Crashing onto the music scene in a rebellious reaction to the increasingly artsy and "progressive" direction of rock music, named for types of electrical current, AC/DC is a band that strips music back to its rock fundamentals.
The four young Australians pounded out power chords with the best of their musical inspirations - Led Zeppelin, Free, Humble Pie. Laced with earthy humor, and a visual identity focused on lead guitarist Angus Young's bratty schoolboy persona and costume, it's a formula that's outlasted the loss of a lead singer, and numerous changes in personnel and producers. For many fans, AC/DC is "rock" personified. These tough survivors are top players in the hard rock school.
The earliest incarnation of AC/DC was formed in 1973, in Sydney, Australia, by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. They played local clubs, and cut a single. For the Young brothers, getting signed was relatively easy. Their older brother, George Young, was a member of internationally-popular band, The Easybeats. George Young, and fellow Easybeat Harry Vanda, produced the single and the band's first few albums.
AC/DC moved to Melbourne, where three founding members were replaced by bassist Mark Evans, drummer Phil Rudd, and singer Bon Scott. Tracks from the group's first two Australian albums were combined for their first world-wide release, 1976's High Voltage. By their next album, Let There Be Rock, bassist Evans had been replaced by Cliff Williams.
Tragedy struck following the release of 1979's breakthrough Highway to Hell. The album, the first to be produced by wunderkind producer, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, was the band's best-selling to date, but any feeling of triumph was dimmed by the death of singer Bon Scott. Heavy drinking took its toll on February 20, 1980.
Within a month, the band had recruited Brian Johnson, from the UK band Geordie. Their first album with the new vocalist, Back in Black -- featuring the songs Hell's Bells and You Shook Me All Night Long -- became their most popular of all time, selling well over 10 million copies in the United States alone.
Subsequent albums generally generated multiplatinum sales, while the group continued its dominance as a touring band, headlining stadium shows and festivals the world over.
Drummer Phil Rudd left the band in 1982, to be replaced by Simon Wright, who was himself rather quickly replaced by The Firm's Cliff Slade. The band's sales started to slip. After trying to self-produce, they then brought in outside producers, including the old team of Vanda and Young. Rick Rubin took over for 1995's Ballbreaker, their sixteenth album; drummer Rudd had also returned. Debuting in the Top 5, Ballbreaker was the group's comeback.
In 2001, evidently just for the heck of it, Johnson joined two former members of Geordie for a brief reunion tour, where they performed tunes from the Geordie and AC/DC songbooks, as well as several vintage rock and roll standards. In 2003, AC/DC were invited onstage to jam with the Rolling Stones; some of the results are available on the Stones' Four Flicks DVD collection.
In the same year, reassignment of the band's vintage master recordings to Sony Music resulted in a massive reissue program and - in one of those curious coincidences of timing that occasionally crop up with promotional pushes - the band was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2004, a film, Thunderstruck, was released. Produced by Mel Gibson's Icon Productions, it was a fictional representation of four fans traveling to an AC/DC concert. The band did not, however, appear in the film. Recently, a street in Melbourne has been named AC/DC Lane.