AC/DC underwent several line-up changes before releasing their first album, High Voltage, in 1975. Membership remained stable until bassist Mark Evans was replaced by Cliff Williams in 1977 for the album Powerage. The band recorded their highly successful album Highway to Hell in 1979. Lead singer and co-songwriter Bon Scott died on 19 February 1980, after a night of heavy alcohol consumption. The group briefly considered disbanding, but soon ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson was selected to replace Scott. Later that year, the band released their best-selling album, Back in Black.
The band's next album, For Those About to Rock We Salute You, was their first album to reach number one in the United States. AC/DC declined in popularity soon after drummer Phil Rudd was fired in 1983 and was replaced by future Dio drummer Simon Wright, though the band resurged in the early 1990s with the release of The Razor's Edge. Phil Rudd returned in 1994 (after Chris Slade, whom was with the band from 1990–1994, was asked to leave in favour of him) and contributed to the band's 1995 album Ballbreaker. Stiff Upper Lip was released in 2000 and was well received by critics. Since then, the band has stayed the same with the 1980-1983 lineup. The band's most recent album, Black Ice, was released on 20 October 2008. It was their biggest hit on the charts since "For Those About to Rock, reaching #1 on all the charts eventually. AC/DC's newest studio album, AC/DC: Iron Man 2 is set to release on April 19, 2010.
As of 2008, AC/DC have sold more than 200 million albums worldwide, including 71 million albums in the United States. Back in Black has sold an estimated 45 million units worldwide, making it the highest-selling album by any band and the 2nd highest-selling album in history, behind Thriller by Michael Jackson. The album has sold 22 million in the US alone, where it is the fifth-highest-selling album. AC/DC ranked fourth on VH1's list of the "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" and was named the seventh "Greatest Heavy Metal Band of All Time" by MTV. In 2004, the band was ranked number 72 in the Rolling Stone list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".
In November 1973 Malcolm and Angus Young formed AC/DC and recruited bassist Larry Van Kriedt, vocalist Dave Evans, and Colin Burgess, ex-Masters Apprentices drummer. The band played their first gig at a club named Chequers in Sydney on New Year's Eve, 1973. They were later signed to the EMI-distributed Albert Productions label for Australia and New Zealand. The early line-up of the band changed often; Colin Burgess was the first member fired, and several bassists and drummers passed through the band during the next year.
By this time, Angus Young had adopted his characteristic school-uniform stage outfit. The idea was his sister Margaret's. Angus had tried other costumes, such as Spider-Man, Zorro, a gorilla, and a parody of Superman, named Super-Ang. In fact in its early days, most members of the band dressed in some form of glam or satin outfit but this approach was abandoned when it was discovered Melbourne band Skyhooks had already adopted this approach to their stage presentation.
The Young brothers decided that Evans was not a suitable frontman for the group, because they felt he was more of a glam rocker like Gary Glitter. On stage, Evans was occasionally replaced by the band's first manager, Dennis Laughlin, who was the original lead singer with Sherbet prior to Daryl Braithwaite joining the band. Evans did not get along with Laughlin, which also contributed to the band's ill feeling toward Evans.
As 1980 began, the band began work on a new album that would eventually become Back in Black, but Bon Scott would not live to see the project being finished. On February 19, 1980, Scott passed out after a night of heavy drinking in London and was left in a car owned by an acquaintance named Alistair Kinnear. The following morning, Kinnear rushed him to King's College Hospital in Camberwell, where Scott was pronounced dead on arrival. Pulmonary aspiration of vomit was the cause of Scott's death,and the official cause was listed as "acute alcohol poisoning" and "death by misadventure". Scott's family buried him in Fremantle, Western Australia, the area to which they had emigrated when he was a boy.
Inconsistencies in the official accounts of Scott's death have been cited in conspiracy theories, which suggest that Scott died of a heroin overdose, or was killed by exhaust fumes redirected into the car, or that Kinnear did not exist. Additionally, Scott was asthmatic, and the temperature was below freezing on the morning of his death.
Following Scott's death, the band briefly considered quitting; they eventually concluded, however, that Scott would have wanted AC/DC to continue, and various candidates were considered for his replacement, including Buzz Shearman, ex-Moxy member, who was not able to join because of voice problems,and ex-Back Street Crawler vocalist Terry Slesser, who turned down this opportunity when he decided not to join an established band and instead started a solo career. The remaining AC/DC members finally decided on ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson.
Angus Young later recalled, "I remember Bon playing me Little Richard, and then telling me the story of when he saw Brian singing." He says about that night, "There's this guy up there screaming at the top of his lungs and then the next thing you know he hits the deck. He's on the floor, rolling around and screaming. I thought it was great, and then to top it off—you couldn't get a better encore—they came in and wheeled the guy off!" Later that night, Johnson would be diagnosed with appendicitis, which was the cause of his writhing around on stage.
For the audition, Johnson sang "Whole Lotta Rosie" from Let There Be Rock and Ike & Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits". He was hired a few days after the audition.
With Brian Johnson the band completed the songwriting that they had begun with Bon Scott for the album Back in Black. Recording took place at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas a few months after Scott's death. Back in Black, produced by Mutt Lange and recorded by Tony Platt, became their biggest-selling album and a hard-rock landmark; hits include "Hells Bells", "You Shook Me All Night Long", and the title track. The album was certified platinum three months after its release, and by 2007 it had sold more than 22 million copies in the United States, making it the fourth-highest-selling album ever in the US. The album reached #1 in the UK and #4 in the US, where it spent 131 weeks on the Billboard 200 album chart.