The upcoming release of AC/DC's new album 'Rock or Bust' finds the group at a critical juncture. Here are all the facts you need to know about the legendary Australian band's 17th studio effort -- which arrives amid the stunning health-related departure of founding guitarist Malcolm Young.
Amid this sad development some continuity remains -- starting with the frontline tandem of Angus Young and Brian Johnson. AC/DC also returned to a more accustomed place to record, and kept their most recent producer. But that's just the beginning of what you need to know about this exciting forthcoming release ...
With the retirement of founding member Malcolm Young, AC/DC has now endured eight lineup changes -- this being the most significant since original frontman Bon Scott's 1980 death. Over more than four decades, AC/DC had never before issued an album without Malcolm.
Family members confirmed Malcolm Young's diagnosis of dementia late in September, prior to an announcement of the new album's track listing. "The family thanks you for respecting their privacy,” they added in a statement.
Malcolm's illness was first revealed in April of 2014. Initial reports even indicated that the band would retire all together. Thankfully, AC/DC regrouped -- with help from a familiar face.
Stevie Young, Malcolm and Angus Young' nephew, has taken over on rhythm guitar for both 'Rock or Bust' and the tour that will follow. Stevie earlier served a stint in AC/DC during 1988 tour for 'Blow Up Your Video,' while Malcolm was in rehab.
Brian Johnson admitted that Malcolm's absence hugely impacted the sessions, saying “we missed Malcolm, obviously. Stevie was magnificent in his stead, but when you’re recording with this thing hanging over you, and your work mate isn’t well, it’s difficult.”
The album is set to arrive in America on Dec. 2, well past Black Friday, the traditional cut-off date for major releases. 'Rock or Bust' will reportedly be available in Australia on November 28.
As a tribute to Malcolm Young, Johnson was lobbying to call this new album ‘Man Down.’ "Some of the guys thought it might be a bit negative," he said, "but I like that title.”
This is AC/DC's first album since 2008's 'Black Ice,' marking their second-longest period between studio efforts. AC/DC waited eight years between 2000's 'Stiff Upper Lip' and 'Black Ice.'
AC/DC took an inventive approach to getting the word out, as the lead track 'Play Ball' was featured during coverage of the Major League Baseball playoffs on TV. It won't be the first time those fans have seen the band paired with their favorite sport. A number of pro players have used AC/DC as their walk up music, including Trevor Hoffmann, Brendan Donnelly, Chad Billingsley, Adam Dunn and Jason Castro.
Everybody knows that AC/DC loves to rock -- but, as 'Rock or Bust' confirms, they also love to put "rock" in the title of things. AC/DC has previously released two albums and 14 songs including that word, from 1975's 'It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)' through to 2008's 'Rock 'n Roll Train.'
The cover art was unveiled as a special lenticular 3D display on CD and vinyl copies of 'Rock or Bust.' Check it out via the animated GIF version below.
That logo-focused image was a change of pace, considering how many times Angus Young has featured prominently in AC/DC's album designs. He has actually appeared on 10 of their 16 previous studio album covers. Exceptions include the original release of 'High Voltage' and 'T.N.T.' in 1975, then 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' (1976), 'Back In Black' (1980), 'For Those About to Rock We Salute You' (1981) and 'Razor's Edge' in 1990. (And, yes, we're assuming that's Angus' eye on 1985's 'Fly on the Wall.')
'Rock or Bust'? Try Platinum or bust. AC/DC hasn't yet issued an album that failed to sell at least a million copies in America -- a streak that continued into the new century, when many of their contemporaries have been struggling mightily to move even half that.
'Rock or Bust' marks AC/DC's second album in a row with producer Brendan O'Brien, following 'Black Ice.' He has also produced Bruce Springsteen since 2001's 'The Rising.' AC/DC hasn't used the same producer on consecutive albums since Mutt Lange on 1980's 'Back in Black' and then 'For Those About to Rock.' They also recorded in Vancouver again, continuing a trend that goes back to 'Stiff Upper Lip.'
When AC/DC congregated to film videos for a pair of 'Rock or Bust' tracks in early October, they were actually two men down. A "family emergency" called drummer Phil Rudd away, forcing the group to turn to ex-Shogun member Bob Richards for emergency fill-in work.
Perhaps more ominously, Rudd — who recently released his first ever solo album — wasn't part of the AC/DC's first official post-Malcolm photo shoot.
The ‘Rock or Bust’ title track then apparently leaked onto the internet. Stream it below, after skipping ahead to the 2:49 mark.
What happened next stunned everyone: Rudd was arrested on Nov. 5 and charged with threatening to have someone killed, and possession of cannabis and methamphetamine. A fourth charge of trying to procure a murder was dropped the very next day, but he still faces the possibility of up to seven years in jail.
Rumors of an allegedly depraved lifestyle began to run rampant, though Rudd's family and neighbors rushed to his defense. The drummer’s son said, “He’s not perfect, but wouldn’t harm anyone.” Another source called him “a good neighbor” and “a pretty nice guy.” Still, Rudd's status with AC/DC remains uncertain.
The band moved forward with its album release plans, announcing a preview party to be held in this entirely appropriate site — an Australian town actually called The Rock, population 3,000. ‘Rock or Bust’ is set to premiere in its entirety there on Nov. 23, nine days before the official release date on Dec. 2.
Once the track listing was confirmed, it became clear that 'Rock or Bust' would be the shortest AC/DC album ever at just 35 minutes -- two minutes shorter than their previous shortest, 1983's 'Flick of the Switch.'
Here's the Track Listing for AC/DC's 'Rock or Bust':
'Rock or Bust'
'Rock the Blues Away'
'Dogs of War'
'Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder'
'Baptism by Fire'
'Rock the House'
When AC/DC released the long-awaited video for 'Play Ball' in early November, it marked both a departure (no Malcolm, no Phil), but also a return to the familiar. The clip shows the rest of the band sporting their traditional stage outfits -- Angus Young in his schoolboy uniform, Brian Johnson in a flat cap -- surrounded by footage of various sporting events.