Living easy, living free
Living easy, living free
Season ticket on a one-way ride
Asking nothing, leave me be
Taking everything in my stride
Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme
Ain’t nothing I would rather do
Going down, party time
My friends are gonna be there too
(Highway to Hell, AC/DC)
Imagine it’s 1978 and you’ve found yourself front and centre at an AC/DC concert. You’re surrounded by like-minded fans with their hands in the air, singing along to ‘Powerage’, and the atmosphere is one of true rock and roll. The band is just reaching the beginning of its stardom and you’re watching a grown man dressed in a school uniform stomp around on stage. You’re watching a performance fill with true rock, screech and leer.
ACDC’s public image may have been defined by Angus Young’s naughty school boy, Bon Scott’s lascivious pirate and then Brian Johnson’s lusty bricklayer personas, but it was Malcolm Young who truly inspired the band’s lean and mean sound.
He’s standing up the back of the stage, almost blending in the with the backing band, absolutely lost in the music he’s playing. With his long hair, jeans and white T-shirt, he strums his guitar while shaking his leg in time with the beat. He may look like just the rhythm guitarist but, in fact, he is the mastermind of the whole operation, the visionary of the music you’re listening to, and the leader of the band.
Watch AC/DC’s perform ‘It’s a long was to the top’ in 1973:
Malcolm Young is now on the highway to heaven as he sadly lost his battle with Alzheimer’s Disease on Saturday, November 18th, at the young age of 64. Born in Scotland in 1953, Malcom Young migrated to Australia in 1961 where he, and his brother Angus, began their rock careers as the co-founders of AC/DC in 1973. Malcolm was the rhythm guitarist in the band, which is considered to be one of the biggest hard rock bands of all time.
Malcolm Young and AC/DC’s rise to fame
Malcolm and Angus Young came up with the band’s name after their sister, Margaret Young, saw the initials on a sewing machine. AC/DC stands for ‘alternating current/ direct current’ and the brothers felt that this name symbolised the bands ‘raw energy and power-driven performances of their music’. In true blue Aussie form, we were even too lazy to pronounce the whole ‘AC/DC’ name, so the band quickly became known as ‘Acca Dacca’ throughout their home country.
Releasing their first ever album, ‘High Voltage’, in 1975, AC/DC took the world by storm with songs like ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top (If you wanna Rock N’ Roll)’, ‘T.N.T’ , and ‘Can I Sit Next to You, Girl’. Today they have sold more than 200 million records, worldwide adding them to the list of the bestselling music artists, with ‘Back in Black’ making it as the second highest selling album by any artist.
The band’s original members consisted of:
- Malcolm Young – rhythm guitar and backing vocals, 1973-2014
- Angus Young – lead guitar and backing vocal, 1973-present
- Dave Evans – lead vocals until 1974
- Bon Scott – leads vocals from 1974-1980
- Phil Rudd – drums, 1975-1977, 1994-2015
- Mark Evans – bass guitar, 1975-1977
- Larry Van Kriedt – saxophone, 1973-1975
- George Young – ‘fill-in’ guitarist, song writer and producer, 1973 – 1975
With many band member changes over time and the tragic death of lead singer Bon Scott in February 1980, the band almost broke up a couple of times. Once Brian Johnson came on board as the new lead singer after Scott’s death, the band was ‘reborn’ and went on to release the album, ‘Back to Black, which they began writing with the help on Bon Scott. Since its birth, AC/DC has had many years of overwhelming success and the band is still very much in action within the music industry today.
In 2004, a central Melbourne street, Corporation Lane, was renamed ACDC Lane, in honour of the band. ACDC Lane is where the band recorded their video for their 1975 hit ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top’.
AC/DC was introduced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010 and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler 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’.
In 2009, the Recording Industry Association of America upgraded the band’s US sales figures from $69 million to $71 million, making AC/DC the fifth bestselling band in US history and the tenth bestselling band worldwide.
The band has been nominated for 28 awards and they have won 13 of those, including:
- Most played Australian work overseas – 4 times (APRA awards)
- Ninth best Australian song (APRA awards)
- Songwriter of the year (APRA Awards)
- Best Rock Album for ‘Black Ice’ (ARIA Music Awards)
- Highest Selling Album for ‘Black Ice’ 2009 (ARIA Music Awards)
- Best Music DVD (ARIA Music Awards)
- Induction into ARIA Hall of Fame 1988 (ARIA Music Awards)
- Best hard rock performance (Grammy Awards)
- Best Reunion 2008 (Rock on Request Awards)
- Best Music AD (UK Music Video Awards)
- The Innovation Award (UK Music Video Awards)
- Best International Rock/Metal/Alternative/Heavy Metal group (ACHO Awards, Germany)
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Performer for ‘Thunderstruck’ (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)
In 2014, AC/DC announced that Malcolm Young would be retiring from the band due to his progressive Alzheimer’s Disease. They had previously announced that he would just be taking a break, but his condition forced him into a care facility which meant leaving the band for good. After losing their song writer, guitarist and driving force of 40 years, the remaining band members decided that the show must go on. Malcolm’s nephew, Stevie Young joined the band as the new rhythm guitarist and they went on to release ‘Rock or Bust’, they’re first ever album without Malcolm Young.
In April 2016, Brian Johnson, announced that his loss of hearing had caused him to also retire his position as the band’s lead singer in the middle of their ‘Rock or Bust’ world tour. The position was quickly snatched up by Guns ‘N’ Roses front man, Axl Rose, and AC/DC finished their tour with a new legend on vocals.
November 18th, 2017 brought Australia and the entire world-ride music industry tragic news.
Young passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family. The Facebook post was a public tribute written by Malcolm’s brother, Angus, who also lost their eldest brother, George, last month at the age of 70.
Malcolm Young’s life and dedication to his music
Malcolm moved to Australia, from Scotland, with his family after the ‘big freeze’, one of the UK’s coldest winters, took over Scotland in 1963. After leaving Ashfield Boys High School, he played in other bands around Sydney while working as a sewing repairman, storeman and apprentice fitter and turner.
Malcolm along with 2 of his brother, Angus and George, started out in a band with music partner Harry Vanda, called Marcus Hood Roll Band, which released an album in Australia, called ‘Tales of Old Granny Daddy’. Then, At the age of 20, Malcolm invited Angus to join his rock band that was to become AC/DC. After recruiting their original band members, they then released their first single ‘Can I sit Next to You, Girl’. “High Voltage” was then released in February 1975, and later that year came ‘It’s a Long Way to The Top’, which is considered to be the band’s perennial rock anthem.
Malcolm Young was a straight-talking, rhythm guitarist that could pick up almost any song in just minutes. He was thought to be one the greatest rhythm guitarists in the world and provided his fans with the ability to completely immerse themselves in pure rock ‘n’ roll at the band’s concerts. He played his last ever live performance with AC/DC is 2010, unaware that it would be his last.
Young underwent a lung operation, heart operation, and was diagnosed with dementia which lead him to eventually step down from his beloved band in 2014. He committed 41 years of his life to writing the band’s music and some of the greatest guitar riffs of all time. His dedication to the band, alongside his brother’s, lead AC/DC to become one of the biggest rock bands in history, reaching a level of success that many musicians can only dream of.
Watch Malcolm battle his brother on stage:
Alongside his love for music, Malcolm was also known to be a loving husband, father, grandfather and brother. He is survived by his wife, Linda, daughter Cara, son Ross and 3 grandchildren.
In tribute to Malcolm Young
Since his passing on Saturday, many artists, news publications, and fans have taken to social media to pay tribute to Malcolm Young. Both Foo Fighters and Guns ‘N’ Roses paid tribute to the late guitarist during their respective concerts on Saturday night. The Foo Fighters opened their show with the 1977 hit ‘Let There Be Rock’, and Gun ‘N’ Roses dedicated both their covers of Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’, and AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ to Malcolm Young.
Alongside those live tributes, other fellow musicians, some including Jimmy Barnes, Keith Urban, Motley Crue, Eddie Van Halen and Ozzy Ozbourne, all took to social media to remember Malcolm. They remember him as ‘the greatest rhythm guitarist of all time’, ‘a friend, and the heart and soul of AC/DC’, ‘the engine that roared behind the most powerful band in the world’, and ‘the co-writer of the songs that inspired many musicians to follow their dreams’.
On a lighter note, it has been rumoured that Angus Young and AC/DC lead vocalist, Axl Rose will be producing a new AC/DC record together. When Malcolm announced his retirement from the band in 2014, Angus stated that he wanted to keep the band going for another 10 years; this may be his next move in making that wish a reality.
Young’s dementia cruelly robbed him of his memories of creating the iconic music that saw AC/DC sell over 200 million albums. Despite this, AC/DC, and the rest of the world, will always remember the passion, drive, and talent that Malcolm brought to the industry and his band members have even released a statement saying that he was ‘the driving force’ behind the band and they praise his enormous dedication and commitment over 41 years.
The world has lost a true music icon, but his music will never cease to bring happiness and inspiration to fans throughout the world.
If you’re feeling like immersing yourself in a little nostalgia, here is a mix of AC/DC’s best performances over time:
No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody’s gonna mess me around
Hey Satan, paid my dues
Playing in a rocking band
Hey mama, look at me
I’m on my way to the promise land.
Rest in peace, Malcolm Young, your musical talent and contribution to this world will be missed but never forgotten.