REMEMBERING AC/DC’s MALCOLM YOUNG ON A JOB WELL DONE
Malcolm Young, and his younger brother Angus, were the co-founders and driving force of one of the world’s greatest hard rock bands, AC/DC. The brothers shared a very special bond with Angus as the lead guitarist and songwriter and Malcolm as the rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist. Together, they remained the central source of the powerful, top-selling, multi-platinum rock band throughout four decades.
On November 18th, Malcolm Young died of complications from dementia. He was 64 years old. He is survived by his wife O'Linda, daughter Cara and son Ross, son-in-law Josh, three grandchildren, a sister and his brother Angus.
His passing was announced through a family statement posted on the band’s website. It said, “It is with deepest sorrow that we inform you of the death of Malcolm Young, beloved husband, father, grandfather and brother. Malcolm had been suffering from Dementia for several years and passed away peacefully with his family by his bedside.”
Recognized as a masterful rhythm guitarist with notoriously inventive riffs, Malcolm Young was among the best and was largely credited with AC/DC's unique sound and international success.
To date, AC/DC has sold over 200 million albums worldwide, with approximately 71 million in the US. Their album, Back in Black, has sold 22 million copies in the US and 50 million worldwide, making it the second highest-selling album in music history. With such hit songs as; “It's A Long Way To The Top”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Back In Black”, “Thunderstruck”, “Highway To Hell” and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”, Malcolm Young leaves behind an enormous legacy with songs that will live on forever.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, the Young family moved to Sydney, Australia in 1963. Growing up, Malcolm was influenced by 50’s rock was influenced by Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Santana and Stevie Wonder. He developed a guitar technique of playing open chords through a series of Marshall amplifiers set to low volume with little or no gain. This apparently contradicted a common belief that the rhythm guitar should be played loud with overdriven power chords. Malcolm’s inventive rhythms and riffs formed the backbone of the AC/DC’s sound. He also made the important business decisions about the band, their managers, and producers. His brother Angus, who earned his own reputation as a virtuoso lead guitar player, became the most recognizable member of the group by wearing a school uniform on stage.
Malcolm and Angus' first taste of rock stardom came courtesy of their brother George, who found international fame with his band The Easybeats and the song, "Friday on My Mind" released in 1966. Malcolm had said, "All the males in our family played. Stevie, the oldest played accordion. Alex and John were the first to play guitar, and being older, it was sort of passed down to George, then myself, then Angus."
Malcolm was 20 years old when he and younger brother Angus formed AC/DC in 1973. After seeing the letters "AC/DC" on the back of their sister Margaret's sewing machine, they decided to make it their name. Angus was on lead guitar, Malcolm on rhythm guitar, Colin Burgess on drums, Larry Van Kriedt on bass guitar and Dave Evans on vocals. They released their first single, "Can I Sit Next To You Girl," which was later re-recorded with Bon Scott as their vocalist. Scott, another Scottish immigrant that went to Australia, replaced Evans the following year. “With Bon, that’s when the band became a band,” Malcolm had said. “We had a real character with his own style and his own idea for lyrics.”
Several more line-up changes took place before the band released their first album. Also in 1974, Rob Bailey became the bass player and then Paul Matter and Bruce Howe. Mark Evans then took the position from 1975 to 1977.
In 1975, AC/DC released their debut studio album, High Voltage which was produced by brother George and his Easybeats songwriting partner Harry Vanda. In 1976, the band signed an international deal with Atlantic Records.
Drummer Phil Rudd and bassist Mark Evans played on three albums; T.N.T. (1975) which featured “It’s A Long Way to the Top (If You Want To Rock’n’Roll),” Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976) and Let There Be Rock (1977), before Evans was replaced by Cliff Williams for Powerage (1978). Williams remained with the band until 2016.
In 1979, the band’s album, Highway to Hell came crashing into the rock world with the growling and howling of lead singer Scott. But tragedy struck when Scott died from alcohol poisoning. The band returned with their next album, Back In Black in 1980, a tribute to Scott, which new lead vocalist, Brian Johnson. The songs, “Hells Bells”, “You Shook Me All Night Long,” and the title song were instant rock anthems and sold more than 50 million copies becoming the second best-selling album in history.
For Those About to Rock We Salute You, released in 1981 became another huge success for the group and gave AC/DC their first US chart-topper.
After their albums with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, Malcolm led the decision to take a simpler approach with Flick of the Switch (1983) and Fly on the Wall (1985). On Who Made Who, the soundtrack to Stephen King’s film Maximum Overdrive (1986), the brothers mixed old and new material and put the band back in the charts. Their next album, Blow Up Your Video (1988) sold one million copies in the US.
As the band was preparing for the Blow Up Your Video tour, Malcolm announced he needed a break to deal with an alcohol problem. “It caught right up to me and I lost the plot,” he publicly admitted. He followed the urging of his brother Angus who didn’t want Malcolm to share the same fate as Bon Scott, and successfully sobered up. During that time, his slot on the tour was filled by his nephew, Stevie Young, the son of their oldest brother, Stephen.
Malcolm returned for the next album, The Razors Edge (1990). Produced by Bruce Fairbairn (Aerosmith, Bon Jovi), AC/DC returned to multi-platinum status, a common feat, selling five million copies in the US alone. The Razors Edge tour produced an acclaimed live album, Live.
Featuring their first new material in five years, AC/DC released Ballbreaker in 1995. Five more years later, they released Stiff Upper Lip in 2000.
In 2003, AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine stated that he considered himself, Malcolm Young, and James Hetfield of Metallica to be the best rhythm guitarists in the world.
While their new material slowed in production, their back catalogue still turned big profits and rereleases were in the making. In 1997, they released the five-disc set Bonfire, featuring studio and live material. In 2002, they signed with Sony Music, which reissued expanded versions of their past albums. Plug Me in 2007, was a multi-DVD package of rare live footage. The band also licensed tracks for the Rock Band computer game.
In 2008, the album Black Ice was released which debuted at Number 1 on the album charts in 29 countries and achieved multi-platinum sales globally. The band embarked on a 20 month world tour playing to more than five million people in 28 countries.
In April 2014, AC/DC’s website announced: “Malcolm Young is taking a break from the band due to ill health.” Singer Brian Johnson stated that AC/DC was not retiring. In September 2014, the band's management announced that Young would not be rejoining the band. Two days later, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Young had dementia and had been admitted to a nursing home where he could receive full-time care. Four days later, Young's family confirmed the story.
In interviews following the announcement, Angus stated that his brother had been experiencing lapses in memory and concentration. He added, "Look, even with his health, Malcolm was touring until he couldn't do it anymore." Angus also stated that Malcolm was rehearsing AC/DC's songs repeatedly before every concert just to remember how they went.
In November 2014, AC/DC released their sixteenth studio album in Australia and their fifteenth internationally, Rock or Bust. It is the shortest album ever released by the band at approximately 35 minutes in its entirety. Rock or Bust was the group’s first album without Malcolm Young although he co-wrote every track. Malcolm’s nephew, Stevie Young, continued to fill in for Malcolm and on the band's 2015 Rock or Bust World Tour.
In March 2016, Brian Johnson stepped down from the tour due to severe hearing problems upon the recommendation of his doctors. AC/DC recruited Axl Rose to fill in on the postponed Rock or Bust tour dates while Johnson recovered from a potential career-ending issue. It's unclear if Johnson will return to AC/DC.
Earlier this year, Gretsch guitars issued the Gretsch G6121MY, a signature guitar based on Malcolm Young’s modified 1963 Gretsch Jet Firebird.
Throughout his life, Malcolm Young previously battled and beat other health issues. At the end of their Black Ice World Tour, Malcolm was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was treated early and the cancer was successfully removed. He also had an unspecified heart problem and wore a pacemaker. But his final diagnosis of dementia would have a graver outcome. Young died on November 18th 2017 at the age of 64, at Lulworth House in Elizabeth Bay. His elder brother, George Young, ironically died just a few weeks before him.
His funeral was held at St Mary's Cathedral, in Sydney, Australia on November 28th. Rock royalty was in attendance including former members of the band; Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd, Mark Evans and Cliff Williams. Malcolm’s Gretsch guitar, known as “The Beast” was placed upon his coffin during the service. The family included a written statement in the service program thanking everybody for all of their love, support and overwhelming outpouring of kindness. They asked that we “remember Malcolm as a man who was generous and had immense talent. His enormous legacy to his family and the music industry worldwide will never be forgotten.” As guests were leaving the cathedral, a pipe band performed a medley of songs including AC/DC’s classic “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll).
Angus Young had said, "As his brother, it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life, the bond we had was unique and very special. He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever. Malcolm, job well done."