AC/DC are an Australian rock band, formed in 1973 by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. A hard rock/blues rock band, they have also been considered a heavy metal band, although they have always dubbed their music simply "rock and roll".
AC/DC underwent several line-up changes before releasing their first album, High Voltage, in 1975. Membership subsequently stabilised until bassist Mark Evans was replaced by Cliff Williams in 1977 for the album Powerage. Within months of recording the album Highway to Hell, lead singer and co-songwriter Bon Scott died on 19 February 1980 after a night of heavy alcohol consumption. The group considered disbanding, but buoyed by support from Scott's parents, decided to continue and set about finding a new vocalist. Ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson was auditioned and selected to replace Bon Scott. Later that year, the band released the new album,
Back in Black, which was made as a tribute to Bon Scott. The album launched them to new heights of success and became their all-time best-seller.
The band's next album, For Those About to Rock We Salute You, was their first album to reach number one in the United States. Drummer Phil Rudd was fired in 1983 and replaced by ex-A II Z drummer Simon Wright, who left to join Dio in 1989. The band experienced a resurgence in the early 1990s with the release of The Razors Edge. Phil Rudd returned in 1994 after Chris Slade, who was with the band from 1989 to 1994, was asked to leave in favour of him, and contributed to the band's 1995 album Ballbreaker. Stiff Upper Lip, released in 2000, was well received by critics. The band's studio album, Black Ice, released in 2008, was the second-highest-selling album of that year, and their biggest chart hit since For Those About to Rock, eventually reaching No.1 on all charts worldwide. The band's line-up remained the same until 2014 with Malcolm Young's retirement due to early-onset dementia and Rudd's legal troubles. In 2016, Johnson was advised to stop touring on account of worsening hearing loss and Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose stepped in as the band's vocalist for the remainder of that year's dates. Long-term bass player Cliff Williams retired from the band at the end of their 2016 Rock Or Bust world tour.
AC/DC have sold more than 200 million records worldwide, including 71.5 million albums in the United States, adding them to the, list of highest-certified music artists in the United States and the list of best-selling music artists. Back in Black has sold an estimated 50 million units worldwide, making it the second-highest-selling album by any artist – and the highest-selling album by any band. The album has sold 22 million units in the US, where it is the sixth-highest-selling album of all time. AC/DC ranked fourth on VH1's list of the "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" and were named the seventh "Greatest Heavy Metal Band of All Time" by MTV. In 2004, AC/DC ranked No. 72 on the Rolling Stone list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". Producer Rick Rubin, who wrote an essay on the band for the Rolling Stone list, referred to AC/DC as "the greatest rock and roll band of all time". In 2010, AC/DC were ranked number 23 in the VH1 list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".
Background and name
Brothers Malcolm, Angus, and George Young were born in Glasgow, Scotland, and moved to Sydney with most of their family in 1963. George was the first to learn to play the guitar. He became a member of The Easybeats, one of Australia's most successful bands of the 1960s. In 1966, they became the first local rock act to have an international hit, with the song "Friday on My Mind". Malcolm followed in George's footsteps by playing with a Newcastle, New South Wales, band called the Velvet Underground (not to be confused with the New York-based Velvet Underground). Their oldest brother Alex Young chose to remain in Britain to pursue musical interests. In 1967, Alexander formed and played bass in the London-based band Grapefruit—initially called "The Grapefruit"—with three former members of Tony Rivers and the Castaways, John Perry, Geoff Swettenham, and Pete Swettenham.
Malcolm and Angus Young developed the idea for the band's name after their sister, Margaret Young, saw the initials "AC/DC" on 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. "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, with the exception of the international version of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.
In November 1973, Malcolm and Angus Young formed AC/DC and recruited bassist Larry Van Kriedt, vocalist Dave Evans, and Colin Burgess, ex-Masters Apprentices drummer. Pushing hard for the band's success were Australia's legendary roadie Ray Arnold and his partner Alan Kissack. Gene Pierson booked the band to play at Bondi Lifesaver on New Year's Eve, 1973.
By this time, Angus Young had adopted his characteristic school-uniform stage outfit. The idea was his sister Margaret's. Angus had tried other costumes: Spider-Man, Zorro, a gorilla, and a parody of Superman, named Super-Ang. 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, who was the original lead singer with Sherbet prior to Daryl Braithwaite. Evans did not get along with Laughlin, which also contributed to the band's ill feeling toward Evans. By the middle of 1974, the band had built up a strong live reputation which led to a support slot for the visiting Lou Reed.
Some time in 1974, on the recommendation of Michael Chugg, veteran Melbourne promoter Michael Browning booked the band to play at his club the Hard Rock. Browning had previously managed Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, unsuccessfully trying to break them into the UK market. He did not like their glam rock image and felt that Evans was the wrong singer for the band, but was impressed by the Young brothers' guitar playing. Shortly afterwards, he received a call from the band; Laughlin had quit as manager, and they were stuck in Adelaide with no money. Browning agreed to bail them out and booked them for another gig at the Hard Rock. Following the gig, they agreed to take him on as their new manager, with the co-operation of their older brother George and Harry Vanda.
The Young brothers decided to abandon the glam rock image which had already been adopted by Melbourne band The Skyhooks and pursue a harder blues-rock sound. To this end they agreed that Evans was not a suitable frontman for the group. Around this time, they also moved their base to Melbourne, where they frequently played at the Hard Rock.
Bon Scott era (1974–1980)
In September 1974, Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott, an experienced vocalist and friend of George Young, replaced Dave Evans after friend Vince Lovegrove recommended him to George Young. Like the Young brothers, Scott had been born in Scotland before emigrating to Australia in his childhood. The band had recorded only one single with Evans, "Can I Sit Next To You, Girl" / "Rockin' in the Parlour"; eventually, the song was re-written and re-recorded with Bon Scott as "Can I Sit Next to You Girl" Track 7 on the Australian album TNT (1975), and Track 6 on the international release of High Voltage (1976).
By October 1974, the Australia-only album High Voltage had been recorded. It took only ten days and was based on instrumental songs written by the Young brothers, with lyrics added by Scott. Within a few months, the band's line-up had stabilised, featuring Scott, the Young brothers, bassist Mark Evans and drummer Phil Rudd. Later that year they released the single "It's a Long Way to the Top", 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. The song is regarded as their perennial rock anthem. It was included on their second album, TNT (1975), which was also released only in Australia and New Zealand. T.N.T. featured the song "High Voltage", which was the first song written and recorded for the album. Because "High Voltage" was released as a single before T.N.T. was released, some people thought it was the title track to AC/DC's debut album.
Between 1974 and 1977, aided by regular appearances on Molly Meldrum's Countdown, the ABC's nationally broadcast pop-music television show, AC/DC became one of the most popular and successful acts in Australia. Their performance on 3 April 1977 was their last live TV appearance for more than 20 years.
High Voltage (1975)
T.N.T. (1975) (Australia only)
High Voltage (1976)
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976)
Let There Be Rock (1977)
Highway to Hell (1979)
Back in Black (1980)
Flick of the Switch (1983)
Fly on the Wall (1985)
Blow Up Your Video (1988)
The Razors Edge (1990)
Stiff Upper Lip (2000)
Black Ice (2008)
Rock or Bust (2014)
Power Up (2020)
Angus Young – lead guitar, occasional backing vocals (1973–present)
Phil Rudd – drums (1975–1983, 1994–2015, 2018–present)
Cliff Williams – bass guitar, backing vocals (1977–2016, 2018–present)
Brian Johnson – lead vocals (1980–2016, 2018–present)
Stevie Young – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2014–present; touring 1988)
Malcolm Young – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1973–2014; died 2017)
Dave Evans – lead vocals (1973–1974)
Larry Van Kriedt – bass, saxophone (1973–1974)
Colin Burgess – drums (1973–1974)
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 guitar (1975–1977)
Simon Wright – drums (1983–1989)
Chris Slade – drums (1989–1994, 2015–2016)
Axl Rose – lead vocals (2016)