Up there with the greatest of all time, AC/DC guitarist Angus Young is a riff master of the highest order. Blending the rudimentary influence of the blues with the type of visceral shredding that Jimi Hendrix inspired, Young’s style is so unique and powerful that without him, AC/DC would not have become the world beaters that we know them as today.
As soon as an AC/DC track kicks in, the work of Angus Young becomes instantly recognisable. Whether it be ‘T.N.T.’, ‘Back in Black’, ‘Thunderstruck’, or even lesser-known but equally as brilliant cuts such as ‘Big Balls’, Young has delivered countless classic guitar tricks over his career, establishing himself as one of the finest to do it.
There’s no surprise that many guitarists, of a variety of different generations, celebrate Young as something of a God. The insouciance with which he shreds, even at the ripe age of 67, is nothing but remarkable. Added to this fascinating factor is the fierce tone he gets from his weapon of choice, the Gibson SG, which is unmatched.
Luckily for us, Young once discussed two of the guitarists who had a transformative impact on his art: Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. In an interview with German publication Guitar, the AC/DC man remembered being a fan of the Jimmy Page iteration of The Yardbirds, before Hendrix dropped ‘Purple Haze’ and it changed his life forever.
Young recalled: “I could play guitar a little bit, but I really got focused on it around the years when I was about 12 into my teenage years, I started to focus more on it. And around when I was about 13-14, that’s when Jimi Hendrix appeared on the horizon. And when I first heard the song ‘Purple Haze,’ I was totally enthralled. ‘How’s he doing that?’ I was just so impressed with it. Plus, Malcolm, my brother, there was a few shows we had also seen.”
Remembering his time growing up in Australia, he continued: “We had gone, the two of us together, and we had seen people like the band The Yardbirds – they had come to Australia. And at the time, the lineup had just changed. I think they originally used to have Jeff Beck. But then, later on, when we saw them, they didn’t have Jeff Beck – they had Jimmy Page on guitar. So that was good, because at that time, that kind of sound, especially for guitar, it jumped out at you, the sound of it.”
However, it was when Hendrix released ‘Purple Haze’ that things changed, and Young credits the American guitarist with taking the instrument to another level, far surpassing that of Jimmy Page.
He said: “So that was really good. But then when along came Hendrix, you kind of went, ‘Woah! This is another level on guitar.’ So I was very much a fan of that. I was not really a good note picker. People – they could hear a song and just pick up the notes. I used to say to Malcolm, ‘You pick up the notes and then show me.’ [Laughs] So he would do that. He’d pick out all the notes of anything I wanted to know, and then he would just show me, and then I would play it like he showed me… But I had a host of styles.”
Young concluded: “From other family members who played, you pick up a bit of Chuck Berry, you pick up a bit of blues, and some folk tunes. So I had a bit of a variety of different stuff – even some early traditional jazz stuff. My sister, she was always getting me different records and stuff, ’cause she knew we were interested in doing stuff. It wasn’t so much guitar. I heard Louis Armstrong play on the trumpet, do a solo, and I’d go, ‘I like the notes,’ and I’d learn the notes… So I had quite a bit of variety. When I look at all the players who I admire, there’s a lot of players. You can go from A to Z – there’s a lot of players.”