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Insane Stories From The Heyday Of AC/DC

In the annals of rock history, there are hundreds of legendary stories from some of the biggest bands to ever have graced the stage: Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a bat in 1982, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page dating a 14-year-old girl (AKA David Bowie’s ex…), and Nikki Sixx, guitarist for Motley Crüe, literally dying and coming back to life.

These figures’ lives were as loud and dangerous as the songs they created. Even so, AC/DC stories tend to steal the top spots on many lists of insane band trivia. From drugs, to dementia, to the death of guitarist Malcolm Young, it’s a long way to the top… but a fast trip all the way down.

The Drummer Once Tried To Hire A Hitman
Photo: Ac-dcfreak785/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

There are wild stories involving rock stars, then there are ones that border on criminal. In the case of drummer Phil Rudd, this tale definitely falls into the latter category.

Although specifics of the crime have been suppressed, Rudd was charged with attempting to hire a hitman, threatening another person’s life, and possession of methamphetamine. The intended targets?  Rudd was said to have offered his hitman roughly $133,000 and the sports car of his choice to kill some contractor and his daughter.

Rudd was sentenced to eight months of house arrest after pleading guilty.

Bon Scott’s Cause Of Death Was Officially Ruled “Death By Misadventure”
Photo: Elfast/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Perhaps the most infamous AC/DC story is also their most tragic. After six years and seven albums with the band, original vocalist Ronald Belford “Bon” Scott died at the age of 33.

Following a heavy night of drinking at London club The Music Machine, Scott was left to sleep off the alcohol in a friend’s car. The next morning, however, Scott’s lifeless body was discovered; the star was pronounced dead on arrival as soon as his ambulance arrived at the hospital.

The cause? “Acute alcohol poisoning,” though several fans believe Scott’s death to be an ongoing mystery, and that the car’s exhaust fumes were perhaps his true killer. Other suspicious admirers blame the negligence of a third party. Their argument cites Scott’s asthma, and suggests that the freezing weather might have contributed to the singer’s death.

In any case, Scott’s demise was classified as “death by misadventure” in the official ruling.

Their Music Was Used To Bring A Dictator To Justice
Photo: US Marshals Service/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

In what has been dubbed “Operation Nifty Package,” the US military planned to extract dictator Manuel Noriega from his bunker in December 1989, using only the power of rock.

Noriega, the then-dictator of Panama, found refuge from US attacks in the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See, a veritable embassy for the Vatican. Without an outright assault on the Pope’s territory, the American military was at a loss. How could they bring the man to justice without a firefight?

The answer? Among other songs, “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC.

By mounting industrial speakers and cranking the volume, the US military blared high-powered rock music directly at the nunciature. Eventually, the noise grew too unnerving, and Noriega surrendered.

The Band Has A Reputation For Melting Amps
Photo: Harry Potts/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Sometimes a band rocks so hard that the resulting sonic disruption causes actual fires to erupt. Either that, or some ironic deity chose an appropriate time for AC/DC’s amp to surge with power and suddenly burst into flames.

In the case of Angus Young, the legendary guitarist’s amp spontaneously combusted in 1977 while recording the solo for “Let There Be Rock.” While this occurrence is definitely uncommon, it happened again while the band was recording 2014’s Rock or Bust album.

According to Young:

Yes, it was on fire and I had to keep playing until the end, because my brother was in the control room, and yelling out ‘KEEP GOING!’ — so I had to keep going until the thing kind of went into meltdown. And on this album, Rock or Bust, we had the same thing… my amp just went on fire. And I didn’t even know! I thought it was a cigarette going. But Brendan was shouting out, ‘Ang, you’re on fire!’

They Once Tried To Catch The Loch Ness Monster
Photo: Gregory J Kingsley/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Following the passing of bandmate Bon Scott, then-new vocalist Brian Johnson recalled a night in 1981 or 1982, in which Malcom Young suggested the two visit the infamous Loch Ness in Scotland. Their plan was to lure out one of the world’s most well-known urban legends, using only a box full of fireworks.

As Johnson says, “We walked straight into the water; we didn’t even take our shoes off. And there we were giggling and laughing trying to set these fireworks. Everything got soaked in the water and we all fell down, and of course we thought we had seen it. We weren’t sure.”

There Have Been 26 Members
Photo: Weatherman90/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Dating all the way back to their inception in 1973, AC/DC has had a steady rotation of band members outside of Angus and Malcolm Young, its two founders. Along with the Youngs, the original band consisted of vocalist Dave Evans, bassist Larry Van Kreidt, and drummer Colin Burgess.

Since then, it’s been a real “Who Made Who” with 26 members popping in and out of the same roles. Granted, some have been strictly touring musicians, but with the notorious stories surrounding the band, one can’t be too surprised that some members haven’t stuck around for too long.

Most notably, the firing of long-time singer Brian Johnson in 2016 sent ripples throughout the music industry. It’s likely that fans of the band were even more dumbstruck when none other than Axl Rose was announced as his replacement for the foreseeable future.

Malcolm Was Obsessed With The Band’s Costumes
Photo: Weatherman90/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

When “Highway to Hell” rips through the speakers at your local bar, it’s easy to forget those chords are being blasted out by a man who routinely wears a schoolboy uniform in front of thousands of people, even though he’s in his 60s.

But Angus Young is no ordinary schoolman. On the contrary, Young’s penchant for bizarre costumes didn’t even begin with his schoolboy gear: he’s been seen in a gorilla suit, a Zorro outfit, and even a Superman costume, to name a few.

In 1974, while performing at Sydney’s Victoria Park, Angus donned his “Year 11 Ashfield Boys’ High School” blazer, an idea pitched by Malcolm and his sister, Margaret. To appear at a “high profile” concert wearing tiny children’s clothing may seem out there, but the effort paid off. Malcolm redid the entire band’s wardrobe after the gig, except for Angus’s. He was allowed to keep the schoolboy outfit, and he wore it from then on.

They Love “French Fry And Butter” Burgers
Photo: Ron Galliers/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s no secret that some musicians have certain “dietary quirks.” Elvis Presley had his fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. Axl Rose has fresh Wonder Bread (white) coupled with Dom Perignon. And Angus Young?

Strangely enough, Young has a penchant for something a little less extreme. His go-to meal is a concoction he refers to as a “chip butty,” AKA a sandwich made with only three ingredients: bread, butter, and French fries.

During a Reddit AMA, Young remarked, “If you said to me ‘Would you rather have a chip butty or dine with the President,’ I’d say ‘the chip butty’ and he’d probably follow suit.”

Celine Dion Once Covered Them
Video: YouTube

During her “Live Divas: Las Vegas” performance in 2002, Celine Dion (along with special guest, Anastacia), performed one of AC/DC’s most notable hits, “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

The result? A mashup of one of the most elegant voices in the “adult contemporary” genre mimicking a voice that notoriously sounds like the engine of a ’57 Chevy Pickup trying to turn over after being drenched in bourbon.

Angus Young Nearly Fought A Fan On Stage
Photo: Michael Kölsch/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

The sight of a grown man in a schoolboy costume might not seem like the most intimidating of sights, but Angus Young clearly isn’t one to back down from a fight, no matter what he may happen to be wearing.

At the Phoenix, AZ, Bad Boy Boogie concert in 2000, Angus and the boys were about to kick into another hit, when a beer came flying at the guitarist’s head. While Malcolm Young continued to jam in the background, Angus confronted the man in the crowd, only to receive a mostly full beer to the face.

Calmly handing his guitar over, Young pointed to the fan, calling him past the security gate. For a moment, it seemed as though a full-on fist fight was about to break out in front of thousands of people… until Young simply tweaked the man’s nose and had security haul him off the premises.

Some Fans Believe The Band Pillaged Bon Scott’s Journals For Unused Lyrics After His Death
Photo: Bon Scott/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

There’s no denying that original singer Bon Scott was a legendary songwriter. Some of AC/DC’s most recognizable songs were birthed from the late vocalist’s journals: “Highway to Hell,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” and “It’s a Long Way to the Top” are all included among Scott’s legacy.

Since his passing in February of 1980, some fans believe the rest of the band harvested unused lyrics from the late Scott’s journals, an allegation guitarist Angus Young vehemently denies. In a Reddit AMA, Young stated, “Anything he left went back to his family. Any notes he had ever left, or messages. Anything that was there that was his all went to his family.”

Malcolm Young Sadly Passed in November 2017
Photo: Pandemonium73/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

In November 2017, rhythm guitarist and co-founder of AC/DC, Malcolm Young, passed away at the age of 64 due to complications from dementia. Since the band’s inception in 1973, Malcolm was one of the primary songwriters, penning the classic guitar riffs to such songs as “Back in Black,” “Thunderstruck,” and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”

Some bands are one-hit wonders, while others manage a few hits before fading away. In contrast to the norm, Young’s songs have endured for nearly half a century. Although the group has had its share of shakeups, the only instance where Young actually took time off from the band was when he sought treatment for alcohol abuse.

Since then, Young stayed dedicated to the band, pushing them continually forward with his tireless work ethic. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2008, Malcolm stated, “I’ve never felt like a pop star — this is a nine-to-five sort of gig. It comes from working in the factories, that world. You don’t forget it.”

 

2 replies on “Insane Stories From The Heyday Of AC/DC”

What a great band. I have seen them in concert 5 times and they are one of those bands that never disappoints, sounding better live than on the radio if you can believe that. To bad Malcolm had to go and die, and Brian Johnson getting replaced by Rose. I guess when you’re in that business that long you are eventually going to have some bad luck. Hope they keep going though.

Used to see them down at local pub on Saturday afternoons, and they played at my high school formal in 1977. Way before they were filling stadiums.

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