If you were born in Australia after 1975, you were born into a world where AC/DC existed as a monument: like the Harbour Bridge, the Commonwealth Bank or the ABC.
We knew they were Australian, but we also learned they belonged to the world – massive and global in a way most Australian things weren’t.
AC/DC songs were always just in the air. The band was part of a schoolyard lexicon where it was “a long way to the shop to get a sausage roll”, and where dirty deeds were done dirt cheap.
The logo was striking and evil and sharp, it seemed a vital element of rock and roll. They wore the colour black. They were the colour black.
Of course, you quickly begin to learn that AC/DC are a vital element of rock and roll, in more nuanced ways than you realised – despite a sound that remained the same for decades.
Their unwillingness to change seemed born less of a stubbornness, than of a complete rejection of the suggestion that they should. Why would you want to change what you sound like, when what you sound like is AC/DC?
The band’s sales figures are outstanding, too, in case nebulous talk of sound doesn’t cut it:
- Over 200 million records sold worldwide. This is considered a modest estimate.
- Back In Black is the sixth highest-selling album ever in the U.S., selling over 22 million copies.
- Worldwide it is the second highest-selling album ever, with over 50 million sales. It is second only to Thriller.
- 9 top ten albums in the U.S., spanning from 1976’s Dirty Deeds, to 2014’s Rock or Bust.
AC/DC also managed to pull off what so few others have: they lost their lead singer in tragic circumstances, replaced him, and then released the most successful album of their career: the defiant, undeniable Back In Black.
This is due to one fundamental truth: the appeal of AC/DC was larger than any one member.
Malcolm and his brother Angus built something bigger than themselves; a sound and attitude that is unmistakable. This is why we have recently seen the AC/DC juggernaut soar on even as both Malcolm and Brian Johnston retired from the road.
At this time, our thoughts are most sharply with Angus, who has suffered the loss of two brothers in the past few weeks. Some comfort comes from realising he knows full well what he and Malcolm built over the decades.
“As his brother it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life”, he said yesterday. “The bond we had was unique and very special. He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever.
“Malcolm, job well done.”
Or, more appropriately, a solemn salute. \m/