Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
The internet went bonkers when rumors started to spread that after 40 years, AC/DC were planning to retire. While singer Brian Johnson denied the retirement rumors, there turned out to be some truth in the gossip, as guitarist Malcolm Young announced he was taking a break from the band due to poor health. While we have nothing but respect for the Aussie rock legends and their contributions to rock, we decided to use this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl to answer what might be a painful question to some: Should AC/DC call it a day and retire?
Zach: My initial reaction is to say no, but I say that selfishly because I’ve never seen them live, and would like to at least once before they say goodbye. I just always took AC/DC for granted, telling myself “Eh, they’ll be back, I’ll catch them next time they’re in town.” But the group has been touring less and less over the past few years, and I’m definitely kicking myself that I haven’t seen them yet.
Putting my biases aside, though, I think AC/DC should start considering when to retire. Johnson himself said that a 40thanniversary tour would be “a wonderful way to say bye bye,” and I totally agree. Ideally, they could release one more album, do one more massive tour and go out on top. Not saying that anything more wouldn’t be nice, but that could be the most pleasing way for AC/DC to go out.
Anthony: This is a really tough one. I’m on the fence about this. I think the worst thing in the world would be if an older fan went to see AC/DC with a younger fan, and had to tell the younger one “See these guys? I used to see them when they were good.” But the real question is…is that the case right now? After all, there are certainly bands that are older then they are that insist on continuing.
I, in no way, intend to make this statement sound like a knock against them, but AC/DC certainly isn’t a very technical band. Because of that, I think their live shows come down to the pure energy that only AC/DC puts out. I think a lot of the reason to see them is because of the non stop energy. The question is…have they lost that energy? And at this point, I don’t think they’ve lost their passion or energy yet.
I don’t think it’s time for them to retire YET. But I think that day may soon be coming. I think they may have about five more good years in them, give or take. As long as they can go out there every night, and put on their high energy show that leave fans going “WOW!” at the end of the night, I see no reason to force them into retirement. But at the first sign of them wearing out, that might be the time to clock out.
Chris: The honest, brutal truth of the matter is this: classic AC/DC from the ’70s and ’80s is what people will always remember, and that legacy deserves to be kept intact as much as possible. Yes, Black Ice was a critical and commercial success when it was released, but that was six years ago, and the band has not done much since the Black Ice World Tour ended. And when you turn on the vast majority of radio stations, you’re hearing the old AC/DC songs that define their career, not the newer stuff. My belief is that AC/DC ought to retire, but they should go out with a bang. Do a massive world tour, play all the classics for the fans one last time, and end with a massive performance in their Australian homeland as a final goodbye. It’s the only way for a band with their legendary status to say farewell.
Kodi: AC/DC may not have much left in them as far as writing new classics, but the band’s catalog still stands up, and they still have all of their core members assuming Malcolm’s only out for a little while. The need to throw in the towel isn’t coming too soon, but I’m with Anthony in that I’d say they have about four to five good years left in them. That gives them time to do one or two huge tours, plus maybe a farewell album for good measure where they throw everything they’ve got at the wall one last time (but only if it’s up to par with The Razors Edge at the very least – don’t turn into Aerosmith guys, please!). But really, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them keep going so long as Angus and Malcolm are in good shape. The band’s music has aged brilliantly, still sounding as raucous and energetic as bands half their age. To me, AC/DC in 2014 is still vastly better than almost any other active band to make it out of their era, save for maybe Black Sabbath, and that’s a point you could justifiably argue.
Bram: It was surprising how good AC/DC’s last album Black Ice was, and I didn’t see the band play live until shortly before then. Guess what? They still delivered. Not having the mid-80s version of the band to compare them to, I thought they crushed it. And let’s face it, it’s not like the band’s music is that subtle and loses much with time. At no point while watching them did I think I was watching a bunch of dudes in their upper ‘50s play. If they’ve got another good album in them, I don’t think it’s a bad way for them to go out on top. That being said, Malcolm is a crucial member of the band, and to continue on without him would be a little weird. If he’s unable to play, I could see every reason why they might want to throw in the towel, and if they decided to, no one could say they didn’t go out on top.
Matt: I’m kind of torn. Concerning Malcolm Young, he’s definitely the backbone of AC/DC and it’d be hard for the band to go on without him even if only temporarily. Hard, but not impossible. If, as Brian Johnson claims, the band is going into the studio and record, it could be anything from putting ideas on the table to a full-blown album. There’s no rush, especially with Malcolm sitting out. Should they continue on, I think the best case scenario is to bang out another album (hopefully on the same level as Black Ice), hopefully by that time Malcolm will be fit enough to go on limited world tour and the back could take a cue form Black Sabbath and how they have been managing their touring to accommodate Tony Iommi’s health concerns. After that, who knows? If they feel like they can keep going a bit longer, go for it. If they choose to hang up Angus’ schoolboy outfit, then let them.