New photos of AC/DC hit the internet this month, seeming to confirm longstanding reports that they have regrouped for a new album. The images were briefly shared on the band’s official homepage before being pulled down, but not before fans captured then and spread them all over the web. The general consensus is that they come from a shoot for an upcoming video.
We learn nothing about the new album from the photos, but they do seem to prove that singer Brian Johnson, bassist Cliff Williams, and drummer Phil Rudd have all returned to the fold. They are joined by rhythm guitarist Stevie Young (filling in again for his late uncle Malcolm) and, of course, Angus Young. In the photos, Johnson is wearing his iconic newsboy hat and Angus is still rocking the schoolboy outfit at age 65.
This is the exact lineup that recorded 2014’s Rock or Bust. But before they could bring that album on the road, AC/DC seemingly entered a rock & roll version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and began vanishing one by one, often in bizarre circumstances. Rudd was the first to go when he was arrested by New Zealand authorities and charged with possession of methamphetamine and attempting to hire a hitman. He wound up serving just eight months of home detention, but this meant he couldn’t do the tour and former drummer Chris Slade came off the reserve bench to fill in for him.
The next member to fall into the chocolate river was Brian Johnson. He left the tour with just 20 shows to go when he suffered hearing loss that made it hard for him to sing properly. Axl Rose came in to save the tour, but Cliff Williams had had enough and decided the tour would be his last. “Losing Malcolm, the thing with Phil and now with Brian, it’s a changed animal,” he said in 2016. “I feel in my gut it’s the right thing.”
By the end of the tour, Angus Young was the only classic-era member still committed to the band. But lineup changes are nothing new for AC/DC. Check out this video of “TNT” from at London’s Golders Green Hippodrome in October 1977. This is shortly after Williams replaced bassist Mark Evans, and less than three years before frontman Bon Scott died.
Successfully carrying on without Scott would have seemed absurd to fans back then, but any doubters were silenced the second Back in Black arrived in 1980. Johnson has been the voice of AC/DC since that day. It’s a joyous thing to see not just him back in the band, but Rudd and Williams back where they belong, too. This is the closest thing possible to the Back in Black lineup now that Malcolm is no longer with us. Whenever the pandemic is over, expect one hell of a tour. Let’s just hope this entire lineup is still standing once it ends.