One of the most unassuming men in Rock music has went behind the curtain invisible……
Malcolm Young, co-founder of AC/DC, brother to Angus, George, Stephen, Alex, and Margret, father to Cara and Ross, husband to Linda, one of the driving forces in Rock music and a man who is generally acknowledged as one of the best rhythm guitarists to ever lift a guitar.
Being a Geordie, AC/DC have always been in my life (well, my life as far as music is concerned), with a sound that sounds like home for me. In the local Rock club when I was growing up (the legendary Mayfair), one of the guys who went there was called the AC/DC guy. When they finally closed the old ball room, he was given the floor to himself as he strutted his stuff to “Thunderstruck”.
Now, whilst he was throwing his best Angus riffs, I still remember focusing on that guitar sound, the rhythm of the band, the lifeblood of AC/DC. Angus might have got the headlines, but Malcolm was the soul of the group.
AC/DC were formed in 1973 in Newcastle, New South Wales after Malcolm’s previous band, The Velvet Underground folded (no, not that one.) Over the years, they went from Australian legends, to UK based legends, through tragedies and great successes, to being one of the biggest bands ever. I cannot think of a place in the world when you would not get a reaction, just for playing “Back in Black”.
Malcolm has a guitar tone that sounded like manna from the table of the deities.
I have seen them once, it was a great gig, but not a legendary one. I never saw them at Donnington or in on one of their massive stadium tours, which I would have loved to have done. I know people who saw them in tiny venues, I know people that never saw them live, I know people that only know one song.
For me, I know many of their songs, I know so many it makes my head spin a bit. That tone he created, was unmistakable to the point that if other’s imitated it, you said it was an AC/DC riff.
My favourite album is The Razors Edge, their comeback in the 90’s.
At the time, Rock was going through a change and heading towards grunge, but they were forging their own path as normal. Whenever I heard “Money Talks” (my favourite song), I get chills, probably in the same way other people do to “Back in Black”, “Whole Lotta Rosie”, or “Hells Bells”. It is a simple riff, but one that the Young brothers specialised in. They had a knack of making great songs, simple songs and all with a fuck load of amplifiers.
Over the next few days, other people will be able to wax lyrical about Malcolm, there will be tributes from Rock royality and the world will pay “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)”, but I am glad I got to write about a man who influenced so many people, who made such an impact, but without ever trying to steal the limelight. He knew how good he was, he did not need anything more! He was (and always will be) the heartbeat of AC/DC for me!
What I take from Malcolm’s guitar playing is this:
it wasn’t complicated, it wasn’t rocket science, it was to the point and sounded fantastic. There might be many imitators, but there was only ever one Malcolm Young. May you rest now in the halls of your father’s, here’s to you!
Listening to AC/DC Live (their performance at the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donnington), very loudly. Look at the image of the album, Angus at the front, Malcolm in the back, making sure it was right.
I have made a Spotify Playlist here, I hope that you enjoy it!