You’d be forgiven for thinking that Angus Young and an acoustic guitar are two things that have never met. Young’s playing in AC/DC is inextricable from the image of him clad in a schoolboy uniform and bolting around the stage armed with a Gibson SG. That’s the way it’s been for over 50 years, and that’s the way it will stay for as long as Young is out there playing.
But Angus came from a musical family, with his older brothers Alex and Georgie having played with Tony Sheridan and the Easybeats, respectively. Since they were of an older generation, hard-edged rock and roll wasn’t all that much of a concern yet. So the only instrument around the family’s Scottish, then Australian, home was an acoustic guitar.
While being interviewed in 1997, Angus picked up the acoustic guitar once again to talk about the nascent days of AC/DC. “Malcolm and George said, ‘You know, it would be cool if we had a song that had the chords A,C,D,C in it,” Angus remembers, strumming out the chords. “We more or less throw them together and I had a little chant, this ‘high voltage’ thing that I was singing, which Phil, the drummer, he felt was rather corny. But it paid the rent!”
The result was ‘High Voltage’, the title track and closing song for the band’s first internationally released album. The beauty of AC/DC is in the simplicity of their music, and when given just an acoustic guitar, the theatrics and flash of Angus’s usual style are stripped away to reveal just how easy it is to pick up a guitar and play along to an AC/DC song.
It might sound quaint, but it’s part of the reason why AC/DC continues to resonate. Any aspiring guitar player with a rudimentary knowledge of chords can play along to AC/DC, and the band never sought to elevate their sound beyond the basic bare-bones hard rock style that they perfected. When it sounds this good, why mess with success. Angus proves that it can even sound raw and raunchy on an acoustic guitar.
Check out the clip of Young explaining the details behind ‘High Voltage’ down below.