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Malcolm Young

With special guest:

  • Jeff Apter
    … in conversation with Bill Kable

Malcolm was a younger brother of George Young guitarist and songwriter with The Easybeats. Music was definitely in the family but in such a fickle industry could lightning strike twice after the enormous success of brother George?

The Young family story starts in an economically deprived part of Scotland. Then seven of the eight members of the family became Ten Pound Poms and settled in a migrant hostel in Australia. One of the elder children continued to work as a musician in Europe.

After years of playing guitar in his bedroom Malcolm joined a band and later agreed to let Angus in, recognising at that early stage the genius of his younger brother. It was his sister who came up with the name for the band and that was never changed. It is arguable that their choice of music style never changed either, always driving rock’n’roll.

However the world around them changed as they went from being down the list at small venues to playing before hundreds of thousands around the world. And behind this drive to the top was the quiet but driven family man Malcolm Young. Jeff Apter has done a masterful job of tracking down the hidden stories surrounding Malcolm while also shedding light on other members of the Young family and the changing cast of AC/DC.

Malcolm became the driving force of AC/DC, a tiny man with “the greatest right hand in rock and roll” as described by none other than Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. That right hand provided the instantly recognisable riffs and muscle behind timeless songs like”Back in Black”, “Highway to Hell”, “It’s a long way to the top”; and many more.

Malcolm was instrumental in ensuring that AC/DC survived shifting musical trends, numerous in-house dramas and even tragedies. Malcolm kept the band going when they lost their singer, the charismatic front man Bon Scott early in their career. Yet he was the most unpretentious man to ever strap on a Gretsch guitar. What he did have in spades was willpower. The willpower of Malcolm was epic as demonstrated when he overcame a growing addiction to alcohol. In fact nothing was allowed to stand in the way of the success of the band. Malcolm had no plan B and was always aware of his working class background.

Yet amazingly in that sort of world Malcolm remained close to his family, in particular his brother Angus who was running all around him on stage for over 40 years. He kept his family close, celebrating New Year’s Eve at the family estate in the Sydney harbourside suburb of Balmain. The final stages of the story are that Malcolm was struck down by physical health conditions before he was diagnosed with a form of dementia. Even Malcolm could not overcome this condition by the force of his will and sadly he died at the age of 64 only weeks after his brother George died.

This is a riveting story told with all Jeff Apter’s rock and roll style. There is a lot of family, a lot of music and a portrait of a significant time in Australia’s history.

You should come with us for the ride when we get Jeff to tell the story of his book, Malcolm Young: The man who made AC/DC.

Jeff Apter

Jeff Apter is the author of more than 20 music biographies. His subjects include Johnny O’Keefe, Keith Urban, John Farnham, the Bee Gees, the Finn brothers and Angus Young of AC/DC. As a ghostwriter, he has worked with Kasey Chambers, Mark Evans (of AC/DC) and Richard Clapton. Jeff was on staff at Rolling Stone for several years and has written about legends such as Aretha Franklin, Patti Smith, Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan, Chrissie Hynde and Lucinda Williams. In 2015, he worked on the Helpmann award-nominated live show A State of Grace: The Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. Away from music, Jeff has also worked on books with soldiers and diplomats and sports greats such as Michael Slater and Tim Cahill. He lives in Wollongong, New South Wales, with his wife, two children and a cat that’s so damned cool it needs no name.

Song selection by our guest: Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation by AC/DC

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