UPDATE: Since the story below was first published, the family of AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young has confirmed to People that Young is suffering from dementia. “The family thanks you for respecting their privacy,” they added in their statement. –ED.
Apparently, rumors of the death of AC/DC have been greatly exaggerated.
Despite the prolonged and debilitating illness of guitarist Malcolm Young (the details of which are still being kept under wraps), AC/DC announced in a press release last week that they are plodding on without him. He is being officially replaced by his nephew, Stevie Young, who played on the band’s latest album Rock or Bust, due for a Dec. 2 release.
The intense speculation surrounding the future of AC/DC extends beyond Young’s illness itself. It has been widely claimed that the band at one point made a pact that they would discontinue once any of the original members became unable to continue performing. Anticipation of the band’s imminent breakup intensified last spring when an announcement was made on AC/DC’s website that Malcolm Young was “taking a break from the band due to ill health.” A few days later, Brian Johnson dispelled the rumors of the band’s imminent demise, declaring instead that they were preparing to record new music.
For the better part of the summer, the news about AC/DC has been slim to none—then last week, the band made the official announcement that the new record would be released in December, followed by a world tour in 2015—with Angus and Malcolm Young’s nephew Stevie in place as Malcolm’s permanent replacement.
“’Rock or Bust’” is the first AC/DC album in the band’s 41-year history without founding member Malcolm Young on the recordings,” the band said. “Earlier this year AC/DC released a statement explaining that due to illness, Malcolm would be taking a break from the band. Unfortunately, due to the nature of Malcolm’s condition, he will not be returning to the band.”
So it’s official—Young is out, a new Young is in. The band plays on. If there ever was a pact, it’s apparent that a decision was made to ignore it.
So what does this mean for the future of AC/DC and their fans? In the grand scheme of things, replacing a single band member is (in theory) not a big deal, especially considering that there are some successful bands that are a virtual revolving door of talent. But on a psychological level, it feels different when you’re talking about a group of guys that have been playing together for more than 40 years. When one of them is replaced, it raises a whole set of questions. Will the new guy (even though he’s family) be able to settle into that deep of a groove? Will it feel like the same band—both to the band and their fans? And what of the fans who believed the pact was real, or who perhaps reveled in the sanctity of it? Will they view the continuation of AC/DC sans Malcolm Young as a bonus, or a sacrelige? Will they be able to accept the change?
Of course, the decision is made: there’s a new album, there’s a new bandmate, there’s a world tour. We’ll all know soon enough whether this proves to be a second wind for the band, or a tactical error. Whatever happens with the band, we wish Malcolm Young the best, and a full recovery.
What do you think? If you’re an AC/DC fan, do you think the band should play on without Malcolm Young? Is this a good thing or a bad thing for the band? Feel free to weigh in.