Over the last number of days, the world’s most popular Australian band, AC/DC, has been all over the news with rumors of an early retirement due to the health of one member. It turned out that the ill member of AC/DC is none other than one of the founding members, Malcolm Young, who needs to take a break from the band to focus on his health. Surprisingly, the band is not packing it in without him, which could cause great concern among its rabid fan base.
It is not uncommon for a band, even of AC/DC’s caliber, to switch up band members. In fact, over their forty-year history, the band has had over 15 different musicians. However, in the case of the Australian rockers, there reportedly is an agreement that if one member steps away, the band would fold. Considering that, it is shocking that the same report indicated that the band will continue to make music.
This, of course, leaves many fans and critics alike wondering who will play for Malcolm on the new disc. From all reports, it seems that not only is Malcolm Young ill, but he may not be physically able to perform for AC/DC live or in recordings, at least for the time being. This is why he has taken a leave of absence from the band. If this is the case, and if they are not to continue on with the founding member, it seems the only possibility is if his brother, Angus, records both guitar parts.
While it would relieve fans that Malcolm will not be replaced, the question is should the band record without him? After all, Malcolm, has been one of the key songwriters along with Angus and has been ever since the formation the band. In fact, it is hard to find a single song since Bon Scott passed that Malcolm did not have a part in creating.
This is not to say that Angus Young and Brian Johnson are incapable of writing a song without the veteran guitar player, but the chemistry of the three has been a part of the band for over thirty years. Breaking this creative process may end up hurting any new material, and considering their last album Black Ice was such a solid album, it would be a shame to end on a sub par album.
Apart from missing his influence in the songwriting department, he will also be missed in terms of the overall sound of the album. Sure, Angus can probably play a solid rhythm guitar in his brother’s absence, but will it have the same character? Most likely, not to the same extent. Additionally, and often overlooked aspect of the AC/DC sound, is Malcolm’s creaky backing vocals. This is not to say that the band is incapable of putting together a solid album without his vocals, but it will not have that same flavor fans are used to hearing.
At the end of the day, it is a sad thing to think of an AC/DC without the elder Young brother. For a band that has done it all, it seems to record an album without its leader, is an unnecessary end to a legendary career. Malcolm Young, just like the rest of the band, has been an essential part of the band, and if AC/DC are to finish with one last album, it needs to have Malcolm Young. Without him, the career of AC/DC may finish with a whimper, rather than the great success of the Black Ice album and tour cycle.
Opinion by Simon Mounsey
Classic Rock Magazine