Another Rock Legend Gone: AC/DC’s guitarist and co-founder Malcolm Young dead at 64

photo credit: Martyn Goodacre/Hulton Archive

Upon hearing the news about the passing of the driving force behind one of my very favorite rock bands, AC/DC guitarist and co-founder Malcolm Young, I was immediately taken back to those days when my 8-track player would blast out countless songs by this Australian band that played an important and starring role in the soundtrack of my life.

I put together a tribute playlist of my favorite AC/DC songs. And I have to wonder: what happens to the band now? Sharing with you below the two articles that I read tonight. They left me begging the question, is it over for AC/DC?

While you read the folowing articles about the great Malcolm Young, enjoy these incredible songs by one of the most influential bands that helped to shape my musical ear. And then tell me,  How would you answer the question?

 

From Rolling Stone, the news article by Daniel Kreps announcing the death of AC/DC’s Malcolm Young:

Malcolm Young, AC/DC Guitarist and Co-Founder, Dead at 64

Subhead: Musician who co-founded Australian rock legends in 1973 with brother Angus Young dies following battle with dementia

Malcolm Young, guitarist and co-founder of AC/DC, died Saturday at the age of 64. Young had been suffering with dementia for the past three years, an illness that forced his retirement from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted band he founded with his brother Angus Young in 1973.

“Today it is with deep heartfelt sadness that AC/DC has to announce the passing of Malcolm Young,” AC/DC wrote in a statement.

“Malcolm, along with Angus, was the founder and creator of AC/DC. With enormous dedication and commitment he was the driving force behind the band. As a guitarist, songwriter and visionary he was a perfectionist and a unique man. He always stuck to his guns and did and said exactly what he wanted. He took great pride in all that he endeavored. His loyalty to the fans was unsurpassed.”

Angus Young added, “As his brother it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life, the bond we had was unique and very special. He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever. Malcolm, job well done.”

The Young brothers lost their older brother George Young, the Easybeats guitarist and AC/DC’s longtime producer, in October at the age of 70.

In an additional statement from Malcolm Young’s family, the band said that Malcolm Young died peacefully Saturday with his family by his side.

“Renowned for his musical prowess, Malcolm was a songwriter, guitarist, performer, producer and visionary who inspired many,” the statement said. “From the outset, he knew what he wanted to achieve and, along with his younger brother, took to the world stage giving their all at every show. Nothing less would do for their fans.”

As rhythm guitarist for the legendary rock band, Malcolm Young served as an indispensable foil to Angus Young’s arena-stuffing riffs. After forming AC/DC in 1973, the Young brothers would be credited as co-writers on every song the band recorded from their 1975 debut High Voltage through 2014’s Rock or Bust. That final album marked AC/DC’s first without Malcolm, who announced in September 2014 that he would permanently leave the band due to dementia.

“We miss Malcolm, obviously,” AC/DC singer Brian Johnson said in July 2014. “He’s a fighter. He’s in [the] hospital, but he’s a fighter. We’ve got our fingers crossed that he’ll get strong again… Stevie, Malcolm’s nephew, was magnificent, but when you’re recording with this thing hanging over you and your work mate isn’t well, it’s difficult. But I’m sure [Malcolm] was rooting for us.”

Malcolm Young last performed live with AC/DC when their tour for 2008’s Black Ice concluded in June 2010 with a concert in Bilbao, Spain.

Malcolm Young, like his older brother George and younger brother Angus, was born in Glasgow, Scotland before the whole Young family immigrated to Sydney, Australia in the early Sixties.

Malcolm and Angus’ first brush with rock stardom came courtesy of their brother George, who found global fame thanks to his band the Easybeats and their song “Friday on My Mind.” Although Malcolm’s two older brothers found success in the music industry, their father still made Malcolm work as a mechanic in a bra factory after leaving school at 15.

“I’ve never felt like a pop star – this is a nine-to-five sort of gig,” Malcolm told Rolling Stone in 2008. “It comes from working in the factories, that world. You don’t forget it.”

In 1973, Malcolm recruited Angus to form a new band, which the brothers named after the “AC/DC” electrical current marker they spotted on their sister’s sewing machine. After a few lineup changes, the Young brothers were introduced to singer Bon Scott by their brother George, who would serve as AC/DC’s producer on their early albums.

Throughout AC/DC’s tenure, Malcolm and Angus Young served as the band’s main creative force, crafting the unmistakable riffs that would make AC/DC one of the biggest bands in music. Together, the brothers would create the music for hits like “Back in Black,” “Hells Bells,” “Highway to Hell,” “Thunderstruck,” “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You),” “You Shook Me All Night Long” and dozens more rock staples.

However, Malcolm’s time in AC/DC was not without strife: A heavy drinker, he briefly left AC/DC in 1988 during the Blow Up Your Video Tour – his only absence from the band up to and until his dementia diagnosis – to go to rehab to curb his drinking problem. After a few months, Malcolm returned to the band and remained sober ever since. “I was not surprised,” George Young said of his younger brother’s sobriety. “When Malcolm puts his mind to something, he does it.”

Reactions to his death:

E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “Malcolm was the essential rhythm guitarist of the world’s greatest working class Hard Rock band. An irreplaceable loss.”

 

Guns N’ Roses’ Slash told Rolling Stone, “Malcolm Young was one of the best ever rhythm guitarists in Rock n Roll. He was a fantastic songwriter and he had a great work ethic too. I toured with AC/DC on their ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ tour. I found Malcolm to be a really cool, down to earth fellow. The entire rock n roll community is heartbroken by his passing.”

 

Eddie Van Halen wrote following Young’s death, “It is a sad day in rock and roll. Malcolm Young was my friend and the heart and soul of AC/DC. I had some of the best times of my life with him on our 1984 European tour. He will be missed and my deepest condolences to his family, bandmates and friends.”

 

Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, who regarded Malcolm as one of rock’s greatest rhythm guitarists, tweeted Saturday following Young’s death, “I have to go…I am losing it that Malcolm is gone. I hate this…”

 

Kiss’ Paul Stanley added, “The driving engine of AC/DC has died. A tragic end for a sometimes unsung icon. One of the true greats. RIP.”

 

Tom Morello praised Young as “#1 greatest rhythm guitarist in the entire history of rock n roll.”

 

Foo Fighters’ leader Dave Grohl honored Young by writing about how, at age 11, watching a live AC/DC performance from Paris in 1979 in the movie theater was life-changing. “That film … was the first time I lost control to music. The first time I wanted to be in a band. I didn’t want to play my guitar anymore, I wanted to smash it,” Grohl wrote. “Thank you Malcolm, for the songs, and the feel and the cool and the years of losing control to your rock and roll.”

 

The Young brothers and AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. With over 110 million albums sold, AC/DC is also the best-selling Australian act of all time.

When Rolling Stone asked the Young brothers in 2008, “Who runs AC/DC?” Malcolm replied, “We both do, because we were there from the start.”

AC/DC's co-founder and guitarist Malcolm Young

“We pay tribute to the unassuming genius of AC/DC’s late Malcolm Young, whose unwavering vision drove the legendary hard-rock band for four decades. Bob King/Getty

Another excellent article appeared on UltimateClassicRock.com. A heartbreaking end to a rock legend.

MALCOLM YOUNG’S FINAL YEARS by Dave Lifton (November 18, 2017)

Even before AC/DC concluded their Black Ice tour on June 28, 2010 in Bilbao, Spain, they were aware that there was a problem with founder Malcolm Young’s health.

As his brother Angus said in November 2014, Malcolm had issues with memory and concentration since before they started work on their 2008 album, but he was still able to participate in the recording and the promotion of the record. “[Malcolm] was still capable of knowing what he wanted to do. I said to him, ‘Do you want to go through with what we’re doing?’ And he said, ‘Shit, yeah.’”

During the tour, which lasted nearly two years, Malcolm “got good help, good medical care,” Angus continued, even though he had to relearn many of the songs he wrote, “which was very strange for him. But he was always a confident guy, and we made it work.”

Out of respect for his privacy, the band kept the truth about his health a secret from the press. In 2012, singer Brian Johnson said that a delay in their next project was because, “One of the boys is a little sick and I can’t say anything, but he’s getting better. He’s doing wonderful. Full recovery fully expected.”

But by April 2014, a few weeks before they were planning to start recording Rock or Bust, word started to leak out that Young’s health had deteriorated to the point where he would have to leave the band. “One of the boys has a debilitating illness, but I don’t want to say too much about it,” Johnson said. “He is very proud and private, a wonderful chap. We’ve been pals for 35 years and I look up to him very much.” Later that day, AC/DC put out a statement confirming that Young was “taking a break” from the band he formed more than 40 years earlier.

They tracked Rock or Bust in Vancouver, with Angus and Malcolm’s nephew Stevie, who filled in for Malcolm in 1988 while he sought treatment for his alcohol addiction. Johnson later admitted that Malcolm’s absence affected the sessions.

“We missed Malcolm, obviously,” he noted. “Stevie was magnificent in his stead, but when you’re recording with this thing hanging over you, and your work mate isn’t well, it’s difficult. I’m sure he was rooting for us the whole time we were over in Canada.”

On Sept. 24, 2014, AC/DC announced that Stevie was permanently replacing Malcolm in the press release that accompanied news of the arrival of Rock or Bust. Two days later, it was reported that Malcolm was being treated for dementia in a nursing facility in Sydney after having suffered a stroke the previous year. The band confirmed the diagnosis on Sept. 30, and the artwork for the record featured two tributes to the guitarist.

But, as we later learned, it was more than just dementia. On the day of Rock or Bust’s release, Angus said that his brother “had a lung operation; he had a heart operation.. everything hit him at once, besides his dementia.” But again, that was an understatement. In January, it was revealed that he was diagnosed with lung cancer after the Black Ice tour, and that he had a pacemaker installed.

AC/DC opened up their tour on April 10, 2015 with a 20-song at the Coachella Festival in Indio, Calif. But by that time, there was another change in the band. A month before Rock or Bust’s release, drummer Phil Rudd was arrested for threatening to kill someone and drug possession. He was replaced by Chris Slade, who had previously drummed with the band from 1989-94. Rudd eventually pleaded guilty to slightly reduced charges and was sentenced to eight months of home detention.

During the tour, Angus would often give an update on his brother’s health, saying that he goes out for a walk and a cup of coffee daily, and that, “Every now and then he’s still the Malcolm I know.” Six months later, he was spotted on one of those walks, in the King’s Cross neighborhood of Sydney, near a facility where he received part-time treatment. Around that time, Malcolm and his wife purchased a waterfront house in the exclusive Sydney suburb of Palm Beach, reportedly for more than $10 million Australian.

While on the road, AC/DC were forced to make another change in the lineup. In March 2016, Johnson was told by doctors that if he didn’t stop touring immediately, he would risk a total hearing loss. The tour’s 10 remaining shows were in serious jeopardy, but Axl Rose offered his services to the band, and the dates were rescheduled for August and September, while Rose was on a break from Guns N’ Roses’ Not In This Lifetime dates that saw him reunited with Slash and Duff McKagan.

However, as they were waiting to make up the days, bassist Cliff Williams, who had been in the band since 1978 and, after Angus, was the second-longest tenured member of AC/DC, announced that he would retire upon the conclusion of the tour. “Losing Malcolm [Young], the thing with Phil [Rudd] and now with Brian [Johnson],” he said, “it’s a changed animal. I feel in my gut it’s the right thing.”

The tour concluded on Sept. 20 in Philadelphia, with Angus bringing Williams out from his usual spot in the back to the front catwalk during the traditional closing song, “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).” As the tour wound down, Angus acknowledged that Malcolm’s condition had gotten worse in the two years since his condition was made public. “It’s hard to communicate,” he said. “I do pass on messages. I can’t be 100 percent sure it goes in there. But I let him know there are a lot of people missing him.”

Angus also admitted that he wasn’t sure what was next for the band. “We were committed to finishing the tour,” he said. “Who knows what I’ll feel after? When you sign on and say, ‘I’m gonna do this and that,’ it’s always good to say at the end of it, ‘I’ve done all I said I would do.'”

But he added that Malcolm’s drive kept the band going through difficult times, saying, “I feel obligated to keep it going, maybe because I was there in the beginning with him.”

photo: Hulton Archive, Getty Images

 

RIP Malcolm. 

 

Advertisements