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AC/DC, from left to right: Malcolm Young, Phil Rudd, Angus Young, Cliff Williams and Brian Johnson
AC/DC, from left to right: Malcolm Young, Phil Rudd, Angus Young, Cliff Williams and Brian Johnson
Background information
Sydney, Australia
Genre(s) Hard rock
Rock & Roll
Blues rock
Years active 1973 — present
Label(s) Albert, Atlantic, ATCO, Elektra, Eastwest, EMI, Epic Records
Angus Young — lead guitar
Malcolm Young — rhythm guitar
Brian Johnson — vocals
Cliff Williams — bass
Phil Rudd — drums
Former members
Bon Scott (Deceased)
Dave Evans
Mark Evans
Chris Slade
Simon Wright

AC/DC are a hard rock band formed in Sydney, Australia in 1973 by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young. The band has sold over 150 million albums worldwide and over 68 million albums in the United States, making it one of the most successful hard rock acts ever. Their 1980 album, Back in Black, has sold 42 million units worldwide (21 million in the US alone), and is the second highest selling album of all time and the biggest selling album by any band. In their recording career, the band has had two distinctive lead singers; Bon Scott and then later, Brian Johnson. For this reason, fans tend to divide its history into the "Bon Scott era" (1974–80), and the "Brian Johnson era" (1980–present).

Although the group is generally considered to be a pioneer of hard rock and heavy metal music along with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, the members have always referred to their music as " rock 'n' roll". The band also accept the description "hard rock" (they are ranked number 4 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock"), but they find the "metal" description offensive. At one point they were known as a punk band, with which designation they also disagreed.

In 2005, the band finished second in a list of highest-earning entertainers from Australia—trailing The Wiggles—despite neither releasing an album nor touring that year.


Born in Glasgow, Scotland, brothers Angus, Malcolm and George Young moved, along with most of their family, to Sydney, Australia, in 1963, when they were all still young children. George began playing guitar first and became a member of Australia's most successful band during the 1960s — The Easybeats, who were the first local rock act to score an international hit (" Friday On My Mind" in 1966). Malcolm and Angus soon followed in his footsteps. Malcolm first played with a Newcastle, New South Wales band called The Velvet Underground (not to be confused with the New York based Velvet Underground, which featured Lou Reed).

In 1974, George Young and his ex-Easybeats bandmate, Harry Vanda, were recording an album as the Marcus Hook Roll Band, called Tales Of Old Granddaddy, when they introduced Angus and Malcolm to a recording studio for the first time, and invited them to contribute to the album. It was following this session that Vanda & Young took the newly formed AC/DC into the studio, marking the beginning of hugely successful collaboration.

Early years

In November 1973, Malcolm and Angus Young started AC/DC. Malcolm played rhythm guitar and Angus played lead guitar, and they recruited drummer Colin Burgess (ex- The Masters Apprentices), bassist Larry Van Kriedt, and vocalist Dave Evans. They originally intended to have a keyboardist, but this idea was soon dropped. They played their first gig at a club called 'Chequers' in Sydney on New Year's Eve, 1973. They were later signed to EMI-distributed Albert Productions for Austraila and New Zealand.

The early line-ups of the band changed often. Colin Burgess was the first member fired (it was rumoured this was because he passed out on stage, after someone spiked his drink), and a number of different bassists and drummers passed through the band over the next year, some lasting only a few weeks.

A vital innovation was Angus Young's adoption of his now famous school uniform as a regular stage outfit; the original was reputedly Angus' real uniform from his secondary school, Ashfield Boys High School, in Sydney. This idea was suggested by the Young brothers' sister, Margaret. Angus had also tried different costumes such as Zorro, a gorilla and Super-Ang (a parody of Superman).

The Young brothers soon felt that Evans wasn't a suitable frontman for the group — according to them, he was more of a " glam rocker", inspired by the likes of Gary Glitter. Occasionally Evans would be replaced onstage by the band's first manager, Dennis Laughlin (see Past members of AC/DC). When the band's driver, Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott — who already had experience as a vocalist — expressed an interest in becoming the vocalist, it soon became apparent that Evans' time with AC/DC was coming to an end. Evans also had personal problems with Laughlin, which contributed to the ill-feeling towards him.

Bon Scott era (1974–1980)

In September 1974, Dave Evans was replaced by Bon Scott, former lead vocalist with The Spektors (1964–66), The Valentines (1966—70) and Fraternity (1970–73). This signified the beginning of the band's international success. With Evans, they had recorded one single, "Can I Sit Next To You"/"Rockin' In The Parlour". "Can I Sit Next To You" was eventually re-recorded with Bon Scott under the title " Can I Sit Next To You Girl".

By January 1975, the Australian-only album entitled High Voltage was recorded, based on instrumental songs written by the Young brothers and lyrics written by Scott. Within a few months the line-up had stabilised with Scott, the Young brothers, Mark Evans (bass) and Phil Rudd (drums). Later that year, the band released the single, " It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)", which became their perennial rock anthem. It was included on their second album, T.N.T., again only released in Australia and New Zealand. The album also featured another classic, " High Voltage".

Between 1974 and 1978, aided by regular appearances on the nationally-broadcast TV pop music show, Molly Meldrum's Countdown, AC/DC became one of the most popular and successful acts in Australia.

International success (1976–1978)

In 1976, AC/DC signed an international deal with Atlantic Records. They worked all over the UK and Europe to establish themselves, touring almost constantly and gaining invaluable experience on the stadium circuit supporting the top hard rock acts of the day, including Alice Cooper, Queen, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, KISS, Cheap Trick, Nazareth, Foreigner, Thin Lizzy, Moxy, and The Who.

A compilation of tracks from the Australian LPs, High Voltage and T.N.T., was released by Atlantic Records in 1976. The album was also called High Voltage, and eventually sold three million copies. High Voltage was the first AC/DC album released worldwide, and attracted British punk listeners. The track selection of this album was in fact heavily weighted towards the more recent T.N.T.. Their next album, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, was released in the same year. Like its predecessor, this album exists in both Australian-only and international versions. Track listings varied worldwide and the international version of the album also featured one track from T.N.T. The original Australian version includes their popular song " Jailbreak", which is now more readily available on the 1984 compilation EP '74 Jailbreak, with a live version appearing on the Live album in 1991. Dirty Deeds didn't reach the US until 1981 (after Bon Scott's death), when AC/DC were at the peak of their popularity.

Firing of Evans (1977)

After the recording of 1977's Let There Be Rock, Mark Evans experienced personal differences with Angus Young and was sacked, being replaced by Cliff Williams, who began to share the background vocal duties with Malcolm Young.

Neither of the Young brothers has ever gone into any great detail of the split. Conversely, the CEO of Epic Records, Richard Griffiths, who used to work as a booking agent for AC/DC in the mid-1970s, has stated, "You knew Mark wasn't going to last, he was just too much of a nice guy."

Continued Success (1977–1978)

AC/DC first played in America on the radio station, AM 600 WTAC (based in Flint, Michigan). The station's manager, Peter C. Cavanaugh, booked the band to play in Flint's Capitol Theatre in 1977. The opening act was The MC5 who were briefly reunited and agreed to play the event. AC/DC opened with their popular song, " Live Wire" and closed with "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)".

The band were tagged as a punk rock band by the British press, but they managed to survive the punk upheavals of the late 70s, gaining a cult following in the UK, with Angus Young becoming notorious for mooning the audience. Their hard rock sound and Scott's image were a significant influence for Johnny Rotten, frontman of the popular punk band, the Sex Pistols.

The release of Powerage (1978) marked the debut of bassist Cliff Williams and followed the blueprint set by Let There Be Rock with harder riffs. One of the concerts on the Powerage tour, at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow, was recorded and released as If You Want Blood, featuring classic songs like " Whole Lotta Rosie", " Problem Child" or " Let There Be Rock". This album was the last one to be produced by Harry Vanda and George Young with Bon Scott on vocals.

AC/DC's profile was raised in the UK by their appearance on the BBC's, Rock Goes to College series, on October 28, 1978 at Essex University, Colchester, England. The performance was broadcast on the TV channel BBC1.

It was their sixth album, Highway To Hell, produced by Mutt Lange and released in 1979, that propelled them into the top ranks of hard rock acts. Its anthemic title track is still a radio staple in the U.S. and Australia. This album was the last to feature Bon Scott on vocals.

The album's final track, " Night Prowler", has two breaths in quick succession at the start of the song, meant to set the fear and loathing tone. The previous albums gave some ground to unheard elements, like backing vocals, but still feature the AC/DC minimalism signature; loud, simple, pounding riffs and grooving backbeats.

Bon Scott's death (1980)

Bon Scott died on 19 February, 1980 (see 1980 in music). He had passed out after a night of routine partying in London, and was left in a car owned by an acquaintance of his named Alistair Kinnear. The next day, Bon was found unconscious by Kinnear and immediately rushed to the King's College hospital in Camberwell, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival. Although common folklore cites pulmonary aspiration of vomit as the cause of his death, the official cause was listed as "Acute alcohol poisoning" and "Death by Misadventure".

There are many inconsistencies in the official story, which in recent years have led to many conspiracy theories, many involving heroin overdoses. Some think it was murder, and that Bon Scott was killed by fumes from the exhaust being redistributed into the car, and some think Kinnear didn't even exist. It should be noted, however, that Bon was asthmatic and the temperature was below freezing that morning.

Scott's family buried him in Fremantle, Western Australia, the area to which they emigrated when he was a child.

Finding a new voice

After Bon Scott's death, the band members had considered quitting, but they decided that Bon would have wanted AC/DC to continue. Therefore, shortly thereafter, the band lined up various candidates to replace Bon. Among them were ex- Back Street Crawler vocalist Terry Slesser, ex- Moxy frontman Buzz Shearman (who passed on the opportunity due to vocal problems), and ex- Geordie singer Brian Johnson.

With regard to Brian Johnson, Angus Young stated, "I remember Bon playing me "Little Richard" and then telling me the story of when he saw Brian singing. And he says about that night, 'there's this guy up there screaming at the top of his lungs and then the next thing you know he hits the deck. He's on the floor, rolling around and screaming. I thought it was great, and then to top it off —you couldn't get a better encore— they came in and wheeled the guy off!'" (Johnson was actually diagnosed with appendicitis later that night, which explains his writhing around on stage).

At the AC/DC audition Johnson sang two songs; " Whole Lotta Rosie" (from Let There Be Rock) and " Nutbush City Limits" ( Ike & Tina Turner). A few days later, the band told Johnson he would be the new vocalist of AC/DC. Slesser, on the other hand, was not too excited about the idea of joining an established band from the start, and instead went on to have a solo career and co-wrote a song entitled "Rainbow's Gold" which was covered by Iron Maiden in 1984.

Brian Johnson era (1980–present)

With Johnson, the band completed the songwriting that was started while Bon Scott was still alive and began recording Back in Black at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas a few months after Scott's death. Back in Black, also produced by Lange, and became their biggest-selling album and a hard rock landmark, featuring hits like; " Hell's Bells", " You Shook Me All Night Long" and the title track, " Back in Black". The album was certified platinum a year after its release and by 1997 it had sold 16 million copies in the U.S. alone.

The follow-up album, For Those About to Rock We Salute You, released in 1981, also sold very well and was well received by critics. Two of the band's biggest hit singles to date were featured in this album, "Let's Get It Up", reaching #13 in the UK, and the title track, " For Those About to Rock", reaching #15 on the UK charts. The band split with Lange for their self-produced 1983 album, Flick of the Switch in an effort to find the rawness and simplicity of their early albums.

Departure of Rudd (1983)

Amid rumours of alcoholism and drug-induced paranoia, drummer Phil Rudd's friendship with Malcolm Young was deteriorating; it is widely accepted that this friendship began deteriorating after Rudd made advances towards Malcolm's wife. After a long period of unfriendliness, the two's dislike for each other grew so strong that, at one point, they got into a fight. Two hours later, Rudd was fired from the band.

Though Rudd finished most of the drum tracks for the next album, he was replaced by Simon Wright, after the band held an anonymous audition. With the new line-up, the band released and produced the less successful album, Flick of the Switch, which was was considered underdeveloped and unmemorable, and critics stated that the band had made "the same album nine times". AC/DC was also voted as the eighth biggest disappointment of the year in the 1984 Kerrang!'s readers' poll, however, Flick of the Switch eventually reached No. 4 in the UK charts. Fly on the Wall, produced by the Young brothers in 1985, was also regarded as underdeveloped and directionless. A music concept video with the same name, Fly on the Wall was also released. It featured the band at a bar, playing five of the album's ten songs and supplemented by a variety of goings-on, including an animated fly.

In 1986, the group returned to the charts with the title track from Who Made Who, the soundtrack to Stephen King's film Maximum Overdrive. This album also included two new instrumentals along with previous hits such as "Hells Bells" and " Ride On".

In February 1988, AC/DC were inducted into ARIA Hall of Fame.

Regained popularity (1988–present)

The next album, Blow Up Your Video (1988), recorded on Miraval Studio in Le Val, France, saw them reunited with their original producers, Harry Vanda and George Young. The album was a selection of nineteen songs recorded for the album, and although it is criticized of having many " filler tracks", it was still successful; it enjoyed better sales than the band's two previous works, reaching No. 2 in the UK charts, the best position since Back In Black and with a British Top 20 single, " Heatseeker" and popular songs such as "That's The Way I Wanna Rock And Roll".

The Blow Up Your Video World Tour started on February 1988 in Perth, Australia. After the shows in Europe in April, Malcolm Young stated that he needed a rest from touring, principally to reform his alcoholism, so the band temporarily hired another member of the Young family, Stevie Young.

Following the tour, Wright left the group to work on the next Ronnie James Dio album Lock Up The Wolves, and was replaced by session veteran, Chris Slade. Johnson was unavailable for several months as he was finalising his divorce, so, the Young brothers wrote all the songs for the next album themselves, as they would do for all subsequent releases. The new album was produced by Bruce Fairbairn, who had worked previously with Aerosmith and Bon Jovi. Released in 1990, The Razors Edge was a big comeback for the band and included the hits " Thunderstruck" reaching #5 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart and " Moneytalks" reaching #23 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album went multi-platinum and went into the top ten in the United States. Several shows of the Razor's Edge tour were recorded, and the live album titled Live was released on 1992. The album, produced by Fairbairn, is considered as one of the best live albums of the 90s. A year later, the band recorded the song " Big Gun", for the soundtrack of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie " Last Action Hero".

By 1994, Rudd had returned. Angus and Malcolm invited him to jam with them and eventually, they hired him to replace Chris Slade. His departure was, however, amicable and mainly due to the band's strong desire to return to working with Rudd. In Angus Young's opinion, Slade was the best musician in AC/DC, but the wish to regroup with Rudd was stronger.

With the 1980—83 lineup back in position, the group recorded, Ballbreaker in 1995, with hip hop and heavy metal producer Rick Rubin.

Five years later, the band released their sixteenth studio album, Stiff Upper Lip. Produced by George Young, the album was better received by critics than the previous Ballbreaker, but in part criticized by the lack of ideas. The Australian release includes a bonus disc with live performances of the band from 1996 recorded in Madrid, and three promotional videos.

Recent events

In 2002, Q magazine put AC/DC at the very top of the "50 Bands To See Before You Die" list.

In 2003, AC/DC have entered into a long-term, multi-album deal for new recordings, and released newly remastered AC/DC albums. These albums are a part of AC/DC's Remasters series, they contain expanded booklets with rare photographs, memorabilia, and notes. All the albums except Ballbreaker and Stiff Upper Lip were remastered in 2003; Ballbreaker was re-released in 2005, and Stiff Upper Lip will be re-released in 2010, although a remastered version was released in the UK.

In May 2003, Malcolm Young accepted a Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Service to Australian Music and paid special tribute to Bon Scott. That same year, the Recording Industry Association of America upgraded the group's US sales figures, increasing their cumulative sales from 46.5 million to 63 million, making AC/DC the fifth-best-selling band in US music history, behind The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and the Eagles. The RIAA also certified the classic Back in Black album as double diamond (20,000,000) US sales, making it the sixth-best-selling U.S. album in history. As of 2005, the album has sold 21 million copies, moving it into fifth place.

On July 30 of the same year, the band gave a performance with the Rolling Stones at Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto, in Toronto, Canada. Held before an audience of 500,000, the concert was held to help the city overcome the effects of the 2003 SARS epidemic. The concert currently holds the record for being the largest paid music event in North American history.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction

During their induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2003, AC/DC performed " Highway To Hell" and " You Shook Me All Night Long" with guest vocals by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, who inducted the band into the hall. Tyler also called the band's power chords, "the thunder from down under that gives you the second most powerful surge that can flow through your body."

The band thanked their fans for their support in an acceptance speech and Brian Johnson quoted the band's 1977 song "Let There Be Rock":

In the beginning, back in 1955, man didn't know about the rock 'n roll show and all that jive. The white man had the schmaltz,
the black man had the blues, but no one knew what they was gonna do but Tchaikovsky had the news, he said: "let there be rock".

Helen of Troy musical

Since April 2003, Johnson has been working on a musical version of Helen of Troy with Sarasota Ballet coreographer, Robert de Warren. The musical is a Les Miserables-style musical with rousing anthems, tender ballads and minimal dialogue. He conceived the project with writers Ian La Frenais, Dick Clement and Brendan Healy after seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Cats, and describing it as, "fucking shit, wrist-cuttingly bad".

Malcolm McDowell, who made his recording debut singing one of the songs for the soundtrack in Brian's studio, has agreed to play Zeus. The Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan and Bruce Vilanch are also set to participate.

The full show has yet to premiere, but a small public performance, that featured songs written for the musical, was given in New York on June 13, 2005.

The street sign for ACDC Lane, Melbourne
The street sign for ACDC Lane, Melbourne


On 1 October 2004 a central Melbourne thoroughfare, Corporation Lane, was officially renamed ACDC Lane in honour of the band (street names in the City of Melbourne cannot contain the " /" character). The lane is near Swanston Street, the location where, on the back of a truck, the band recorded their video for the 1975 hit "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)". There is another street, in Leganés, Spain, which was named after the band in 2 March 2000, called 'Calle de AC/DC'.

Family Jewels box set

In March, 2005, an official two-disc DVD box-set containing music videos, live clips and promotional videos called Family Jewels was released. The first disc contains videos from the Bon Scott era like the first TV appearance in 1975, "Jailbreak", "Let There Be Rock" and a performance on television ten days before Scott died. The second disk contains material from the Brian Johnson era such as the classic videos for Back in Black.

New album

AC/DC are currently working on a new studio album: Malcolm Young stated: "the band is currently recording and writing material for the eagerly anticipated next album.", but no release date has been set. In a 2004 interview, Brian Johnson said he was handling lyrics, for the first time since the 1988 album, Blow Up Your Video. He also said Angus Young has written harder riffs than the ones which appeared on Stiff Upper Lip. Brian Johnson, in a 2005 interview, confirmed that the band does not know where the album will be recorded and the producer is yet unknown, and Malcolm Young stated that this new album's "gotta be perfect". There is a possibility that the next release could be a double album. Angus Young also mentioned on a recent radio interview that the next album and tour will be AC/DC's last due the deteriorating quality of Brian Johnson's singing.


Angus and Malcolm Young claim that they first got the idea for the name after seeing the acronym "AC/DC" on the back of a sewing machine owned by their sister, Margaret Young. AC/DC is an abbreviation for " Alternating Current/ Direct Current," indicating a device can be powered by either type of power source. The Young brothers liked the way that this name symbolized the band's raw energy and power-driven performances so the name stuck.

In some cultures, "AC/DC" is a slang term implying bisexuality. The band have said that they were initially unaware of this and that the public brought it to their attention.

Some religious figures have suggested that the name stood for "Anti-Christ/Devil's Children", "After Christ/Devil Comes" or "Anti Christ/Death to Christ;" the rumour has long persisted among critics who, already disliking the band's image, use it to paint the band as Satanists. The band has stated this is not true and has mocked these accusations, for example, Malcolm Young once said: "Me mum would kill me for that!"

The name AC/DC is pronounced one letter at a time, although the band is nicknamed "Acca Dacca" by its Australian fans. The name has inspired a rash of tribute bands, such as BC/DC, from the Canadian province of British Columbia; AC/DShe, an all-female group from San Francisco and Hayseed Dixie, an Appalachian band specializing in bluegrass covers.


Studio albums

Title Release date Label U.S. Album Sales
High Voltage (A) February 1975 Albert
T.N.T. (A) December 1975 Albert
High Voltage September 28 1976 Atlantic 3,000,000
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (A) September 1976 Albert
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap November 1976 Atlantic 6,000,000
Let There Be Rock (A) March 1977 Albert
Let There Be Rock June 1977 Atlantic 2,000,000
Powerage May 1978 Atlantic 1,000,000
Highway To Hell July 1979 Atlantic 7,000,000
Back in Black July 1980 Atlantic 21,000,000
For Those About to Rock November 1981 Atlantic 4,000,000
Flick of the Switch April 1983 Atlantic 1,000,000
'74 Jailbreak October 1984 ATCO 1,000,000
Fly on the Wall June 1985 Atlantic 1,000,000
Who Made Who May 1986 Atlantic 5,000,000
Blow Up Your Video January 1988 Epic 2,000,000
The Razor's Edge September 1990 Atlantic 5,000,000
Ballbreaker September 1995 Elektra 2,000,000
Volts November 1997 Eastwest
Stiff Upper Lip February 2000 EMI 1,000,000

Live albums

Title Release date Label Producer
If You Want Blood You've Got It October 1978 Atlantic / ATCO Vanda / Young
Live October 1992 Epic Bruce Fairbairn
Live: 2 CD Collector's Edition October 1992 Epic Bruce Fairbairn
Live from the Atlantic Studios November 1997 Eastwest George Young
Let There Be Rock: The Movie November 1997 Eastwest Tony Platt


  • AC/DC: Let There Be Rock (1980)
  • Fly on the Wall (1985)
  • Who Made Who (1986)
  • AC/DC (Aus.) (1989)
  • Clipped (1991)
  • Live at Donington (1991)
  • For Those About to Rock We Salute You (1993)
  • No Bull (1996)
  • Stiff Upper Lip Live (2001)
  • Live '77 (released only in Japan) (2003)
  • Toronto Rocks (2004)
  • Family Jewels (2005)

Band members

Current line-up

  • Angus Young — lead guitar
  • Malcolm Young — rhythm guitar, backing vocals
  • Brian Johnson — lead vocals
  • Cliff Williams — bass, backing vocals
  • Phil Rudd — drums

Original line-up

  • Angus Young — lead guitar
  • Malcolm Young — rhythm guitar, backing vocals
  • Dave Evans — lead vocals
  • Larry Van Kriedt — bass
  • Colin Burgess — drums

Vital Members

  • Angus Young - lead guitar (1973-present)
  • Malcolm Young - rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1973-present)
  • Bon Scott - lead vocals (1974-1980)
  • Brian Johnson - lead vocals (1980-present)
  • Cliff Williams - Bass, backing vocals (1977-present)
  • Phil Rudd - drums (1975-1983;1994-present)
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