After two days of massive speculation, Australian hard-rock pioneers AC/DC have shot down rumors that they are retiring. Frontman Brian Johnson has instead revealed that the band is going ahead with plans to record a new album, though admitted that founding member Malcolm Young is “taking a break from the band due to ill health.”
“We are definitely getting together in May in Vancouver,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “We’re going to pick up some guitars, have a plonk, and see if anybody has got any tunes or ideas. If anything happens, we’ll record it.”
Rumors of the group’s retirement began late Monday night when Australian radio station 6PR reported the breakup during their “Rumour File” section and tweeted that founding member Malcolm Young and his family “have moved back to Oz because he is very sick.” Australian news anchor Peter Ford fueled rumors on his Twitter, stating, “There is some quite sad detail about it all, that I will not be reporting on, but the band/management may choose to reveal this” and that the “boys played together privately a few weeks back.”
Australian music journalist Darryl Mason posted on his blog speculation that Young had had a stroke one month ago and was unable to play at his previous skill level. Choirboys frontman Mark Gable, a close friend of the band, confirmed Young’s illness.
“That is true, Malcolm is sick,” Gable told ABC radio on Wednesday morning. “From what I understand, and it’s even been confirmed in part by his son Ross, that it would appear Malcolm is unable to perform anymore. It’s not just that he is unwell; it’s that it is quite serious. It will constitute that he definitely won’t be able to perform live. He will probably not be able to record.”
The band itself confirmed that Young was the sick member in question in a Facebook post Wednesday morning. “After 40 years of life dedicated to AC/DC, guitarist and founding member Malcolm Young is taking a break from the band due to ill health,” the band wrote. “Malcolm would like to thank the group’s diehard legions of fans worldwide for their never-ending love and support. In light of this news, AC/DC asks that Malcolm and his family’s privacy be respected during this time. The band will continue to make music.”
“I wouldn’t like to say anything either way about the future,” Johnson told the Telegraph earlier that day. “I’m not ruling anything out. One of the boys has a debilitating illness, but I don’t want to say too much about it. He is very proud and private, a wonderful chap. We’ve been pals for 35 years and I look up to him very much.”
In February, Johnson revealed that the band was about to begin recording new music alongside a special 40th anniversary tour. The album would be the band’s first since 2008’s Black Ice. Bassist Cliff Williams revealed last spring that Angus and Malcolm Young were at work on new songs.
Despite Young’s illness, Johnson said an upcoming tour was still a possibility. “That would be a wonderful way to say bye-bye,” said Johnson. “We would love to do it. But it’s all up in the air at the moment. AC/DC is such a tight family. We’ve stuck to our guns through the Eighties and Nineties when people were saying we should change our clothes and our style. But we didn’t and people got it that we are the real deal.”
Earlier this year, Johnson said of a possible tour, “It’s been 40 years of the band’s existence. So I think we’re gonna try to do 40 gigs, 40 shows, to thank the fans for their undying loyalty. I mean, honestly, our fans are just the best in the world, and we appreciate every one of them. So, like I said, we’ll have to go out, even though we’re getting a bit long in the tooth. You know what?! It’s been four years [since we last toured], and I’m really looking forward to it.”
In 2010, Johnson shot down rumors of the band’s retirement to the Telegraph. “Of course I don’t want to retire,” he said. “But I’m telling you if the body or the voice packs in there’s nothing I can do. Pride is what it is. You don’t want to let yourself, the band or the fans down. I’ll go on as long as I can. Thankfully the old tubes have held up. They’ve got a little bluesier, that just happens with life. I’m 62 now and I know it. And I’ve got another birthday coming, which is a bit of a bugger but what better way to get old?”