Angus Young’s Constant Fear About Malcolm Young
Each instrument, from lead guitar, rhythm guitar, and bass guitar to drums, has a different function in a rock band. Yet, in the end, it is a collaborative work made possible with the unique contributions of each member. Although all the people involved in an act are aware of these dynamics, it doesn’t prevent any competition between them.
It is often discussed whether a lead or rhythm guitarist is more essential to a band. While it can depend on an act’s inner structure and the quality of the musicians, one of them is usually more responsible for the band’s distinctive sound. Lead guitar is known to focus on playing melodies and solos, whereas rhythm guitar handles the chords and riffs.
Still, there should be a balance within the bands to maintain musical integrity. In the case of AC/DC, Angus Young, as the lead guitar player, and Malcolm Young, as the rhythm player, shared guitar duties, and there was a split in their roles. Many regarded Malcolm as the driving force behind the iconic AC/DC sound, leading to a sweet rivalry between the two brothers.
As it seems, Angus felt a bit threatened by his brother’s exceptional guitar-playing skills, which caused the late musician to stand out more in setting the band’s unique sound. Considering their roles on the stage, Malcolm usually stood behind, while Angus attracted all the attention with his energetic presence and striking costumes. Yet, the inner dynamics were more complicated.
During a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone, AC/DC’s lead singer Brian Johnson opened up about the sweet musical rivalry between the Young brothers. “Many times on the road, Angus would tell me, ‘Hey Brian, I got to rehearse in my room every day. My finger bits and all of this. I do it every day.’”
The lead vocalist continued, “And I said, ‘Why? You are just so natural at it.’ And he said, ‘No, because of him [Malcolm] behind me. If I don’t do it right, he will just pick it up and play better than me. I am just in constant fear of it!’” Apparently, being a master of his instrument was never enough for Angus Young. His late brother always motivated him to do his best and implicitly threatened to overshadow Angus with his distinctive guitar skills.
Angus always gave Malcolm his due during the musician’s lifetime. The guitarist once said that his late brother was a very powerful guitar player with a natural sound, which completed the original AC/DC sound. The icon also remarked that rhythm playing was more essential to a band and confessed that Malcolm always inspired him with his impressive sound.