What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of AC/DC? Perhaps it’s Angus Young’s beefy solos, or Malcolm Young’s punchy blues-rock grooves, or the fiery vocal wails of either Bon Scott or Brian Johnson.
All those things come together to create a sound that is wholly AC/DC’s, making them one of the biggest, loudest, heaviest bands in rock & roll history. But the true “genius” behind the band? According to a new book, Angus and Malcolm Young’s lesser-known brother George.
Author Jesse Fink details George’s integral behind-the-scenes role in the creation of the band in his new book, The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, which comes out today (August 5). He recently spoke with Carter Alan about the book, the band’s current state, and its uncertain future surrounding the decaying health of Malcolm Young.
When asked about Malcolm’s future with AC/DC and his nephew Stevie’s role as a fill-in rhythm guitarist, Fink said “I’m not expecting to see Malcolm return.” He didn’t clarify whether he meant that as a temporary or permanent absence – and declined to comment publicly on Malcolm’s health – but he added that fans at this point should “expect that Stevie Young is in the band now.” Johnson recently confirmed that Malcolm is in the hospital fighting an undisclosed illness, adding “We’ve got our fingers crossed that he’ll get strong again.”
Despite Malcolm’s future with the band being questionable at best, his pivotal role in the band’s sound is undeniable. Carter commented on Malcolm’s razor-sharp guitar work and how it really drove the band’s sound, despite being perceived as a background instrument.
AC/DC’s massive grooves will always be the band’s identity, and Fink credited George Young with encouraging the band to stick to it and never surrender artistic control to record labels or other corporate types. He had previously played in a band called the Easybeats – who were “like the Beatles” in Australia but obscure in America – which eventually faded, and ultimately motivated George to help his brothers start a new band.
“If you talk to anyone who knows the Young brothers, they all say George was the actual genius in the band,” Fink said.
1966: Guitarists Harry Vanda and George Young, singer Little Stevie Wright, bassist Dick Dimonde and drummer Gordon Fleet make up the Australian rock band The Easybeats. (Photo by Caroline Gillies/BIPs/Getty Images)
Fink details more of George’s “absolutely pivotal” role in the formation and rise to prominence of AC/DC his his new book, which Carter called “essential for an AC/DC fan to read”. Former AC/DC bassist Mark Evans called The Youngs “The best book I’ve ever read about AC/DC.”
Fink also weighed in on the polarizing nature of AC/DC’s sound, especially on their early material, and the arguments longtime critics have had against the band – namely, that their songs sound too similar to each other. Fink disagrees, saying the perceived limitations of straightforward blues rock actually helps them be more creative.
“One of the things you always hear from the critics about AC/DC is ‘They always sound the same’…Which is rubbish, because they’re actually incredibly inventive….They’ve fit this restriction for themselves – and that is, very narrow musical parameters – and they operate within those parameters, yet come up with something fresh and inventive every album.”
He makes a pretty strong point there. You can’t exactly say “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” sounds the same as “Thunderstruck”, or that “Big Balls” sounds anything like “Whole Lotta Rosie”.
— Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff)