ANGUS YOUNG – RAW ENERGY IS ALL YOU NEED
Guitar World March 1986
By Joe Lalaina
(All parts in Italics and Quotes are from the March 1986 issue of Guitar World)
The little guy with the big SG is unconcerned with current guitar hero fashions. His stock in trade has always been the hard rock shuffle to a boogie beat. Before you drop the needle on any new AC/DC album, you know what to expect. Rarely has a band maintained such a consistent sound as AC/DC, they’ve been pretty much making the same album for the past ten years. Fly On The Wall, the group’s eleventh release, is no exception.
“I’ve heard people say all our music sounds the same,” says soft-spoken lead guitarist Angus Young, “but it’s usually just the people who don’t like us who say it.”
Not true. It’s just that ever since the band’s High Voltage debut back in 76, AC/DC has been playing the same relentlessly raw and straightforward style on every succeeding album. And that’s the way their fans like it.
I like AC/DC. They are a talisman to consistency. Each album is the same, however that doesn’t mean that each album was successful. You need great songs, and that is what AC/DC delivered on High Voltage, Highway To Hell, Let There Be Rock, Back In Black and on The Razors Edge. Credit both Mutt Lange for Back In Black and Bruce Fairbairn for The Razors Edge. Actually, The Razors Edge album is the most crucial album AC/DC ever did. After a steady decline in fortunes and sales since Back In Black, they kicked off the 1990’s with a bang. It made them relevant again. The Razors Edge album sustained them throughout the 90’s and into the now.
“We never go overboard and above people’s heads,” says Angus, who took some rare time out from his recent American tour to discuss musical and other matters.
“We strive to retain that energy, that spirit we’ve always had. We feel the more simple and original something is, the better it is. It doesn’t take much for anyone to pick up anything I play, it’s quite simple. I go for a good song. And if you hear a good song, you don’t dissect it, you just listen and every bit seems right.”
For any guitarist that is starting off, AC/DC wrote the book on beginners guitar. In the process, they also created songs that are timeless and a soundtrack to a whole generation of people in the seventies, eighties and nineties. I am just teaching my kids to play guitar and the first song i showed them was Long Way To The Top from AC/DC.
Although this stripped-to-the-bone approach has made AC/DC internationally successful, thirty million albums sold worldwide ain’t bad!, Angus is more concerned with having a good time than with album sales.
“We don’t go around the world counting ticket and record sales,” he says, “nor do we glue our ears to the radio to hear what’s trendy at the moment; we’re not that type of band. We do run our own careers, but we leave the marketing stuff to the record company. We make music for what we know it as, and we definitely have our own style.”
AC/DC defined a style and in the process spawned a million imitators. What a lot of people don’t understand, especially the international fans, is that Australia rock bands where all playing the same style. Rose Tattoo, The Angels, Daddy Cool, Stevie Wright all had that pub rock vibe. AC/DC just stood out a bit more. Credit Bon Scott and Angus Young. Brian Johnson walked into the house built by Bon and Angus.
Is there anything Angus considers special about his playing style?
“In some ways, yeah.” he says. “I know what guitar sound I want right away. And if I put my mind to it, I can come up with a few tricks. I mean, I just don’t hit the strings that my
fingers are nearest to. But the most important thing, to me, is I don’t like to bore people. Whenever I play a solo in a song, I make sure that the audience gets off on it as much as I do.”
Angus exerts more energy in the course of one song than most guitarists do in an entire show.
“I’m always very nervy when I play.” he says. I usually settle down after the first few songs, but it’s hard for me to stand still. I suddenly realize where I am, onstage in front of thousands of people; so the energy from the crowd makes me go wild. I’m always very careful, though. If you bump an arm or twist an ankle, there s no time for healing on the road. You can t tell the crowd. Hey, people, I can t run around tonight I have a twisted ankle.”
I have mentioned before about bands writing great songs and how that is very different to bands that write great songs that go down great live. AC/DC is another band, that has that foresight. The songs are all meant for the arena. To be honest, i don’t really remember a recorded song fading out, i am sure some do, however it is testament to the band that they write a start and an end.
Malcolm Young, AC/DC s rhythm guitarist and Angus older brother, would rather just stand in one spot and bang out the beat with thuddingly repetitive chord structures.
“Malcolm makes the band sound so full”, says Angus, “and it’s hard to get a big ego if you play in a band with your brother, it keeps your head on the earth. Malcolm is like me, he just wants the two of us to connect. Although he lets me take all the lead breaks, Malcolm’s still a better guitarist than Eddie Van Halen. Van Halen certainly knows his scales, but I don’t enjoy listening to very technical guitarists who cram all the notes they know into one song. I mean, Van Halen can do what he does very well, but he’s really just doing finger exercises. If a guitarist wants to practice all the notes he can play, he should do it at home. There’s definitely a place for that type of playing, but it’s not in front of me.”
Big call by Angus. Dishing on King Eddie. Back then, I was like WTF? How dare he? Eddie was king back in 1986. He was untouchable.
I didn’t even like AC/DC back in 1986 and I am Australian. I was so into the U.S. Glam/Hard rock scene, I failed to see the talent that was AC/DC. I am glad I made up for it in the nineties, when Grunge allowed me to drop out of the mainstream and go searching for classic rock bands.
These days, no one speaks their mind. They all want to be loved. No one wants to be hated. Guess what people, we can see right through it. We can tell the fakes from the real dealers. (Nice lyric line by the way, I will keep it)
Angus would much rather listen to old time players like Chuck Berry or B B King.
“Those guys have great feel, ” says Angus. “They hit the notes in the right spot and they know when not to play. Chuck Berry was never a caring person. He didn’t care whether he was playing his tune, out of tune or someone else’s tune. Whenever he plays guitar, he has a big grin from ear to ear. Everyone always used to rave about Clapton when I was growing up, saying he was a guitar genius and stuff like that. Well even on a bad night Chuck Berry is a lot better than Clapton will ever be. Clapton just sticks licks together that he has taken from other people – like B B King and the other old blues players—and puts them together in some mish-mashed fashion. The only great album he ever made was the Blues Breaker album he did with John Mayal and maybe a couple of good songs he did with Cream. The guy more or less built his reputation on that. I never saw what the big fuss was about Clapton to begin with.”
That is what made Angus a legend, he always spoke his mind. The world we have today is all about yes people and making sure that we don’t offend. We all want to be loved, hence the reason why one person has 5000 Facebook friends. Yeah Right. 5000 Friends. What a load of B.S? No one speaks their mind these days. The kids grow up these days, being told by mum and dad what a great game they had in football, and how great they are at reading and how great they are at this, when all they did was touch the ball once and play with the grass most of the time.
It’s easy to get lost in those comments against Clapton and Van Halen. If you do, you miss the point Angus is trying to make. He has no time for technical players, but he has time for Chuck Berry. In relation to Eric Clapton, he didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about, he believed that others where better, like Jeff Beck.
“There are guys out there who can play real good without boring people. Jeff Beck is one of them. He’s more of a technical guy, but when he wants to rock and roll he sure knows how to do it with guts. I really like the early albums he did with Rod Stewart.”
There is that name again Jeff Beck. When I was reading this magazine, Jeff Beck’s name came up a few times. I had to check him out. This is 1986. No internet to Google Jeff Beck. No YouTube or Spotify to sample him. I had to walk down to the local record shop and look for it. Good times. I am glad I lived them and I am glad they are not coming back.