New biography of Malcolm Young shows he was the boss within AC/DC

While Angus Young has always been the centre of attention with AC/DC it's his older brother Malcolm who was the driving force behind the band, biographer Jeff Apter says.

Author Jeff Apter jokes that AC/DC has become a bit of "a cottage industry" for him.

The Keiraville writer has penned a best-selling biography of Angus Young and ghostwritten autobiographies of the band's bassplayer Mark Evans and manager Michael Browning.

Then there's the coffee table book - not yet published in Australia - covering the Bon Scott years.

Now he's just released a bio of the other Young in AC/DC - Angus' older brother and the leader of the band, Malcolm.

Acca author: After writing a fifth AC/DC-related book Keiraville author Jeff Apter knows a fair bit about the band. Picture: Adam McLean

Acca author: After writing a fifth AC/DC-related book Keiraville author Jeff Apter knows a fair bit about the band. Picture: Adam McLean

As a working writer Apter admits he wants to write books that people will buy and read - and it's clear AC/DC fans like to read about their favourite band.

"People buy them, people are interested," Apter says.

"People see them as items to add to that substantial AC/DC music collection."

This biography of Malcolm Young was supposed to have been written several years ago; he pitched the idea to a publisher but they went for the Angus bio High Voltage instead.

Picture: Ros O'Gorman

Picture: Ros O'Gorman

But he wanted to come back and tell Malcolm's story, especially now that he'd learned so much of it through researching High Voltage.

"It's just a good story," Apter says.

"The challenge with this one was to not repeat the same story from the Angus Young book before. I knew that would be difficult because it was in effect telling the same story.

"But now I've got to tell it from Malcolm's perspective - and that was really interesting. Whereas Angus was the showpiece of the band - this larger-than-life schoolboy character - Malcolm was really the guy behind the scenes making all the key decisions and also constructing all these great riffs."

You can be the richest man in the world but if you spent half your life on Struggle Street, you can't lose that - it's like a tattoo.

Malcolm Young: The Man Who Made AC/DC also goes into some detail about his pre-AC/DC years. He joined a band called Velvet Underground (they took their name from the same paperback that inspired Lou Reed's mob), which would morph into the Ted Mulry Gang.

Becoming what he saw as Mulry's backing band was the reason Malcolm left, which would see him start forming what would be AC/DC.

From the early days of the band, Malcolm had decided they simply had to be a success - because this was going to be his career.

So he approached the band with a ruthlessness that saw him sack anyone who he felt was holding the band back or wasn't as serious about it as he was.

Malcolm Young was content to let brother Angus take the spotlight onstage.

Malcolm Young was content to let brother Angus take the spotlight onstage.

For Apter, that toughness goes back to the time Malcolm and his family lived in Glasgow and then in the Villawood migrant hostel when they arrived in Australia.

The family didn't have much so everything AC/DC would achieve, Malcolm wanted to make he held onto it.

"If you see someone who's not embracing that fully, which is probably the case with Mark Evans, Phil Rudd and people over time, he'd say 'well, you're out. We may be sort of friends but you've got to go'," Apter says.

"I think that all stems back to the fact of being poor; they came to Australia because his father couldn't get work.

"I think he's really absorbed a lot of that - he's probably hung onto the first dollar he's ever made.

"You can be the richest man in the world but if you spent half your life on Struggle Street, you can't lose that - it's like a tattoo."

It's an upbringing Apter could relate to; coming from a working-class background himself where you hung onto every dollar you had.

"I could relate to this story a lot more than I could, say Johnny O'Keefe, who was from an eastern suburbs family; his dad was the mayor and he was the black sheep of the family," Apter says.

"I didn't relate to his story as much as I did Malcolm Young, who went from Villawood to Burwood."

While Angus would put on a show at the front of the stage, Malcolm was happy to stay in the background. He would only walk forward to add some backing vocals and then return to the shadows.

The Balmain house Malcolm Young bought in 1981, with a camera on the roof to capture views of the ocean. Picture: Dominic Lorrimer

The Balmain house Malcolm Young bought in 1981, with a camera on the roof to capture views of the ocean. Picture: Dominic Lorrimer

He was just as unassuming offstage, writes Apter. He'd head down to the local pub for a beer, drive his kids to school and leave the keys to his $30 million Balmain home with the neighbours so they could use the pool while he was away on tour.

Two-thirds of The Man Who Made AC/DC takes the reader up to the 1981 release of For Those About to Rock, with the remaining years wrapped up in just 60 pages.

Apter says that's quite deliberate, because after the band's "hot period" in the late 1970s the band started to coast, with the quality of its output being "a bit spotty".

Angus Young follows the casket of his brother Malcolm at his funeral in November 2017. Picture: Dean Lewins

Angus Young follows the casket of his brother Malcolm at his funeral in November 2017. Picture: Dean Lewins

"The story to me is the Bon Scott era, then Back in Black and the first couple [of albums] after he dies," Apter says.

"The simple fact is, look at their set list now - 60-70 per cent of the songs are still from the Bon Scott era. It says so much about those songs and that time in the band's history."

For Apter the story is the most important part; his aim with The Man Who Made AC/DC is not to write something solely for the hardcore fan.

"My goal is to have someone who's not an AC/DC fan, or a big music fan, go 'I'm interested in that guy's life' and then read the book and maybe go away and listen to the music," he says.

"Of course, I want all the music fans as well [but] it's the only way to broaden your readership. I want a mainstream biography, non-fiction reader rather than a [only] music fans."

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