By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
“We know what we’re looking for, so when people hear it, they go, ‘Well, that is them. They have their own stamp on who they are.'”
— 😈 Rollingstone.com
In this edition of the spotlight 🔦 we'll need to be ready 🤘, we’ll need to move, chase and be prepared for just about anything! 💥 This is gonna get explosive 🧨 It’s gonna get loud to a point where the silence is as vital as the power chord that encapsulates it!
Rock 'n' Roll can be monstrously deceptive, the freedom of expression built into its identity allows it to be complexly diverse and undefined; so much so that a man dressed as a school boy can actually become one of the most iconic looks in turbo charge power rock! 😎
The man of the hour this week pulls no punches and masks no truths, he’s an unapologetic straight up, straight in, out and out rock 'n' roll machine.
Power up for the stellar Angus Young!
🎸 ⚡️ 🎸 💥
Rock 'n' Roll Brothers 🤘 🏴
The journey begins back here in the UK and, more precisely, on the 31st of March 1955 in Glasgow. Angus McKinnion Young was born in the mid-fifties to Scottish parents William and Margaret Young.
Angus’s father worked initially as a wheel boy in a rope works and then as a machine/saw operator in an asbestos/cement business.
Like many back then he dedicated to military service, in 1940 and enrolled with the Royal Air Force as a flight engineer mechanic.
After the big freeze of '63 all fifteen members of the Young family upped and left for a better future in Australia 🇦🇺 after being pleasantly enticed by some TV advertising offering an alternative style of living in the ☀️ .
Angus doesn’t hail from a musical background via his father's generation but numerous elder brothers were big into music and really acted as strong inspirational figures to a young and impressionable Angus.
The initial discovery of the guitar by any longstanding guitar legend is always fascinating and Angus is no exception. In those times getting hold of the guitars and instruments you saw in the hands of your heroes was a big ask so many budding young players would just have to make do with what they could lay their hands on.
In the case of Angus Young it would be a Banjo that was eventually makeshift restrung with 6 strings... (Sorry banjo players 🙈 ).
The next step as his interest in string instruments progressed was a 2nd hand basic acoustic guitar to mine away on. This is where the now iconic electric guitarist honed his craft - as many players do - on an old and likely poor setup acoustic that's usually a real fight to play and get what you want out of.
Generally, by the time you've battled this mountain of an acoustic for some time and you finally upgrade to a half-decent guitar, or even an electric guitar you are usually leaps and bounds ahead 🤘.
Angus Young is synonymous with the Gibson SG. He has become so iconic with it it's almost part of his anatomy, the first one obtained was a in 1970 and he picked it up 2nd hand in a music shop just down the road.
“I got out and got a Gibson SG that I played until it got wood rot because so much sweat and water got into it. The whole neck warped. I bought it second-hand; it was about a '67. It had a real thin neck, really slim, like a Custom neck. It was dark brown.”
This guitar is right up there in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame and has an entire fanbase of its own.
There are two things visually that define Angus as a unique guitar hero: firstly, the Gibson SG and how he utilises it to its maximum potential.
And, secondly his character, and his dress sense on stage. This key flamboyant costume actually has a very simple and viable explanation and has simply been a progression of habit now seen as a distinctive aspect of the man, and if you saw them play live and he didn't wear this costume you may not recognise him. 😉 .
“Young also stumbled across a gimmick that would remain his trademark to this day -- band rehearsals were right after school, so he would practice in his "school boy uniform" (which consisted of a cap, tie, a white shirt, jacket, and shorts). The look became such a hit that Young wore the outfit on stage.”
A further extension to his incredible character and stage persona is the level of energy and excitement he injects into every live performance, it's like every power chord and driving riff channels through his body and explodes through his movements.
Angus has attributed this unique expression to natural influence from the likes of Chuck Berry, Keith Richards and Little Richard.
There is also a tall tale that Angus once tripped over some cables on stage and extravagantly covered up his fall, which the audience translated as part of the show so he continued to do it for effect.
For Those About Rock - AD⚡️DC
Landmark musical extravagance doesn't always require technical wizardry and exemplary playing techniques. The stamp of this band that came through in the early '70s was almost a subtle disapproval at the sign of the times and going against the current trends in popular music.
AC/DC have become the monolithic worldwide rock 'n' roll monster 👺 !
The sheer audacity of their Punk Rock attitude towards the musicality is one of their true charismatic characteristics as not just a musical group but more of a shift in culture.
The band was founded in 1973 by older brother Malcolm Young back in their now adopted home of Australia.
Angus was the young prodigy on lead and fronting the guitar lines with his stomping riffs, the band was unpretentious in both their approach and their sound, it was a full 2 finger salute to the current state of rock 'n' roll.
The band has had its ups and downs and seen many unfortunate tragedies, and during live performances most notably Salt Lake City, but they plough on to this day like an unstoppable freight train. 🚊
Driven by the sound of wholehearted, turbocharged Blues Rock with all the gaps in the right places, the precision is the power and the deliberate restraint creates the stadium pounding dynamic. Simplicity and overindulgence is the key here both on and off stage.
Without doubt one of the most successful rock 'n' roll bands ever, one of the most easily recognisable and iconic.
With so much unfortunate disruption and unforeseen tragedy in the band you would think they would've fallen apart, but no, it just seems to get stronger bigger, louder and the monster grows. 👅 ⚡️ .
“AC/DC, like electricity itself, provides the world with an essential source of power and energy. Since forming in 1973, AC/DC's high voltage rock 'n' roll has flowed out into the world via consistently sold-out concert tours and global sales totalling more than 150 million albums and counting.
Sony BMG Music Entertainment's #1 best-selling catalog act worldwide, AC/DC has sold nearly 70 million albums in the U.S. alone, making AC/DC one of the five top-selling bands in American music history. One of the group's best-loved works, the enormously successful and influential Back In Black, has achieved RIAA "Double Diamond" status, for sales in excess of 22 million copies in the United States, and is the U.S.'s fifth largest-selling album ever.”
Strings For Stomping… 🎼
Now, I imagine most of us are familiar with the sound of AC/DC and when we think of them we hear the ringing in our brains 🧠 of this massive level of dB that’s a stadium-penetrating wall of sound. Bigger is louder, and louder is bigger 💥 .
Immediately you would imagine that Angus Young is playing some big gauge strings with some big gauge plectrums hitting it hard relentlessly… 🤔
Well that's what it looks like, right!?
As much as AC/DC is based on real hooking melodic staggered chord work, there is also equal amounts of lead involved, very much heavy blues leaning on metal style bending techniques with serious amounts of aggression and plectrum drag. But as we have discovered with previous artists with a hard-hitting sound the string gauge and choice is actually fairly light!
With some vague research we have discovered that Angus - like many rockers of a certain generation - is a creature of habit and will not change things within a rig unless they absolutely have to!
I suppose it's more of a superstitious thing and a general reliability belief, completely understandable of course when you're playing to hundreds of thousands of fans every night in packed out venues, stadiums and festivals.
Let's get into it with the AC/DC tech Trace Foster, what a guy! He knows the band well and understands the Guitarist’s needs, skip it into 2:53 and the string mystery is both explained resolved and closed all in one breath.
“Strings :Much confusion revolves around the gauge of strings used by Angus. It is though a known fact, he’s said in at least two interviews, that he has primarily used 009/.042. Currently the brand is Ernie Ball, but it’s hard to say which brands he’s used in the past. It’s quite certain though that he has always used 009’s, given his physical stature and the size of his hands to get a vibrato and a touch like that has taken years of focussed practice and dedication.”
Angus Young Guitars (Updated) solodallas.com
Angus uses old school Fender Extra Heavy 351’s for plectrums, the older now discontinued version of these were hot stamped which created a natural grip.
“One thing you should know is that these guys are creatures of habit, Angus won’t change anything he doesn’t have to.”
Trace Foster for RigRundown
In conclusion we find an incredible player that again manages to draw massive tone and incredible dynamics from light strings with a heavy plectrum, so this begs the question do you really need big strings for a big, reliable hard hitting sound? 🧐
Answers on a postcard, please. 📧
“The funny thing is, when you learn to play really hard you also learn the instrument’s limitations. I honestly believe that you have to be able to play the guitar hard if you want to be able to get the whole spectrum of tones out of it. Since I normally play so hard, when I start picking a bit softer my tone changes completely, and that’s really useful sometimes for creating a more laid-back feel.”
* * * * *