WRITTEN BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
What an incredibly strange and unfortunate time it has been in the world of AC/DC.
First it was announced co-founding rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young wouldn’t be taking part in the band’s latest album and tour due to health issues, later confirmed to be dementia so severe that he was under full-time care in a nursing home.
Then there was drummer Phil Rudd’s absence from a video and photo shoot the group attributed to a family emergency, despite reports he too was in ill health.
Last week, Rudd was arrested in New Zealand on charges of “attempting to procure a murder” in hiring someone to kill two men. He was also in possession of cannabis and methamphetamine at the time. while the attempted murder charges have been dropped, he still faces seven years in regards to making threats to kill someone.
A new album from the band, “Rock or Bust,” comes out Dec. 2. The video for the first single, “Play Ball,” premiered this week. In it, guitarist Angus Young and singer Brian Johnson are the primary focus, with longtime bassist Cliff Williams and Stevie Young, nephew of Angus and Malcolm, sitting in for the latter on rhythm guitar are relegated to the back ground. Hardly seen at all and certainly not up close is Bob Richards who was, at the time, said to be sitting in temporarily for Rudd.
Upon news of Rudd’s arrest, AC/DC released a terse statement which read, “We’ve only become aware of Phil’s arrest as the news was breaking. We have no further comment. Phil’s absence will not affect the release of our new album ‘Rock or Bust’ and upcoming tour next year.”
The question of course, is who will be sitting in for Rudd?
Many fans are looking to past replacements for Rudd when he fired from the band in 1983 and didn’t return for a decade. The first to sit in for him was Simon Wright on two studio albums and a soundtrack compilation. Wright is currently the drummer for Hellion as well as ex-Queensrÿche singer Geoff Tate’s new band. The records he performed on with AC/DC are considered to be a low point in the outfit’s career, so it’s highly unlikely he’d be asked to rejoin.
When Wright left to join Dio in 1989, he was replaced in AC/DC by Chris Slade, who up until that point had been best known playing with Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers in The Firm supergroup. Slade was responsible for the drums on the next highpoint in the AC/DC catalog, ‘The Razor’s Edge,’ which featured the hits “Thunderstruck” and “Moneytalks.” But Slade is not only 68 years old, he’s just begun a new band called The Chris Slade Timeline that is supposed to be announcing tour dates soon; so again, unlikely.
That leaves Richards, a virtual unknown, which then begets another question of fan acceptance. Rudd has long been thought to been the irreplaceable backbone of AC/DC, his absence contributing to the downward slide when Wright came onboard. While Slade brought the band back into the mainstream, even they said he lacked a particular groove that was inherent to the legendary sound.
The only thing certain at this juncture is a tour will indeed happen, rumored to begin in Canada next March, though nothing has been made official to date.
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to email@example.com. Also, check out his blog at www.delcotimes.com