GUITAR GIANTS Angus and Malcolm Young
Jamie Humphries lays bare the devastating rhythm, riff and lead styles of the hottest sibling act in rock history. Move over Ray and Dave, Noel and Liam, Justin and Dan… here come The Brothers Young!
They’re the hottest sibling act in rock history! Jamie Humphries explores the killer playing style of the Brothers Young!
However good you recall that infamous group of Aussie/Glaswegian/Geordie miscreants AC/DC as being, whack on Back In Black and recoil in amazement at how brilliant they really are. It’s astonishing the level of power, tightness, excitement and sheer musicality this bunch of guys manages to convey. And despite recent upheavals due to illness and other troubles, they are out on the road again with Axl Rose fronting, Chris Slade (back) on drums, and the Youngs’ nephew Stevie replacing Malcolm on guitar.
While the band’s lineage is clearly rock and roll and blues, they are also credited with pioneering heavy metal. However you define them, they sit alongside the very best guitar acts in history, the melding of Malcolm’s rhythm and riffing with Angus’s fiery leads providing the musical platform from which song after hit song has sprung.
The brothers formed AC/DC in 1973, and after several line-up changes settled with singer Bon Scott, Phil Rudd on drums and bassist Mark Evans. In 1975 they released High Voltage, following up with Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be (containing the classic Whole Lotta Rosie). Bassist Cliff Williams replaced Mark Evans and in ’78 the band released Powerage.
AC/DC’s breakthrough came in 1979 when the five-piece was put together with legendary rock producer Mutt Lange for their best release so far, the landmark Highway To Hell. The results of this Gibson and Gretsch-fuelled onslaught shot the band into rock’s top ranks, but just a year later tragedy struck when singer Bonn Scott died after a heavy drinking bout. They considered calling it a day, but instead re-emerged with ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson at the mic, releasing the finest album of their career thus far, the awesome Back In Black. This seminal rock record reached #1 in the UK and went on to sell more than 22 million copies in the USA alone. For Those About To Rock We Salute You proved almost as successful, but during the ’80s the group’s popularity diminished. Drummer Phil Rudd was replaced by Chris Slade (Rudd later re-joined but Slade is now back on kit).
With the 90s came a rock resurgence, and with it AC/DC’s reinstatement at the top of the pile. The band has continued to release hugely successful albums, and has now outsold The Beatles in the US, making them one of the biggest acts in music history. Such albums as The Razor’s Edge, Fly On The Wall, Who Made Who and 2008’s amazing return to form Black Ice, prove what an unstoppable force this band is. Add the soundtrack to the movie Iron Man 2 and 2014’s worldwide smash Rock Or Bust, this time with Angus and Stevie Young on six-string duties, whatever happens next their legacy remains solid gold.
AC/DC’s original sound comes from the perfect pairing of Angus on lead guitar and Malcolm on rhythm. Malcolm makes uses of open-position voicings and slash chords, displaying a phenomenal sense of timing and groove – he knows instinctively what, and what not to play. Angus punishes his Gibson SG with quick-fire licks, rapid vibrato and perfectly executed single-string lines – all delivered in trademark school uniform. They display a great balance of physical abandon, technical accuracy and musical integrity.
If you study the following rhythm and lead parts it will help you to work out AC/DC songs and solos much more easily, as you’ll be acquainted with the thought processes involved. We’ll include ideas from both Angus and Malcolm, and will give you an insight into their very individual approaches. To round things off there’s an AC/DC-inspired piece that makes use of the techniques covered in this lesson. I hope you enjoy our journey down under, up over… and beyond!