Rock and roll, at its core, is about keeping things simple yet powerful, and AC/DC has mastered this art. Their music laid the foundation for hard rock, influencing bands from Metallica to Green Day. But amidst their groove-filled success, Angus Young, the iconic AC/DC guitarist, didn’t quite see eye to eye with the newer waves of rock.
Why should he? AC/DC stuck to the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” consistently hitting the sweet spot with albums that rarely missed the mark. In the midst of his rise, Young witnessed the emergence of new talents but found himself less than impressed.
Young’s criticism journey began with Led Zeppelin, a band he believed imitated rock and roll without sparking the audience’s excitement.
While Zeppelin faced their share of criticism for lackluster live performances, Young didn’t warm up to the punk wave that aimed to replace it.
With punk rock emerging, it seemed natural for AC/DC to blend in. Their fast-paced tempos, snarling attitude, and roaring guitars appeared to align with the ethos of bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash.
Yet, Young wasn’t kind when assessing the Ramones, stating:
“The Ramones, I only heard them once; I heard a song, and it did nothing. It seemed to me like the first band I was ever in, and I’m sure even that was better – and was when I was 12.”
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While the Ramones’ revival of rock conventions may have felt groundbreaking at the time, Young perceived it as a repeat of what acts like The Small Faces had done just a few years earlier.
In contrast to pushing musical boundaries, the Ramones opted to strip down to a childlike simplicity, often delivering songs that lasted just two minutes but left the listener satisfied.
Young’s criticism didn’t merely target the music. He viewed punk rockers as cherry-picking the less savory aspects of acts like The Faces and elevating them to their identity core.
“They can do all that, it’s pretty easy for a guy to go up there and do all that, but they can’t play.”
However, Young wasn’t shy about embracing his own eccentricity on stage. His transformation into a rock and roll embodiment remains unparalleled, overshadowing the snarling antics of most punk rockers. While punk culture embraced a raw and rough demeanor, Young aimed to showcase the mastery and virtuosity of a true musician.