AC/DC is an Australian rock band, formed in 1973 by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. Although the band is commonly classified as hard rock and is considered a pioneer of heavy metal, they have always classified their music as rock and roll. To date they are one of the highest grossing bands of all time.
In November 1973 Malcolm and Angus Young formed AC/DC and recruited bassist Larry Van Kriedt, vocalist Dave Evans, and drummer Colin Burgess. The early line-up of the band changed often and Burgess was the first member fired, while several bassists and drummers passed through the band during the next year. The Young brothers decided that Evans was not a suitable frontman for the group and in September 1974 Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott, an experienced vocalist replaced Evans.
By October 1974, the Australia-only album “High Voltage” had been recorded. It took only ten days and was based on instrumental songs written by the Young brothers, with lyrics added by Scott. Within a few months, the band's line-up had stabilized, featuring Scott, the Young brothers, bassist Mark Evans and drummer Phil Rudd.
Later that year they released the single “It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll),” which became their perennial rock anthem. It was included on their second album, 1975’s “T.N.T.” which was also released only in Australia and New Zealand. “T.N.T.” featured the song "High Voltage", which was the first song written and recorded for the album. Because “High Voltage” was released as a single before “T.N.T.” was released, some people thought it was the title track to AC/DC's debut album.
In 1976, the band signed an international deal with Atlantic Records which issued worldwide a compilation of tracks taken from the “High Voltage” and “T.N.T.” LPs, also titled “High Voltage.” It sold well and gained the band an global following.
The band's next album, 1976’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” was released in both Australian and internationally. Track listings varied worldwide, and the international version of the album also featured the “T.N.T.” track “Rocker,” which had previously never been released internationally. Following their 1977 recording “Let There Be Rock,” bassist Mark Evans was fired because of personal differences with Angus Young.
The 1978 release of “Powerage” marked the debut of bassist Cliff Williams, and with its harder riffs, followed the blueprint set by “Let There Be Rock.” “Powerage” was the last album produced by Harry Vanda and George Young that had lead vocals by Bon Scott.
The major breakthrough in the band's career came in their collaboration with producer "Mutt" Lange on the album “Highway to Hell,” released in 1979. It became the first AC/DC LP to break into the U.S. Billboard 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 but still featured AC/DC's signature sound: loud, simple, pounding riffs and grooving backbeats.
Within months of recording the album “Highway to Hell,” lead singer and co-songwriter Bon Scott died on February 19, 1980, after a night of heavy alcohol consumption. The group briefly considered disbanding, but Scott's parents urged them to continue and hire a new vocalist. Ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson was auditioned and selected to replace Scott. Later that year, the band released their highest selling album, “Back in Black.”
“Back in Black,” produced by Mutt Lange and recorded by Tony Platt, became their biggest-selling album and a hard-rock landmark. Hits included “Hells Bells,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution” and the title track. The album was certified platinum three months after its release, and reached #1 in the U.K. and #4 in the U.S., where it spent 131 weeks on the Billboard 200 Albums chart.
The follow-up album, For Those About to Rock We Salute You, also sold well and was positively received by critics.
The band's next album, 1981's “For Those About to Rock We Salute You,” was their first album to reach #1 in the United States. The album featured two of the band's most popular singles, “Let's Get It Up” and the title track, “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You),” which reached #13 and #15 in the U.K., respectively. The band split with Lange for their self-produced 1983 album, “Flick of the Switch,” in an effort to recover the rawness and simplicity of their early albums.
AC/DC declined in popularity soon after drummer Phil Rudd was fired in 1983 and was replaced by future Dio drummer Simon Wright. The band experienced a resurgence in the early 1990s with the release of “The Razors Edge.” Phil Rudd returned in 1994 after Chris Slade, who was with the band from 1989–1994, was asked to leave in favor of him, and contributed to the band's 1995 album “Ballbreaker.”
Since then, the band's line-up has remained the same. “Stiff Upper Lip” was released in 2000 and was well received by critics, and the band's next studio album, “Black Ice,” was released in 2008 and was the second-highest-selling album of that year. It was their biggest hit on the charts since “For Those About to Rock,” eventually reaching #1. AC/DC's next album, the soundtrack to the film “Iron Man 2,” was released in 2010.
AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. They sold over 1.3 million albums in the U.S. during 2007 despite not having released a new album since 2000 at that point. Additionally, the group's commercial success continues to flourish despite their choice to refrain from selling albums in digital, online, formats for many years. However, in November 2012, the entire catalog (excluding early single “Can I Sit Next to You, Girl,” the “T.N.T”. album and the Australian versions of the “High Voltage,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and “Let There Be Rock “albums) became available digitally.
In 2009 the Recording Industry Association of America upgraded the group's US sales figures from 69 million to 71 million, making AC/DC the fifth-best-selling band in U.S. history and the ninth-best-selling artist. The RIAA also certified “Back in Black” as double diamond (20 million) in U.S. sales, and by 2007 the album had sold 22 million copies, which made it the fifth-best-selling album of all-time in the U.S. It is currently the second-best-selling album worldwide.