“We want people to dance so they drink more.” That’s what a club owner once told a young AC/DC, so they went along with it. “That’s how we cut our teeth, getting people hot and sweaty and drinking,” says the late AC/DC co-founder, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter Malcolm Young in a never-before-published interview released by The Coda Collection.
“As long as they were up dancing, we were doing our job,” said Young in the 2003 interview with Greg Kot. “The more they dance, the more they drink. Everyone was really happy. Everywhere we played, we were getting offers for residencies.”
Young, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 64 following a stroke and complications of dementia, revealed his earlier upbringing in Australia, founding one of the biggest rock bands in history with his brother, Angus, and writing some of the most bombastic songs in rock n’ roll.
Coming up in Australia in the early 1960s, Young says he felt cut off from the rest of the world, consuming American music months later—even finding out about The Beatles’ epic British invasion six months later. Then, the blues hit. He and his brothers, all originally born in Scotland, related because they felt like outcasts living in Australia.
“We related to what the blues singers were saying,” said Young. “They could make you laugh. It was just about everyday life, and that pushed a button. We just fell right into it.”
Eventually, Malcolm recruited his younger brother Angus to try out for another band he was putting together, and their sister suggested he try using a gimmick, his school uniform. “This little guy became larger than life,” said Young. “It’s not an act. He takes it on full. I don’t think anyone could become that intense method acting. That’s what people expect and he does it. Even I don’t know how he gets himself into that state.”
Young reflected on the earlier AC/DC shows and how things started moving for the young band with gigs stretching from Melbourne to Sydney. Playing with his brother in a band was its own dynamic, but Young admitted it wasn’t as dramatic as most people think. Both guitarists, each immediately knew their place in the band.
“I was more into the chord thing, the complete song, rather than the individual part… more of a melodic player,” said Young. “Angus was more into the rock world. There was never any question… it’s pointless for me to play solos. It was never a brotherly squabble, but the opposite, because we just wanted to do good as a band.”
Working with the band’s second singer Bon Scott, who died in 1980—and joined the band a week after their first singer Dave Evans left—was older and brought more experience, remembered Young. Scott took charge and encouraged them to write more.
“We’d already written some tracks, but when he came in, we had the voice of experience,” said Young. “We kept our ears wide open. He pushed us a little further. He had songs, ideas, motivation. He’s serious. We were happy to be with someone like that. We were just happy to be playing. He had bigger plans.”