Entertainment & Arts

AC/DC: Rock's 'kick in the guts'

AC/DC in 1976 Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption AC/DC found fame in 1974 with Bon Scott (right) as the lead singer of the band

AC/DC are Australia's most successful export and have sold more than 200 million records and more albums than the likes of the Rolling Stones, Madonna, and Bruce Springsteen. They are, in short, one of the most successful rock bands in history.

Founder members Malcolm and Angus Young were born in Glasgow, Scotland, and moved to Sydney, Australia, in 1963 aged 10 and eight respectively.

Inspired by their brother George's success with his own group - The Easybeats - Malcolm and Angus decided to form their own band.

They stumbled across their band's name after seeing the electrical initials for alternating current/direct current on the back of their sister's sewing machine.

The same machine would also be used to sew Angus's first schoolboy uniform, for which he would become best known for wearing on stage.

After an initial single release in 1974 and a change in line-up later that year, the band settled with core members including drummer Phil Rudd and fellow Scots-born singer Ronald Belford 'Bon' Scott.

On stage, Scott was the epitome of the 1970's rock god, belting out high octane songs while trying to shock with his antics.

In an interview at the time, the singer said the band wanted to "give rock music a kick in the guts" with their raucous brand of electric music.

Off stage the group partied like rock and roll stars, cementing their hellraising reputation.

"We drank like there was no tomorrow and we woke up and drank again," Malcolm Young told VH1 in an interview.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Brothers Angus and Malcolm Young were born in Glasgow but moved to Australia in 1963

The band scored their first international album release with their 1976 album High Voltage, leading to their first European tour.

But they finally hit the big time in the US in 1979, following the release of Highway to Hell.

Riding high on their success, the band's excess of drink and drugs led to tragedy.

In February 1980, aged 33, Scott was found dead in his car after a night out heavy drinking in London. A post-mortem revealed he had choked to death on his own vomit, but the official cause of death was alcohol poisoning.

Scott's parents encouraged AC/DC to continue despite the band's devastation at the loss. Following an audition, British singer Brian Johnson of glam rock band Geordie was taken on.

"I was never brought in to replace Bon, I was brought in because Bon was there no more, except in spirit," Johnson told VH1.

Image copyright AP

AC/DC returned in 1980 with a new album dedicated to Scott, titled Black in Black.

The record went on to become the fifth biggest-selling album of all time, selling more than 40 million copies around the world.

Despite AC/DC's success, critics attacked the band accusing them of devil worship and the corruption of youth through their rock music.

Rudd was later sacked from the band in 1983 following a fight with Malcolm and was replaced by Simon Wright.

After a couple of album releases that were met with less success, Malcolm Young's excess drinking took hold. He took a break from touring in 1988 to recover from his alcoholism, with his nephew Stevie recruited to fill in.

The 1990 album The Razor's Edge was considered a comeback for AC/DC, however tragedy was to strike the band again a year later.

During a concert in Salt Lake City, thousands of fans rushed the stage trampling three fans in the chaos, including two 14-year-old boys.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Angus Young is famous for wearing a school uniform on stage

Unaware of what was going on, the band continued until they realised the extent of the situation.

After the event, they released a statement saying "nothing anyone can say or do will diminish the tragic loss or sense of grief" at the deaths, while news reports criticised the band for continuing to perform.

"What hurt most was the next day in the newspapers, they were saying the band played on while kids about them were dying and they had a picture of me with a smile on my face," Johnson said.

"It was journalistic opportunity that went beyond the bounds of decency - I was so angry and hurt."

In 1994, Rudd was invited back into the band whose popularity had become further cemented by an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

After Rudd's return, another three albums followed, all of which were critical and commercial hits.

Their Black Ice tour, which ran from 2008 to 2010, took in 29 countries and was seen by five million people.

In 2012, Malcolm Young confirmed AC/DC was working on new material, but said fans would have to wait "a year or two" for a new album.

Earlier this year, the band denied rumours they were retiring following an announcement that he was taking a break due to ill health.

In September, it was announced the guitarist was suffering from dementia and would not feature on AC/DC's new album, Rock or Bust, due for release in December.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Young had been moved into a nursing home in Sydney, while a family friend said the musician could no longer remember how to play the band's famous songs.

The band are due to tour their new album next year.

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