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Malcolm Young

Malcolm Young

Malcolm Mitchell Young (born 6 January 1953) is a Scottish-born Australian guitarist, best known as a founding member, rhythm guitarist, backing vocalist and songwriter for the Australian hard rock band AC/DC. Young was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, along with the other members of AC/DC. He has been with them since he co-founded the band in November 1973, apart from a brief absence in 1988.

Though his younger brother Angus is the more visible of the brothers, Malcolm has been described as the business and brains behind AC/DC. As the rhythm guitarist, he is responsible for the broad sweep of AC/DC's sound, developing many of the band's guitar riffs and co-writing the band's material.


Before AC/DC

Malcolm Young's parents, William and Margaret, emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland to Sydney, Australia in 1963 with their children George, Margaret, Malcolm and Angus, leaving son Alex (who later went on to form the band Grapefruit) in the UK. They eventually settled in the suburb of Burwood. Both Malcolm and his brother Angus are keen football fans, and follow their beloved Glasgow Rangers.

George Young's rock group, The Easybeats, achieved many number 1 hits in Australia between 1965–1968 and achieved international success with "Friday on My Mind". Malcolm first played with a Newcastle, New South Wales band called 'The Velvet Underground' (not to be confused with the New York-based Velvet Underground). playing cover versions of T. Rex and The Rolling Stones songs. His brother, Angus, began playing in another group called Kantuckee.


Malcolm founded AC/DC in November 1973 and soon asked Angus to join, when Malcolm was 20 years old and Angus was 18. They began national touring in 1974 with singer Dave Evans.

AC/DC relocated to the UK in 1976 and began a heavy schedule of international touring and recording. After the death of singer Bon Scott in 1980, they recorded their biggest selling album Back in Black with singer Brian Johnson.

Malcolm Young missed the band's 1988 tour in a bid to stop his drinking problem. This was covered up however, and it was officially announced that he was tending to his sick son, which did have an element of truth to it. Malcolm eventually got over his drinking problem and returned to the band. During Malcolm's absence, his nephew Stevie replaced him for a while. It was reported that some fans could not tell Malcolm had been replaced, as Stevie bears a striking resemblance to Malcolm.

Malcolm Young is listed in Who's Who In Australia for 2004-2005.

Legacy and influence

Influenced by 1950s rock and roll, and blues-based rock guitarists of the 1960s and 1970s, Malcolm Young is regarded as a leading rock exponent of rhythm guitar.

Young is the subject of a song (and album) title by Australian punk rock band Frenzal Rhomb: "Forever Malcolm Young".

Guitar Player magazine has stated that the secret to Malcolm Young's guitar technique is playing open chords through a series of medium-sized amplifiers set to low volume with little or no gain. This is contrary to a common belief of rock guitarists that rhythm guitar should involve loud and overdriven power chords through large amplifiers.


Malcolm Young plays a 1963 Gretsch Jet Firebird guitar handed down to him by Harry Vanda, along with elder brother George Young, of Easybeats fame. He calls this guitar "The Beast". The guitar has the neck and middle pickups (the middle was a humbucker which had been added by Malcolm) removed and only the stock Gretsch "Filtertron" bridge pickup remains. For a short time, Young placed socks in the cavities to prevent feedback. Prior to that, he used a white piece of plastic to cover the pick-up cavities.

Part of Malcolm Young's sound is due to his use of extremely heavy gauge Gibson nickel roundwound strings. (.012-.056).[1] The heavy strings produce a thicker sound, but don't lend themselves to intricate lead playing, as is the case with the lighter .009-.042 sets used by his brother, Angus.

During the Let There Be Rock era, he stripped off the original Firebird Red finish to the maple top. Also during the "Let There Be Rock Tour", he played a Butterscotch Fender Telecaster. During the Powerage era, Young again removed the plastic and stuffed socks in the pick-up cavities, and also changed the tailpiece from the stock Burns vibrato to an all-in-one Badass bridge, and put a black piece of plastic over the cavity where the original tail-piece was. During the Highway To Hell era, he removed the socks. The guitar stayed like this until 1995, when, during the Ballbreaker tour, he replaced the Badass bridge with the original tailpiece, and removed the pick-up ring for the bridge pick-up. This is how the guitar has been since then.

Malcolm also owned a 1959 Gretsch White Falcon that was used during the tours that supported the albums Back in Black and For Those About to Rock We Salute You. But he said that after someone 'fixed' it, it lost its distinctive sound, and thus got rid of it. It was sold a few years ago on a rock star items website, along with one of Cliff Williams' MusicMan basses. He has recently used another Gretsch White Falcon at shows at Hampden Park and the Hockenheimring on The Black Ice Tour. Also in the 1980's and 1990's Malcolm Young used a Gretsch Pro Jet with Bigsby tail piece mounted on it.

Angus and Malcolm Young both use Marshall amplifiers. The amps stacked behind Malcolm onstage are two original Marshall 100 watt heads, one 1966 JTM45/100 and one late Superbass from the late 1960s or early 1970s. Each head powers two 4 × 12 cabinets. Malcolm also uses custom-made Wizard amps on tour. Malcolm's main amp, since recording Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap in 1976, is a slightly modified Marshall Superbass from the late 1960s or the early 1970s. On Ballbreaker, he used a Marshall JTM45/100 with KT66s and a high B+ voltage (625 volts). In a recent interview with Marshall Law, Malcolm mentions his two favourite amps: a Superbass and old Super amp (JTM45/100). Also Malcolm used 2 Orange full stacks in London, England on July 13, 1976 while playing "Jailbreak", "Live Wire" and "Can I Sit Next To you Girl," with Bon Scott. While AC/DC were playing at Donington Park in 1991, Malcolm used Mesa Boogie stacks.

On AC/DC's latest album, Black Ice, Malcolm stated that he used AmpliTube software on the tracks "Big Jack" and "Anything Goes".

Gretsch now produces Malcolm Young signature model guitars in single and dual pickup configurations.


For Those About To Rock!

Walker, Clinton (2001). Highway to Hell: The Life and Times of AC/DC Legend Bon Scott. pp. 128–133. ISBN 1-891-24113-3. Testimonials section of:

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