Catalog Overhaul Celebrates AC/DC's 30th Year

Excerpted from the magazine for

AC/DC's iconic guitarist Angus Young finds himself cackling often while reflecting on his band's long history. Yet it's when he thinks back to the early 1990s -- when he says public opinion of the band slowly began to improve -- that Young gives himself quite a roar.

He quips, "I think it was then that people began to realize, 'Hey, they didn't eat our children after all. They really didn't cook 'em.'"

The laughs no doubt come a little more easily these days for Young and company. It seems like a lifetime ago that Australia's baddest boogie band was being picketed by worried mothers and being told it wouldn't last a minute by the rock press.

The group's transformation from so-called heathens and bottom-of-the-barrel rock swine to genuine rock royalty seems to be coming to a head this year -- and the timing could not be better. As AC/DC celebrates its 30th year, it is to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month. What's more, Epic has launched a complete overhaul of the band's first 15 albums. The first fruits of that project arrived Feb. 18, when the label issued extensively repackaged versions of "Back in Black" ('80), "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" ('76), "High Voltage" ('76), "Highway to Hell" ('79), and single and double-disc versions of "Live" ('92).

Another batch of five -- "Who Made Who" ('86), "Let There Be Rock" ('77), The Razors Edge ('90), For Those About to Rock We Salute You ('81), and Powerage ('78)-arrives April 8. The final five-If You Want Blood You've Got It ('78), Flick of the Switch ('83), Fly on the Wall ('85), '74 Jailbreak ('84), and Blow Up Your Video ('88) -- will follow on May 20. Epic will also release vinyl reissues later this year.

Digitally remastered and rereleased in Digipaks sporting heaps of rare newspaper clippings, scores of previously unreleased photos, pictures of magazine covers and handwritten lyrics, and essays by such rock scribes as David Fricke and David Wild, the reissues -- produced with the help of Legacy staffers -- bring long overdue attention to one of the mightiest catalogs in rock history. They give a much-needed and downright impressive facelift to classic albums that have for more than a decade been packaged with rather primitive booklets.

Especially notable among the reissues is the raised lettering on the cover of "Back in Black," making the CD version finally akin to the original vinyl release. Unfortunately, the reissues are not augmented with bonus cuts. And that's because the band simply does not have many spares lying around, explains guitarist Malcom Young [Angus' brother]. When writing for a new album, the Youngs usually develop about 30 or 40 ideas, from which 10 or 12 are extracted. "What we record is what we use," Malcom says. "Once we feel we've got a good album, we stop at that."

AC/DC's deal with Epic also includes two studio sets, which will follow its next album, which is its last owed to Elektra. The Young brothers are currently working on new material for that set.

When asked what the key to the band's success has been, Malcolm answers, "Well, I think it was our start in Australia, to be honest, because the sort of gigs we did were like pub gigs, big, big sort-of pubs that hold maybe 600 up to 1,000, mainly tough guys out there demanding a good time. And if you played a midtempo song and they wanted something fast, they let you know -- they threw something at you.

"There was a lot of fights in them days, always some wise guys annoyed at maybe [original frontman Bon Scott's] style, or maybe because their girlfriends wanted to screw him. We had to cut our teeth and become tough and learned how to entertain really quickly," he says with a laugh.

"We still stick with that: When we go onstage, we want to make sure, no matter what, we're gonna make those kids who paid a lot of money to see us get the best of us.

"We get accused of doing the same material, and of course we're not an arty band or a band on a mission with a message. Our message is just to have a good time. We've just stuck to that."

Excerpted from the March 1, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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