The Stranglers laughed at AC/DC's long hair when they shared a stage in 1976. They weren't laughing after AC/DC played

The Stranglers and AC/DC circa 1977
(Image credit: The Stranglers - Gus Stewart/Redferns / AC/DC - Bob King/Redferns)

They've been one of the world's biggest rock bands for over four decades now, but AC/DC never lost the 'us against the world' mentality which they developed in their formative years on the Australian pub circuit. 

"We were just five fucking little guys carting our own gear around in a van and it was always hard going," bandleader Malcolm Young once told this writer. "But we’d always stand up to anyone. When you've got five little guys turning around going, 'Yeah? What are you gonna fucking do about it?' it made people think, 'Hang on... maybe they've got guns or something.' We had to fight a lot. There'd always be troublemakers there after the shows waiting for us. We'd get bricks through the window... or have shotguns pulled on us."

Upon relocating to London in the spring of 1976, AC/DC's snotty, scrappy attitude and aggressive 12-bar blues songs saw them bracketed alongside bands from the emerging punk scene, much to their irritation: "We never said we were punks," Malcolm Young insisted. "Every interview we did we'd be saying, 'We're not fucking punks, we're a rock 'n' roll band!'"

"In one place some kid spat on me when I came out," Young's younger brother Angus recalled. "I went, 'None of that!' and kicked him in the face. He didn't do it again.

Malcolm Young liked to tell a story about a night in 1976 when his group supported The Stranglers somewhere in the north of England, a story which perfectly illustrates the combative attitude which would fuel AC/DC's rise to the top. 

“When [The Stranglers] walked into our shared dressing room they took one look at us with the hair and went, ‘Fucking hippies’,” he recalled. “Bon [Scott, AC/DC frontman] was like, ‘What’s that you cunt?’ I was getting between them going, Fuck them Bon, we’ll do our talking onstage.” 

As Young recalls, a wound-up AC/DC steamed through a ferocious 25 minutes on-stage and “blew the place apart”. 

“We went back in and said, Fuck you, follow that! They were sitting there with their mouths open, they couldn’t say a fucking word."

That 'DC never lost this attitude is perhaps best illustrated by Malcolm Young's memories of playing support to The Rolling Stones in Toronto in 2003 in front of an estimated audience of 450,000, the largest paid concert ever staged in North America. As the rhythm guitarist recalled, AC/DC's presence on the bill was almost completely ignored by the media in the run-up to the show, which rankled.

"We thought, 'We'll fucking show them!'" Young told Kerrang! later that year. "On the night, we went for the throat. We were like animals hitting the stage, and everything came good. We definitely blew the Stones away that night. The next day, all the presss were talking about us. More importantly, the punters knew. That's what matters."

Watch a clip of AC/DC's 2003 Toronto performance below:


Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.