Success, Death, and Rock & Roll: Facts About the Legendary Australian Band, AC/DC

ACDC on stage
Dave Taylor, Larry Attard, Jesse Attard, Shane Fleury; Acca Dacca (from Brisbane, Australia) at Bodega, Wellington

Iconic rock n’ roll band AC/DC reigns from Australia. They were formed in 1973 by Scottish brothers Angus and Malcolm Young. AC/DC has achieved the success that most people only dream of.  

Although the band has been through several lineups of members, they have sold over 200 million albums worldwide, have a street in Melbourne named after them (AC/DC Lane), and have been named by the RIAA as the fifth best-selling band in U.S. history. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the “Highway to Hell” rockers.

Where is AC/DC from? 

AC/DC was formed in Sydney, Australia, but the members were not all born in Australia. Brothers Angus and Malcolm Young were both born in Glasgow, Scotland. 

Vocalist Bon Scott was born in Angus, Scotland, drummer Phill Rudd originated in Melbourne, Australia, and bassist Mark Evans was born in Melbourne, Australia.  

What does AC/DC stand for? 

The band’s name came from Malcolm and Angus’s younger sister Margaret after she saw the AC/DC written on the side of her sewing machine. The sewing machine AC/DC meant alternating current/direct current, which they thought was a good representation of their energy and how they like to perform. 

For the most part, the name is pronounced by saying each letter separately, but in Australia it is pronounced Acca Dacca. The band’s symbol is embellished with a lightning bolt separating the A.C. from D.C.  

How did AC/DC begin? 

Malcolm Young began AC/DC in Australia in 1973. When his band The Velvet Underground, no relation to the Lou Reed/John Cale band, fell apart, he turned to his brother Angus and friend Dave Evans to start a new band. Malcolm and Angus’s sister, Margaret, suggested that they wear school uniforms, which became their trademark look. 

In 1974 they moved to Melbourne, where Phil Rudd and Mark Evans joined the group. When singer Dave Evans refused to go on stage, they recruited Bon Scott, who was chauffeuring them, to sing lead vocals.  

Bon Scott had previously been a vocalist in two other bands, The Valentines and Fraternity, and brought an edgy vibe to the group with his prior criminal offenses.  

AC/DC released their first two albums to an Australian audience only, High Voltage in 1974 and T.N.T. in 1975. In 1976, they combined material from the previously released albums to create another album called High Voltage and released it in the U.K. and the U.S. 

High Voltage and T.N.T. were AC/DC’s first albums to gain traction worldwide. They were released under Atlantic Record Label and sold 3 million copies worldwide.  

acdc members
AC/DC in Tacoma, August 31, 2009. From left to right: Brian Johnson, Malcolm Young, Phil Rudd, Angus Young and Cliff Williams. Photo by Imhavingfun42.

AC/DC Members 

Over the years, AC/DC has had many members change for various reasons. As mentioned, the original lineup of AC/DC included brothers Malcolm and Angus Young, Bon Scott, Phil Rudd, and Mark Evans. 

The original lead singer for AC/DC was Bon Scott, and he was the lead vocalist until his untimely death in 1980. The current lead singer of AC/DC is Brian Johnson. 

The current members of AC/DC are: 

  • Angus Young, 1973–present. Original member. Plays lead guitar and backup vocals. 
  • Phil Rudd, 1973–1983, 1994–2015, 2018–present. Original member. Plays the drums. 
  • Cliff Williams, 1977–2016, 2018–present. Plays bass and backup vocals.  
  • Brian Johnson, 1980–2016, 2018–present. Lead vocals. 
  • Stevie Young, 2014– present. Plays guitar and backup vocals. 

Former members of AC/DC 

  • Malcolm Young, 1973–2014. He passed away in 2017.  
  • Dave Evans, 1973–1974. 
  • Larry Van Kriedt, 1973–1974. 
  • Colin Burgess, 1973–1974. 
  • Neil Smith, 1974
  • Ron Carpenter, 1974. 
  • Russel Coleman, 1974. 
  • Noel Taylor, 1974. 
  • Rob Bailey, 1974–1975. 
  • Peter Clack, 1974–1975. 
  • Bon Scott, 1974–1980. He passed away in 1980. 
  • Paul Matters, 1975. He passed away in 2020. 
  • Mark Evans, 1975–1977. 
  • Simon Wright, 1983–1989. 
  • Chris Slade, 1989–1994, 2015–2016. 
  • Axl Rose (of Guns N Roses), 2016 

Who died from AC/DC? 

Malcolm Young, a founder of AC/DC, died on November 18, 2017, at 64. The rockstar had been diagnosed in 2014 with dementia. After several years of suffering from this horrible disease, he died in his home, surrounded by his loved ones.  

The late lead singer Bon Scott died at the early age of 33 on February 18, 1980. Bon had been at a club the night before and passed out in his friend’s car. Bon’s friend, Alistair Kinnear, found him lifeless in his car the next day. Bon was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital, and it was determined that he died from alcohol poisoning. 

Paul Matters did a short stint as a bassist for AC/DC in 1975. He was fired shortly after joining and replaced by Mark Evans. Paul died on October 14, 2020, at 68, from heart disease. Paul wasn’t in the band for long, but he is worth a spot when talking about members of AC/DC that have passed away.   

AC/DC Musical Style 

AC/DC is a classic rock band. Stephen Thomas Eriewine from All Music has stated that they are a defining act of 70s hard rock. Their musical style has also been called heavy metal, hard rock, and blues-rock.  


AC/DC criticisms 

Any band that has spent time in the spotlight will receive its fair share of criticism, and AC/DC is no exception. 

They have been called misogynistic, simple, and monotonous throughout their career. Angus has defended the band and their lyrics, saying they are more pranksters than anything and claimed that they are not a macho band. The members take the music far more seriously than the lyrics.  

The band has also been accused of practicing Satanism. Some people and media have even gone so far as to state that AC/DC stands for Anti-Christ/Devil’s Child.  

The serial killer Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker, sparked those rumors. Ramirez told the police he had been listening to AC/DC’s 1979 album Highway to Hell, the song “Night Prowler” in particular, and it drove him to murder.  

Police also said that Ramirez was wearing an AC/DC shirt the night he was arrested and had left an AC/DC hat at one of the crime scenes.  

The media had a frenzy with this information and tried to link AC/DC to the murders. They analyzed the lyrics of “Night Prowler” and accused the band of Satanism. 

Interesting facts about AC/DC 

  • Former band member Phil Rudd was charged with conspiracy to murder in 2014. The charges were dropped. He was also put under house arrest in Tauranga, New Zealand, for threatening to kill someone and possessing methamphetamine and cannabis.
  • The band has the word “rock” in the title of 23 of their songs. 
  • Brian Johnson joined the band after the untimely death of Bon Scott, but before joining AC/DC, Brian was in a hard rock band called Geordie. The band released four albums with Brian. 
  • AC/DC provided the soundtrack for Maximum Overdrive and Iron Man 2.  
  • The band has yet to put their albums or songs on Spotify.  
  • Brian Johnson is a race car enthusiast. He owns two vintage cars that he races in the U.S. His cars are a Royale R.P. and a Pilbeam MP84.  
  • Angus Young has admitted to having a milk addiction in his younger days, stating he would drink gallons of milk daily.  
  • The Australia Post honored the band with two stamps over their career. The first, an Aussie rock n’ roll stamp set, was issued in 1998, and in 2013 a stamp that featured the Back in Black album cover was released.
  • The phone number used in the song “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” belonged to a couple who claimed to have received many harassing phone calls after the song was released. The couple sued AC/DC and walked away with $250,000. 
  • In 1989 the U.S. Military used the song “Hell’s Bells” to torture General Manuel Noriega. The song was played on full blast for two days until the dictator surrendered. 
acdc on stage
Dave Taylor (obscured), Larry Attard, Jesse Attard, Ian Farley (obscured at back), Shane Fleury; Acca Dacca (from Brisbane, Australia) at Bodega, Wellington. Photo by Wendy Collins.

AC/DC Albums 

Throughout AC/DC’s sensational career, they have released 18 albums.  

  • High Voltage, released only in Australia in 1975 
  • T.N.T., released only in Australia in 1975 
  • High Voltage, released internationally 1976 
  • Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, 1976 
  • Let There Be Rock, 1977 
  • Powerage, 1978 
  • Highway to Hell, 1979 
  • Back in Black, 1980 
  • For Those About to Rock, We Salute You, 1981 
  • Flick of The Switch, 1983 
  • Fly on The Wall, 1985 
  • Blow up Your Video, 1988 
  • The Razors Edge, 1990 
  • Ballbreaker, 1995 
  • Stiff Upper Lip, 2000 
  • Black Ice, 2008 
  • Rock or Bust, 2014 
  • Power Up, 2020 

AC/DC’s Greatest hits 

AC/DC has released a Greatest Hits Album, but some of their best songs of all time are: 

  • “Hell’s Bells” 
  • “Thunderstruck” 
  • “Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap”
  • “Back in Black” 
  • “T.N.T.”
  • “For Those About to Rock”
  • “Shoot to Thrill” 
  • “Heatseeker” 
  • “Problem Child” 
  • “Rock and Roll Train” 
  • “Shook me All Night Long” 

Awards won by AC/DC 

AC/DC has won several awards and even more nominations throughout their wildly successful career. They have had 27 nominations from various awards ceremonies, like the Grammys, in categories such as Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance.  

They also received nominations from the American Music Awards in the category Favorite Pop/Rock Band and nominations from the MTV Video Music Awards. 

AC/DC took home their fair share of awards as well.  

  • APRA Awards  
  • Most Played Australian Work Overseas – 1995, 2009, 2010, and 2011 
  • Songwriters of the year – 2010 
  • ARIA Music Awards 
  • Best Rock Album – 2009 
  • Highest Selling Album – 2009 
  • Best Music DVD – 2011 
  • Classic Rock and Roll of Honor Award 
  • DVD of The Year – 2008 
  • Album of the year – 2009 
  • Band of the Year – 2010 and 2015 
  • The Grammy Awards 
  • Best Hard Rock Performance – 2010 
  • Metal Storm Award 
  • Best Hard Rock Album – 2008 
  • Rock on Request Awards 
  • Best Reunion – 2008 
  • U.K. Music Video Awards 
  • Best Music A.D. – 2009 
  • The Innovation Award – 2009 

AC/DC Tours 

AC/DC has gone on many tours, and the band isn’t done. They have announced they will be touring North America in 2022 and 2023.  

History of AC/DC tours  

  • Australian Club Tours, 1973 to 1975 
  • High Voltage Australian Club Tour, 1975 
  • T.N.T./ Lock up Your Daughters Summer Vacation Tour, 1975 to 1976 
  • Lock up Your Daughters Tour, 1976 
  • Dirty Deed Done Dirt Cheap/ Giant Dose of Rock’ n’ Roll Tour, 1976 to 1977 
  • Let There Be Rock Tour, 1977 
  • Powerage Tour, 1978 
  • If you Want Blood Tour, 1978 to 1979 
  • Highway to Hell Tour, 1979 to 1980 
  • Back in Black Tour, 1980 to 1981 
  • For Those About to Rock Tour, 1981 to 1982 
  • A Flick of the Switch Tour/ Monsters of Rock Tour, 1983 to 1984 
  • Fly on the Wall Tour, 1985 to 1986 
  • Who Made Who Tour, 1986 
  • Blow Up Your Video World Tour, 1988 
  • The Razors Edge World Tour, 1990 to 1991 
  • Ballbreaker World Tour, 1996 
  • Stiff Upper Lip World Tour, 2000 to 2001 
  • Club Dates/ Rolling Stones Tour, 2003 
  • Black Ice World Tour, 2008 to 2010 
  • Rock or Bust World Tour, 2015 to 2016

Written by Bo Weber

Supporting artists since 2014


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