AC/DC are an Australian rock band, formed in Sydney in 1973 by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. A hard rock/blues rock band, their music has also been called heavy metal, although they refer to themselves as "a rock and roll band, nothing more, nothing less".
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 selected to replace 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 and background vocalist 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 living at 6 Skerryvore Road in the Cranhill area. The Big Freeze of 1963 was the worst winter on record in Scotland with snow eight feet deep. A TV advertisement at the same time offered assisted travel for families for a different life in Australia. 15 members of the Young family left Scotland by aeroplane in late June 1963. Before moving into a house at 4 Burleigh Street in the suburb of Burwood they initially stayed at Villawood Migrant Hostel (a site later developed as Villawood Immigration Detention Centre) in Nissen huts, where George Young met and became friends with another migrant, Harry Vanda.
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 older 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 Chequers nightclub 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. In Paul Stenning's book, AC/DC: Two Sides To Every Glory, it is stated that 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. Scott's appointment coincided with him working as a chauffeur for the band at the time until an audition promoted him to lead singer. Like the Young brothers, Scott was born in Scotland and emigrated 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)].
"It's a Long Way to the Top" (1975)
The second single of High Voltage demonstrates a combination of the bagpipes with more traditional rock instruments while the lyrics discuss the perils of being in a rock band.
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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, T.N.T. (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.
AC/DC were scheduled to play at the 1975 Sunbury music festival; however, they went home without performing following an altercation with the management of headlining act Deep Purple.
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.
International success (1976–1980)
Browning sent promo material to contacts in London, which came to the attention of Phil Carson of Atlantic Records. In 1976, the band signed an international deal with Atlantic Records. On arrival in London, their scheduled tour with Back Street Crawler was cancelled following the death of Paul Kossoff. As a result, they went back to playing smaller venues to build a local following until their label organized the "Lock Up Your Daughters" tour sponsored by Sounds magazine, the only major music magazine which was still relatively receptive to traditional rock music. At the time, punk rock was breaking out in London and came to dominate the pages of the major music weeklies, NME and Melody Maker. AC/DC were sometimes identified with the punk rock movement by the British press, however, in reality,they hated punk rock, believing it to be a passing fad - according to manager Michael Browning "it wasn't possible to even hold a conversation with AC/DC about punk without them getting totally pissed off". Their reputation, however, managed to survive the punk upheavals of the late 1970s, and they maintained a cult following in the UK throughout this time. Angus Young gained notoriety for mooning the audience during live performances.
The first AC/DC album to gain worldwide distribution was a 1976 compilation of tracks taken from the High Voltage and T.N.T. LPs. Also titled High Voltage, and released on the Atlantic Records label, the album has to date sold three million copies worldwide. The track selection was heavily weighted toward the more recent T.N.T., and included only two songs from their first LP. The band's next album, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, was released in the same year in both Australian and international versions, like its predecessor. Track listings varied worldwide, and the international version of the album also featured the T.N.T. track "Rocker", which had previously never been released internationally. The original Australian version included "Jailbreak" (now more readily available on the 1984 compilation EP '74 Jailbreak or as a live version on the 1992 Live album). Dirty Deeds was not released in the US until 1981, by which time the band were at the peak of their popularity.
After a brief tour of Sweden, they returned to London where they set new attendance records during their residency at the Marquee. However, their appearance at the 1976 Reading Festival failed to get a response from the crowd. They toured extensively throughout Europe, then returned to tour Australia in late 1976 to rebuild their finances and record the Let There Be Rock album.
In early 1977 they returned to Britain and began a European tour with Black Sabbath. While Bon Scott and Ozzy Osbourne quickly became friends, relations were less than cordial between the other members of the respective bands. In one incident, Geezer Butler pulled a knife on Malcolm Young. Later in the year they toured with Rainbow.
Towards the end of 1977, bassist Mark Evans was fired; purportedly to find someone who could sing backup vocals. Evans described disagreement with Angus and Malcolm as a contributing factor. He was replaced by Cliff Williams. Neither of the Young brothers has elaborated on the departure of Evans, though Richard Griffiths, the CEO of Epic Records and a booking agent for AC/DC in the mid-1970s, later commented, "You knew Mark wasn't going to last, he was just too much of a nice guy." Mark Evans' autobiography, DIRTY DEEDS: My Life Inside/Outside of AC/DC, released in 2011, predominantly dealt with his time in AC/DC, including being fired.
AC/DC were a somewhat formative influence on new wave of British heavy metal bands who emerged in the late 1970s, such as Saxon and Iron Maiden, in part as a reaction to the decline of traditional early 1970s hard rock bands. In 2007, critics noted that AC/DC, along with Thin Lizzy, UFO, Scorpions, and Judas Priest, were among "the second generation of rising stars ready to step into the breach as the old guard waned."
AC/DC's first American exposure was through the Michigan radio station AM 600 WTAC in 1977. The station's manager, Peter C. Cavanaugh, booked the band to play at Flint's Capitol Theater. The supporting act was MC5, who had just briefly reunited and agreed to play at the event. The band opened with their popular song "Live Wire" and closed with "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)". They gained invaluable experience of the stadium circuit, supporting leading rock acts such as Aerosmith, Kiss, Styx, UFO, and Blue Öyster Cult, and co-headlined with Cheap Trick.
The 1978 release of Powerage marked the debut of bassist Cliff Williams, and with its harder riffs, followed the blueprint set by Let There Be Rock. Only one single was released from Powerage, "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation/Sin City". An appearance at the Apollo Theatre, Glasgow during the Powerage tour was recorded and released as If You Want Blood You've Got It, featuring such songs as "Whole Lotta Rosie", "Problem Child", and "Let There Be Rock", as well as lesser-known album tracks like "Riff Raff". Powerage was the last album produced by Harry Vanda and George Young that had lead vocals by Bon Scott, and is claimed to be AC/DC's most under-rated album.
The major breakthrough in the band's career came in their collaboration with producer "Mutt" Lange on the album Highway to Hell, released in 1979. Eddie Van Halen notes this to be his favourite AC/DC record, along with Powerage. It became the first AC/DC LP to break into the US top 100, eventually reaching No. 17, and it propelled AC/DC into the top ranks of hard rock acts. Highway to Hell had lyrics that shifted away from flippant and comical toward more central rock themes, putting increased emphasis on backing vocals but still featured AC/DC's signature sound: loud, simple, pounding riffs and grooving backbeats. The final track, "Night Prowler", has two breaths in quick succession at the start of the song, intended to create a tone of fear and loathing.
Scott's death (1980)
As 1980 began, the band began work on a new album that would eventually become Back in Black, but Bon Scott would not live to see it finished. On 19 February 1980, Scott passed out in the car on the way back to friend Alistair Kinnear's house after a night of heavy drinking at the Music Machine club in London. Upon arrival at his home, Kinnear was unable to move Scott from the car into his home for the night, so he left him in the car overnight to sleep off the effects of the alcohol. Unable to wake Scott late the next morning, Kinnear rushed him to King's College Hospital in Camberwell, where Scott was pronounced dead on arrival. Pulmonary aspiration of vomit was the cause of Scott's death, and the official cause was listed as "acute alcohol poisoning". Scott's family buried him in Fremantle, Western Australia, the area they emigrated to when he was a boy.
Inconsistencies in the official accounts of Scott's death have been cited in conspiracy theories, which suggest that Scott died of a heroin overdose, or was killed by exhaust fumes redirected into the car, or that Kinnear did not exist. Additionally, Scott was asthmatic, and the temperature was below freezing on the morning of his death.
Brian Johnson era (1980–2016)
Following Scott's death the band briefly considered quitting, but encouraged by the insistence from Scott's parents that he would have wanted them to go on, they eventually decided to continue and went about finding a new frontman. Various candidates were considered for his replacement, including: Buzz Shearman, ex-Moxy member, who was not able to join because of voice problems, ex-Back Street Crawler vocalist Terry Slesser and then Slade vocalist, Noddy Holder. The remaining AC/DC members finally decided on ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson.
Angus Young later recalled, "I remember the first time I had ever heard Brian's (Johnson) name was from Bon. Bon had mentioned that he had been in England once touring with a band and he had mentioned that Brian had been in a band called Geordie and Bon had said 'Brian Johnson, he was a great rock and roll singer in the style of Little Richard.' And that was Bon's big idol, Little Richard. I think when he saw Brian at that time, to Bon it was 'Well he's a guy that knows what rock and roll is all about.' He mentioned that to us in Australia. I suppose when we decided to continue, Brian was the first name that Malcolm and myself came up with, so we said we should see if we can find him."
For the audition, Johnson sang "Whole Lotta Rosie" from Let There Be Rock and Ike & Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits". He was hired a few days after the audition. With Johnson the band completed the songwriting that they had begun with Scott for the album Back in Black. Recording took place at Compass Point Studios in The Bahamas a few months after Scott's death. Back in Black, produced by Mutt Lange and recorded by Tony Platt, became their biggest-selling album and a hard-rock landmark; hits include "Hells Bells", "You Shook Me All Night Long", "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution" and the title track. The album reached No.1 in the UK and No.4 in the US, where it spent 131 weeks on the Billboard 200 album chart.
The follow-up album, 1981's For Those About to Rock We Salute You, also sold well and was positively received by critics. The album featured two of the band's most popular singles: "Let's Get It Up" and the title track, "For Those About to Rock", which reached No.13 and No.15 in the UK, respectively. The band split with Lange for their self-produced 1983 album, Flick of the Switch, in an effort to recover the rawness and simplicity of their early albums.
Departure of Rudd and commercial decline (1983–1987)
"Back in Black" (1980)
"Back in Black"'s riff is one of the most recognised in hard rock history. The song ranked No.187 on Rolling Stone 's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and reached No.37 in the US.
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After having problems with drugs and alcohol, drummer Phil Rudd's friendship with Malcolm Young deteriorated and eventually escalated to a physical confrontation after which Rudd was fired. Former Procol Harum drummer B.J. Wilson was drafted in to help complete the recordings, but his drum parts were eventually not used, as Rudd had already completed his drum parts. Rudd was replaced by Simon Wright in the summer of 1983 after the band held over 700 auditions in the US and UK. Simon Kirke of Free and Bad Company fame, and Paul Thompson of Roxy Music were two of the drummers auditioned.
Later in the year, AC/DC released the self-produced album Flick of the Switch, which was less successful than their previous albums, and was considered underdeveloped and unmemorable. One critic stated that the band "had made the same album nine times". AC/DC were voted the eighth-biggest disappointment of the year in the 1984 Kerrang! readers' poll. However, Flick of the Switch eventually reached No.4 on the UK charts, and AC/DC had minor success with the singles "Nervous Shakedown" and "Flick of the Switch". Fly on the Wall, produced by the Young brothers in 1985, was also regarded as uninspired and directionless. A music concept video of the same name featured the band at a bar, playing five of the album's ten songs.
In 1986, the group returned to the charts with the made-for-radio "Who Made Who". The album Who Made Who was the soundtrack to Stephen King's film Maximum Overdrive; it brought together older hits, such as "You Shook Me All Night Long" and "Ride On", with newer songs such as title track "Who Made Who", and two new instrumentals, "D.T." and "Chase the Ace".
In February 1988, AC/DC were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association's Hall of Fame.
Back to commercial success (1987–1990)
AC/DC's 1988 album, Blow Up Your Video, was recorded at Studio Miraval in Le Val, France, and reunited the band with their original producers, Harry Vanda and George Young. The group recorded nineteen songs, choosing ten for the final release; though the album was later criticised for containing excessive "filler", it was a commercial success. Blow Up Your Video sold more copies than the previous two studio releases combined, reaching No.2 on the UK charts—AC/DC's highest position since "Back in Black" in 1980. The album featured the UK top-twenty single "Heatseeker" and popular songs such as "That's the Way I Wanna Rock 'n' Roll". The Blow Up Your Video World Tour began in February 1988, in Perth, Australia. That April, following live appearances across Europe, Malcolm Young announced that he was taking time off from touring, principally to begin recovery from his alcoholism. Another member of the Young family, Stevie Young, temporarily took Malcolm's place.
Following the tour, Wright left the group to work on the upcoming Dio album Lock Up the Wolves, and was replaced by session veteran Chris Slade. Johnson was unavailable for several months while finalising his divorce, so the Young brothers wrote all the songs for the next album, a practice they continued for all subsequent releases through Rock or Bust in 2014.
Popularity regained (1990–1994)
The next album, The Razors Edge, was recorded in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and was mixed and engineered by Mike Fraser and produced by Bruce Fairbairn, who had previously worked with Aerosmith and Bon Jovi. Released in 1990, it was a major comeback for the band, and included the hits "Thunderstruck" and "Are You Ready", which reached No.5 and No.16 respectively on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart, and "Moneytalks", which peaked at No.23 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album went multi-platinum and reached the US top ten. Several shows on the Razors Edge tour were recorded for the 1992 live album, titled Live. Live was produced by Fairbairn, and is considered one of the best live albums of the 1990s. AC/DC headlined the Monsters of Rock show during this tour, which was released on DVD as Live at Donington. During The Razors Edge tour three fans were killed at a concert at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah in January 1991. When the concert began fans rushed the stage crushing the three and injuring others. It took 20 minutes before venue security and the group understood the severity of the situation and stopped the concert. AC/DC settled with the victims' families out of court. As a result of this incident, the Salt Palace eliminated festival seating from future events. A year later, AC/DC recorded "Big Gun" for the soundtrack of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Last Action Hero, and was released as a single, reaching No.1 on the US Mainstream Rock chart, the band's first No.1 single on that chart.
Popularity confirmed (1994–2008)
In 1994, Angus and Malcolm invited Rudd to several jam sessions. He was eventually rehired to replace Slade, whose amicable departure arose in part because of the band's strong desire to again work with Rudd. Recorded at the Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles by the reunited 1980–83 line-up and produced by Rick Rubin, Ballbreaker was released in 1995. The first single from the album was "Hard as a Rock". Two more singles were released from the album: "Hail Caesar" and "Cover You in Oil".
In 1997, a box set named Bonfire was released. It contained four albums; a remastered version of Back in Black; Volts (a disc with alternate takes, outtakes, and stray live cuts) and two live albums, Live from the Atlantic Studios and Let There Be Rock: The Movie. Live from the Atlantic Studios was recorded on 7 December 1977 at the Atlantic Studios in New York. Let There Be Rock: The Movie was a double album recorded in 1979 at the Pavillon de Paris and was the soundtrack of a motion picture, AC/DC: Let There Be Rock. The US version of the box set included a colour booklet, a two-sided poster, a sticker, a temporary tattoo, a keychain bottle opener, and a guitar pick.
In 2000, the band released Stiff Upper Lip, produced by brother George Young at the Warehouse Studio, again in Vancouver. The album was better received by critics than Ballbreaker but was considered lacking in new ideas. The Australian release included a bonus disc with three promotional videos and several live performances recorded in Madrid, Spain in 1996. Stiff Upper Lip reached No.1 in five countries, including Argentina and Germany; No.2 in three countries, Spain, France and Switzerland; No.3 in Australia; No.5 in Canada and Portugal; and No.7 in Norway, the US and Hungary. The first single, "Stiff Upper Lip", remained at No.1 on the US Mainstream Rock charts for four weeks. The other singles released also did very well; "Satellite Blues" and "Safe in New York City" reached No.7 and No.31 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks, respectively.
In 2002, AC/DC signed a long-term, multi-album deal with Sony Music, who went on to release a series of remastered albums as part of their AC/DC remasters series. Each release contained an expanded booklet featuring rare photographs, memorabilia, and notes. In 2003, the entire back-catalogue (except Ballbreaker and Stiff Upper Lip) was remastered and re-released. Ballbreaker was eventually re-released in October 2005; Stiff Upper Lip was later re-released in April 2007. Also in 2003, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On 30 July 2003, the band performed with the Rolling Stones and Rush at Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto. The concert, held before an audience of half a million, was intended to help the city overcome the negative publicity stemming from the effects of a 2003 SARS epidemic. The concert holds the record for the largest paid music event in North American history. The band came second in a list of Australia's highest-earning entertainers for 2005, and sixth for 2006, despite having neither toured since 2003 nor released an album since 2000. Verizon Wireless has gained the rights to release AC/DC's full albums and the entire Live at Donington concert to download in 2008.
On 16 October 2007, Columbia Records released a double and triple DVD titled Plug Me In. The set consists of five and seven hours of rare footage, and even a recording of AC/DC at a high school performing "School Days", "TNT", "She's Got Balls", and "It's a Long Way to the Top". As with Family Jewels, disc one contains rare shows of the band with Bon Scott, and disc two is about the Brian Johnson era. The collector's edition contains an extra DVD with 21 more rare performances of both Scott and Johnson and more interviews.
AC/DC made their video game debut on Rock Band 2, with "Let There Be Rock" included as a playable track. The setlist from their Live at Donington live album was released as playable songs for the Rock Band series by means of a Wal-Mart-exclusive retail disc titled AC/DC Live: Rock Band Track Pack.
No Bull: The Directors Cut, a newly edited, comprehensive Blu-ray and DVD of the band's July 1996 Plaza De Toros de las Ventas concert in Madrid, Spain, was released on 9 September 2008.
Black Ice (2008–2011)
"Rock 'n' Roll Train"
Sample of Black Ice's lead single "Rock 'n' Roll Train". The song is built on guitar riffs and elemental drum beats, and features harmonic backing vocals during the chorus.
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On 18 August 2008, Columbia Records announced 18 October Australian release, and 20 October worldwide release, of the studio album Black Ice. The 15-track album was the band's first studio release in eight years, was produced by Brendan O'Brien and was mixed and engineered by Mike Fraser. Like Stiff Upper Lip, it was recorded at The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. Black Ice was sold in the US exclusively at Walmart and Sam's Club and the band's official website.
"Rock 'n' Roll Train", the album's first single, was released to radio on 28 August. On 15 August, AC/DC recorded a video for a song from the new album in London with a special selection of fans getting the chance to be in the video. Black Ice debuted at No.1 on album charts in 29 countries and also was Columbia Records' biggest debut album (since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales data for Billboard in March 1991). Black Ice has been certified Multi Platinum in eight countries, including the US, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Germany and the Czech Republic. Additionally Black Ice has achieved Platinum status in twelve countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, UK, Argentina, Singapore and New Zealand) and Gold status in four countries (The Netherlands, Spain, Poland and Brazil). The 18-month Black Ice World Tour supporting the new album was announced on 11 September and began on 28 October in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
On 15 September 2008, AC/DC Radio debuted on Sirius Channel 19 and XM channel 53. The channel plays AC/DC music along with interviews with the band members.
With the North American release of Black Ice on 20 October 2008, Columbia Records and Walmart created "Rock Again AC/DC Stores" to promote the album. In October 2008, MTV, Walmart, and Columbia created "AC/DC Rock Band Stores" in New York City, at Times Square, and in Los Angeles. "Black Ice" trucks were also dispatched on the streets of these two cities after the release, playing AC/DC music aloud and making various stops each day to sell merchandise.
In late September 2009, the band rescheduled six shows when Brian Johnson underwent an operation for ulcers. On 29 September, the band announced a collection of studio and live rarities, Backtracks, which was released on 10 November 2009 as a 3-CD/2-DVD/1-LP box-set.
On 4 November AC/DC were announced as the Business Review Weekly top Australian earner (entertainment) for 2009 with earnings of $105 million. This displaced The Wiggles from the number one spot for the first time in four years.
On 19 April 2010, AC/DC released Iron Man 2, the soundtrack for the eponymous film which compiled earlier tracks from the band's studio albums. One month later, the band headlined Download Festival at Donington Park, and closed the Black Ice World Tour in Bilbao, Spain on 28 June 2010, after 20 months in which AC/DC went to 108 cities in over 28 countries, with an estimated audience of over five million people. Three concerts in December 2009 at the River Plate Stadium in Argentina were released as the DVD Live at River Plate on 10 May 2011. An exclusive single from the DVD, featuring the songs "Shoot to Thrill" and "War Machine", was issued on Record Store Day. In 2011, the band also issued on DVD and Blu-ray the concert movie AC/DC: Let There Be Rock, which had its theatrical release in 1980.
Multiple lineup changes, Rock or Bust (2011–2017)
Angus stated in an interview in early May 2011 that the band was beginning to plan another world tour, saying, "Now we're thinking, 'How can we ever better the 'Black Ice' world tour?' But we will." At the band's Live at River Plate DVD premiere on 6 May 2011 at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, England, Angus said that there were plans for the group to release a new studio album "within the next couple of years", which the tour would support.
In May 2012, Malcolm Young confirmed that the band were working on a potential follow-up to 2008's Black Ice. But he warned that fans were in for a longer wait than expected, after lead singer Brian Johnson suggested there would be new material the next year. Malcolm stated, "You know what Brian's like. He just says things and then walks away. It'll be a little while – a year or two anyway. I've been doing some jamming on some song ideas but I do that all the time, as do the rest of the band. We are still working. But we had a long rest between Stiff Upper Lip and Black Ice, so I think we need a couple of years to recuperate and work on it a bit more."
On 19 November 2012, AC/DC released Live at River Plate, their first live album in 20 years.
Malcolm Young's retirement and death
On 16 April 2014, in response to earlier reports that the band may be retiring due to Malcolm Young being seriously ill and unable to perform, Brian Johnson commented that AC/DC are not retiring, stating "We are definitely getting together in May in Vancouver. We're going to pick up guitars, have a plonk and see if anybody has got any tunes or ideas. If anything happens we'll record it." AC/DC subsequently announced in an official statement on their Facebook page that Malcolm Young would be taking a break from the band due to his ill health. It ended: "The band will continue to make music." In June, Johnson announced that AC/DC are "very likely" to be on the road again before the end of 2014. In July 2014, AC/DC confirmed that they had finished recording their next album and that Malcolm's nephew, Stevie Young replaced Malcolm in the studio. Drummer Phil Rudd released his first solo album, Head Job, on 29 August 2014. He confirmed that there would be another AC/DC tour, and stated that the band had no intention of retiring, adding, "We'll all have to be dead before it stops." Malcolm died on 18 November 2017 at the age of 64.
"Rock or Bust"
On 23 September 2014, Alberts management confirmed that founder member Malcolm Young had officially departed from the band and revealed that their new record entitled Rock or Bust featuring eleven new tracks would be released on 28 November 2014 as the first AC/DC album in the band's history without Malcolm Young on the recordings. The band also announced plans for a world tour to promote the new album with Malcolm and Angus' nephew Stevie Young as Malcolm's replacement.
Phil Rudd's replacement
On 6 November 2014 Rudd was charged with attempting to procure a murder, threatening to kill, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of cannabis, following a police raid on his home. The charge of attempting to procure a murder was withdrawn the following day, but the other charges remained. AC/DC released a statement clarifying that the tour promoting Rock or Bust would continue, but did not say whether or not Rudd would participate, or if he was still a member of the band.
In an interview on 13 November, Angus Young stated that the band had experienced problems with Rudd earlier in the year when recording Rock or Bust, and that his situation had taken the band by surprise. Rudd had also missed video and photo shoots, and with reference to Rudd's future in the band, Young added, "So, at this stage, it's a pretty tough call for us." He also said the band would continue: "He's got to sort himself out I think ... At this point it's kind of a question mark. But if we're touring, there will be a drummer in place, put it that way."
At the charity signing before the Grammy Awards, the band was photographed together with former drummer Chris Slade. It was later confirmed that he had rejoined the band for the Grammys and upcoming tour. In April 2015, Rudd pleaded guilty to drug charges and threatening to kill a former assistant. Shortly thereafter, the band's web site removed Rudd as the band's drummer and replaced him with Slade. On 9 July 2015 Rudd was denied a discharge without conviction and sentenced to eight months' home detention.
Brian Johnson's hearing loss and departure
On 7 March 2016, the band announced that the final ten dates of the Rock or Bust World Tour would be rescheduled as Johnson's doctors had ordered him to stop touring immediately, as his hearing loss had accelerated and he risked complete deafness if he persisted on the road. The ten cancelled dates would be performed "likely with a guest vocalist" later in the year, leaving Johnson's future in touring with the group uncertain. Johnson himself later stated on The Howard Stern Show that his hearing loss didn't come from having performed for 36 years with AC/DC, but rather his love of auto racing and having forgotten to put in ear plugs during one race that left him with a ruptured ear drum in his left ear.
However, on 15 March 2016, American comedian Jim Breuer (a friend of Johnson) revealed on his podcast that Johnson had received a second opinion on his hearing and it was not as bad as initially thought. Nonetheless, Breuer mentioned that Johnson told him that he was essentially fired from AC/DC and that he hadn't heard from the band since the announcement of the tour being postponed, adding that Angus Young wants to continue the band for at least another ten years and do at least one more studio album and world tour. Breuer later clarified his comments on Facebook that did not end speculation on Johnson's future with the band.
On 19 April 2016, Johnson made an official statement regarding his health problems and inability to tour. In the statement, he acknowledged his ongoing hearing difficulties but stated his intentions to continue recording and potentially resume touring if his health improves sufficiently. He also specifically thanked Angus Young and Cliff Williams for their support during his AC/DC tenure.
Axl Rose joins
On 16 April 2016, AC/DC released a statement announcing the addition of Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose as the band's lead vocalist for the remainder of their 2016 tour dates. The statement reads: "AC/DC band members would like to thank Brian Johnson for his contributions and dedication to the band throughout the years. We wish him all the best with his hearing issues and future ventures. As much as we want this tour to end as it started, we understand, respect and support Brian's decision to stop touring and save his hearing. We are dedicated to fulfilling the remainder of our touring commitments to everyone that has supported us over the years, and are fortunate that Axl Rose has kindly offered his support to help us fulfill this commitment. AC/DC will resume their Rock or Bust World Tour with Axl Rose joining on vocals."
Departure of Cliff Williams
On 8 July 2016, Cliff Williams indicated he was retiring from the band in an interview with Gulfshore Life, saying "It's been what I’ve known for the past 40 years, but after this tour I’m backing off of touring and recording. Losing Malcolm, the thing with Phil and now with Brian, it’s a changed animal. I feel in my gut it’s the right thing." At the end of the Rock or Bust Tour he released a video statement confirming his retirement.
Future of band
Following the band's final show with Williams on 21 September 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania it was reported that Axl Rose would be joining the band full-time and that he and Angus would continue AC/DC with different musicians. Young's friend Angry Anderson said in a 2018 interview that Young intended to make a new album with Rose.
AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 10 March 2003. During the ceremony the band performed "Highway to Hell" and "You Shook Me All Night Long", with guest vocals provided by host Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. He described the band's power chords as "the thunder from down under that gives you the second most powerful surge that can flow through your body." During the acceptance speech, Brian Johnson quoted their 1977 song "Let There Be Rock".
On 22 March 2000, the municipality of Leganés (near Madrid) named a street in honour of the band as "Calle de AC/DC" ("AC/DC Street"). Malcolm and Angus attended the inauguration with many fans. Later that day, the plaque with the name of the group was stolen, perhaps by an enthusiast or collector. The plaque was replaced two hours later, and stolen once again a mere three days after the fact. The plaque had since been stolen numerous times, forcing the municipality of Leganés to begin selling replicas of the official street plaque.
In May 2003, the Young brothers accepted a Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Service to Australian Music at the 2003 Music Winners Awards, during which Malcolm paid special tribute to Bon Scott, who was also a recipient of the award.
On 1 October 2004, a central Melbourne thoroughfare, Corporation Lane, was renamed ACDC Lane in honour of the band. The City of Melbourne forbade the use of the slash character in street names, so the four letters were combined. The lane is near Swanston Street where, on the back of a truck, the band recorded their video for the 1975 hit "It's a Long Way to the Top".
They sold over 1.3 million CDs in the US during 2007 despite not having released a new album since 2000 at that point. Additionally, the group's commercial success continues to flourish despite their choice to refrain from selling albums in digital online formats for many years. However, in November 2012, the entire catalogue (excluding the TNT album and the Australian versions of the High Voltage, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Let There Be Rock albums) became available on the iTunes Store.
In 2009 the Recording Industry Association of America upgraded the group's US sales figures from 69 million to 71 million, making AC/DC the fifth-best-selling band in US history and the tenth-best-selling artist, selling more albums than Madonna and Mariah Carey. The RIAA also certified Back in Black as double Diamond (20 million) in US sales, and by 2007 the album had sold 22 million copies, which made it the fifth-best-selling album of all-time in the US.
- Angus Young – lead guitar, occasional backing vocals (1973–present)
- Chris Slade – drums (1989–1994, 2015–present)
- Stevie Young – rhythm guitar, bass, backing vocals (2014–present)
- Axl Rose – lead vocals (2016–present)
- Malcolm Young – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1973–2014; died 2017)
- Dave Evans – lead vocals (1973–1974)
- Bon Scott – lead vocals (1974–1980; died 1980)
- Phil Rudd – drums (1975–1983, 1994–2015)
- Mark Evans – bass guitar (1975–1977)
- Cliff Williams – bass guitar, backing vocals (1977–2016)
- Brian Johnson – lead vocals (1980–2016)
- Simon Wright – drums (1983–1989)
Note: Before their debut album, High Voltage (1975), AC/DC had several line up changes. For a more comprehensive list of members that were part of the band before 1975, see List of AC/DC band members.
Awards and nominations
- High Voltage (1975) (Australia only)
- T.N.T. (1975) (Australia only)
- High Voltage (1976) (International version)
- Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976)
- Let There Be Rock (1977)
- Powerage (1978)
- Highway to Hell (1979)
- Back in Black (1980)
- For Those About to Rock We Salute You (1981)
- Flick of the Switch (1983)
- Fly on the Wall (1985)
- Blow Up Your Video (1988)
- The Razors Edge (1990)
- Ballbreaker (1995)
- Stiff Upper Lip (2000)
- Black Ice (2008)
- Rock or Bust (2014)
|1973–1975||Australian Clubs Tour|
|1975||High Voltage Australian Clubs Tour|
|1975–1976||TNT/Lock Up Your Daughters Summer Vacation Tour|
|1976||Lock Up Your Daughters|
|1976–1977||Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap/A Giant Dose of Rock and Roll|
|1977||Let There Be Rock Tour|
|1978–1979||If You Want Blood Tour|
|1979–1980||Highway to Hell Tour|
|1980–1981||Back in Black Tour|
|1981–1982||For Those About to Rock Tour|
|1983–1984||Flick of the Switch Tour/Monsters of Rock Tour|
|1985–1986||Fly on the Wall Tour|
|1986||Who Made Who Tour|
|1988||Blow Up Your Video World Tour|
|1990–1991||The Razors Edge World Tour|
|1996||Ballbreaker World Tour|
|2000–2001||Stiff Upper Lip World Tour|
|2003||Club Dates/Rolling Stones Tour|
|2008–2010||Black Ice World Tour|
|2015–2016||Rock or Bust World Tour|
- AC/DShe, an all-female tribute band who covers Bon Scott-era material
- Hell's Belles – another all-female tribute band
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