I said in a post back in April that Malcolm Young, rhythm guitarist and indispensable musical director of AC/DC, had had to take a break from the band for health reasons, and that it would be very sad if he could never play with them again. The news came today that he’s indeed retired from the band, just as I was writing a review for The List of Jesse Fink‘s fine book The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC.
Fink’s book confirms that Malcolm Young was the leader of AC/DC, and in his absence it’s hard to see how the band can go on. But then, it’s been hard for two decades now to see how the band could go on, and yet go on it does. The thing is, AC/DC were once about much more than bloody-minded determination. Bloody-minded determination is no doubt the thing about them that chimes with many of their older, male fans, but listening again to their early stuff as compared to their later stuff, what’s been missing from them since Bon Scott died has been sheer love of life. Scott may have drunk himself to death, but the more you listen to him (and the more you read about him), you sense he’d have preferred not to, whereas Brian Johnson’s chronic Barrett’s Syndrome, a condition in which the oesophagus is seriously irritated by chronic gastric reflux, can hardly be much fun; it’s as if being AC/DC’s lead singer has literally made Johnson sick.
With Malcolm Young gone, AC/DC have finally morphed into a tribute band to themselves. It’s a sad day, but if anyone has earned a rest from driving one of the world’s biggest bands, it’s him. If only the rest of the band would do the dignified thing, bring out one valedictory album and call it a day.