How escape from Glasgow inspired AC/DC

THEY are the brothers who grew up in Australia before rocking the world at the helm of one of the most popular bands in history.
Malcolm, left, and Angus Young on tour. Picture: GettyMalcolm, left, and Angus Young on tour. Picture: Getty
Malcolm, left, and Angus Young on tour. Picture: Getty

But now, rare interviews with the siblings who form the driving force behind AC/DC reveal how their desire for international success was a means of escaping their impoverished early years on a Glasgow housing estate and testing times in immigrant housing.

Although they are still widely considered as an Australian band, the brothers behind hard rock group were born and raised in Cranhill, a cluster of houses in the city’s east end, next to the M8 motorway.

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Lead guitarist Angus Young, and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young were aged eight and ten when the emigrated to Sydney with their parents, William and Margaret, who were desperate to find work. Along with their older brother, George, and sister, Margaret, the budding musicians discovered life was not easy in the new country.

The experience, however, strengthened their resolve to make a go of things in Australia, and eventually they formed a band that has sold nearly 200 million albums.

The brothers have seldom spoken of their early life in Scotland, but in a new multimedia app designed to commemorate the life and times of the group’s original singer, Kirriemuir-born Bon Scott, the Youngs speak candidly about their formative years.

“We came from quite a poor family in Glasgow and the reason we went there is because my dad was out of work. He was out of work for years,” explains the older brother. “It was a chance. There were job opportunities, so the next thing we were all on our way. We saw brochures and it looked phenomenal.

“The reality is that when we got there we were put into an immigrant hostel. I’m not saying it’s bad but it was a very slim, bare necessities situation and it rained non-stop for six weeks with snakes crawling around the floor.” He added: “We wanted to go home. But when we saw both our parents crying the night we arrived, we took strength from that to try and stick it out.”

The Youngs took inspiration from their elder brother, George, who enjoyed success with an Australian pop outfit, The Easybeats. Like AC/DC, the 1960s group was formed by recent arrivals to Australia.

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“The band was formed in a migrant hostel,” recalls Malcolm in the interviews, recorded in 1997. “Two of the guys came from Poland to Australia, others came from Liverpool and Yorkshire, and George from Glasgow. Within nine months, those five immigrants who arrived with nothing in their pocket were at number one in the charts.”

With a new album set to be released in the coming months and a widely expected world tour to mark their 40th anniversary, AC/DC’s Scottish ties have been further consolidated after Malcolm Young decided to step back from the band due to ill health. In his place is the siblings’ nephew, Stevie Young, who grew up playing in the Borders town of Hawick and enjoyed cult success with heavy metal band, The Starfighters.

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Redbeard, a Texas-based DJ who conducted the interviews for In The Studio, a multimedia app released on Apple’s App Store, said the often overlooked roots of the brothers was fundamental to their musical career.