Malcolm Mitchell Young (6 January 1953 – 18 November 2017) was a Scottish-Australian musician and songwriter, best known as a co-founder, rhythm guitarist, backing vocalist and songwriter for the hard rock band AC/DC. Except for a brief absence in 1988, he was with the band from its November 1973 beginning until retiring in 2014 due to health reasons. Young and the other members of AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.
Though his younger brother Angus was the more visible of the brothers, Malcolm was described as the driving force and the leader of the band. In 2014, he stated that despite his retirement from the band, AC/DC was determined to continue making music with his blessing. As the rhythm guitarist, he was responsible for the broad sweep of the band’s sound, developing many of their guitar riffs and co-writing the band’s material with Angus. He was married to O’Linda Young and had two children, Cara and Ross.
Young took a leave of absence from AC/DC in April 2014, to receive treatment for dementia. In September 2014, the band’s management announced that he would be retiring permanently. He died on 18 November 2017.
William Young (born 16 February 1911) and his family lived at 6 Skerryvore Road in the Cranhill district of Glasgow in Scotland. William worked first as a wheel boy in a rope works and then as a machine / saw operator in an asbestos / cement business. In 1940 William joined the Royal Air Force serving in World War 2 as a flight engine mechanic. After the war William worked as a yard man for a builder and then as a postman. His wife Margaret (born 14 July 1913, her maiden name was also Young) was a housewife.
The “big freeze” of 1963 was one of the worst winters on record in the UK, with snow 8 feet (2.4 m) deep. A TV advertisement shown in Britain at that time offered assisted travel for families to start a different life in Australia. 15 members of the Young family left Britain by air in late June 1963.
Malcolm later described the family’s musical background: “All the males in our family played, Stevie, the oldest played accordion, Alex and John were the first couple to play guitar, and being older it was sort of passed down to George, then myself, then Angus.”:
Initially staying at Villawood Migrant Hostel (a site later turned into Villawood Immigration Detention Centre) in Nissen huts, George Young met and became friends with another migrant, Harry Vanda. The Young family then moved into a semi-detached house at 4 Burleigh Street in the Sydney suburb of Burwood.
Both Angus and Malcolm Young were in a band with their brother George and his music partner Harry Vanda called Marcus Hook Roll Band. The project released an album in Australia called Tales of Old Grand Daddy. Malcolm Young played guitar on the 1974 release “Evie” by Stevie Wright, written and produced by Harry Vanda and George Young. The song is 11 minutes long and has three parts. Young played the guitar solo in Part One of the song. Malcolm Young was in a short lived Newcastle-based band The Velvet Underground (not the well-known 1960s band).
Malcolm Young was 20 when he and younger brother Angus formed AC/DC in 1973. Angus was on lead guitar, Malcolm on rhythm guitar, Colin Burgess on drums, Larry Van Kriedt on bass guitar and Dave Evans on vocals. “Can I Sit Next To You Girl,” their first single, was later re-recorded with Bon Scott as their vocalist. They decided upon the name AC/DC after seeing the letters “AC/DC” on the back of their sister Margaret’s sewing machine. In 1975 AC/DC had moved to Melbourne.
In early 1977 they returned to Britain and began a European tour with Black Sabbath. While Bon Scott and Ozzy Osbourne quickly became friends, relations were less than cordial between the other members of the respective bands. In one incident, Geezer Butler pulled a knife on Malcolm Young. Later in the year they toured with Rainbow.
Towards the end of 1977, bassist Mark Evans was fired; purportedly to find someone who could sing backup vocals. Evans described disagreement with Angus and Malcolm as a contributing factor. He was replaced by Cliff Williams. Neither of the Young brothers has elaborated on the departure of Evans, though Richard Griffiths, the CEO of Epic Records and a booking agent for AC/DC in the mid-1970s, later commented, “You knew Mark wasn’t going to last, he was just too much of a nice guy.”
In 1988, Young missed the majority of AC/DC’s Blow Up Your Video World Tour to address alcohol abuse issues. He eventually became sober and returned to the band. During his absence he was replaced by his nephew, Stevie Young.
Health problems and death
In April 2014, Young became seriously ill and was unable to continue performing. On 16 April 2014, AC/DC released a note stating that Young would be “taking a break from the band due to ill health”. However, singer Brian Johnson stated that despite earlier reports, AC/DC are not retiring: “We are definitely getting together in May in Vancouver. We’re going to pick up guitars, have a plonk and see if anybody has got any tunes or ideas. If anything happens we’ll record it.” In July, Johnson revealed that Young was in hospital receiving treatment for an unspecified condition and during May recording sessions had been replaced in the studio by guitarist Stevie Young, his nephew. On 24 September 2014, the band’s management announced that Young would not be rejoining the band. Stevie Young continued to fill in for Malcolm on the band’s 2015 Rock or Bust World Tour.
On 26 September 2014, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Young had dementia and had been admitted to a nursing home where he could receive full-time care. A source close to Young was quoted in this article as saying that he had “complete loss of short-term memory”. Young’s family confirmed four days later that he had dementia, saying that Young “is suffering from dementia and the family thanks you for respecting their privacy”.
In subsequent interviews, Angus stated that his brother had been experiencing lapses in memory and concentration before the Black Ice project and had been receiving treatment during the Black Ice World Tour which ended in 2010. Angus confirmed that although his brother did not play on the 2014 Rock or Bust album: “He still likes his music. We make sure he has his Chuck Berry, a little Buddy Holly.” He added that AC/DC would continue according to his brother’s wishes and standards: “Look, even with his health, Malcolm was touring until he couldn’t do it anymore.”
In that same interview, Angus stated that Malcolm was rehearsing AC/DC’s songs repeatedly before every concert just to remember how they went. In an interview with Guitar Player about Malcolm Young’s songwriting credits in Rock or Bust, Angus stated, “Mal kept doing what he could until he couldn’t do it anymore, but I have all the material he was working on. There were a lot of riffs, ideas, and bits of choruses. I’d fill things in to see if we had a song. Every album we’ve ever done has been that way. There was always a bit from the past, a bit from what we had that was brand new, and, sometimes, just an old idea that either Malcolm or myself had worked on but we never finished. The songwriting process didn’t really change, except for the fact that Mal wasn’t physically there. So when it came to writing and putting stuff together, I had Stevie there with me. You see, Malcolm was always a great organizer. He always kept track of the stuff we were writing together. He’d record it, date it, make notes. My records — if you can call them that — are always chaotic. So, this time, Stevie helped me organize a lot of what was there.”
At the conclusion of the Black Ice World Tour, Malcolm was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was treated at an early stage, so surgery was successful and the cancer was removed. He also had an unspecified heart problem and wore a pacemaker.
Young died on 18 November 2017 at the age of 64, at Lulworth House in Elizabeth Bay. His funeral was held at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney on 28 November. Young’s elder brother George Young died a few weeks before him, on 22 October 2017.
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