The Sunday Post (Dundee)

Guitar hero: Scotland is my rock

- By Billy Sloan

Angus Young hails his roots in rare interview

They are rock’s greatest survivors and, famously, after suffering terrible loss, came Back In Black, an album that cemented their world domination.

But guitar legend Angus Young admits he feared AC/DC might never play again after another series of body-blows.

The rocker – who emigrated from Glasgow to Sydney almost 60 years ago – confesses the Australian supergroup were on the brink but any fears they had reached the end of the road were forgotten when he remembered his older brother Malcolm’s wise counsel: “Keep your head down and keep strumming.”

Now, AC/DC are back, again, and with an almighty bang. Their new album, Power Up – their first in six years – has hit the No 1 spot in the charts of 21 countries around the world, including the UK.

It is a tribute to Young’s big brother Malcolm, who was forced to quit the band in 2014 while suffering from lung cancer and, later, dementia. Sadly, he passed away three years later, aged 64.

Now, AC/DC are hoping to hit the road again as soon as global lockdown restrictio­ns are lifted, with singer Brian Johnson back in the line-up after solving his hearing problems. Angus said: “Brian has been working with an expert in a new audio technology that he put together especially for him. He kept sending us updates that all was going well. Hopefully, if he got good results using it, he may be able to perform with us again.

“Our management said: ‘Are you thinking of doing something?’ I said: ‘It’s time to see who wants to be back on board.’ And everyone was.

“We were all excited and jumping about when we got back into the studio. It was hard at first because you think in your head, is it all going to happen? Will we still be able to do it?

“Brian was itching to try his stuff in a live setting. We started playing and he was very happy with the results.

“It was going well so we thought, when the album comes out we’ll do some shows. But then the world went into lockdown. So everything was put on hold.

“We didn’t take it for granted people were going to like the new album. But it’s been good to strike a chord again with the fans. It’s been well received.

“Everyone tuning into it likes what we have done. So it’s been good. And it keeps the bank manager happy.”

Malcolm’s role as rhythm guitarist in the band was taken by his nephew, Stevie Young, but the songs on Power Up come from a vast archive of material dating back to the band’s 15th release, Black Ice in 2008.

It was Malcolm who founded AC/DC in 1973 after his family left Glasgow to make a new life down under. During the final days of his illness, he encouraged Angus to keep their band alive.

“I think Malcolm would have been proud of this record,” said Angus, 65. “Some of these tracks are from around the time of Black Ice, the last record he played on. I said to him: ‘Maybe we should try and get as much done as we can.’ But he said: ‘No, we’ll get it later.’

“In hindsight, I’m kind of sad in that respect but I felt great I could work on these songs. I know he would have loved the way I put the record together for him. I was using Malcolm as a guide all the way through the recording. Anything he had done on his own – lyric-wise – I made sure I used them. I kept it the way he would have wanted it. Every time I pick up my guitar the

first thing that enters my head is...i think Mal will like this riff I’m playing. That’s how I judge a lot of stuff.”

When AC/DC released their 2014 album, Rock Or Bust, they hit the road to promote it with a gruelling 17-month long world tour. But the band hit a triple crisis. After years of volume-busting gigs, Johnson was told by doctors to stop immediatel­y or suffer total hearing loss. A specialist said: “Deaf means deaf, son.” Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses was drafted in to complete the tour.

Drummer Phil Rudd then hit the headlines when he was sentenced to eight months’ home detention for threatenin­g to kill his former bodyguard, and drug possession. Cliff Williams announced he was hanging up his bass guitar due to ill health.

Then in 2017, the Youngs were hit by a double-tragedy when older brother, George, died just a few weeks before Malcolm. With songwritin­g partner Harry Vanda, George was a founder member of The Easybeats, who had a global hit with Friday On My Mind – covered by David Bowie on his Pin Ups album. They also wrote Love Is In The Air for the singer John Paul Young and produced several AC/DC records.

But with Rudd and Williams as well as Johnson now back in the fold, Angus claims he never thought of pulling the plug on AC/DC. He said: “Malcolm always said ‘ You keep going.’ When he was sick, he had a lot of help on the Black Ice tour. He was on medicines. He was even putting down ideas. Whenever I was with him, he’d be saying: ‘ We keep going as long as I can do it.’ Even when he was in hospital for operations he was the same. He’d be going: ‘I want to be with you’.

“The worst part was the decline. Even to the end he had a big smile on his face. That gave me a kind of joy. But I never thought it was the end for AC/DC. I’d been there from the very beginning with Malcolm. I always knew there would be something to do, putting together new tracks, live stuff or film footage.”

While AC/DC are rightly regarded as Australia’s greatest rock band, Scotland runs through the group like a stick of hard rock. Vocalist Bon Scott – who was born in Forfar, Angus – fronted the band from 1974 until his death from alcohol poisoning in 1980. He’d performed on AC/DC’S first seven of their 18 hit albums including classics such as Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Powerage and Highway To Hell.

He also sang on the group’s first live album, If You Want Blood You’ve Got

It, recorded on April 30, 1978, at their favourite venue, the legendary Glasgow Apollo. Tickets for the show were £2.50.

Angus has never forgotten that night. He said: “It was scary. I was watching that balcony swaying up and down. Once it started rocking in time to the music, you were hoping nothing bad was going to happen. But whenever we were being recorded or filmed, we never thought about that. We always told everyone: ‘ You’d better make sure you’ve got all your technical stuff together because once we start, we ain’t stopping.’

“That’s all we concentrat­ed on, going out to do the show. I’ll be honest with you, we were playing to the audience. That’s who we were totally focused on.

“You just do your show and hope at the end of it they capture that…and, boy, did they capture that. My brother George and Harry Vanda produced the album. When they got the tapes back and started listening to them, George said: ‘I can even tell – just from the audio – when Angus is moving and going across the stage’. He knew where I was on the Apollo stage from just hearing it.”

In 1980, Johnson, the former lead singer of pop group Geordie, replaced Scott. He’s sung on all 11 AC/DC albums since then, including 1980’s Back In Black, which has shipped more than 50 million copies and is the third-biggest-selling record of all time.

Angus knew it was good, but that good? “We’d just lost Bon and it was like, do we continue?” he recalled. “We had a new frontman and didn’t know if the album would be accepted. It’s a hard thing for any band to lose somebody as unique a character as Bon Scott. He was irreplacea­ble. But when Back In Black came out it really built. It got bigger and bigger... we didn’t realise how big it would become.

“I remember touring in the US and somebody said to us: ‘ You’ve sold 1.5 million copies of Back In Black.’ I said: ‘ That’s great.’

“But he replied: ‘ You don’t understand…that’s just in Los Angeles. You’ve still got the rest of the country to come in.’ It was a shock. If you sell a million copies you’re doing well. So to sell that many was amazing.”

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 ??  ?? AC/DC guitarist Angus Young on stage in Columbus, Ohio, 2016
AC/DC guitarist Angus Young on stage in Columbus, Ohio, 2016
 ??  ?? The Billy Sloan Show – an AC/DC special with Angus Young, BBC Radio Scotland, Saturday, 10pm
The Billy Sloan Show – an AC/DC special with Angus Young, BBC Radio Scotland, Saturday, 10pm

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