In the past few hours, the world lost one of rock music's most impactful talents for the second time in five years when Malcolm Young died; it had already been a sad time when he sat out for 2014's Rock Or Bust tour, replaced by his nephew Stevie Young.
But even during the amazing 2008-2010 Black Ice tour, dementia had already kicked in, eliminating his short-term memory and forcing him to have to re-learn the band's songs every night before going on stage.
It got to the point where he had to be put in a nursing home, where he got and defeated lung cancer, had a pacemaker intalled and saw his verall health decline sharply, leading to his death, on November 18th, 2017, at the age of 64.
AC/DC is a hard-rock/boogie band from Australia who is known to the general public via its towering and charismatic leaders - former singer Bon Scott (1946-1980), second singer Brian Johnson, and of course lead guitarist Angus Young, he of the lightning-fast fingers, Chuck Berry-inspired duck walk and perpetual shoolboy uniform.
The thing is, behind the solos and riffs, what drove AC/DC, what made it what it is, is Malcolm's playing and songwriting. Megadeth's Dave Mustaine once said:
I respect James (Hetfield). I’m a better lead player than he is, but he’s one of the three best rhythm players in the world. (The other two being) Malcolm Young [of AC/DC] and myself. Malcolm kept it basic but brought a whole new style of rhythm playing to the world.We can take that for what it is - Mustaine's insane, he'll never get over being kicked out of Metallica, and he knows Malcolm Young deserves respect. That wouldn't be my personal top-three, because while Mustaine is very good at all aspects of guitar-playing, his rhythm playing isn't "the best" by any stretch of the imagination and Hetfield's pretty god, but there are better talents and beter innovators out there.
I'm sure Malcolm is in my top-three, but I'd have to take a week or a month to listen to Gene Vincent closely, to see if Eddie Cochran's consistency as good as he is with Summertime Blues, Neil Young, Pete Townshend, Keith Richards, and so many others.
Malcolm is on a rare plain where it's his inner understanding of rock, the way he just feels it inside and gets it out so naturally, that makes him unique. He's a lot like Jack White that way - it's always the perfect sound that comes out, the right chord with the perfect strumming, bombastic or quick-pick attacks.
Here's what I mean, in one of AC/DC's most well-known songs, Thunderstruck. They catch your attention with Angus' mixoldian scale to start with, then the crowd chanting "uh-huh-uh-huh-uh-uh-uhn" and "Thunder!", but it's when Johnson joins in and Malcolm's chord comes in that the track hits you in the chest for the first time. Then, at 1:33, the actual song kick in. That's all Malcolm, as is the pounding first bridge a full minute later:
That's what I mean by how he and rock are just one entity. Take those away and it's a pretty naked song, yet it's so good and in its right place that you only hear it if you're looking for it.
Rest In Peace, Sir.
The video was directed David Mallet, at London's Brixton Academy - like many others he did for the band. He has also directed VH1 specials, Cirque Du Soleil show DVDs, and videos for Sarah Brightman (How Can Heaven Love Me, Music Of The Night), Olivia Newton-John (Take A Chance, Soul Kiss, Culture Shock, Emotional Tangle, Toughen Up, The Right Moment), Culture Club (Mistake #3), Blondie (Hanging On The Telephone, Dreaming, Atomic, The Hardest Part, Union City Blue), Peter Gabriel (Games Without Frontiers), Queen (I Want It All, I Want To Break Free, Radio Ga Ga, Under Pressure, Bicycle Race, Who Wants To Live Forever, Hammer To Fall, Heaven For Everyone), David Bowie (Boys Keep Swinging, DJ, Look Back In Anger, Ashes To Ashes, Let's Dance, Wild is The Wind, China Girl, Cat People (Putting Out Fire), Loving The Alien, Dancing In The Street, Hallo Spaceboy), Freddie Mercury (The Great Pretender, I Was Born To Love You, Made In Heaven, Barcelona), The Pretenders (Talk Of The Town), George Michael (Somebody To Love), Tina Turner (Proud Mary, Addicted To Love), Heart (What About Love), Billy Idol (Eyes Without A Face, To Be A Lover, Catch My Fall, White Wedding), The Boomtown Rats (I Don't Like Mondays) and Def Leppard's Photograph.