Follow TV Tropes


Music / AC/DC

Go To
AC/DC in 1979, From left to right: Malcolm Young, Bon Scott, Cliff Williams, Angus Young and Phil Rudd.

For those about to rock - FIRE

AC/DC is an Australian rock band formed in 1973 by guitarists and brothers Malcolm and Angus Young, who made their big break internationally with Highway to Hell in 1979. In 1980, their lead singer Bon Scott died of "death by misadventure" — asphyxiation from choking on his own vomit after a night of binge drinking. The band considered breaking up but got a new lead singer, Brian Johnson and made Back in Black and have been making records ever since. Drummer Phil Rudd was fired in 1983 and replaced by Simon Wright who, after that, was replaced by Chris Slade, who was in his turn asked to leave so Phil Rudd could return as drummer in 1994. In 2014, Malcolm Young was forced to retire due to serious health issues (early-onset dementia), and was replaced by his nephew Stevie Young, who previously temporarily filled in for Malcolm in 1988 when Malcolm was dealing with his alcoholism. (Malcolm passed away on 18 November 2017.) In April 2015, Rudd pleaded guilty to various drug charges and threatening to kill his assistant, and was subsequently replaced — this time directly — by Chris Slade.


As of 2008, AC/DC have sold more than 200 million albums worldwide, including 71 million albums in the United States. Back in Black has sold an estimated 45 million units worldwide, making it the highest-selling album by any band and the second highest-selling album in history, second only to Michael Jackson's Thriller.

In 2010, their twenty-month Black Ice World Tour ended and officially became the third-highest grossing tour in music history.

The name AC/DC comes from Angus seeing a switch in a sewing machine, where it could change from "alternating current/direct current".

In March 2016 singer Brian Johnson was ordered by doctors to stop touring immediately or risk permanently losing his hearing. Ten scheduled U.S. dates on their 2016 tour were subsequently postponed as a result, with the band promising to reschedule them with a guest vocalist. In April 2016, Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses was announced to be the guest vocalist joining the band to finish out the tour. Initial fan reaction was mostly negative to say the least, but the band finished out the tour and the concerts received critical acclaim. Long term bassist Cliff Williams retired at the end of the 2016 "Rock or Bust" tour - this leaves Angus as the sole surviving founding member who is still with the band. As the band had now lost four long-time members in quick succession, the band's long-term future was in doubt with many commentators suggesting it was time for the band to call it a day and go out on a high note. However at the end of the tour, Rose was announced as Johnson's permanent replacement, and in February 2017 it was reported that he and Angus have begun work on AC/DC's 16th studio albumnote . Over the next couple of years, however, it was reported that the band had reunited with Johnson, Rudd, and Williams to work on material written and demo'd by the Young brothers in the early 2000's, including working around guitar tracks recorded by Malcolm Young prior to his leaving the group.


Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):

  • Rob Bailey - bass (1974–75)
  • Peter Clack - drums (1974–75)
  • Dave Evans - lead vocals (1973–74)
  • Mark Evans - bass, vocals (1975-1977)
  • Brian Johnson - lead vocals (1980-2016, 2018-)
  • Axl Rose - vocals (2016-2018)
  • Phil Rudd - drums, percussion (1975–83, 1994–2015, 2018-)
  • Bon Scott - lead vocals, bagpipes, drums (1974–80, died 1980)
  • Chris Slade - drums, percussion (1989–94, 2015–2018)
  • Cliff Williams - bass, vocals (1978-2016, 2018-)
  • Simon Wright - drums, percussion (1983–89)
  • Angus Young - guitar, vocals (1973–)
  • Malcolm Young - guitar, vocals (1973–2014, died 2017)
  • Stevie Young - guitar, vocals (2014–) note 

Early Members/Fill-Ins:

  • Colin Burgess - drums (1973–74, 1975)
  • Ron Carpenter - drums (1974)
  • Russell Coleman - drums (1974)
  • Tony Currenti - drums (1974)
  • Bruce Howe - bass (1975)
  • Larry Van Kriedt - bass (1973–74, 1975)
  • Paul Matters - bass (1975)
  • John Proud - drums (1974)
  • Neil Smith - bass (1974)
  • Noel Taylor - drums (1974)
  • George Young - bass, guitar, drums, vocals (1974–75, died 2017)

Studio Discography:

  • 1975 - High Voltage note 
  • 1975 - T.N.T.
  • 1976 - High Voltage note 
  • 1976 - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
  • 1977 - Let There Be Rock
  • 1978 - Powerage
  • 1979 - Highway to Hell
  • 1980 - Back in Black
  • 1981 - For Those About to Rock We Salute You
  • 1983 - Flick of the Switch
  • 1985 - Fly on the Wall
  • 1988 - Blow Up Your Video
  • 1990 - The Razors Edge
  • 1995 - Ballbreaker
  • 2000 - Stiff Upper Lip
  • 2008 - Black Ice
  • 2014 - Rock or Bust

Live Discography:

  • 1978 - If You Want Blood You've Got It
  • 1992 - Live
  • 1997 - Live From The Atlantic Studios
  • 1997 - Let There Be Rock: The Movie – Live In Paris
  • 2012 - Live At River Plate

"Dirty tropes done dirt cheap":

    open/close all folders 

    Musician tropes 
  • Ascended Fanboy: Despite his own international rockstar status, here on AC/DC, Axl Rose is this.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Well, one of them, at least. After Bon Scott died, Angus Young became the Face - he is far more flamboyant and iconic than the new singer Brian Johnson.
  • Band of Relatives: Angus and Malcolm Young are brothers. Their brother George Young was bassist in 1974 and served as producer on many of their records, and mutual nephew of all three Stevie Young filled in for Malcolm in 1988, and permanently replaced him as an official member in 2014.
  • Carpet of Virility: Bon Scott. He wasn't afraid to show it off.
  • Cool Old Guy: All of them!
  • Dwindling Party: Malcolm couldn't record Rock or Bust. Phil couldn't tour for it. Then Brian had to sit the final concerts out. And all the departures made Cliff decide to leave once it was done. Thankfully, all the above mentioned regrouped in 2018 (except, sadly, Malcolm, who died the year before).
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Brian's hearing loss, which wasn't caused by years of loud music, but driving racecars without earplugs.
  • Guest-Star Party Member: Stevie Young in the 1988 tour while uncle Malcolm was in rehab, Paul Greg subbed for Cliff Williams in two 1990 concerts when the bassist was hospitalized for kidney stones, and now Axl Rose to compensate for Brian Johnson's hearing loss.
  • I Am the Band: After Malcolm retired from the band, AC/DC is effectively Angus' band now.
  • Iconic Item: Angus' mock schoolboy outfit and red Gibson SG.
    • Also, Brian Johnson's cap.
  • Keet: Angus, who's short and never sits still on stage, running, mugging, headbanging and even stripping.
  • Large Ham: Bon Scott and Brian Johnson are undeniably over-the-top, and Angus is so flamboyant while he plays he probably shows both.
  • Lesser Star: Cliff and Phil just provide a really basic rhythm section (Cliff stated he's satisfied with it, while Phil doesn't talk very much).
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Brian Johnson, Angus and Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, and Phil Rudd from 1980–83 and 1994–2014.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Most bandmembers are quite short. Angus Young is only 5'2", his brother, Malcolm was 5'3". Lead singer Bon Scott was 5'5" and his replacement, Brian Johnson is the same height. Drummer Phil Rudd is 5'6". New rhythm guitarist Stevie Young is 5'7". Bassist Cliff Williams towers over the rest of the band at 5'10". Replacement drummer Chris Slade, a 6-footer, really towered over them, fortunately he sat behind the drums. When Axl performed with the group he towered over his bandmates at 5 foot 8 inches.
    • Also can double as a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment; the Young brothers grew up in extremely distressed circumstances in postwar Scotland, and their shortness is likely due to childhood malnutrition.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The fact that Back in Black, the first album they recorded after Bon Scott's death, features songs about drinking to excess ("Have a Drink on Me"), partying and overall fighting death ("Back in Black") and going to Hell ("Hells Bells"). All were homages to Scott, of course, given he would write in that vein...
  • Revolving Door Band: The band formed in 1973. By 1975 when they first hit the big time (in Australia at least), they were on their 8th drummer (Phil Rudd), 6th bassist (Mark Evans), and 2nd vocalist. The second vocalist (Bon Scott) was one of the previous seven drummers, as well as the band's driver before that (the Young brothers thought having him play music instead increased their chances of getting home from a show alive). Furthering the "revolving" part, Chris Slade is Phil Rudd's predecessor (once Rudd decided to return in 1994) and successor (when the drummer went nuts and was arrested for it in 2014 and thus the band decided to part ways). Add in Malcolm's and Brian's departures due to health issues in 2014 and 2016 respectively, leading to Cliff's retirement also in 2016, and the trope is in full effect.
  • School Uniforms Are the New Black: Angus's costume.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Bon Scott's life in a nutshell (the others - specially Angus, who only smokes - less so, even if Malcolm and Phil had to take temporary leaves for substance abuse).
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Brian Johnson replacing Bon Scott. Even said something like "The casual listener could easily have thought that Johnson was Scott." Johnson himself has said that his normal singing voice was nothing like that before AC/DC; he deliberately emulated Scott's style. And while he was still part of the band, Bon Scott said if anyone could ever replace him, it would have to be Johnson.
    • Also, Stevie Young replacing Malcolm Young in 2014.
  • The Teetotaler: In stark contrast to the hard drinking Bon Scott and his older brother Malcolm, Angus Young has been sober his whole life. Apparently the heaviest thing he'll drink is coffee, and he's also quite partial to a glass of chocolate milk.
  • Unusual Euphemism: In an interview Angus described Bon Scott as a "crayfisherman" because he "caught crabs for a living."
  • Vocal Evolution: Actually inverted with Brian Johnson; his voice gradually became less high and more raspy as time went on, to the point he sounded quite different in the span of only one decade (compare his vocals in The Razors Edge with Back in Black).
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Bon Scott, full stop.
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: Angus like to strip down to his underwear in concerts.

    Music tropes 
  • Album Title Drop:
    • "High Voltage" wasn't on the album with that name.
    • "If You Want Blood (You've Got It)" wasn't even a song until Highway To Hell.
    • Blow Up Your Video is named after a line from "That's the Way I Wanna Rock 'n' Roll".
  • Ancient Rome: Angus didn't like school, but is a history buff, Rome in particular. Three songs are based on it, "For Those About To Rock" (the title comes from the famous gladiator phrase), "Hail Caesar", and "War Machine" (inspired by a documentary on Hannibal Barca).
  • Anti-Christmas Song: As the liner notes for The Razors Edge read:
    “Mistress For Christmas” ain’t exactly “Frosty The Snowman.” Nor is it likely to turn up on too many compilations of family Christmas favourites.
  • Audience Participation Song: Several. "High Voltage" and "The Jack" are usually these.
    • To a lesser extent the intro to "Whole Lotta Rosie" ( "Angus! Angus!") and the Oi's in "T.N.T."
    • THUNDER!aaaaaaaaaaaa...THUNDER!aaaaaaaaaa......THUNDER!
  • Big Beautiful Woman: The titular Rosie of "Whole Lotta Rosie". 42-39-56, but that clearly doesn't deter the man in the song.
  • Big Rock Ending: Tons of their songs, especially when played live.
  • Blatant Lies: Bon Scott singing 'I never smoked me no cigarettes, I never drank much booze' on "Overdose".
  • Blood Lust: "If You Want Blood (You've Got It)"
  • Cool Train: Rock N Roll Train
  • Darker and Edgier: 1990's The Razor's Edge is the closest the band ever came to straight heavy metal. The song is in a minor key, features an Angus solo that briefly meanders into "noise rock" territory, and is propelled by a almost militaristic drumbeat.
  • Depraved Bisexual: The POV character in "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap." He's a hitman who works cheap and it's implied he also sleeps with his clients, both men and women.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Oddly inverted. The live, original version of "The Jack" is much more explicit with its message about gonorrhea, but because the song was too explicit, the band was forced to censor it when they recorded it for the album, resulting in Bon Scott coming up with much more clever lyrics chock full of innuendo. Thus, the album version (which is what most people heard first and assumed was the original) stands as one of their crowning achievements of Double Entendre, and the original live version explains the joke by being much more explicit.
  • Double Entendre:
    • Bon Scott in particular was something of a genius at them, but let the record show that Brian Johnson wrote probably greatest double entendre ever (from "Let Me Put My Love Into You"):
      Let me cut your cake with my knife
    • This line from "Beating Around the Bush" is an honourable mention, and so is the song's title itself:
      Sticks and stones won't break my bone
    • "Big Balls". This one is chock full of DE goodness. If you can even call it "double".
    • There's also this precocity from "You Shook Me All Night Long":
      She told me to come, but I was already there
    • "The Jack" uses cards as a metaphor for venereal diseases.
  • Epic Rocking: "Let There Be Rock". In every sense of "epic". Live performances of that (and a few others such as "Jailbreak") can reach over 10 minutes! Other 6 minute tracks like that include "Overdose" and "Night Prowler". And somehow they still managed to combine it with a stripped-back, no-frills style.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll)".
  • Everything Is an Instrument: While only four songs have instruments other than guitars, bass and drums, three are "regular" ones ("It's a Long Way To The Top"'s bagpipes, bells in both "Hells Bells" and "Mistress For Christmas")... and "For Those About To Rock" features cannons.
    • Inverted in "Jailbreak", where Angus makes sounds in his guitar for Spotlights! Sirens! Rifles, firing!
  • Flanderization: They became known strictly for one specific sound, but their earliest albums occasionally had mellower blues-rock songs such as "The Jack" and "Little Lover".
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: "Hells Bells".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Big Balls" is about large-scale upper-class social events.
    • The line "She's got big balls!" makes this fairly obvious. The alternative is far deeper than most AC/DC songs typically go.
    • "The Jack" refers to Gonorrhea.
  • Gold Digger: "What Do You Do For Money Honey"
  • Great Escape: "Jailbreak"
  • Greatest Hits Album: Angus Young refuses to do one. Yet two soundtracks, Who Made Who (Maximum Overdrive) and Iron Man 2 serve as good compilations.
    • The 1 CD version of Live (1992) could count as well.
  • Grief Song: Back In Black has both "Hells Bells" and "Have A Drink On Me" as an homage to Bon Scott, who had died that year.
  • Heavy Meta: A third, or half the songs, include Rock or Rock 'N' Roll in the title or lyrics.
    • The album Black Ice has no less than 5 songs that have the words "rock" or "rocking" in the title.
  • A Hell of a Time: "Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be" is a sexual take on this.
  • Intercourse with You: "Let Me Put My Love Into You", "You Shook Me All Night Long", and ... oh hell, about half of AC/DC's songs.
  • Instrument of Murder: Angus appears impaled by his own guitar on the cover of If You Want Blood...
  • Instrumentals:
    • "D.T." from Who Made Who.
    • "Chase The Ace" from the same album. Though lyrics can supposedly be found online, the song itself features none.
  • Last Note Hilarity: "Night Prowler" ends with Bon Scott saying "Shazbot. Nanu nanu."
    • "The Jack" ends with Bon Scott thanking an unappreciative audience.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll)" is probably the most rousing and upbeat rock song ever recorded about how much it sucks to be in a band.
    • "Shot Down In Flames" is probably the most fun song ever recorded about being rejected by women.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Back In Black
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Usually around 5 or 6. Some of their songs go down to 4, while a few other songs get as high as 7.
  • Money Song: "Money Made", "Moneytalks".
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Rock 'N' Roll Train". The Working Title does appear, but Angus thought there were already too many songs\albums named "Runaway Train".
    • Other titles that appear in some form, but not exactly as the title suggests, include "Some Sin For Nuthin'", "Smash 'N' Grab", and "Anything Goes".
  • Rated M for Manly: The songs are all about Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll! Bon Scott's persona made it even manlier.
  • Painful Rhyme: Occasionally Played for Laughs, especially in the Bon Scott days.
    Gonna be a rock'n'roll star!
    YES I ARE!
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Implied in "T.N.T."
  • Professional Killer: "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap"
  • Rock Star Song: "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll)". "Let There Be Rock" too. "Highway To Hell", "Little Lover", "There's Gonna Be Some Rockin'", "Rock 'n' Roll Singer", "Rocker", "Thunderstruck", "Showbusiness", and honestly too many more to name here.
  • Shout-Out: The title "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" is a reference to Beany and Cecil, where it was a phrase used by the show's villain, Dishonest John.
    • At the end of "Night Prowler", Bon can be heard saying "Shazbot, na-noo, na-noo."
    • "T.N.T." features the line "I'm dirty, I'm mean, I'm mighty unclean", a reference to advertising icon Louie The Fly.
  • Something Blues: "Down Payment Blues" and "Satellite Blues".
  • Something Completely Different: "Love Song" is an actual love song, with jangly guitars and all, and "Ride On" is the closest thing to a ballad AC/DC has. These two also count as a bit of Early Installment Weirdness, as they are both part of AC/DC's earlier material (the former is from the Australian edition of High Voltagenote , and the latter from Dirty Deeds...).
    • Many albums have one or two songs that are far slower and more bluesy then the rest of the album, such as "Stormy May Day" and "Rock 'N' Roll Dream" on Black Ice.
    • In the documentary Long Way to the Top: Stories of Australian Rock & Roll, Angus Young recalls that, for some reason, the band decided to play the theme from Zorba the Greek at one show.
    • "Can I Sit Next To You Girl?" and "Rockin' In The Parlour" - the only songs they recorded with Dave Evans that was officially released, are straight up glam rock.
  • Strictly Formula: This quote by Brian sums it up:
    "Someone said to Angus the other day, ‘Hey, you’ve made the same album 15 times.’ Angus said, ‘No, man, we’ve made the same album 16 times!’"
  • Subdued Section: "Let There Be Rock", "Shoot To Thrill", "Whole Lotta Rosie", "Jailbreak", "Thunderstruck"...
  • Take That, Critics!: "Rock N' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution"
  • Telephone Song: In "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", the singer tells various subjects to call him so he can assist them in underhanded ways.
    "36-24-36, hey! I lead a life of crime!"
  • Three Chords and the Truth: The bread-and-butter of their music. In fact, it's usually exactly three chords per song.
  • Title-Only Chorus: At least half of their songs. This is particularly prominent in recent albums, when Angus and Malcolm Young write all of the lyrics.
  • Villain Song: "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap". "Night Prowler" can fit if one feels the Stalker with a Crush narrator is going too far.
  • You Make Me Sic: Officially, "Hells Bells" has no apostrophe.

    Misc tropes 
  • Continuity Nod: "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" alludes to "T.N.T." and "High Voltage."
  • Great Balls of Fire!: Their live shows are huge. Just for starters, life sized cannons who fire during "For Those About To Rock", and a bell in which Brian hangs during "Hells Bells".
    • The Ballbreaker tour featured Angus smashing through a (fake) brick wall on a life size wrecking ball.
  • Iconic Logo: The AC and DC separated by a lightning bolt in the middle.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Released by Stern Pinball in 2012. It was so popular that it sparked a pinball renaissance in Australia. Click here for tropes.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: As mentionned above, the band's name came from a switch in a sewing machine.
  • Lucky Charms Title: When spelling it, don't forget the lightning bolt. A slash is acceptable for partial credit. Unicode represents an approximate form this way: ACϟDC?
  • Pop-Star Composer: The soundtrack to Stephen King's lone directoral effort, Maximum Overdrive, was comprised enriely of AC/DC songs old and new, with a little bit of instrumental incidental music.
  • Spiritual Successor: Airbourne are seen by many as this, being a four piece Australian rock band doing a very similar style of music
  • You Keep Using That Word: When they started out, the term "AC/DC" had, in addition to electrical notation, been a somewhat common term for bisexuality. Lampshaded by Malcom in the band's Behind the Music special, wherein he relates a story shortly after the band first formed of a cab driver who informed him and Angus of the double-meaning:
    Malcom: And I said, "What?! [laughs] You lookin' for trouble, pal?" He goes, "No, no, seriously. Bisexual... AC/DC." And I go, "Aw, shit, we'd better change the name..."

Alternative Title(s): Bon Scott, Brian Johnson, Angus Young


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: