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Angus Young says it might have been better if AC/DC had quit after his brother Malcolm was diagnosed with dementia in 2014.
Speaking with Rolling Stone, the AC/DC lead guitarist admitted that the long-running band is at a crossroads. Since Malcolm’s departure, the band has parted ways with drummer Phil Rudd. Longtime lead singer Brian Johnson left in March due to hearing problems, and bassist Cliff Williams has announced he’ll retire later this year, following the group’s Rock or Bust tour. Young isn’t quite sure what’s next for the group or for him.
“Cliff made it known before we’d even started touring—this would be his last,” he tells Rolling Stone. “Besides myself, Cliff has been there the longest, since 1977.”
Young also reveals how Axl Rose came to fill in following Johnson’s sudden departure from the tour.
“Axl contacted a production guy who had done stuff for us,” he reveals. “He said, ‘I know these guys. They have a work ethic. They want to finish these dates.’ He volunteered. He came to a rehearsal place we set up in Atlanta, and he’d done his homework. He had a few songs like ‘Touch Too Much’ [from 1979’s Highway to Hell] – ‘Can you play this one?’ ‘No, we never learned it.’ We had never attempted to play it live.”
Speaking about his brother’s condition, Young indicates Malcolm is slipping further away. “It’s hard to communicate,” he says. “I do pass on messages. I can’t be 100 percent sure it goes in there. But I let him know there are a lot of people missing him.”
When asked, “Do you now wonder if it was time to quit when Malcolm couldn’t continue–that you pushed the band too far?” Angus admits it’s possible.
“That might be the case,” he says. “But Malcolm was always one to battle through. He would look at me in times of crisis and go, ‘We’ll just go in and do some work. We’ll sit and write some songs.’ He had that drive, and I feel obligated to keep it going, maybe because I was there in the beginning with him.”
There has been much speculation about what Young will do following the current tour. Last May, when a fan wondered on Facebook if the group’s set list changed so frequently because Angus is planning to retire, drummer Chris Slade wrote in response, “Angus is definitely NOT thinking of retiring.”
For that matter, Rose has indicated he’d like to continue working with AC/DC and is writing material for the band.
But for now, Angus says, AC/DC is committed only to finishing the tour. And if AC/DC’s is finished, Angus says there aren’t a lot of people he’d care to play with.
“You’d have to resurrect a lot of people from the dead, I think,” he says. “I’d sit down with Keith Richards, do something. He’s a rhythm guy like Mal.”
You can read the full interview at RollingStone.com.