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The Rhythm King: Malcolm Young by Dave Mustaine

Megadeth's mainman on the man he revered as a guitarist and knew as a friend.

I was probably eighteen years old, living on my own. My mom had moved out. She was a Jehovah’s Witness and didn’t want anything to do with me because I liked to smoke pot. And the best way to get pot was to sell it to other people and get it for free, so I was trading it with this girl who worked in a music store.That’s how I got AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock. I came home, put the record on my turntable – and when the needle hit the vinyl my life changed forever. Up until then, guitar-wise I’d been learning the classic stuff like Zeppelin, Kiss, Ted Nugent; not really so much that boogie-woogie riffage kind of stuff.

Malcolm was one of the greatest rhythm guitar players ever – and if you don’t have good rhythm under the solo, it sounds like crap. Y’know, The Beatles were famous for back beats and for turning the beat around, and that’s one of the things that AC/DC and Malcolm did a lot. Overdose the way that the riff goes against the beat. Y’know, that anticipated riff where it almost seems like it would be ahead of the drum beat. I just loved it.

Some people say Malcolm’s rhythm parts are simple. They’re missing the point. Think of somebody who has every single shade and tint and hue under the sun, versus the guy that’s got one piece of paper and one pencil – and they both accomplish the same thing. My hat would be tipped to the person who can do the most with the least. There’s only two other guitar players that I would give that kind of credibility to, and that’d be Rudolf Schenker [Scorpions] and Brian Tatler from Diamond Head. I definitely prefer to handle the heavier rhythm stuff now, because of what Malcolm did with AC/DC. I would say it’s certainly one of those predecessors to speed metal and thrash metal.

One of my favourite pictures ever is me and Malcolm in Germany. We were at an F1 race track where we were playing that night. I’d just come in to say hi to everybody for the night. We took a picture and the two of us were standing next to each other – and he’s so little, I had to bend over so I’m the same height with his head. We made little fists and stuff and it was like, “Awesome – this is my guy!”

First off, when Malcolm got the diagnosis I was in shock. Nothing can happen to Malcolm. He’s impervious to any kind of disease. He’s Malcolm Young, dammit. When the news happened that he’d passed, I was just dicking around on my computer, writing to our fans on Twitter. Somebody said: “Dave, I’m sorry about Malcolm.” I said: “What are you talking about?” Because how many people do you know called Malcolm? Not a lot, right? So I started to go into meltdown mode. Malcolm was my hero. If there’s any sort of bittersweet consolation to all this, it’s that he’s back with Bon and his brother George.

This month's issue of Classic Rock features a special tribute to Malcolm Young, including tributes from the world of rock. Get it from all good newsagents or right now via a TeamRock+ membership.

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