The Sunday Post (Inverness)
Guitar hero: Scotland is my rock
Angus Young hails his roots in rare interview
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.”