Sadly, Malcolm Young, AC/DC founding member, rhythm guitarist, quiet guy, song writer, and Australian badass blazed down the Highway to Hell yesterday morning. It goes without saying – hell must be having the rock concert of eternity right about now. He joins former band frontman Bon Scott in the true land down under, who died in 1980 after choking on his own vomit. That’s the way to go.
Few shook the world as long and hard as legendary rock band AC/DC. Their guitar rifts and rocking drum beats are recognized immediately the world over. Their rock anthems never fail to get stadium crowds on their feet, heads banging and fists pumping – singing loudly, and probably drunkenly. You’d face resistance trying to find a boring – er, static – AC/DC crowd. The energy of their performances were high voltage and infectious.
Every band has its writer. Every group has its poet. While impossibly high note-nailing singer Brian Johnson fronted the group from Scott’s death in 1980 and wrote most of their lyrics since, it was Malcolm who wrote the music. Brother Angus only had to play several notes before the crowd knew what song was coming up – be it Highway to Hell, You Shook Me All Night Long, or any other major hit the group effortlessly produced. While it was Angus playing the chords most people can hum off the top of their head, it was Malcolm who brought the sound into the world. Putting it simply, Angus said long ago – no Malcolm, no AC/DC.
Angus and Malcolm were incredibly close as band mates and as brothers. Malcolm’s leave from the band in 2014 dealt a devastating blow to band morale and especially to Angus. Angus had lamented his brothers battle with dementia as he continued to defiantly perform without his brother and best friend. As it was up until then, Angus skipped around stage in his school boy uniform, playing the power chords and enjoying the limelight, while subtler Malcom strummed away in the background, keeping the party going.
AC/DC’s latest and probably last tour, Rock or Bust, was a commercial blockbuster, selling out around the world. Fans got the opportunity to see their favorite group perform in what many anticipated at the time to be the last tour with longtime members Angus Young and Brian Johnson performing together. The tour was completed without Malcolm Young as he had already been sidelined at the time by his dementia shortly before the tour was set to begin.
In 2016, Brian Johnson finally announced his retirement from the band after years of speculation due to his increasing hearing loss. You can’t rock that hard for that long with no consequences. As of today, Axl Rose (yeah…) is AC/DC’s lead singer. Take that how you will. Whether or not the current AC/DC is actually AC/DC is still up for debate (it’s not, they’re not).
I’ve yet to mention drummers in this article. No AC/DC song is complete without awesome drumming, and no AC/DC article is complete without a nod to the noisemakers. Former AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd got into legal trouble around 2015 for some threats he made after the cops raided his house and confiscated a large amount of drugs. After that, AC/DC decided to bring back drummer Chris Slade who had been in the band roughly 25 years earlier.
For most, Brian’s departure signaled the end of the era. Angus himself has admitted he’s unsure about the band’s future. Malcolm’s passing yesterday will impact the band – it’s just not yet clear how. Will Angus finally put away his school uniform and put on some slacks? Let’s wait and see. One thing’s for sure, this band rocked the world, and we have Malcolm to thank for that.