On September 16, 2016, AC/DC finished their Rock Or Bust tour with a sold-out show at the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia, PA.
Getting to the end of the tour had been a battle: Brian Johnson's hearing deteriorated to the point where he was ordered to stop touring. The band called off 10 US dates, and by the time the show was back up and running, Guns N' Roses man Axl Rose had been controversially installed as frontman, performing from a throne after breaking his ankle.
A week later after the tour ended, bassist Cliff Williams announced his retirement. Then, in November 2017, founding member and rhythm guitarist extraordinaire Malcolm Young died. It wasn't unexpected: Young had been diagnosed with dementia in 2014, and hadn't taken part in the Rock Or Bust tour. But it felt like the end. To all intents and purposes, AC/DC was Malcolm's band. He'd been the driving force both onstage and off, and with former drummer Phil Rudd facing significant legal problems in New Zealand, it became difficult to imagine AC/DC putting together a line-up together that anyone – let alone Angus Young – would take seriously.
AC/DC? They were toast.
Then something began to stir.
In August 2018 Vancouver lifestyle magazine The Strait Times reported that Stevie Young (Angus's nephew, and Malcolm's fill-in on the Rock Or Bust tour) and Phil Rudd had been seen in the city, where – coincidentally – AC/DC had recorded Stiff Upper Lip, Black Ice and Rock Or Bust. A day later, a photo emerged of Rudd with Brian Johnson, apparently taken outside Vancouver’s Warehouse Studios.
Something was definitely going on, but AC/DC have always kept their cards close to their chest, and the rumours continued to swirl. In January 2019 US US band Terrorizer claimed to have spoken to Johnson at an airport, with the singer confirming his return to the band because he was "sick of denying it."
A month later US broadcaster Eddie Trunk reported that a new AC/DC album was in the bag, and that it featured recordings by the late Malcolm Young. "This is a unity thing," said Trunk, "to come together and put out some of Malcolm’s music and celebrate AC/DC."
Days later, a photo of Brian Johnson with the supposedly retired Cliff Williams emerged, taken months previously at the Shangri-La hotel in, you guessed it, Vancouver. And in April, longtime AC/DC engineer and mixer Mike Fraser confirmed that the band had been at Warehouse. "I could say that we've been in the studio doing something," he said. "What's come of that I can't discuss yet."
The rest of 2019 was largely quiet, with an uncharacteristic surge in activity on the band's social media accounts keeping fans busy as the 40th anniversary of Highway To Hell was celebrated.
Unexpectedly, former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider became the unofficial go-to source for information, confirming in a series of tweets Eddie Trunk's theory about the album featuring contributions from Malcolm Young, and backing a campaign to have the band play the halftime show at the 2021 Superbowl. Later he revealed he'd had dinner with Johnson, and that the new album would contain, "some surprises – which I can't talk about – regarding Malcolm Young that just had my jaw on the floor."
This year the 40th anniversary of Back In Black was celebrated with another flurry of social media activity, with the only news of a possible new album emerging once again via Dee Snider, who said in an interview with ABC News Radio that the release had been delayed.
And finally, something.
In mid-September, a Brazilian AC/DC fansite (opens in new tab) claimed that photos showing the current line-up of the band had been briefly published on the AC/DC website the previous week before quickly being removed.
The photos, which appeared to have been taken during a video shoot, showed drummer Phil Rudd and guitarist Stevie Young together onstage alongside Johnson, Williams and Angus Young. Given that the pair had never performed together onstage publicly, it was the clearest indication yet that a new, fully-formed, undeniably legitimate AC/DC line-up was about to do something.
Then came the teasers.
A new video was posted to social media channels, showing a flickering neon light in the shape of the band’s iconic lightning bolt logo, accompanied by the hum and crackle of guitar amps.
pic.twitter.com/0WKzNSi3ixSeptember 28, 2020
Then there was a name. The band's website suddenly started forwarding traffic to a new sub-domain, pwrup.acdc.com, while a "PWR-UP" poster appeared outside Angus Young’s old high school in south-west Sydney. It turns out that typing #PWRUP on Twitter magically appends a lightning bolt to the hashtag.
On September 29 another teaser began to circulate online, this time a static image featuring the PWR-UP branding, beneath the question, "Are you ready?". The ad also appeared in local newspapers across The UK, giving readers in Teeside, Newcastle, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham a further glimpse of what's coming.
On September 30, it was confirmed vocalist Brian Johnson, bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd are officially back in AC/DC, as the first official photo of the reunited band was released. The photo confirmed long-standing rumours, which first circulated in 2018, about the trio’s return to the ’DC fold.
And finally, some music. On October 1 AC/DC released what a 30-second "#PWRUP Teaser 1" video featuring audio from the track Shot In The Dark. It's got one of Angus's trademark riffs. It's got Brian Johnson's unmistakable voice. It's got the gang vocal on the chorus. And it sounds just as it should.
On October 5 the band released a second, 17-second teaser featuring audio from Shot In The Dark, this time backed by footage from what we assume to be the video shoot from February (see above). In includes backstage clips of each member – Angus, Stevie, Brian Phil and Cliff.
The following day the band confirmed in an interview with Rolling Stone (opens in new tab) that the album would include the songs Demon Fire, Witch's Spell, Money Shot and the un-AC/DC sounding Through the Mists of Time.
On October 7 the band released the single, and confirmed the album details. 12 tracks recorded with Brendan O'Brien and Mike Fraser, available on the usual formats plus a limited edition deluxe Power Up box, adorned by a flashing neon AC/DC logo that lights up while the opening bars of Shot In The Dark blast out of a built-in speaker.
There's also various coloured vinyl editions: HMV in the UK will have a red vinyl edition, while Amazon have a translucent red vinyl, while there's also yellow and silver versions to be had.
To celebrate the album's announcement, several London landmarks were lit up with AC/DC projections, including Marble Arch, The Tate Modern, Battersea Power Station and St.Paul's Cathedral.
And at the end of it all, it's an AC/DC album. And this year, perhaps more than any other, that's exactly what we need.