He was 18 when he and his 20 year old brother Malcolm formed AC/DC in 1973 with Angus on lead guitar, Malcolm on rhythm guitar, Colin Burgess on drums, Rob Bailey on bass guitar and Dave Evans on vocals.
Can I Sit Next To You Girl, their first single, was later re-recorded with Bon Scott as their vocalist. They got the name AC/DC after seeing the letters "AC/DC" on the back of a sewing machine owned by their sister, Margaret.
Angus tried a number of stage costumes, such as Spider-Man, Zorro, a gorilla, and a parody of Superman, named Super-Ang. before settling on his signature schoolboy look To match this image the press and public were told that Young was born in 1959, not 1955. The original uniform was from his secondary school, Ashfield Boys High School in Sydney. By 1973, Angus had long left school. His sister Margaret suggested he wear the uniform after Malcolm asked each band member to come up with their own gimmick.
Although Young prefers to keep his private life out of the media, it is known that he lives in Sydney, Australia and also has a home in Aalten, Netherlands where his wife grew up. Young married his Dutch wife, Ellen, in 1980 shortly before Bon Scott died at the age of 33 after a night of heavy drinking in London. Although a smoker, Angus is a well-known teetotaller.
On 24 August 2006, Young received Kerrang! magazine's Legend Award from the editor, Paul Brannigan. Brannigan called AC/DC "one of the most important and influential rock bands in history".
Angus Young has used Gibson SGs in various forms (his original, and the basis for his current signature model, was a 1968 SG) throughout his career. He also used a modified version of the SG called the Jaydee SG, which was made custom for Angus by Jaydee guitars. The Jaydee SG featured signature lightning bolt inlays on the fretboard. Gibson made a custom SG for Angus with lightning bolt inlays to replace the Jaydee SG. He is rarely seen with another guitar, though he also owns Fender Telecasters, Gibson Firebirds and ES335s. When AC/DC played a jam of "Rock me Baby" with the Rolling Stones in 2003, he played a Gibson ES-335 borrowed from Keith Richards, perhaps one of the few times he was without an SG onstage. Young's 1968 SG has T Top pickups. Another 1964 SG that he used on the recording of Ballbreaker, has patent # pickups. All of these are high output Alnico II or V pickups with matched coils typically reading 7.5k ohm. All of his pickups "...are the original ones that came on the guitar(s)." Angus uses Ernie Ball SUPER SLINKY Nickel Wound guitar strings (RPS-9 being gauges .009-.042).
Angus Young and Gibson Guitar Corporation have collaborated to make the Angus Young Signature SG, which is special in several ways.
The model features a pickup designed by Young himself (the Angus Young Signature Humbucker) in the bridge position, and a '57 Classic Humbucker in the neck. The headstock features Young's famous "devil schoolboy" engraved picture, and the tremolo bar features Angus's name instead of the Gibson logo. The guitar has a rosewood fingerboard, trapezoid fret inlays, a signature black pickguard, 22 frets, antique cherry finish, and nickel hardware. The volume and tone knobs are of the "witch-hat" style, the SG also sports the standard 3-way pickup selector switch. This signature model is unique in that Angus himself does not use his signature model either live or in the studio.
The second, recently released Angus Young SG, is available in two variants, both which are different from the first. The Gibson Custom Shop version is based on a 70's SG Standard, it features genuine pearl lightning bolt inlays instead of the standard plastic trapezoidal inlays. It has no Maestro Tremolo, and Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Humbuckers, it has 22 frets and an Aged Cherry finish. The fretboard is made from ebony and the most unusual feature compared to other SGs is that the very thin neck is constructed from maple. This model also for a limited time can be bought aged by Gibson USA and signed by Angus Young himself although the Gibson USA version cannot.
The lower cost Gibson USA variant is based on a 1960's SG Reissue, featuring a smaller pickguard. It too has lightning bolt inlays, though smaller and made from plastic, no tremolo and '57 Classic in neck position and an Angus Young Signature Humbucker pickup in bridge position. It is available only in Ebony.
Young mainly uses the Marshall model 1959 100 watt Super Lead Plexi (reissued as the SLPX with the X denoting added, but bypassable features.) heads and model 1960 AX and BX 4x12 cabinets with Celestion G12M "Greenbacks".
Angus Young has used JMP 50 and JTM 45 heads in the studio. He used JMP 50 most notably on Back In Black. Ballbreaker was almost all recorded with JTM 45's. Angus does have a black flag JMP50 and there is an isolation box under the stage during live performances with either a JTM 45 or JMP 50 running through them mixed with the onstage amplifiers to get the mix through the PA.
Angus Young's energetic guitar style has been an influence on many young hard rock guitarists. His work with AC/DC has been an influence on bands ranging from Guns N' Roses, Slayer, The Cult, Jackyl, Metallica, and Def Leppard to newer artists like Disturbed, Jet, Alter Bridge, Buckcherry, Airbourne, The Darkness, Rob Tognoni, Wolfmother, and You Am I. When Canadian band ANVIL were asked what it was like to tour with AC/DC, they mentioned that Angus Young has a "big heart."
In an interview with The Guitar Show, Angus noted his influences to include his brother Malcolm Young, Chuck Berry and Freddie King, while playing licks relating to Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker and The Kinks "You Really Got Me". Angus notes he was highly influenced by Chuck Berry's style, including his banter with audiences, guitar playing and duck walk. When the band would cover Chuck Berry songs in their early years, audiences would recognise the song, while noting their renditions were very different to the source material.
Angus Young's playing style is very straight blues playing in the minor pentatonic blues scale. His style is spiced by additional non-blues tricks. In AC/DC's earlier recordings, power chords can be heard in songs such as "T.N.T." and "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)". He also utilises touches of Scottish folk in his playing, and pull-off arpeggios (pull-offs, played one-handed) are a popular trick, appearing in songs such as "Who Made Who", "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Sin City", "Let There Be Rock" (live) and "Thunderstruck". In 1976, the band recorded an instrumental arrangement of the Scottish traditional song "Loch Lomond", retitled "Fling Thing", which has appeared in their stage act over the years. The title refers to the Highland Fling.
Young also provides backing vocals along with Malcolm and Cliff Williams on songs such as "T.N.T." and "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap".
He often receives criticism from the music press,[weasel words] many of his critics stating that AC/DC's songs sound too similar, focusing on the same handful of chords. However, as Young stated in an interview with the Atlanta Gazette in 1979:
“ It's just rock and roll. A lot of times we get criticised for it. A lot of music papers come out with: 'When are they going to stop playing these three chords?' If you believe you shouldn't play just three chords it's pretty silly on their part. To us, the simpler a song is, the better, 'cause it's more in line with what the person on the street is."
Angus Young is famous for his wild onstage antics: intense jumps and running back and forth across the stage while playing his guitar. Young would clamber on to Bon Scott's or Brian Johnson's shoulders during concerts and they would make their way through the audience with smoke streaming from a satchel on his back, while he played an extended guitar solo, usually during the song "Rocker" with Scott or during "Let There Be Rock" with Johnson. On the Live at Donington DVD Angus can be seen riding on the top of Brian Johnson's shoulders during Let There Be Rock, and also in Portland, Oregon on the "We Salute You Tour" in 1982. When performing live he frequently uses a Chuck Berry move, the Duck Walk, which involves hopping on one leg while bringing the other one up and down.
Also when live he performs his "spasm" (usually during the extended solo for "Let There Be Rock" on top of a rising platform at the end of the "catwalk" on the stage), during which he throws himself to the ground, kicking, shaking, and spinning in circles, while playing the guitar. Both moves can be seen on various videos, such as Live At Donington. Young developed the "spasm" while he was playing live in a small club in Australia, after he accidentally tripped over a cable on stage while playing his solo. He covered it up by having a seizure-like "spasm" on stage to make it seem like part of the act. It has been a trademark of his ever since. Angus Young also performs "the bob". In the bob, he headbangs while tapping his feet. He taps his right foot twice when headbanging up, and his left foot twice when headbanging down. This is his general rhythmic movement while performing.
Other gimmicks employed by Young include his strip act, which can be seen during "Bad Boy Boogie" on the most definitive live concert footage Let There Be Rock (1980). It is also viewable in during "Jailbreak" on the 1991 Live at Donington DVD, during "Boogie Man" on No Bull, during "Bad Boy Boogie" on Stiff Upper Lip Live and during "The Jack" on the Black Ice tour. And sometimes when he "strips" he will pull down his shorts, revealing his undergarments, often decorated with the flag of the country in which the concert takes place or with AC/DC on it as shown in the "Black Ice" tour in 2008/2009, then pulls them up and sometimes moons the crowd. Sometimes he would use his fingers to perform his devil horns act—usually before playing "Highway to Hell" or "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be" - whether being on stage or having his picture taken by the press (during the Black Ice tour and others Angus would also rise from under the stage in a cage wearing a pair of devil horns stepping out to play "Highway to Hell"). AC/DC appeared in "Private Parts" a movie based on Howard Stern's book about his life and early career, and they are frequent guests on his radio show.