The Spain show was the last stop of the band’s worldwide tour in support of their Black Ice album. After more than two years on the road, including stops in 29 different countries, AC/DC was ready to rest.
Malcolm’s health issues had weighed heavily on him during the tour, with the guitarist having to relearn songs he formerly knew by heart. Still, he was determined to see the trek out and received medical care continually while on the road.
AC/DC proceeded to take a few years off, releasing 2012’s Live at River Plate to satiate fans while the band contemplated another studio LP.
In 2014, they assembled to record Rock or Bust, but Malcolm was unable to rejoin the band he and his brother, Angus, had founded. An official release at the time stated: “After forty years of life dedicated to AC/DC, guitarist and founding member Malcolm Young is taking a break from the band due to ill health. Malcolm would like to thank the group’s diehard legions of fans worldwide for their never-ending love and support. In light of this news, AC/DC asks that Malcolm and his family’s privacy be respected during this time. The band will continue to make music.”
Though Rock or Bust would be the first AC/DC album without Malcolm on rhythm guitar, the rocker still co-wrote every track on the LP. Stevie Young, Malcolm’s nephew who had previously filled-in with the group, took over in his stead, playing on Rock or Bust and its ensuing tour. Further lineup changes would commence for the trek; drummer Phil Rudd was battling legal problems and had to be replaced by Chris Slade, while singer Brian Johnson had to step back from the mic due to hearing problems exacerbated by performing. He was replaced by Axl Rose for the final 22 shows of the tour.
On Nov. 18, 2017, Malcolm Young died from the effects of dementia at the age of 64.
News of the rocker’s death sent shockwaves through the music world. Eddie Van Halen remembered the guitarist as “the heart and soul of AC/DC,” while Slash noted that Malcolm’s passing was a “monumentally sad day in Rock n Roll.”
Several artists honored the fallen musician with tributes during their live sets, including Guns N’ Roses covering “Whole Lotta Rosie,” Foo Fighters delivering “Let There Be Rock,” Billy Joel playing “Highway to Hell” and country star Chris Stapleton’s twangy rendition of “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
Meanwhile, former bandmate Johnson released a poignant statement honoring his fallen comrade. “I am saddened by the passing of my friend Malcolm Young,” the singer wrote. “I can’t believe he’s gone. We had such great times on the road. I was always aware that he was a genius on guitar, his riffs have become legend, as has he. I send out my love and sympathy to his wife Linda, his children Kara and Ross, and Angus, who will all be devastated … as we all are. He has left a legacy that I don’t think many can match. He never liked the celebrity side of fame, he was too humble for that. He was the man who created AC/DC because he said ‘There was no Rock ‘n’ Roll’ out there. I am proud to have known him and call him a friend, and I’m going to miss him so much. I salute you, Malcolm Young.”
While Malcolm’s death left an irreparable hole in AC/DC, it didn’t signal the end for the band.
In 2018, rumors began to swirl about a new studio album from the group, suspicions which were further elevated when photographs of band members together in Vancouver began to surface. Rudd appeared to be back in the fold, and – perhaps more surprisingly – so did Johnson. The band’s longtime engineer confirmed the group was “doing something” in the studio, adding fuel to the fire.
JAM Magazine reported that the new songs were built around guitar parts recorded by Malcolm “five years prior to the Black Ice LP.” “[At that time] Angus and Malcolm Young lived together where they literally wrote hundreds of songs, many were recorded and have been stashed away.” They further elaborated, explaining that Angus “selected the best tracks from those recordings” and would use them as the song foundations on which the rest of the band would build.
In December 2019, Dee Snider verified the songs’ existence, tweeting that a new album from AC/DC was in the works. “All four surviving members have reunited with tracks recorded by Malcolm while he was still alive,” the Twisted Sister frontman explained. “Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young is replacing him (he’s done this a couple of times before). It’s as close as you can get to the original band.”
Though these songs still are yet to see the light of day, they provide a glimmer of hope to rock fans around the world. Even as we observe the decade anniversary of Malcolm’s final AC/DC show, it appears likely we’ll hear his iconic sound once more.