Saturday, October 4, 2014

AC/DC, The #97 Artist of the Seventies*

Editor's Note:  AC/DC fans, don't get upset!  This is a ranking of artists in the 70's, not of all-time.  You'll see artists in the next few days ranked ahead of your group and wonder how in the heck that can happen.  Remember, AC/DC only had one major album in the 70's, and didn't achieve their great success until 'Back In Black' in 1980.

Brothers Angus and Malcolm Young were born in Scotland, and moved with their family in 1963.  Their brother George began learning how to play the guitar, and joined the Easybeats ("Friday On My Mind").  George would later go on to produce AC/DC albums.  Malcolm soon followed suit, joining a Newcastle band called the Velvet Underground, not to be confused with New York's Velvet Underground. 

In 1973, Malcolm and Angus formed AC/DC with  bassist Larry Van Kriedt, vocalist Dave Evans, and drummer Colin Burgess.  The two brothers formed the idea for the group after their sister, Margaret, noticed the initials "AC/DC" on a sewing machine.  Angus and Malcolm believed this name symbolized the group's raw energy and power-driven performances of their music.

Gene Pierson signed AC/DC to play at Bondi Lifesaver on New Year's Eve in 1973.  Most of the members of the group dressed in a glam-rock style, with Angus adopting his now famous school-uniform stage outfit.   Manager Dennis Laughlin, the original lead singer of Sherbet, occasionally replaced Evans on lead vocals.

The Young brothers were looking to permanently replace Evans, and Ronald "Bon" Scott came highly recommended.  Scott too had been born in Scotland before emigrating to Australia.  Other changes were made before the group stabilized, with bassist Mark Evans and drummer Phil Rudd taking over those duties. 
Through regular appearances on Molly Meldrum's Countdown, AC/DC became one of the most popular artists in Australia in the mid-70's.  In 1976, they signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records and toured throughout Europe, opening for Styx, Aerosmith, KISS, and Black Sabbath.  AC/DC then released their first international album, High Voltage, in 1976, which was actually a compilation of tracks from the earlier, limited-release albums High Voltage and T.N.T.  The international High Voltage contained the song that the group closed their shows with in those days, "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna' Rock 'N' Roll)"

The group released the album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap the same year, although it wasn't released in the United States until 1981, after the group had become stars.  In 1977, AC/DC released the album Let There Be Rock.  Afterwards, they fired Mark Evans, replaced by Cliff Williams.

By this time, AC/DC had become popular in the U.K, but their first exposure in the United States was at a show at the Capitol Theater in Flint, Michigan.  In 1978, Williams debuted with the group on the album Powerage.  The group's live show at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow was recorded and released as If You Want Blood You've Got It.  

AC/DC were stars in their adopted country of Australia, and they had a following in Europe.  But they had yet to become international stars.  That changed in 1979 with their breakthrough album, Highway to Hell.  Not coincidentally, this achievement was made with producer Robert "Mutt" Lange being a major factor.  
Highway to Hell was the group's first Top 100 album, peaking at #17.  The title track gave them their first U.S. hit at #42.

The album was initially a slow-seller, and sold most of its seven million copies after the group became big.  But those sales still count in our formula, and are the reason AC/DC makes The Top 100 Artists of the Seventies*Highway to Hell featured the great track "Get It Hot".

Scott delivered screaming vocals on "Girls Got Rhythm".

AC/DC had recorded a great album, although not a lot of people realized it at the time.  I happened to be one of them, and believed then they were special.  Here's the group with "Beating Around The Bush".

Scott did another amazing vocal on "Walk All Over You".

Another outstanding song on the album is "Touch Too Much".  

The group would go on to score one of The Top Albums of the Rock Era* the following year with Back in Black, but that is a story for another decade.

Although they had experienced only limited worldwide success by the end of the decade, in retrospect, AC/DC's story was already well underway, and the sales of the group's back catalog after Back in Black show that they deserve to be recognized as one of the top 70's acts.

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