AC/DC: ‘We’re too stubborn to change’

By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

Publishedduration3 days agoimage copyrightJosh Cheuseimage captionAC/DC in 2020 (L-R): Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd, Angus Young, Brian Johnson and Stevie Young

When AC/DC wrapped up their 88-date Rock Or Bust tour in Philadelphia four years ago, the band's future looked bleak.

Singer Brian Johnson had been replaced by Axl Rose for the last 23 shows, after doctors told him to stop touring or "risk immediate hearing loss". Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young had retired, and was in the final throes of a battle with dementia. Drummer Phil Rudd had spent most of the previous year under house arrest in New Zealand after being charged with "attempting to procure a murder".

So, as he played the final chord of For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) at the Wells Fargo arena, founding member Angus Young assumed AC/DC were finished as a recording, touring rock band.

Perhaps the record company would suggest a compilation record or a box set, he thought, "but I didn't see another album."

  • AC/DC halt tour as singer risks deafness
  • AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young dies

At home in Sarasota, Florida, Johnson was feeling equally despondent as he faced an enforced retirement.

"It was a pretty lonely place to be," he says. "Suddenly, your family of workmates you've been with for 37 years [is] just gone and there's nothing to do.

"I buried my head in a bottle of whisky for a couple of months. It worked quite well."

But over the past four years, Young gradually and painstakingly put the band back together. Even Johnson was able to come back, thanks to some pioneering – and secretive – work to restore his hearing.

The result is AC/DC's 17th album, Power Up – an all-guns-blazing, kick-em-in-the-guts rock juggernaut that neither deviates from nor dilutes the band's time-tested formula.

"This is how we've always played and we don't stray from that," says Young.

"Maybe it's because we were stubborn but it's like, when I want to hear The Stones, I don't need The Stones trying to be a jazz band. We stuck to what we did best. We always found that our strength not our weakness."

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