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Tue 17th Nov 2020
There are few families that have had such an immense impact on Australian music as the Young Family. The elder brother George made up one-half of Vanda & Young, as well as founding the Easybeats and Flash and the Pan, while Malcolm, along with his brother Angus, being members of one of the biggest rock bands of all time, AC/DC, for which George was also a producer. Three years after the deaths of Malcolm and George, we look back at the life and legacy of two of the Young brothers who took Australian rock music to the international stage.
Early life and inspiration
The Young brothers were both born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, to Royal Air Force veteran William Young and housewife Margaret Young. George was the second-eldest of the family, born on the 6th of November, 1946, followed by younger brother Malcolm on the 6th of January, 1953. Their other siblings include the famous lead singer of AC/DC, Angus Young (born 1955), older brother Alex Young (born 1938), younger brothers Willian Jr (1940) and John (1937) and their only sister, Margaret (1935). During one of the coldest winters on record in their homeland, the family decided to make the move to Australia in 1963 after seeing a TV advertisement offering assisted travel for families to begin a new life in the warm and sunny lucky country.
The whole family was musical, with Alex and John learning the guitar first, before passing it down to George, Malcolm and Angus. Notably, when they first arrived in Australia, the large family resided in the Villawood Migrant Hostel in Sydney, where George met soon-to-be musical partner and life-long friend, Harry Vanda. The brothers and Vanda would continue to work together, playing guitar and producing in each other's bands.
George Young's musical success
George Young went on to form pop band, the Easybeats, with Vanda, Stevie Wright on vocals and several other European migrants to Australia. The band saw international success with their British-invasion sound, with hits such as She's So Fine (1965), Wedding Ring (1965), Women (Make You Feel Alright) (1966), Come and See Her (1966), I'll Make You Happy (1966), Sorry (1966), Heaven and Hell (1966), and most notably, Friday on My Mind (1965). The Easybeats eventually moved to the UK to continue their career, but disbanded in 1969.
Young and Vanda continued to work together following the breakup, and quickly became one of Australia's most successful producing and songwriting duos, Vanda & Young. Together, they would write and produce many hit songs for various recording artists, including themselves, under a number of different stage names. This included work with John Paul Young (note: no relation to the brothers), the Angels, Rose Tattoo and former bandmate Stevie Wright, releasing the number one hit Evie together in 1974, the first 11 minute long song to reach number one anywhere in the world.
Most notably, however, the duo co-produced a number of AC/DC albums that catapulted Young's brothers right to the top of the charts, including High Voltage (1975), T.N.T (1975), the international release of High Voltage (1976), Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976), Let There Be Rock (1977), Powerage (1978), Who Made Who (1986), Blow Up Your Video (1988) and Stiff Upper Lip (2000), which Young produced alone. Early in the days of AC/DC, the elder brother even played as the bass guitarist for a short while.
Vanda and Young would also go on to form Flash and the Pan in 1976, and produced several more hits together, including Hey, St Peter (1976) and Down Among the Dead Men (1978). Young officially retired from the music business in the late 90's.
Malcolm Young's AC/DC legacy
Malcolm and his younger brother Angus formed AC/DC, named after the electrical current label on the back of their sister's sewing machine, in 1973, when Malcolm was just 20 years old. After the release of their first single, Bon Scott became the new lead vocalist after being introduced to the band by George Young. Together, the band returned to the UK to tour Europe with Black Sabbath.
The band would become internationally acclaimed as one of the best rock bands of all time, with the Young Brothers as the driving creative force behind the band's famous, shredding guitar riffs. Together, with the production help of their brother George, the band would go on to produce hits that live on today, such as Back in Black (1980), Hells Bells (1980), Highway to Hell (1979), Thunderstruck (1990), You Shook Me All Night Long (1980), For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (1981) and many more. Malcolm would only leave the band once during its long career to attend rehabilitation for alcoholism, until his dementia diagnosis, when he was replaced by nephew, Stevie.
The brother's untimely passing
Little is known about George Young's passing, with no cause of death reported. After his retirement, he lived in Portugal with his family for a while, eventually moving to Singapore, where he passed away on the 22nd of October, 2017. AC/DC paid tribute to their mentor, partner and brother, saying "Without his help and guidance there would not have been an AC/DC. As a musician, songwriter, producer, advisor and much, much more, you could not ask for a more dedicated and professional man." His brothers added, "As a brother, you could not ask for a finer brother. For all he did and gave to us throughout his life, we will always remember him with gratitude and hold him close to our hearts."
After his dementia diagnosis and subsequent retirement from the band in 2014, Malcolm Young would go on to fight his illness until it overcame him on the 18th of November, 2017 in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, just three weeks after the passing of his elder brother, George. Fellow rock musicians shared their outpouring of grief for the loss of the performer, with Nancy Wilson, Eddie Van Halen, Dave Mustaine, Paul Stanley, Tom Morello, Dave Grohl, Slash, Steven Van Zandt and more all expressing that Malcolm was one of the best ever and hardest working rhythm guitarists in rock music, and an inspiration to them all.
After his passing, his surviving brother Angus said, "As his brother it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life, the bond we had was unique and very special. He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever. Malcolm, job well done."
If there was a wrong note, it didn't matter as long as it was rocking.
Rest in Peace, George and Malcolm Young
By Claudia Slack