AC/DC's mammoth power-chord roar became one of the most influential hard rock sounds of
the '70s. In its own way, it was a reaction against the pompous art rock and lumbering arena rock of the early
'70s. AC/DC's rock was minimalist -- no matter how huge and bludgeoning the guitar chords were, there was a
clear sense of space and restraint. Combined with Bon Scott's larynx-shredding vocals, the band spawned countless imitators
over the next two decades.
AC/DC was formed in 1973 in Australia by guitarist Malcolm Young after his band, the Velvet
Underground, collapsed (Young's band has no relation to the seminal American group). With his younger brother Angus
as lead guitarist, the band played some gigs around Sydney. Angus was only 15-years-old at the time and his sister
suggested that he should wear his school uniform on-stage; the look became the band's visual trademark. While still in Sydney,
the original lineup (featuring singer Dave Evans) cut a single called "Can I Sit Next to You," with ex-Easybeats
Harry Vanda and George Young (Malcolm and Angus' older brother) producing.
The band moved to Melbourne the following year, where drummer Phil Rudd (formerly of the Coloured
Balls) and bassist Mark Evans joined the band. The band's chauffeur, Bon Scott, became their lead vocalist
when their singer, Dave Evans, refused to go on-stage.
Previously, Scott had been vocalist for the Australian prog rock bands Fraternity and
the Valentines. More importantly, he helped cement the group's image as brutes -- he had several convictions on minor
criminal offenses and was rejected by the Australian Army for being "socially maladjusted." And AC/DC was socially
maladjusted. Throughout their career they favored crude double entendres and violent imagery, all spiked with a mischievous
sense of fun.
The group released two albums -- High Voltage and TNT -- in Australia in 1974 and 1975. Material
from the two records comprised the 1976 release High Voltage in the U.S. and U.K.; the group also toured both countries.
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap followed at the end of the year. Evans left the band at the beginning of 1977, with
Cliff Williams taking his place. In the fall of 1977, AC/DC released Let There Be Rock, which became
their first album to chart in the U.S.
Powerage, released in spring of 1978, expanded their audience even further, thanks in no small part
to their dynamic live shows (which were captured on 1978's live If You Want Blood, You've Got It). What really broke
the doors down for the band was the following year's Highway to Hell, which hit number 17 in the U.S. and number eight
in the U.K., becoming the group's first million-seller.
AC/DC's train was derailed when Bon Scott died on February 20, 1980. The official coroner's
report stated he had "drunk himself to death." In March, the band replaced Scott with Brian Johnson. The following
month, the band recorded Back in Black, which would prove to be their biggest album, selling over ten million copies
in the U.S. alone. For the next few years, the band was one of the largest rock bands in the world, with For Those
About to Rock We Salute You topping the charts in the U.S. In 1982, Rudd left the band; he was replaced by Simon
After 1983's Flick of the Switch, the band's commercial standing began to slip; they were able to reverse
their slide with 1990's The Razor's Edge, which spawned the hit "Thunderstruck." While not the commercial powerhouse
they were during the late '70s and early '80s, the '90s saw them maintain their status as a top international concert draw.
In the fall of 1995, their 16th album, Ballbreaker, was released. Produced by Rick Rubin, the album received
some of the most positive reviews of AC/DC's career. Ballbreaker entered the American charts at number four
and sold over a million copies in its first six months of release. Stiff Upper Lip followed in early 2000. ~ Stephen
Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide