In the beginning, back in 1955…

After forty years of life dedicated to AC/DC, guitarist and founding member Malcolm Young is taking a break from the band due to ill health. Malcolm would like to thank the group’s diehard legions of fans worldwide for their never-ending love and support.

In light of this news, AC/DC asks that Malcolm and his family’s privacy be respected during this time. The band will continue to make music.

And like that, AC/DC is over.

Well, perhaps not over. They’re not saying that. Malcolm could well recover and come back to the stage, chunking out those riffs pretty much everyone knows so well. After all, it is his band, no matter how much adulation the frontmen (and I’m a Bon guy all the way, thanks) or the hyperactive brother may receive. It’s Malcolm’s outfit, and he’s the power behind the juggernaut. But without him – well, it wouldn’t really be the same, would it? In the same way Mick Jagger admits that without Charlie Watts, there are no Stones, without Malcolm there really isn’t an AC/DC. 

There’s more information on what may be happening to be found in an excellent blogpost over here. I hope that everything goes as well as it can, and that Malcolm is indeed able to get back to where he was.

But it’s a sad time, for sure. I’m pretty certain most Aussies my age would know AC/DC pretty well, and almost everyone would have to be au fait with one or two of their tunes, at least. I mean, they’re one of the biggest-selling bands of all time, right? I first heard them on a compilation double-tape set played in the car during a childhood trip from Orange, NSW to Sydney. TNT was one of the tracks, You Shook Me All Night Long was the other. I had been aware of the songs before that, but something in those two, in that car really sparked my interest.

They were loud, they were fast, they were kinda … evil. Wasn’t there an album cover with some grinning thug and a schoolkid with a guitar coming out of his chest? Didn’t their name mean Anti Christ Devil’s Children? Whatever the truths, I liked it. And it started me down a path that’s ended with too many albums and probably too little hearing left.

It’s weird – AC/DC were kind of like an older brother’s band even when I was a kid. But as soon as they were in my line of sight, I saw them everywhere. I remember when The Razor’s Edge came out, my surprise at finding out that one of the dorkiest, geekiest kids at school – geekier even than me, which was saying something – had a copy and was a big AC/DC fan.

Of course he was. Who wasn’t? They were dangerous and funny, dumb enough for anyone to hang on to but smart enough to be consistent. Sure, I have my personal theories about the band (again, the old pre- and post-Bon saw) but like The Ramones they kept making the same records, so you were never surprised – you always got what you expected, which was really what you wanted.

Then, of course, I started learning guitar. And trying to play AC/DC tunes. Funny thing: they’re full of open chords and palm-muted bits that’re kind of easy for a beginner to play. But to get it right, with that same swagger? Difficult. But there’s nothing finer than these songs if you want to turn an amp up loud and do the Big Rock Thing. It’s like they were custom-made for tinnitus and axe-posing afternoons.

The best quote about the band – and why they’re so key – comes from noted no-bullshit guy Steve Albini. (You’ll know him from Shellac, Big Black, Rapeman or from recording some of the world’s best records, including PJ Harvey’s Rid Of Me, Dirty Three’s Ocean Songs and Crow’s My Kind Of Pain.) On the band he had this to say: 

 There’s no shortage of bands that attempted to sound like the Clash or the Sex Pistols or the Ramones. From an academic standpoint, you could say they sounded very similar but they weren’t as good as those bands. And the same can be said of all the bands that tried to sound like AC/DC. AC/DC seemed to be a fairly simple band from a conceptual level and an execution level. It seemed like anybody should be able to do that. But everybody who tries just makes a fool of themselves. And the only band that’s like that, that’s any good, is AC/DC.

Fucking right. In that vein, try listening to the following videos in order, before coming to the final, assembled track. It shows how each part of the song (save the bass, which I can’t find) plays together to create something that ends up as more than the sum of its parts. Remarkable.

First, the drum track. 
Malcolm’s rhythm track.
Angus’s rhythm track.
Angus’s solo track. 
Bon’s vocal.

Cram it together and you get this.

Amazing.

 

 

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