Today in Rock History, we celebrate the birthday of Malcolm Young, one of the co-founders of AC/DC. The Australian-born musician who was their lead guitarist. Malcolm recently died back in 2017, and the loss has been felt throughout the world. Malcolm was considered the band’s driving force despite his younger brother being more visible. Malcolm was behind many of the iconic riffs that have made the band famous, including the opening of Thunderstruck, which came from a rhythm warmup and is now not only one of the band’s most iconic songs but also the theme song the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Life and Music Career
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Malcolm moved to Australia when he was 10 years old with his 15 other members of his family, including Angus and George. All of the males in Malcolm’s family played some sort of instrument. Stevie, the oldest, played accordion; Alex and John were the first to play guitar but would eventually pass it down to Malcolm and Angus. Angus and Malcolm both joined a band with their brother George called Marcus Hook Roll Band, and they would release an album with them. Malcolm was 20 when he and his brother Angus formed AC/DC in 1973, and the world would come to know the greatest rock band of all time. They came up with the idea for their name, seeing the letters AC/DC on the back of their sister’s sewing machine.
Their first hit was “Can I Sit Next To You Girl,” which would be later re-recorded with Bon Scott. The success from this song would lead them to move back to Britain, where they would Tour with Ozzy and Black Sabbath. However, Malcolm didn’t get along too well with Black Sabbath claiming one member tried to pull a knife on him.
In 1988 Malcolm would miss most of the Blow Up Your Video World Tour to cope with alcohol abuse issues. Finally, however, he would come to sober up and return to the band. In his absence, his nephew played for him. From then on, he took only very few breaks until his final performance in 2014, where he departed from the band to be replaced by his nephew again.
Malcolm succumbed to a case of lung cancer but was able to recover due to early detection. Unfortunately, that was not enough to slow him down, nor was his unspecified heart condition, which required the need for a pacemaker. But in April 2014, Malcolm became seriously ill and was unable to continue performing. Brian Johnson didn’t let that slow the band down and hoped for Malcolm’s swift recovery, but on 24 September, the band’s management announced Malcolm had officially retired from AC/DC. Malcolm had had dementia, the disease that would ultimately take his life in 2017. Despite his death, Malcolm recorded a few tracks with the band. They reached back as far as 2003 and were featured during the recent album Power Up.
Angus Wants To Keep His Brothers Spirit Alive
Speaking in an interview with Guitar Player, he said this about his brother’s songwriting credits:
Mal kept doing what he could until he couldn’t do it anymore, but I have all the material he was working on. There were a lot of riffs, ideas, and bits of choruses. I’d fill things in to see if we had a song. Every album we’ve ever done has been that way. There was always a bit from the past, a bit from what we had that was brand new, and, sometimes, just an old idea that either Malcolm or myself had worked on, but we never finished. The songwriting process didn’t really change, except for the fact that Mal wasn’t physically there. So when it came to writing and putting stuff together, I had Stevie [Young] there with me. You see, Malcolm was always a great organizer. He always kept track of the stuff we were writing together. He’d record it, date it, make notes. My records — if you can call them that — are always chaotic. So, this time, Stevie helped me organize a lot of what was there.
LADIES AND GENTLEMAN THE GREATEST ROCK BAND OF ALL TIME…AC/DC