Angus Young of AC/DC Opens Up in His First Guitar World Interview from 1984
"He's probably got the best right hand in the world. I've never heard anyone do it like that. Even Keith Richards or any of those people. As soon as the other guitar drops out, it's empty. But with Malcolm it's so full. Besides Malcolm always said that playing lead interfered with his drinkin' and so he said I should do it."
A self-proclaimed "illiterate" on the instrument, Young never really took the guitar seriously until age fourteen, nearly ten years after he transformed that banjo into a make-shift guitar. At the time he received the Hofner he began a more serious evaluation of his stance and even managed to obtain a sixty-dollar amplifier which would turn the tubes blue when a push/pull treble pot was activated.
"I remember one of the first gigs I played with that amp was at a local church. They wanted someone to fill in with the guitar and my friend say, 'Ah, he can play.' And so I dragged the amplifier down and started playing and everybody started yelling 'turn it down!'"
Not to be undone, he continued playing and listening (mainly to old rock and roll records a la Chuck Berry) and in a twisted sort of fashion became adept at lead work prior to a command of rhythm. While he does nurture a pure distaste for the solo artist (he is a company man) and for that matter soloing itself, it was a technique acquired with little problem.
"Soloing was pretty easy for me because it was probably the first thing I've ever done," discloses Young. "I just used to make up leads. I never even knew any names of chords until Malcolm told me and then I picked it up from there."
Encouraged by improvements, Young outgrew the Hofner and bought a secondhand Gibson SG. Approximately a 1967 model, the instrument was played until just a few years ago when wood rot (due to excessive moisture from sweat) and neck warp forced him to look for a replacement.
"It had a really thin neck almost like a custom neck," describes Young, whose pixie-sized hands would find such a neck to his liking. "I liked the SG's because they were light. I tried Fenders but they were too heavy and they just didn't have the balls. And I didn't want to put on them DiMarzios because then everyone sounds the same. It's like you're listening to the guy down the street. And I liked the hard sound of the Gibson."
That particular instrument has been difficult for Young to replace. It had a remarkably thin neck (Gibson made 1-1/2-inch and 1-1/4-inch necks, and this was one of the latter) and after searching virtually every major guitar shop in the world has yet to find an equally playable instrument.
He used this guitar from 1970 (when he bought it) until 1978 (he did replace the original pickups after one year of use with another set of Gibson humbuckers) when it was set aside for another SG he purchased at a pawn shop in New York. A Gibson reject due to flaws in the finish, it is similarly a circa-1967 model with that same thin neck featured on his original piece. It is the shape of the instrument as well which has attracted Young, the two horns allowing for easy access to the higher frets.
"And you can do a lot of tricks on it, too," he chides.
Just as he has been faithful to the Gibson SG, so has Young been a stalwart of the Marshall amplifier. Toying with other amps (Ampeg in particular) led him to the conclusion that the Marshall hundred-watt stack is "the best rock amp," and while his stage setup does vary, it is basically an arrangement of four stacks hooked in series via splitter boxes. The tone controls represent little more than gibberish to him -- performing with the English units for over a decade has directed him to rely upon certain settings.
All four stacks are set virtually the same and read: volume at full; treble and bass at half; midrange at half; and presence at zero. If there is a lack of top end depending on the configuration of a hall, he will kick on the presence as compensation.