By Darryl Mason
You may now call him Dr Rock, but AC/DC’s lead singer Brian Johnson had even bigger news when he picked his Doctorate in Music from Northumbria University, in his hometown of Newcastle, England:
The new AC/DC studio album is finished.
Earlier this year, rumours swamped the world’s media that AC/DC were finished, after news leaked that rhythm guitarist and founding member Malcolm Young was seriously ill, and unable to play.
But after two weeks of an incredible outpouring of emotion and grief from millions of AC/DC fans that filled millions of tweets and tens of thousands of Facebook posts,
Angus Young and Malcolm Johnson defied ‘AC/DC are RIP’ claims and decided to push forward with plans to record the band’s first new album since 2008’s Black Ice. They recruited Angus’ nephew Stevie Young (who had replaced Malcolm Young on tour in 1988, while Malcolm Young had been in rehab) and did what Johnson had earlier promised. They picked up their guitars and had “a plonk.”
Johnson said, in April, they were going into the studio to jam and to see “if anybody has got any tunes or ideas.”
Turns out, they had both.
Through May and June, AC/DC recorded their 15th studio at Warehouse Studios, in Vancouver, Canada, with veteran producer Brendan O’Brien. The sessions have been described as quickfire, even frantic, and new songs were built up from jam sessions.
For their last album, Black Ice, which sold more than six million copies worldwide, becoming the 2nd highest album of 2008, Malcolm and Angus had worked on the songs for five years, amongst tours.
But this time, it was back to the way Angus Young had begun recording AC/DC songs at Alberts Studios in Sydney, in the mid-1970s. Ideas were jammed, songs were written on the spot, notebooks scoured for lyrics.
Johnson told Classic Rock magazine yesterday, “We’re done,” describing the recording sessions as “brilliant. I’m very excited and we’ve got some great songs.”
The presence of Malcolm Young, recognised by most longtime AC/DC fans and friends as the man who really ran AC/DC, was sorely missed in the studio, Johnson said, revealing Malcolm Young was now in hospital in Sydney.
“But he’s a fighter,” Johnson told Classic Rock. “We’ve got our fingers cross that he’ll get strong again. He’s a small guy but he’s very strong.”
Stevie Young looked delighted to be recording with AC/DC, in photos that circulated online in June. photos that also revealed Angus was now completely grey-haired, and had aged considerably since the band last toured in 2010.
“Stevie was magnificent,” Johnson said. “but when you’re recording with this thing hanging over you and your work mate isn’t well, it’s difficult. But I’m sure (Malcolm) was rooting for us.”
Johnson said he had proposed calling the new AC/DC album ‘Man Down’ to honour Malcolm, but feared fans might find the title a bit negative. The proposed title does, however, fit with the Youngs notoriously dark sense of humour.
The new album, whatever title they settle on, is expected to be released later this year, to tie in with a proposed 40th anniversary world tour. Johnson had previously said any new AC/DC tour would not be as long or as extensive as earlier ones had been now they were all in their 60s, and may instead simply be 40 shows in total.
The two year long Black Ice tour was one of the highest earning in music history, racking up more than $430 million in ticket sales, and another six figures in merchandise.
Johnson hinted to Classic Rock that AC/DC may return to Wembley Stadium in 2015, but no word as yet when AC/DC might return to Australia. Stevie Young is expected to fill-in for Malcolm Young if he is not fit to tour.
Darryl Mason is now writing a biography of Doc Neeson and The Angels.