C/DC were Australia's contribution to metal and their answer to the fast approaching punk movement. Their name was taken from the printing on the back of on a sewing machine but could have easily have come from their electric stage performances.
Angus Young (guitar) and brother Malcolm Young (guitar) founded the band after the demise of Malcolm's previous outfit Velvet Underground in 1973 (not to be confused with the New York-based "Velvet Underground"). They enlisted Dave Evans (vocals), Larry Van Knedt (bass) and Colin Burgess (drums). Their first performance was 31 December 1973 in a Sydney bar. While living in Melbourne, Australia (the Young brothers were from Scotland originally) they met Mark Evans (bass), Phil Rudd (drums) and Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott (vocals). These new members would replace the incumbents, most notably was Scott who replaced Evans in September of 1974 when Evans refused to take his place on stage; previously Scott was the band driver.
Soon after, Scott was initiated into AC/DC in time for the first two albums, High Voltage (1974), and T.N.T (1975); albums that were published by a third Young brother, George, who was co-owner of 'Albert Records'. These, and their first single, Can I Sit Next To You, were only available in Australia. The recording of High Voltage took only ten days and was based on instrumental songs written by the Young brothers, with lyrics added by Scott.
January of 1976 would see them re-locate to London, UK when Phil Carson of 'Atlantic Records' signed them where they would make it big with a fresh start. The first two albums were compiled into a single one named High Voltage for the UK audience in 1976; it would eventually earn a US Platinum award. By their proper world debut, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976), featuring all new material, they were achieving cult status. It would be the later releases like Let There Be Rock (1977) that would give them their first chartings. This album would also be the last for Mark Evans on bass, with Cliff Williams replacing him. Powerage (1978) and If You Want Blood You've Got It (1978).
Highway To Hell (1979) became the first AC/DC recording to break into the US top 100, eventually reaching 17, and it propelled AC/DC into the top ranks of hard rock acts. Highway to Hell had lyrics that shifted away from flippant and comical toward more central rock themes, putting increased emphasis on backing vocals while still featuring the band's signature simplistic formulated sound: loud, simple, pounding riffs with grooving backbeats.
Back towards the end of 1977, bassist Mark Evans, who had joined in 1975, was fired; purportedly to find someone who could sing backup vocals. Evans described disagreement with the Young brothers as the contributing factor. He was replaced by Cliff Williams.
A coroner's report stated a "Misadventure" upon the examination of Bon Scott on February 20, 1980 and declared him dead of "acute alcohol poisoning". He choked on his own vomit after a night of binge drinking at the 'Music Machine' bar. A friend drove him back to his place to let him sleep it off but could not move him from the car. Still unable to wake him the next morning, he was driven to the hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.
In came Brian Johnson (the band's tour driver) to take up the vocals after a competition of auditions. In 1980 the Back In Black album was released to celebrate their return. It rocketed up the UK and US charts, obtaining a 17 and 8 respectively from tracks like Hell's Bells and You Shook Me All Night Long. In 1981 it was followed by For Those About To Rock, which saw them rise to #1 in the UK and Australia, and got them a spot at the coveted Castle Donnington rock festival.
Another line-up change saw Rudd replaced by Simon Wright. The self-produced 1983 Flick of the Switch album was was less successful than their previous albums, and was considered underdeveloped and unmemorable by critics other than perhaps the title-track.
Now AC/DC took a more market-wise approach with relaxed tour schedules and carefully spaced albums. But of their later material Fly On The Wall (1985), Who Made Who (1986 a soundtrack album whose title track was a successful spin-off single), Blow Up Your Video (1988), and the single Thunderstruck from their Razor's Edge (1990) album, although less noted, were probably the biggest hits; the former giving them a 4 US and 2 UK charting. Blow Up Your Video saw another line change with session musician Chris Slade (ex-Manfrid Mann's Earthband) replacing Simon Wright, who left to join Dio.
The next album, The Razors Edge (1990), recorded in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was a major comeback for the band.
It wasn't long, however, before Phil Rudd then rejoined to assume the drum stool from the departing Slade. During the 1990s they would continue with their risqué brand of hard rock and spectacular live shows utilizing cannons, pyrotechnics, props and Angus Young's trademark schoolboy uniform (this outfit was selected in favor of the other options of a Gorilla, Superman or Zorro). By doing so, AC/DC made themselves a standard in any heavy metaller's collection, even if by Ballbreaker (1995) and Stiff Upper Lip (2000) their sound seemed dated and tired.
In 1997, a box set named Bonfire was released. It contained four albums in all: a remastered version of Back in Black, Volts (a disc with alternate takes, outtakes, and stray live cuts) and two live albums: Live from the Atlantic Studios and Let There Be Rock: The Movie. Live from the Atlantic Studios was originally recorded on 7 December 1977 at the 'Atlantic Studios' in New York. Let There Be Rock: The Movie was a double album recorded in 1979 at the 'Pavillon de Paris' and was the soundtrack of a motion picture, AC/DC: Let There Be Rock. The US version of the box set included a color booklet, a two-sided poster, a sticker, a temporary tattoo, a keychain bottle opener, and a guitar pick.
In 2002, AC/DC signed a long-term, multi-album deal with 'Sony Music', who went on to release a series of remastered albums as part of their AC/DC remasters series. Each release contained an expanded booklet featuring rare photographs, memorabilia, and notes. In 2003, the entire back-catalogue (except Ballbreaker and Stiff Upper Lip) was remastered and re-released. Ballbreaker was eventually re-released in October 2005, while Stiff Upper Lip was later re-released in April 2007. Also in 2003, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On 30 July 2003, the band performed with the Rolling Stones and Rush (among others) at Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto. The concert, held before an audience of well over half a million, was intended to help the city overcome the negative publicity stemming from the effects of a 2003 SARS epidemic. The concert holds the record for the largest paid music event in North American history, and during the show the former air force base 'Downsview', where the outdoor concert was held, became Canada's fifth largest city! The band came second in a list of Australia's highest-earning entertainers for 2005, and sixth for 2006, despite having neither toured since 2003 nor released an album since 2000.
AC/DC made their video game debut on Rock Band 2, with "Let There Be Rock" included as a playable track. The set list from their Live at Donington live album was released as playable songs for the Rock Band series by means of a Wal-Mart exclusive retail disc titled AC/DC Live: Rock Band Track Pack.
Black Ice (2008) finally saw the band back with a studio album after 8 years. The next year it was followed up with a collection of studio and live rarities, Backtracks as a 3-CD/2-DVD/1-LP box-set, as well as rescheduling six shows when Brian Johnson underwent an operation for ulcers. 2010 saw them in the studio again for Iron Man 2, the soundtrack for the eponymous film.
After multiple delays due to health issues, on 19 November 2012, AC/DC released Live at River Plate, their first live album in 20 years.
The future of AC/DC came into question on 16 April 2014, when in response to earlier reports that the band may be retiring due to Malcolm Young being seriously ill and unable to perform, Brian Johnson commented that AC/DC are not retiring and would go to Vancouver, Canada for studio sessions. AC/DC subsequently announced in an official statement on their Facebook page that Malcolm Young would be taking a break from the band due to his ill health. It ended: "The band will continue to make music."
On 23 September 2014, Alberts management confirmed that Malcolm Young had officially departed from the band. Their new album, Rock or Bust, was released on 28 November 2014 as the first AC/DC album in the band's history without Malcolm Young on the recording. The band also announced plans for a world tour to promote the new album with Malcolm and Angus' nephew Stevie Young as Malcolm's replacement.
On 6 November 2014 Rudd was charged with attempting to procure a murder, threatening to kill, possession of methamphetamine and cannabis, following a police raid on his home. The charge of attempting to procure a murder was withdrawn the following day, but the other charges remained. In an interview on 13 November, Angus Young stated that the band had experienced problems with Rudd earlier in the year when recording Rock or Bust, and that his situation had taken the band by surprise, Rudd had also missed video and photo shoots.
On 19 April 2016, Johnson made an announcement regarding hearing loss he had been suffering for well over a year and he was now unable to tour; Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose was soon after announced as the band's lead vocalist for the remainder of their 2016 tour dates.
On 8 July 2016, Williams decided he was leaving the band. After his final show of the Rock or Bust Tour, it was announced that Axl Rose would be joining full-time and that he and Angus would continue AC/DC with a new line-up.
Malcolm Young would die on November 18, 2017. He had been suffering from dementia for the past several years.
Footnote: Back In Black has been said to be now the third best selling album in history.