“For those about to rock / We salute you.”
One of the most successful bands in the history of music, AC/DC has spent decades selling albums and filling concerts. This touchstone of rock and roll has gone through various members, including a change in front men due to a tragic death, but despite all the odds, AC/DC endured and played the music that came to define a genre the only way they knew how: loud. Naturally, the history of such a classic band must be filled with some interesting and scandalous stories—this is rock ‘n’ roll after all—so we’ve provided the best ones here for your enjoyment. Rock on!
42. Are They Musicians or Tailors??
The name “AC/DC” actually stands for “Alternating Current/ Direct Current.” For those of you looking confused, Angus and Malcolm Young got the inspiration for their name from a sewing machine being used by their older sister. They liked how the “AC/ DC” looked on the side of the appliance, so they adopted it for their own. Not exactly the most rock ‘n’ roll origin story, but not everything can be.
41. A Band is Born
In late 1973, AC/DC was formed by the Scottish-born Australian brothers Angus and Malcolm Young, who played lead and rhythm guitar respectively. They were joined by vocalist Dave Evans, drummer Colin Burgess, and bassist Larry Van Kriedt, forming the band’s very first line-up.
40. And the Money Rolls On
AC/DC has sold more than 200 million albums worldwide. Around 70 million of those albums were sold in the US.
39. Family Ties
Angus and Malcolm Young weren’t the only ones in their family with a gift for music. Their older brother George was a member of the popular 60s Australian band the Easybeats, and he ended up helping his younger brothers’ group when they were starting out.
38. Two Steps Back, One Step Forward
By 1974, AC/DC was in a bad place; they lost their first manager, Dennis Laughlin, the band was realizing that their lead singer wasn’t working out, and they were stuck penniless in Adelaide. Luckily, they were able to turn to Michael Browning, a promoter who once had AC/DC play a gig at his club, called the Hard Rock. They reached out to Browning after Laughlin left, and Browning agreed to take them on as his band in Melbourne. From there, they changed their line-up, keeping the Young Brothers but adding Mark Evans as the bassist, Phil Rudd on the drums, and Bon Scott as the new frontman. This marked a turning point for the band, and things started looking up pretty quick.
37. Scrambling Up the Ladder
AC/DC’s first album, High Voltage, came out in October 1974. It allegedly took them just 10 days to record. Due to it being their first ever album, High Voltage was only released in Australia. The same thing happened to their second album, T.N.T., but these two albums did ensure that AC/DC were one of the most popular bands in Australia by the end of 1976.
36. Raking in the Dough
AC/DC’s Back in Black is one of the best-selling albums of all time, having sold more than 50 million copies worldwide!
35. We Were Busy
Since the band’s formation, the longest amount of time that AC/DC has gone in between albums is eight years. Stiff Upper Lip was released in 2000, while Black Ice came out in 2008. To be fair, Black Ice was delayed due to a label change and an injury sustained by bass guitarist Cliff Williams.
34. At Your Service!
When Bon Scott was offered the chance to join AC/DC as their lead singer, he was working as a chauffeur for… AC/DC! Not bad, as far as promotions go.
33. Just One?
As of 2018, AC/DC has received seven Grammy nominations throughout their career. The only one which they won was in 2010 for their song “War Machine.” That’s right, as far as the Grammys go, the peak of AC/DC’s career was in 2010.
32. Satanic Panic
There have been some interesting fan theories behind AC/DC’s name. Given that some of their songs were titled with hellish themes (“Highway to Hell” for one) and given the traditional scare that rock & roll is the devil’s music, AC/DC was said to stand for “Anti-Christ/Devil’s Children” (points for creative paranoia, at least). Another, I’d say more interesting story actually considers the story of the sewing machine being open to two different methods of receiving electricity: the term “AC/DC” became a slang term for bisexuality in the LGBTQ community! It remains contested whether the slang term or the band name came first.]
31. Keeping it in the Family
Angus and Malcolm Young’s brother, George, along with his friend Harry Vanda, produced every single AC/DC album up until Highway to Hell, which was recorded in the US with producer Robert John Lange.
30. Their Final Work with Him
The last time that George Young produced an AC/DC album was the 2000 album Stiff Upper Lip. The album received a positive reception, though it didn’t sell as much as The Razors Edge. George would later pass away in 2017.
29. What a Woman!
AC/DC’s album Let There Be Rock features a song called “Whole Lotta Rosie.” It was written by the Young brothers and Bon Scott based on a one-night stand that Scott had with a woman in Tasmania. Scott attested that the woman, named Rosie, claimed to have slept with 28 famous people, with Scott being the 29th. If Scott can be trusted, Rosie weighed at least 260 pounds and was one of the best lovers whom Scott was ever with.
28. Pink Floyd Syndrome
Despite their incredible success and album sales in the US, their singles haven’t been quite as successful on the charts. Only one of their songs has broken into the top 30, reaching #23. This song was “Moneytalks” from their album The Razor’s Edge. To be honest, we’re amazed that it wasn’t “Thunderstruck.”
27. Literal Lifesavers
The AC/DC haters out there might be surprised to know that their music has been found to combat cancer! Thanks to a study at the University of South Australia, it’s been discovered that chemotherapy treatment is more effective when playing “Thunderstruck” during the process. The study found that the specific vibrations of that song cause the silicon microparticles to bounce, leading them to more effectively carry the chemo drug to where it’s most needed. Still hating?
26. The End of an Era
In February of 1980, after around six years with AC/DC, frontman Bon Scott died on the evening of the 18th or some time in the early hours of the 19th. He had been sleeping off the night before in a small Renault 5 car on the street. His exact cause of death is disputed, though the official reason given was “acute alcohol poisoning.” Nonetheless, one of his biographers, Jesse Fink, argues that Scott’s pulmonary aspiration with vomit suggests that he may have died from a overdose of a harder drug.
Regardless, his premature death at 33 was deeply mourned, especially by his former band. AC/DC considered calling it quits, but they ultimately decided to continue when they reasoned that Scott would have wanted them to continue. To this day, Scott’s last album with AC/DC, Highway to Hell, is their second-best-selling album, while Back in Black, an album done in tribute to Scott, took the number one spot.
25. One Man’s Sunset, Another Man’s Dawn
Brian Johnson was already a huge fan of AC/DC when he was approached to replace the deceased Bon Scott. Although he’d been greatly moved by Scott’s passing, AC/DC all agreed that Johnson was the perfect choice of frontman to continue Scott’s legacy.
24. Oh, Those Wacky Aussies!
While most North Americans pronounce AC/DC’s name by saying the individual letters, Australian fans have a rather different method of naming the band. Down under, AC/DC is generally pronounced “Acca-Dacca.”
23. RIP Old Friend
AC/DC’s album art for Back in Black is famously black except for the band’s name. This was a deliberate move to represent the band mourning the death of Bon Scott.
22. A Veteran AC/DC Figure
Cliff Williams was the bass player of AC/DC from 1977 until 2016, beginning with the album Powerage. He would remain with the band until Rock or Bust. Williams announced his retirement from the music industry after the Rock or Bust World Tour was finished. I’d say he put in his time, and it’s totally acceptable for him to hang them up after that many years.
21. You Guys Take Over
Despite contributing lyrics to Back in Black, Brian Johnson stopped writing the lyrics for AC/DC songs after Blow Up Your Video in 1988. Malcolm and Angus Young would share songwriting credit between them from then on. When he was once asked why he stopped contributing to the songwriting, Johnson joked that he “ran out of words.”
20. Did They Hire Quasimodo to Carry It Along?
When it came to their Back in Black Tour, AC/DC brought along a huge bell that weighed over a ton! This bell was used at the start of every live performance of “Hell’s Bells” for added effect.
19. High Praise
In 2009, VH1 named the AC/DC song “Back in Black” as the second-greatest rock song of all time!
18. Rocker in Disguise
You might be wondering how Angus Young settled on that iconic schoolboy outfit while performing live. Well, it turns out that this was due to a process of elimination: Young had previously tried wearing a gorilla costume, a Spider-Man costume, and even a Zorro costume! Was AC/DC just an excuse to feed a cosplay habit?
17. At Least the Public Liked It
Ballbreaker became one of the most appropriately named albums in AC/DC’s career. For one thing, the album took five months to record (keep in mind, they recorded High Voltage in ten days). For one thing, the band had had issues with who their drummer was (with Chris Slade and Phil Rudd replacing each other twice due to Rudd’s legal troubles). For another thing, the production in New York proved so unsatisfying that the band switched gears and moved the production to Los Angeles instead. Meanwhile, the band clashed frequently with the album’s producer, Rick Rubin. In particular, Rubin and Malcolm Young would clash, with Young later describing the decision to work with Rubin as a “mistake.” Despite the trouble behind the scenes, though, Ballbreaker was another success for AC/DC.
16. Highway to (the) Hall
AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Some might say that that was about time!
15. Don’t Label Us!
Although AC/DC has frequently been described as hard rock, metal, or heavy metal, they have always maintained that they are “a rock and roll band, nothing more, nothing less.”
14. The Bar to Match
Allegedly, the sound of Back in Black is so highly praised within the music industry that it’s been used “to check the acoustics of a room.” This has been done by bands such as Motorhead, employing the album as a sort of musical yardstick.
13. Coming on Like a Hurricane
In contrast to AC/DC’s music being used to help cancer patients, it has also been used for violent force. The US military cornered Panama general and criminal Manuel Noriega in the embassy of the Vatican City, where he was safe from any attempt to arrest him unless he left the premises. Despite loud music being forbidden as a form of government force, the military went ahead and played “Hells Bells” full blast at the embassy for two days. Noriega finally had enough and surrendered after that.
12. Respectable Silver Medal
AC/DC’s 2008 album Black Ice was exclusively sold via Walmart in physical formats, shunning digital sales. Despite closing themselves off from that market, Black Ice ended up becoming the second-highest selling album of 2008! They were only behind Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends by Coldplay.
11. Not Quite a Movie Legacy
Aside from their regular albums, AC/DC also did the soundtracks for two movies. Sadly, these films were Maximum Overdrive and Iron Man 2. Maybe they should have gotten a better agent?
10. Thanks, Arnold!
Aside from working on the soundtracks of those two films, AC/DC also recorded an original song for the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero. The song was titled “Big Gun” and when it was released as a single, it reached the top spot on the Mainstream Rock chart in the US.
9. And We’re All Just Imitators
AC/DC’s song “Back in Black” managed to inspire another international rock star when it was released. The song was the first one which a 14-year-old Kurt Cobain learned how to play.
8. The Music Never Dies
In honor of AC/DC, the city of Melbourne named a street after them in 2004. In a fitting turn of events, ACDC Lane is where Cherry Bar is found, known for being a well-known rock music hot spot.
7. How Times Change
In 2004, AC/DC ranked 72 on Rolling Stone’s list of the best 100 artists of all time. Later, in 2008, the band made the magazine’s cover. Ironically, that same magazine had been one of their worst critics when the band released their first album in 1976. Rolling Stone’s review included the declaration “Hard Rock has unquestionably hit its all-time low.” Need any help wiping that egg off your face, Rolling Stone?
6. Get Off Our Line!
One of AC/DC’s early hits was “Dirty Deeds,” whose lyrics include a women’s measurements, 36-24-36, being given, followed by a “hey!” A couple claimed that those digits, plus the “hey!” that sounded like an “8,” turned into their phone number, and they alleged that they were being harassed by AC/DC fans calling them. They even sued the band, winning $250,000 in damages!
5. Say That Again?!
While AC/DC was in the middle of the Rock or Bust World Tour in 2016, frontman Brian Johnson was declared medically unfit to continue performing with the band. Johnson’s love for race cars and his forgetting to use proper ear protection while racing had resulted in him losing his hearing at an alarming rate.
4. Welcome to the Jungle, Indeed
In a move that’s honestly quite out of left field, AC/DC replaced Brian Johnson with Axl Rose, the former lead singer of Guns & Roses! Rose completed the Rock or Bust World Tour with AC/DC, only to later join AC/DC full time with Angus Young expressing an interest in recording a new album with Rose. Of course, this has been disputed by fans, who suspect that Johnson might be returning to the band after all since he was seen at a studio where AC/DC recorded three of their previous albums. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
3. Don’t Mess With the Big Dogs
In 1975, AC/DC were scheduled to perform at the Sunbury Rock Festival, but they ended up leaving without ever mounting the stage. This was because they had gotten into a scrap with the people behind the rock band Deep Purple, who were headlining the festival that year. It wouldn’t be their last altercation with another band.
2. Farewell Old Friend
In 2014, Malcolm Young was unable to continue performing with the band due to personal illness and poor health. Just like his older brother, George, Malcolm eventually passed away in 2017 at 64 years old. As for AC/DC, Young’s nephew Stevie replaced his uncle’s position in the band.
1. Battle of the Bands
In 1977, AC/DC teamed up with the heavy metal band Black Sabbath for a tour across Europe. The two front men of those bands, Bon Scott and Ozzy Osbourne, became very friendly during the tour, but they were the exception, not the rule. The rest of both bands didn’t get along with each other, to the point where Black Sabbath member Geezer Butler once pulled a knife on Malcolm Young!
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