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Music / AC/DC

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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

Perhaps no band in rock history embodies Hard Rock quite like AC/DC. Since their formation in Sydney, Australia in 1973, AC/DC have gone on to define the style with their tight, concise attack of heavily Blues-influenced rock & roll, that helped form the bedrock of Heavy Metal. They’re still one of rock’s preeminent party bands—with their songs about partying, drinking, rocking, loose women, and getting through the bad times—and the boys have been through more than their share of the latter.

The word "AC/DC" was originally seen by the sister of guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young, Margaret Young, on her sewing machine of all things, and it’s an abbreviation for "alternating current/direct current," meaning the appliance can use either type of electrical current for power rather than just one or the other.note  She thought it made for a good band name and suggested it to her brothers, who agreed and used it henceforth. (The band didn't learn that it was a euphemism for bisexuality until much later in their careers, much to their amusement.) The center of the band, at the beginning, was brothers Angus Young and Malcolm Young (on lead and rhythm guitar, respectively), with vocalist Dale Evans, bassist Larry Van Kriedt and drummer Colin Burgess. As the band quickly moved away from their glam beginnings, the lineup shifted numerous times. Over the years, Angus Young - one of the most iconic guitar players in rock, with his famous schoolboy outfit and duck-walk - has been the most consistent member of the band, followed closely by his brother Malcolm until he left the band in 2014 for health reasons.

The most notable change as the band found their sound came when Evans was sacked for not fitting their new, harder sound. Bon Scott - previously a chauffeur for the band - took over as the lead vocalist, and his love of the Double Entendre and his smirking, lecherous vocals helped define the sleaze of AC/DC. Putting out a pair of albums on Albert Productions, they made a bigger splash internationally with a string of albums on Atlantic, culminating in their big break with Highway to Hell in 1979.

In 1980, 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 instead got a new lead singer, the infamously gravely-voiced Brian Johnson, and made Back in Black, one of the best-selling albums ever made, and have been making records on a fairly consistent basis ever since, right up to the present day.

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 November 18th, 2017.) In April 2015, Rudd got into serious legal issues, including various drug charges and threatening to kill his assistant, and was subsequently replaced — this time directly — by Chris Slade.

As of 2008, AC/DC had sold more than 200 million albums worldwide, including 75 million albums in the United States. Back in Black has sold an estimated 50 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.

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 left Angus as the sole surviving founding member who was 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, 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. This was eventually confirmed in October 2020 with the announcement of the album Power Up.

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 (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 (1977-2016, 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, died 2020)
  • 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
  • 2020 - Power Up (also known as PWRUP)

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":

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    Musician tropes 
  • 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! Bon was especially, since he was roughly ten years older than everyone else in the band.
  • 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 2020 (except, sadly, Malcolm, who died in 2017).
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Brian's hearing loss, which wasn't caused by years of loud music, but by forgetting to wear earplugs while driving a racecar one day.
  • 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 Axl Rose in 2016 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 newsboy cap.
  • Keet: Angus, who's short and never sits still on stage, running, mugging, headbanging, duckwalking, walking around on his knees, being carried on the vocalist's shoulders, falling to the floor and gyrating or spinning around on his side by kicking, moving into, through and/or around the crowd, 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 overcomes both in that regard.
  • 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.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Malcolm and Angus were the second-youngest and youngest respectively out of 8 children.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The fact that Back in Black, the first album they recorded after Bon Scott's death from acute alcohol poisoning, 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, Simon Wright replaced Rudd after his initial firing, who was later replaced by Chris Slade, 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, followed by Brian's, Cliff's, AND Phil all returning in 2018, and the late Malcolm being replaced permanently by Stevie Young, and the trope is in more than 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).
  • Sibling Team: Angus and Malcolm have been the band's driving force from its inception, while George co-produced their first five albums.
  • 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.note  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, when the latter had to leave for health reasons. Stevie resembles his uncle enough that fans didn't realize that Malcolm had been replaced when Stevie first came on board.
  • The Pig-Pen: In a very limited sense, Angus Young. His habit of playing his guitars shirtless ensures the components inside become saturated with sweat, destroying things like pickups, potentiometers, or wireless transmitters. His famous "lightning bolt" SG is an infamous example; it originated as a repair from a touring guitar where the wood had been so warped by sweat that the only thing luthier John "Jaydee" Diggins could salvage was the Gibson faceplate from the headstock.
  • 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:
    • Interestingly both inverted and played straight with Dave Evans being replaced by Bon Scott due to Evans having a wider range and cleaner tone than Scott, making him a technically more proficient singer, yet Scott's rougher, messier style suiting the band's tone better.
    • Cliff Williams replacing bassist Mark Evans partially for the reason that Williams could sing backup vocals while Evans could not.
    • Bon Scott on Highway to Hell due to producer Mutt Lange teaching him better vocal technique in order to handle the more difficult and demanding segments of the music on that album, and the backup vocals on the same album as well due to Lange's excellent production and contributing backup vocals himself.
    • An even stranger case of simultaneous inversion and playing straight with Brian Johnson. Inverted because his voice gradually became less high and more raspy as time went on to the point where he sounded quite different in the span of only one decade; compare his vocals on the Back in Black album with those on The Razors Edge album. Played straight, on the other hand, because all live recordings of the band with Johnson from 1981 to 1986 show him straining (and failing miserably) to hit the same high notes he recorded for the albums, pushing his voice way too hard and sounding consistently flat, terrible, and out of breath. Who knows how, but from 1988 onward, live recordings show him absolutely nailing all the notes properly without vocal strain or loss of breath. Compare his vocals from any live recording from 1981 to 1986 with those in the radio broadcast of the National Tennis Center show in Melbourne from February 1988, or the Live at Donington concert film from 1991; the change is like night and day.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Bon Scott, full stop. Angus as well partway through shows after he inevitably sheds his shirt.
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: Angus likes to strip down to his underwear and moon the audience at concerts.

    Music tropes 
  • Album Title Drop:
    • "High Voltage" wasn't on the album with that name (the original Australia version, anyway; the international version included it).
    • "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 didn't deter Bon. As he told it, she came onto him hard and was so large and in charge that she didn't really give him much choice.
  • 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)," "Night Prowler," and "First Blood"
  • 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.
    • The album as a whole can also qualify. Besides the title track, "Thunderstruck" and "If You Dare" also contain strong heavy metal influences.
  • 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 studio recording of "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." Furthermore, 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".
  • 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.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: From “You Shook Me All Night Long”
    ”She told me to come, but I was already there.”
  • Job Song: "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" is about the starvation wages and generally poor working conditions encountered by neophyte rock bands.
  • 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. For Those About to Rock is a Single Object Focus version. Rock or Bust. Even Let There Be Rock could count due to the cover being mostly negative space with only Angus and Bon taking up a small amount of real estate.
  • Money Song: "Money Made" and "Moneytalks" are examples that critique capitalistic obsession.
  • 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." Angus himself definitely counts, as his combination of tiny stature and immense energy were one of the main things that made the band famous in the first place.
  • 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 Australian advertising icon Louie The Fly.
    • Bon frequently introduced "Whole Lotta Rosie" at shows by saying the song was about a Tasmanian devil, because the real Rosie was Tasmanian.
  • Something Blues: "Down Payment Blues" and "Satellite Blues".
  • 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," "Stormy May Day," "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," "Little Lover," "Down Payment Blues," "Kicked in the Teeth," "Can I Sit Next to You Girl," "Squealer," "Soul Stripper," "Sin City"...
  • Take That, Critics!: "Rock and 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.
  • Thunder Drum: In "Thunderstruck", the drums are emphasized along with the "Thunder!" chants.
  • 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"

    Misc tropes 
  • Awesomeness Is Volatile: During the original recording of "Let There Be Rock", Angus' amp burst into flames. And he finished the entire song while the amp burned beside him.
  • 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 which fire during "For Those About to Rock", and a bell from which Brian hangs during "Hells Bells".
    • The Ballbreaker tour featured Angus smashing through a (fake) brick wall on a life-size wrecking ball.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Released by Stern Pinball in 2012. It was so popular that it sparked a pinball renaissance in Australia.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: As mentioned 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 directorial effort, Maximum Overdrive, was comprised entirely of AC/DC songs old and new, with a little bit of instrumental incidental music.
  • Satanic Panic: They were swept up in the Satanic Panic due to Satanist serial killer Richard Ramirez's fandom of them, including being accused that their name stood for "Antichrist/Devil's Child."

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