20 Things You Never Knew About AC/DC

It goes without saying that AC/DC are one of the most successful rock bands of all time. They’ve sold over 200 million records worldwide, making them the 16th best selling artist in the world. Moreover, their iconic album Back in Black has sold an estimated 50 million units worldwide – making it the highest-selling album by any band, ever.

These rock and roll legends have been through a lot, including the tragic death of frontman Bon Scott, but they’ve persevered and have lasted for nearly five decades now. Since their inception in 1973, the members of AC/DC have done some crazy stuff – here are 20 electrifying facts about this awe-inspiring band.

20. Their music is being used in research to help combat cancer

Who knew that rock and roll could help in the fight against cancer? It sounds implausible, but it’s true.

Researchers at the University of South Australia have found that playing AC/DC’s iconic track Thunderstruck can help fight cancer.

Apparently, playing the track during treatment is effective at significantly improving the efficiency of chemotherapy.

The track was chosen as it literally ‘hits all the right notes’ with its punchy guitar riff.

Vibrations from Thunderstruck apparently cause the particles carrying the chemo drug to bounce around more, which results in a more efficient delivery to cancer cells.

Researcher Professor Nico Voelcker said it may be possible for Thunderstruck to have the same positive effect on other drug treatments besides chemotherapy. “We might end up using different types of drugs; we might use drugs that are anti-inflammatory or antibiotic. It was just one model application for us.”

19. Their music was used as part of a US military operation in 1989

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You can’t say AC/DC aren’t versatile. While Thunderstruck is being used to battle disease, another song of theirs was used as part of an aggressive US military operation called Operation Nifty Package.

In 1989, Panamanian dictator General Manuel Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy after the US invaded Panama on December 20.

Credit: US National Archives

American soldiers were prevented by treaty from entering the Holy See, and so they had to adopt some unorthodox tactics in order to coax out the dictator.

The US military blared a range of hard rock tracks outside the embassy non-stop for three days.

AC/DC’s track Hells Bells was one of the songs that Noriega was made to listen to.

Other tracks included in the psychological barrage were I Fought the Law by The Clash and Panama by Van Halen. Eventually, Noriega was unable to take any more and surrendered.

18. Before Angus Young settled on the schoolboy outfit, he tried out Spider-Man and Zorro costumes

AC/DC just wouldn’t be the same without lead guitarist Angus Young’s iconic, outrageous schoolboy outfit.

It took a while before the talented musician firmly decided on donning the school uniform outfit, though.

Credit: Matt Becker via Wikimedia Commons

Before settling on the blazer and shorts, Young tried many different looks, ranging from superhero to animal costumes.

He had brief stints dressing as Spider-Man, Zorro and even a Superman parody named Super-Ang.

Credit: Flickr

He also briefly entertained the idea of dressing as a gorilla. It was Young’s sister Margaret who eventually suggested that he dress as a schoolboy.

The original uniform costume was created by his sister, but when that one fell apart, Young reverted to wearing his old uniform from Ashfield Boys High School.

17. Angus used to be addicted to milk

Many rock and roll stars have struggled with addiction, and Angus Young is no exception.

But Young wasn’t addicted to alcohol or drugs – instead, he was unusually hooked on milk in the band’s heyday.

The guitarist has claimed that he used to drink gallons of the stuff, and when chocolate milk became popular he switched to that.

While taking part in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session in 2014, Young revealed the fascinating fact.

“Well, I did used to drink a lot of milk, yes. And I don’t know why, really, at the time,” he explained.

“My body just seemed to say I had to drink that milk. And I used to have gallons of the stuff. The only one that had a problem with it was my dentist.” Young still enjoys a glass of milk nowadays, but no longer puts away “gallons” of it.

16. Angus’ amp has caught fire on two separate occasions

During a Reddit AMA session in 2014, Angus Young confirmed that his guitar amp caught fire while the band were recording Let There Be Rock in 1977.

In addition, he also revealed that it happened again while the group were recording Rock or Bust.

Credit: Dena Flows

“Yes, it was on fire and I had to keep playing until the end, because my brother was in the control room, and yelling out ‘KEEP GOING!'”

“So I had to keep going until the thing kind of went into meltdown,” he said.

“And on this album, Rock or Bust, we had the same thing – my amp just went on fire,” he went on.

“And I didn’t even know! I thought it was a cigarette going. But Brendan was shouting out, ‘Ang, you’re on fire!'”

15. The band got their name from a sewing machine

If you remember anything from your days of studying Physics at school, you’ll know that AC/DC stands for Alternating Current/Direct Current.

But did you know Angus and Malcolm Young were inspired to use the abbreviation as their band’s name after seeing it on their sister’s sewing machine?

Credit: Dena Flows

The brothers both felt that the name was perfect, as it encapsulated the band’s energy and power.

While globally the band is largely known as AC/DC, some Australian fans have dubbed them ‘Acca Dacca.’

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A rumour also gained traction during the band’s early days that they had named themselves after the slang term ‘AC/DC,’ meaning bisexuality.

But the group had no idea of this second meaning until after they were established as a band.

14. Their first album was slammed by Rolling Stone

By now, AC/DC have smashed records and become one of the most successful groups of all time.

But back in 1976, the writers of Rolling Stone magazine weren’t so sure about the band’s chances.

One contemporary review in the music mag declared that hard rock had “unquestionably hit its all-time low” with the release of the band’s first album, High Voltage. Ouch.

Despite the savage review, AC/DC went on to sell over three million units of High Voltage in the US alone.

The boys also went on to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone in 2008, so there are clearly no hard feelings there.

Plus, a recent Rolling Stone review for the band’s latest album Power Up lauded it as “their best album in 30 years.”

13. Only one member of the band was actually born in Australia

Everybody knows that the members of AC/DC are proud Australians that hail from Sydney, the nation’s capital.

But many of the band’s core members weren’t actually born in Oz. Both Malcolm and Angus Young were born in Glasgow, Scotland.

Bon Scott, meanwhile, was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland – his first name was actually Ronald, but as everybody dubbed him ‘Bonnie Scotland,’ the name ‘Bon’ stuck.

Bassist Cliff Williams was born in Romford, England, while vocalist Brian Johnson was born in Gateshead, England.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In fact, the only core member of AC/DC actually born in Australia was Phil Rudd, who was born in Melbourne.

However, most would agree that AC/DC – or Acca Dacca, as Aussies have affectionately dubbed them – are an Australian band through and through.

12. Hell’s Bells once saved a US pilot’s life

Back in 2003, former US military pilot Michael Durant got in touch with AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson.

He wrote to the musician to ask him if he could use the lyrics to Hells Bells in his upcoming autobiographical book.

The book was titled In the Company of Heroes and detailed Durant’s experience at the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993.

Johnson agreed to let Durant use the lyrics in his work, but did ask what context they’d be appearing in.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Johnson says Durant told him: “Brian, they threw me in prison, my legs were broken, and they kept opening the door and shooting at me. That was terrifying. I sat there thinking, I’m going to die.”

“My buddies back in the helicopter squadron hooked some huge speakers to the skids of the helicopter and flew over the city, playing [Hells Bells]. They knew it was my favourite song. I crawled to the window, ripped my shirt off, waved it out the window. That’s how they found me.”

11. Celine Dion’s cover of You Shook Me All Night Long has been voted the worst of all time

If you thought some sort of Celine Dion x AC/DC crossover would be a recipe for disaster… you’d be absolutely right.

The singer performed a cover of AC/DC’s hit song You Shook Me All Night Long alongside Anastacia for VH1’s 2002 Divas Las Vegas concert.

The cover was panned by critics, while the gig itself came in at No. 3 on VH1’s 40 Least Metal Moments list.

To add insult to injury, in 2008, music magazine Total Guitar voted the cover as the worst cover of all time. Ouch.

Dion beat All Saints (Walk This Way), Westlife (More Than Words) and Will Young (Light My Fire) to the top spot.

The magazine also ranked the best covers of all time, where Jimi Hendrix’s cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower came in first.

10. Brian Johnson was running a vinyl car-roofing business when he joined AC/DC

Brian Johnson joined AC/DC in 1980 as the replacement for Bon Scott, who tragically passed away that year.

He’s since stuck around with the band and by now has been with them for 40 years.

But before joining the group, Johnson was a member of the hard rock group Geordie.

Unsurprisingly, the 70s band hailed from Newcastle – a city in the north east of England whose inhabitants are known as ‘Geordies.’ Johnson recorded four albums with them before he joined AC/DC.

Johnson left Geordie in 1976, however, and in the four years between leaving the British band and joining AC/DC, he did something completely different.

Johnson ran a vinyl car-roofing business based in the north east of England between 1976 and 1980.

9. The band got sued for using a real phone number in Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

In the song Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, the band reference a phone number: 36 – 24 – 36.

This number was real, and belonged to a couple who ultimately sued the band and took them to court.

The couple were plagued with hundreds of nuisance calls after the song came out in 1981.

The Illinois-based couple were named Norman and Marilyn White and they filed a $250,000 lawsuit against Atlantic Records and its distributors.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Their attorney explained that the song’s lyrics “36-24-36, hey” sounded like “36-24-26 8” – the couple’s phone number.

The couple won the lawsuit and AC/DC had to shell out $250,000 to appease the unhappy pair.

8. There’s a statue of Bon playing the bagpipes in his hometown in Scotland

Credit: Geograph.org.uk

Bon Scott, AC/DC lead singer until his untimely death in 1980, didn’t actually hail from Australia – he was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland.

In 2016 a statue of the late musician was unveiled as part of the town’s annual ‘BonFest’ celebrations.

The statue stands at eight-feet tall statue and weighs a whopping 450 kilograms. The statue is modelled after Scott’s appearance in the video for It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll).

The statue wears a sleeveless denim jacket and striped shirt, with one arm raised above his head and the other cradling Scottish bagpipes.

Credit: Geograph.org.uk

It stands on a mosaic emblazoned with some of Scott’s lyrics: “And the music was good and the music was loud, and the singer turned to the crowd and said ‘Let there be rock’.”

Former AC/DC bassist Mark Evans attended the unveiling of the statue and was impressed with its likeness: “The statue has captured his essence, right down to his tattoos. […] He’d have been absolutely chuffed to have a statue in Kirriemuir.”

7. Frontman Brian Johnson is a racing car enthusiast with the second-best celeb race time on Top Gear

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Before joining AC/DC, Johnson briefly ran a vinyl car-roofing business based in the north east of England.

Although he’s left his car-roofing days behind him, Johnson is still a car buff and loves all things racing.

Johnson owns two vintage cars – a Pilbeam MP84 and a Royale RP4. He occasionally races in the US.

He’s also got another claim to fame – he has the second best celebrity race time on Top Gear.

The British motoring show’s old ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ segment saw celebrities race around a track in a bang-average car.

Johnson tackled the lap in a Chevrolet Lacetti and completed it in one minute and 45.9 seconds – just 0.1 seconds behind the fastest celebrity, Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay.

6. Their live events are so loud local residents have complained

The group once played so loudly that some of their shows in the early 1980s reached a staggering 130 decibels.

The rockers set out on their Back in Black tour in 1980 with the aim of pushing their volume to the limit.

The level of noise was reached largely thanks to Angus Young’s collection of powerful Marshall amps.

Although the band was thrilled to play at such a loud volume, others weren’t so impressed.

Complaints flooded in and AC/DC were forced to turn the volume down so as not to deafen the local people.

Several years later in 2016, the band were forced to reschedule a couple of shows after frontman Brian Johnson began experiencing hearing problems.

5. Bon Scott used to gargle with red wine and honey to achieve his raspy voice

Bon Scott’s voice, immortalised on the band’s first few albums, is famous for its raspy edge.

While Scott was undoubtedly naturally talented when it came to singing, he did have a trick to achieve his trademark husky voice.

According to his former girlfriend Helen Carter, Scott would gargle wine and honey every morning to maintain his voice.

“He used to gargle with Coonawarra red [wine] and honey, every morning. This is giving away trade secrets.”

“But that was the secret to his great voice,” Carter revealed in Scott’s 1994 biography.

There’s no science behind this, but given Scott’s consistently impressive performances, maybe he was onto something.

4. Drummer Phil Rudd was charged with threatening to kill someone in 2014

Back in November 2014, AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd was arrested and charged with threatening to kill a man who used to work for him.

In court, Rudd acknowledged that he’d offered substantial amounts of money, vehicles and a house to an associate after asking him to “take out” his former employee. He’d also threatened to kill the man over an angry phone call.

Credit: Howard Potts via Wikimedia Commons

In April 2015 he pleaded guilty, and in July he was sentenced to eight months’ home detention and was made to pay NZ$120,000 in reparations. He was also charged with drug possession.

After completing his home detention Rudd began seeing a psychiatrist every week and claimed in interviews that he’d left his wild past behind him.

Credit: Matt Becker via Wikimedia Commons

Rudd had been removed from the band following his arrest, but he’s since made a comeback.

On September 30 2020, it was announced that Rudd had rejoined AC/DC along with Brian Johnson and Cliff Williams.

3. They knocked The Wiggles off the Australian entertainment rich list

It’s hard to picture two bands more different than AC/DC and The Wiggles. While one makes gritty hard rock, the other produces music for children.

But in terms of earnings, both Australian groups have brought in a similar amount of cash.

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In November 2009, AC/DC were announced as the Business Review Weekly Top Australian Earner in Entertainment.

In that year alone, they raked in a jaw-dropping $105 million, knocking The Wiggles from the list’s top spot – a position they’d held for four consecutive years.

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Two years prior to this, back in 2017 The Wiggles actually went as far as covering an AC/DC track at a gig at Perth Arena.

The group covered the famous riff from Thunderstruck as a tribute to Malcolm Young, who passed away in November 2017.

2. There are stamp collections honouring the band

Back in May 1998, The Australia Post released a series of stamps dedicated to Australian rock and roll.

Each one of the 12 stamps was associated with a hit song, including It’s a Long Way to the Top by AC/DC and Friday on My Mind by the Easybeats.

This was a big deal – apart from the Royal Family, the Australia Post rarely give living people the honour of their own stamp.

AC/DC also have a whole set of stamps dedicated to them in the Republic of Benin, West Africa.

Australia Post released a further AC/DC stamp collection in 2018, which was met with controversy as the wrong album covers were used on the stamps.

Instead of featuring the Australian covers for the albums, the stamps showcased several US album covers – as well as the cover for one album that was never even released in Australia.

1. Angus’ favourite food is chip butties

Credit: Reddit

Rock stars and unusual dietary preferences go hand-in-hand – from Van Halen’s refusal to eat brown M&M’s, or Elvis’ love of peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwiches.

Angus Young from AC/DC also has an unusual favourite sandwich – and it’s a staple of British cuisine.

During a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session in 2014, Young revealed that his favourite sandwich is the humble chip butty.

For those not well-versed in British culture – a chip butty is essentially a chip sandwich.

“It’s got rock and roll written all over it,” Young explained during the online Q&A session.

“If you said to me, “Would you rather have a chip butty or dine with the president, I’d say the chip butty” and he’d probably follow suit.”