Malcolm Young: January 6, 1953 – November 18, 2017
Straight-talking, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, determined, hugely talented, he was the engine that powered and steered AC/DC to successes beyond their wildest dreams
Just like the music made by his band, Malcolm Young spent his 64 years on this planet defiantly opposing all forms of overstatement and grandiosity. Young may have been one of the biggest rock stars that the world has ever seen, but he was proud of being ordinary. He also believed in speaking the truth, no matter who it offended.
Malcolm’s brother Angus, talking to Classic Rock in 2003 several months after AC/DC’s induction to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, voiced indignation that the HOF had tried – and failed – to “make us wear fucking tuxedos” to the ceremony, adding a curt: “Fuck that!”
Mal, the elder of the two siblings, then took up the story, explaining his band’s annoyance as they were kept waiting around in the wings while U2 guitarist The Edge inducted the Clash.“Fuck, he made this forty-minute speech [about late guitarist Joe Strummer]. We had sympathy [for the Clash], but The Edge was the most boring bloke I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness,” he seethed.
AC/DC got “madder and madder”, until finally their moment arrived. “When they said to go, we fuckin’ took off,” Malcolm said with a grin. “It was an anger-fuelled performance. We ripped the place apart; they were dancing up in the balconies in their tuxes. It was quite a moment for us. The rest of the bands were pretty mild by comparison.”
With its overtones of rebelling at authority, the earning of new-found respect and blowing the doors off in response to a pressure cooker-like scenario, the Hall Of Fame incident could be viewed as a microcosm of the career of this remarkable band. For 45 years AC/DC have personified the words ‘stubborn’, ‘independent’ and ‘secretive’, doing things their way or not doing them at all. With the band having been shortlisted and ignored more than once before by the Hall Of Fame, Malcolm later shrugged: “To us [being inducted] is not really an honour. We just had to go through with it, in a way.”
Although several of the group’s members past and present, including lead guitarist Angus and singers Bon Scott and Brian Johnson, are more famous in a visual sense, behind the scenes rhythm guitarist Malcolm was very much the glue that held everything together for AC/DC, co-writing the songs and performing them on stage in a blur of vigour and ease. Malcolm was very much the band’s leader, cracking the whip and ensuring that the AC/DC machine functioned exactly as it needed to.
The world of rock music mourned when Malcolm, who had suffered from dementia for the past three years, died peacefully surrounded by his family on November 18, 2017.