing in fame. 'For Those About To Rock'
became their first chart-topping album in the US. A huge tour of the States
proved that they were attracting bigger audiences than ever.
The 'Cannon and Bell' tour reached the UK during late September. This time
the band moved out of the halls and into the arenas, playing the likes of
the Birmingham NEC and Wembley Arena in London.
By the end of 1982, AC/DC's position as the top rock band around was
cemented when Kerrang! published the results of his readers' poll. AC/DC
were voted 'Top Band', Angus was 'Top Guitarist', Cliff was 'Top Bassist',
the band were voted as having produced the 'Best Live Gig' and 'For Those
About To Rock' was the 'Best Single'. Brian was third top male vocalist,
Phil was second best drummer, 'Let's Get It Up' finished sixth best single
and Angus was amazingly second as 'Male Pin-Up'.
Fire Your Guns
After touring the most of 1982, the band took a long break. It was several
months before AC/DC start working on their next album. The recording
sessions took place at Compass Point Studios in Nassau.
Midway through the recording sessions, Phil Rudd was fired. At the time, no
reasons were given for his sudden departure. But years later, with Phil's
drug problems no longer a secret, the truth emerged. On the 'Cannon and
Bell' tour, he was hallucinating about finding strangers in his room. To
make matters worse, there were personal difficulties between Malcolm and
Phil. Their relationship progressively deteriorated, to the point where a
physical confrontation eventually took place. Two hours later Phil was
flying home; he was out.
The new record was engineered and mixed by Tony Platt and produced by the
band themselves. Released in August 1983, 'Flick Of The Switch' eventually
reached No. 4 in the UK charts. But 'Flick Of The Switch' was a relative
commercial slip. It only reached No. 15 in the US charts. In the 1984
Kerrang!'s readers' poll, AC/DC won no category, ending up as fifth top band
and were also considered eighth biggest disappointment of the year.
Returning to London the band desperately sought a replacement for Phil
Rudd. Eventually an anonymous ad was placed in the music press: 'Heavy Rock
drummer wanted. If you don't hit hard, don't apply'. After a number of trial
runs, 20-year-old Simon Wright was given the job. By October 1983, Simon had
made his live debut in Vancouver, Canada.
During the Winter, AC/DC toured through the States and Canada. On August 19,
1984 AC/DC became the first band to return as headliners at the fourth
Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington. After Donington, the band
undertook a series of dates in Europe, which included more 'Monsters Of
Rock'. However the biggest festival of all came in January when AC/DC joined
in the very first Rock In Rio in Brazil. The band did two nights at the
After Rio, the band took another lengthy break...
Back in Business
It wasn't until the Spring of 1985 that AC/DC regrouped to work on their new
album at Mountain Studios near Montreux, in Switzerland. Happy with the raw
sound they'd achieved with 'Flick Of The Switch', Malcolm and Angus decided
again to produce by themselves.
'Fly On The Wall' was released on June 28. Despite the general critical
thumbs-down, the album did reach No. 7 in the UK charts. The first single
taken from the album, 'Danger', only made No. 48.
In addition to the album, there was a 28-minute long-form video titled 'Fly
On The Wall', which featured six songs from the album. The concept was based
around the band playing a gig in a small New York club full of shady
The Fly On The Wall world tour began with another visit to the States. In
January 1986, AC/DC played 6 shows in the UK and 18 more in Europe until
On February 16, the band returned to London to start work on a video for
their next single. During January, 'Shake Your Foundations' had become their
most successful single since 'For Those About To Rock' when it reached No.
24 in the UK charts.
During the 1985 American tour, AC/DC were approached by horror-writer
Stephen King, a huge AC/DC fan, who'd asked whether he could use some old
material for the soundtrack of his forthcoming movie 'Maximum Overdrive'. He
also suggested the band record some new tracks exclusively for the film.
Recording took place at Compass Point Studios in Nassau when the US Tour had
been completed. For the first time since 'If You Want Blood You've Got It',
the new material was produced by Harry Vanda and George Young. In just two
weeks they recorded three new songs: 'Who Made Who', 'D.T.' and 'Chase The
Ace'. The video was filmed at the Brixton Academy in South London at the end
On May 3, 'Who Made Who' was issued, becoming the band's biggest hit in
years as it soared to No. 16 in the UK charts. A month later, the album
reached No. 11 in Britain. In America, the album only reached No. 33.
On the back of the film's appearance in the US, AC/DC again took the road in
July. Originally planned to finish in September, the demand for extra dates
prolonged the US tour until November.
At the end of the tour, the band took a two-month break before beginning the
recording sessions for their next album.
That's The Way...
After an extensive search for the right location, the studio chosen for
recording the next album was Miraval in the South of France. Recording
officially began in August. Harry Vanda and George Young came back to act as
producers on a full album for the first time since 1978. No less than 19
songs were recorded for the new album but when the tapes were shipped across
to New York to be mixed during the autumn, only the strongest ten survived.
The first single from the album, entitled 'Heatseeker', was released on
January 4, 1988. It quickly rose to No. 12 in the UK charts. The album
itself, 'Blow Up Your Video', was released at the end of January and reached
No. 2 in the UK charts, the best position since 'Back In Black'. In the US,
meantime, it reached No. 12.
After three days of rehearsals at the Entertainment Center in Perth,
Australia, the tour finally began on February 1. It was the first show AC/DC
had done anywhere in over a year and the first show in Australia since 1981.
And to make the occasion even more special, Isa and Chick Scott, Bon's
parents, were present in the audience. The show was dominated by Bon Scott
songs because in Australia, Bon Scott IS AC/DC.
After two nights in Perth, four at the National Tennis Centre in Melbourne,
three at the Entertainment Centre in Sydney, one at the Globe Derby in
Adelaide and two at the Entertainment Centre in Brisbane, AC/DC had played
to over 130,000 fans in three weeks.
After their successful return to Australia, the band headed to the UK. But
they only played in two cities in the British Isles, Birmingham and London.
After the run at Wembley Arena in London, the band headed out to Europe,
before coming back to the UK to finish off this leg of the tour with a final
date on April 13 at Wembley Arena.
But Malcolm Young would not be joining the band for the forthcoming US tour.
Malcolm felt in desperate need of a rest from touring, principally to kick a
drinking habit which escalated during long tours. The official reason at the
time of his departure was 'exhaustion'.
AC/DC called up another member of the Young family, nephew Stevie Young, and
continued as if nothing had happened. Not only did Stevie know all of AC/DC
songs off by heart but he was Malcolm's double physically as well. Stevie's
first show with the band was at the Cumberland Civic Center in Portland,
Maine, on May 3.
The US tour proved to be an enormous success for AC/DC. The band sold out
more or less everywhere they played. Within a matter of weeks 'Blow Up Your
Video' had become AC/DC's biggest selling album since 'For Those About To
Rock'. The tour ended up at the end of the year.
On The Razor's Edge
Meanwhile back in Sydney, Malcolm was slowly recovering from his problems.
In the first few months of 1989, he and Angus spent some time in London (at
Malcolm's house) and in Holland (at Angus' house) working on basic riffs and
melody lines for the next album.
When work began on the material for the next allbum, rumours spread that
Brian Johnson had left the band. Brian hadn't in fact left, he was simply
tied up in the States finalising his divorce and straightening out various
legal problems. This was the reason why he was unable to get involved in the
writing of the lyrics of the new songs. So Malcolm and Angus wrote the words
for the first time without the band's singer.
But there was a line-up change on the horizon. Whilst Malcolm and Angus were
busy working on material, Simon was approached by Ronnie James Dio to play
on the next Dio album 'Lock Up The Wolves'. This was meant to be merely a
session situation for Simon, to fill in time before AC/DC went back into the
studio. But a few months later it was announced that Simon had been inducted
as a full member of Dio's band.
Now without a drummer, AC/DC started rehearsals for the new album in a barn
close to Brighton. In November 1989, they brought in Chris Slade on a purely
temporary basis, at the suggestion of their management. But as work on the
album progressed Chris was asked to join.
After rehearsals in Brighton, the band headed for Windmill Road Studios in
Ireland to start work on the album proper. This time the band elected to
work with Canadian producer Bruce Fairbairn. The album was completed within
six weeks at Little Mountain Studios in Vancouver, Canada.
First release from the album was the single 'Thunderstruck', which reached
No. 13 in the UK charts. The album, entitled 'The Razors Edge', was released
through the band's new label Atco in September. The album proved to be a
huge seller, reaching No. 4 in the UK charts and getting up to No. 2 in the
US. 'The Razors Edge' took AC/DC's global album sales past the 60 million
copies. In addition, they also breached the Top 40 singles chart in Britain
with 'Moneytalks' and 'Are You ready".
Two long-form video collections were also released during this period,
namely 'Who Made Who', featuring footage covering the years between
1980-1986, and 'Clipped', which included all of the promotional videos from
'Blow Up Your Video' and 'The Razors Edge'.
With a whole new stage-show, the Razors Edge world tour began in America. By
March 20 AC/DC were starting their European tour in Helsinki. The British
leg of the tour began at Wembley Arena on April 15. After Europe, AC/DC
returned to the States in May for the third leg of the world tour.
In August, the band was back to Europe for Donington and a series of 20
Monsters Of Rock festivals across the continent in 18 cities. This included
one free show at the Tushino Airfield in Moscow on September 28 that
attracted an estimated 500,000 fans.
The Moscow concert was presented as a "celebration of democracy and freedom"
staged as a gift to Russian youth for their resistance against the recent
failed military coup. The show was televised in Russia, filmed for a
documentary by music-video director Wayne Isham and recorded for a projected
live album. The Russian concert was particularly significant in light of the
fact that most Western rock music was outlawed in the USSR until the rise of
glasnost. Although AC/DC had long been popular among Soviet youth, the
band's recordings could only be obtained on the black market.
Last Action Heroes
During the Razors Edge world tour, the band had recorded several shows.
Among the shows recorded was the historic date in Moscow. And Donington was
filmed by director David Mallet using no less than 22 cameras.
The release date for the first live album featuring Brian Johnson was set
for October 29. It was simply titled 'Live'. The production was handled by
Bruce Fairbairn. The album was released in various versions (a fourteen-song
single CD, a specially packaged twenty-three-song double CD and a
The album was preceded by a single, 'Highway To Hell (Live), on October 5.
And in addition, the live video shot at Donington, titled 'AC/DC Live At
Donington', came out at the end of the year. The video, shot on high-quality
35-millimeter film, did a good job of capturing the atmosphere of the AC/DC
live experience, in a manner considerably more advanced than its predecessor
'Let There Be Rock'.
During the Summer 1993, AC/DC recorded a new song, 'Big Gun', for the
soundtrack of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie 'Last Action Hero'. The hugely
expensive film proved to be a monumental flop, but its soundtrack album
(also featuring tracks by Alice In Chains, Queensryche, Anthrax, Def
Leppard, Megadeth, Tesla, Fishbone and Cypress Hill) was considerably more
successful. 'Big Gun' was produced by Rick Rubin. It was released as a
single by Atlantic on June 28. The video for 'Big Gun' actually featured
Schwarzenegger himself wearing a schoolboy uniform similar to that worn by
In addition, a long-form video titled 'For Those About To Rock We Salute
You' was put out. It was a 84-minute documentation of the historic Moscow
show, featuring footage from all the bands on the bill: AC/DC, Metallica,
the Black Crowes, Pantera and E.S.T.
Harder Than A Rock
At the dawn of 1995, rumours spread that Phil Rudd was back in the band. At
the end of the last tour, Malcolm and Angus met Phil Rudd in New Zealand.
Phil asked if there was any chance of playing with the band again. So, when
the band were rehearsing in England in early 1995, they asked him to sit
down on the drums.
AC/DC began recording the new album in New York, but, unhappy with the sound
they were getting, decided to move to Los Angeles in Ocean Way Studios where
they find the kind of sound they were looking for. After the success of 'Big
Gun', the band chose Rick Rubin to produce the new album.
In the first days of September 1995, the first single from the new album was
released, called 'Hard As A Rock'. The album itself, 'Ballbreaker', was
released on September 22. To accompany Ballbreaker's first single, the band
shot another video, their seventh collaboration with director David Mallet.
For the occasion, four hundred London-area AC/DC fans were driven by bus to
a soundstage at Bray Studios in Windsor. Angus spent much of the shoot
hanging in midair on a giant demolition ball, on which he eventually came
crashing through a window amidst a hail of candy-glass shrapnel and
The Ballbreaker world tour began in the States on January 12 in Greensboro,
North Carolina, with The Poor as support act. But only two weeks after the
beginning of the American tour, the band was forced to cancel four dates,
because of the unexpected death of Brian Johnson's father. Brian left the
tour in San Antonio on January 28 and immediately flew home to Britain to
attend funeral services. He was back for the Oakland show on February 3.
The American part of the Ballbreaker tour ended in Dallas on April 4. On
April 20, the European tour began in Oslo with the British band The
Wildhearts opening for them. In July, the band played three nights in the
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid, Spain. The second show was filmed
for a video project. The European part of the Ballbreaker tour ended on July
13 in Bordeaux, France, with a small festival with the French band
Silmarils, The Wildhearts and Brazilian trashers Sepultura.
For more details on AC/DC's history, have a look at the following books:
Hell Ain't No Bad Place To Be by Richard Bunton
Shock To The System by Mark Putterford
AC/DC - The world's most electrifying rock'n'roll band! by Malcolm Dome
AC/DC - The World's Heaviest Rock by Martin Huxley