The death of Malcolm Young shocked the world of rock and roll, and music in general. A death which brought Malcolm to the forefront of our thoughts, apt for a musician forever content to operate in the background with his brother Angus out front.
A man whose genius as a riff creator is unequalled in the history of popular music, responsible for such classics as Highway to Hell, Back in Black and You Shook Me All Night Long. Born in the Cranhill area of Glasgow, the pint-sized icon will live on in the minds of fans as long as the electric guitar remains an instrument.
And nowadays, when I think of AC/DC, I can’t help but think of Argentina, and specifically, Buenos Aires. The band’s three night stint in the city’s Estadio Monumental – where they played to over 170,000 people – back in 2009 was a remarkable spectacle, thanks to a union of a band at the top of their game (with Brian Johnson’s outstanding vocals) and the uniquely crazy, sweaty Argentine crowd. Gigs that must surely be up there with some of the very greatest nights in the history of rock and roll music.
YouTube footage of the band’s three night run of shows has been watched over one billion times, and, having chalked up a fair amount of views myself, I thought it would be cool to try and speak to people who were actually there.
So I did.
I reached out and speak to some fans via an AC/DC Argentina Facebook group and asked them about their memories of the shows (its been 8 years), their love for the band, and to try and put into words how they dealt with the news of Malcolm’s untimely passing.
Federico Siarez, 30, Olivos, Buenos Aires
“How was that concert in 2009 for me? It was far superior than what people hoped it would be. Many generations together, from many different rock genres. I think it’s the only band capable of putting rockers, heavys, and thrashers together. When they came on stage, it’s something that I’ll never ever forget in my life. The sound was amazing, and they played all the classics that everyone loves. Incredible.
“When I was still in my mother’s womb, my brother Martin would play me AC/DC, tunes likes Powerage and Highway to Hell. When I was growing up, along came the CD’s and t-shirts. As a teen I got together with friends to play songs of theirs. Today I am a father, and my son Leon goes nuts when he listens to Shot Down In Flames.
“Malcolm deserves a unique place in the rock and roll landscape, as he was always a person with a low profile, but one with a lot of power. For many of us fans, he is the Godfather of the rhythm guitar.”
Pablo Andres Sanchez, 50, Cuidad de La Plata
“I’ve been a fan of the band since I was 12. The 2009 concerts were really incredible, magical, and filled with a contagious energy between the public and the band, what we call the ‘pogo’. To be a fan of the band is to feel and love them more with every day lived and be conscious of every little detail about them. Malcolm is one of the 5 guitar icons in the history of rock in the world.”
Carlos Nini, 61, San Miguel, Province of Buenos Aires
“For me the gig was the best. I went with my two sons and one of my daughters, like I did in 1996. For me they are the greatest rock band, and Malcolm was the band’s motor. I listened to them for the first time in 1975.”
Claudio Adrián Ruiz, 35, La Matanza, Province of Buenos Aires
“The three concerts in the Estadio Monumental in 2009 (I went to all three) were the best concerts of my life. At the first night I started crying after the second song. On the second night I was right at the barrier for the show, and I appear twice in the Live in River DVD during ‘Dog Eat Dog’. I started listening to them in 1992 I think, when the live CD from Donington came out, and from then on I haven’t stopped.
“Malcolm should be at the highest point, various well known musicians are fans of his, and his death was painful for everyone who knew who he was.”
Elisa Berrueta, 35, Cuidad de Lobos, Province of Buenos Aires
“The concert was spectacular! I was overcome with emotion as soon as I entered the venue. I was crying. I couldn’t believe that I was going to see AC/DC. It was my first time, and I guess there will never be another like it. I started tearing up when the pre-concert video came on, and then the floods of tears came when they started playing. I’ve been a fan since I was 22, when I met my husband, who had listened to them since he was a teen. And since I started listening to them, I’ve never stopped. Our kids are fans too. There isn’t another band like them. Malcolm deserves ‘the’ place in the history of rock.”
Nicolas Romagnoli, 34, Tres Arroyos
“The first AC/DC concert on the 2nd December was unique and the best I’ve ever seen them (of the 10 I’ve seen. Including 2015 in Quebec and Montreal and 2010 in Donington, Stuttgart, Nice and Paris). Throughout my life I’d dreamt of the moment, and I’d waited 12 years for it. That night I really felt for the first time that I’d fulfilled a dream. The adrenaline of seeing AC/DC for the first time for a lot of people meant that the gig was magical. I think that for those of us who love AC/DC we felt this fraternity between each other inside the stadium, with everyone hugging, laughing and getting excited, knowing that we were fulfilling a dream. It was unique and irrepetible.
“For me AC/DC embrace more than simple fanaticism, AC/DC is part of my family, it’s a feeling that I identify with as a person. It’s the same love I have for my father, mother or girlfriend. It’s an extension of my energy. It might sound cheesy or cliche, but a true AC/DC fanatic will understand. In my scale of values its my family, then AC/DC, then everything else! I don’t think anyone generates the sound Malcolm does, no-one. It’s the sound of the caves, raw and with all the feeling and strength possible. He will be remembered as a legend, like Bon Scott or Lemmy. People who only come along once in history.”
Laura Carabajal, 36, Buenos Aires
“For me the gig on the 2nd December 2009 will remain in my retinas forever. I’ll never forget the feelings I had when I saw my favourite band for the first time. From the main floor area I could see this mass of people jumping at every chord and every melody. I cried for most of the gig in the knowledge that it was the best night of my life, so much so that my husband, on our first Valentines Day together, gave me the AC/DC Live in River as a gift.
“Malcolm’s passing left me in bits. The Saturday morning we learned of his death, I think that everyone who loved the band’s music felt the same thing. Personally, I think his death has left an enormous hole in the culture of rock, alongside a legacy and a bar set really high for the next wave of guitarists to try and reach. Malcolm and his riffs will never ever stop sounding.”
Gerardo Ezequiel Sanchez, 30, Buenos Aires
“The 2009 concert was the best concert I’ve ever seen. I’ve been to 20 gigs by international bands but none could surpass the energy and magic that AC/DC generated over those three nights. Every song had more power than the one before it, and it was like that without let up for until the last second of ‘We Salute You’.“To me, being an AC/DC fan gives me the shivers and a lot of emotion. I got into them thanks to my dad, whom I went with to the three shows. For him it was also his first AC/DC concert, as, for timing and monetary reasons, he couldn’t see them when they came here before. And to live his emotion as a fan . He passed away in 2013. For that reason their music always reminds me of him and those unique moments that form part of our memories.
“That Malcolm is considered the best rhythm guitarist in the history of rock and roll might be up for discussion for a lot of people, but …resumed… in that no one has ever had the power that Malcolm and his six chords generated in that section of a band.”
Emmanuel Juzwa, 32, La Plata, Province of Buenos Aires
“The 2009 gig was my first major concert. I remember going alone from my city to the stadium, and I started queuing up to get in at 10 in the morning. It was a really warm day, the first of their three concerts at the stadium and the only one I could go to. The hours prior to the start felt like lifetimes, but I chatted to people outside, really nice people. Once I was in the stadium, when they were about to come on it was totally full, so much so I had to go over to the side just to breathe. Despite that I loved every minute of it; every song, every riff, every Angus solo and of course, his strong stage presence. At the end of the show, with me crying with happiness, I went home the same way I arrived. The next day in work I was done in, with aches all over my body, but I was unbelievably happy, I’d seen my idols! Idols who I’d been listening to since 1997. It really was a dream.
“My fanaticism for AC/DC began thanks to a friend who told me “You need to hear this, its the best thing you’ll hear in your life”, with the Back In Black CD in his Sony Discman. For me its impossible to listen to those songs and move my head and feet about. AC/DC blew my mind. Potent, frenetic, catchy music that swallows me up.
“In my mind, Malcolm is the grand architect of AC/DC, without taking any credit away from Angus and the rest of the band. He created songs with excellent riffs. Without doubt he is considered on the best in the history of rock in general and has inspired thousands of musicians. But I think he should be remembered as the greatest rhythm guitarist in history, a virtuoso musician, and one of the best composers in history.”
Mariano Vera, 44, Salto, Province of Buenos Aires
“The 2009 show was fantastic. I also saw them the first time they played at the Monumental on October, 18, 1996, and both times I was in the same spot- to the right hand side of the stage at Malcolm’s side. Both were unforgettable gigs, in 1996 because it was the first time AC/DC had played in Argentina, the return of Phil to the band and the amazing album which was Ballbreaker. And the 2009 show because they hadn’t played here in such a long time, especially since they didn’t visit during the Stiff Upper Lip world tour. And the fact that they dedicated an AC/DC live DVD of the tour, Live in River Plate, was the closing of a beautiful circle, one that every fan dreams about.
“Being an AC/DC fan isn’t something you can describe with words, it’s more an unequalled feeling. I’ve listened to them since I was 13 and every time I listen to them I isolate myself from the outside world, the problems go away. It’s a unique moment where an inexplicable emotion runs through my body. Malcolm deserves to be remembered as a great composer and guitarist, nothing more and nothing less than he deserves. I hope he will always be remembered as such.”
Juan Laberto Guaymas, 55, Merlo, Province of Buenos Aires
“For me the concert was tremendous. Full of energy and adrenaline. I felt 25 years younger! The show, the sound and the musical ability of the band members was incredible. And above that, helped by the crowd who went and the beautiful day/night of the gig – all together it made it a magical gig for me.
“When the concert finished, as people were leaving, I heard some fans say that the gig didn’t have as much fire-power as the band’s previous gig in 1996, but said that Brian’s voice was much better now than before.
“And in my mind, to be a fan of AC/DC is to be in tune with what they are doing. I’ve followed them since 1977 and, despite their changes in line-up, they maintain that same essence that made me listen to them for the first time back then, and while Angus has the strength to continue, I’ll be there too. And will continue to be despite knowing that one day they will stop playing. Long live Rock n Roll!
“Malcolm should be remembered as the real leader of AC/DC. As the famous Argentine guitarist Norberto “Pappo” Napolitano said, “The rhythm guitar needs to be the wall which sustains the rest of the band,” and for me that was Malcolm. In my humble opinion, Malcolm, alongside John Lennon, are the best rhythm guitarists that I’ve listened to.”
Francisco De Geronimo, 31, La Plata, Argentina
“The first concert of the three nights, on the 2nd December 2009, was a unique experience. After 10 years of listening to AC/DC I had the had the chance to see them live. The first of the three nights that I saw them play was very emotional. Prior to entering the stadium there was a beautiful atmosphere – everyone who was waiting to get in was very happy and that feeling was contagious. And as soon as the lights went off – having listening to the band all my life prior that moment – I couldn’t believe what I was about to experience. And I burst out crying and started hugging my brother, we were seeing THE BEST in the universe! Everyone inside the stadium was smiling, and we hugged those around us who were crying, laughing and singing. I’ll never forget it.
“AC/DC is a big part of my life. They’ve been with me since I was 14 years old. When I first discovered the album Ballbreaker I felt like I identified with this band more than any other. For me, AC/DC signifies loyalty, energy and happiness. If I feel sad I don’t care, as I know that one of AC/DC’s albums can make me feel happy again.
“In my opinion Malcolm is the Lord of the Riffs. He is the brains behind AC/DC. The invisible magic. One of the most important musicians in rock n roll, creator of some of the most memorable riffs in history.”
Natalia Ruíz Díaz , 32 años, Province of Buenos Aires
“The River Plate gig was, in short, a dream come true. A tornado of emotions and pure happiness. When I found out AC/DC were coming to Argentina I’d been listening to their music non stop, I never listened to anything else, I was a fanatic!. We always listened to rock n roll music at home, but mostly Argentine rock, music that we identify with and which passes from generation to generation. When I listened to AC/DC for the first time it entered straight into my veins – it was passion, strength and pure attitude. That was me, they became part of me. One of my bands. In 2009 I was 24 and working day and night for little money. I asked for a loan to buy the gig ticket, which meant I was in debt for a whole month. But that was the least I could do. I was going to fill my soul with happiness during this concert, so in reality it felt like an inversion. I wasn’t going to miss the chance to realise a dream, to see those giants live on stage and live those songs that thrill me every time I heard them.
“For me AC/DC is the expression of what I want to be in this hostile world. To be myself with the strength that my feelings, my passions and my own worldview within this world. We are all related. And what is important are good feelings and actions towards others with which, we then love and hate, we are human beings. I prefer to go through life with the strength and energy that the band gives me. It entered my veins from the moment I discovered them, through songs sung by Bon Scott, another rock hero!
“I was saddened by the loss of Malcolm. He was one of those artists that, without knowing them in person, transcends the screen, the magazine articles and the rest, and allow for their quality as a human to shine through in few words. Pure personality, an example of doing what you want and being who you want to be. A type like any other in rock n roll, and of those who invented heavy rock as we know it today. I mean, a regular guy, not like the types that sell themselves as music stars. These kind of people aren’t the Young brothers. And a sign of that is the DVD that they recorded in 2009 in River Plate in my lovable country. The DVD is dedicates, from the production side – in how they show the crowd more than the band – the Argentine crowd in this case. The choice of takes for the DVD, and intention of showing those happy faces and those spontaneous expressions of healthy craziness and passion! They completed memories of that concert with an indirect message to myself and all those who were there – one of appreciation and affection.”
Guillermo Esteban Buttini (aka) Angus, 41, Mendoza
“I’d seen AC/DC before at the River Plate stadium, back in October 1996, and I was fascinated by their power, but the 2009 shows were totally distinct, they were incredible! I went with my cousin, Renzo, on the second night, the 4th December.
“The crowd were fascinating, singing each and every guitar riff (as the DVD shows), with boundless enthusiasm everywhere and Angus, Malcolm, Brian, Cliff y Phil oiled up like a train to hell, with a deafening yet clear volume. We all knew what we were going to see, yes, it’s the same big hits of the whole tour, and we love that that’s how it’s done. But one thing is ‘knowing’ it and another is ‘living’ it, and that word is closer to reality. At the end of the gig, fireworks inundated the stadium, and a mix of ecstasy, euphoria, sadness and tiredness invaded me. It was finished, but at the same time now I’m part of that.
“AC/DC are part of my life, I live and breathe them. Listen, now I’m not the adolescent that discovered them thanks to the Chilean programme Sábado Taquilla back in 1991, when I didn’t stop listening to them again and again to the annoyance of my parents and brothers. No, now it’s not necessary for me to listen to their songs so much, now they are part of me. I think, I breathe and I live how I think how those little giants names Young live. With humility and without the nonsense, to the full, without excesses.
“Malcolm, RIP, was the motor, the brains behind this grand ROCK band that started from the bottom until they converted into a brand like Coca-Cola, thanks to a lot of determination, talent and intelligence, a lot of which Malcolm has to be thanked for. On the other hand, the history of modern popular music, not just rock and its derivations, should pay homage to the best, and finest, rhythm guitarist of all time. I take my hat off to him.”