The Story Behind AC/DC’s Misunderstood Name

AC/DC's iconic status in rock was paralleled by a lesser-known story of their name's bisexuality connotation and its collision with glam rock stereotypes.

Vintage image of the rock band AC/DC. From left to right: Malcolm Young, Phil Rudd, Bon Scott, Angus Young, and Mark Evans, striking confident poses. Malcolm and Phil are in denim vests, Bon is in a sleeveless shirt with tattoos on display, Angus is in his schoolboy outfit complete with a cap, and Mark is in a casual t-shirt. They stand against an aged wall that adds a gritty feel to the photo.
Key Takeaways
  • AC/DC’s name, derived from a sewing machine label, stands for “alternating current/direct current.”
  • The name was mistakenly believed to imply bisexuality, a misunderstanding initially unknown to the band.
  • This misconception was highlighted when a taxi driver warned the Young brothers about the name’s slang meaning.

Malcolm Young’s Moment of Truth

The story of AC/DC’s name is a curious tale of unintended meanings and the band’s journey through a landscape of public perception. For Malcolm Young and his bandmates, the term “AC/DC” was chosen to represent raw energy and the power of their music, completely unaware of its alternative, more provocative connotation in the realm of sexuality. This lack of awareness led to an enlightening and somewhat startling encounter that would prompt a critical reflection on their identity.

It was a local taxi driver who unwittingly unfolded the truth to Malcolm Young. In what must have been a surprising conversation, the driver informed Young about the slang meaning of “AC/DC” related to bisexuality. Young, taken aback, remembered the encounter: “A local cab driver said, ‘Hey, you know what that means don’t you? You guys aren’t gay.’ I was like, ‘What? You are looking for trouble.’ He said, ‘No, seriously.’ Bisexual with AC/DC… I thought we better change the name.” This revelation was not only unexpected but also sparked a moment of introspection for Young and the band.

A local cab driver said, ‘Hey, you know what that means don’t you? You guys aren’t gay.’ I was like, ‘What? You are looking for trouble.’

Post this eye-opening conversation, Malcolm Young seriously contemplated changing the band’s name. The association with bisexuality, especially in an era when such subjects were more sensitively received, posed a conundrum for the band. It forced them to reconsider how they wanted to be perceived by their fans and the wider public.

Despite the initial shock and the serious consideration of a name change, the band, led by Malcolm’s vision, decided to stick with the name AC/DC. This decision came after much deliberation, in the face of ongoing public speculation, and various interpretations about the hidden meanings behind their name. They chose to embrace the controversy, deciding that their name stood more for the electrifying essence of their music and performances than any accidental sexual connotations.

Interestingly, the name’s ambiguity led to the band being booked for several gay-themed events, inadvertently opening unexpected doors for them. These events highlighted how a misunderstanding, however significant, could lead to new opportunities, further cementing AC/DC’s place in the musical and cultural landscape.

Glam Rock Image and Misconceptions

As AC/DC grappled with the unexpected bisexual connotation of their name, another layer of complexity was added by their early glam rock image. This flamboyant and theatrical style, characteristic of the glam rock genre, inadvertently fueled the rumors about the band’s sexual orientation. AC/DC’s adoption of this style, combined with the name’s misunderstood meaning, led to a swirling mix of misconceptions and false narratives that the band had to constantly address.

The glam rock influence in their early days was significant. Known for its extravagant and dramatic aesthetic, glam rock became a defining aspect of AC/DC’s initial persona. This alignment, however, proved to be a double-edged sword. While it added to their stage presence and appeal, it also played a role in perpetuating the rumors regarding the band’s sexual orientation, intertwined with the bisexuality connotation of “AC/DC.”

The name AC/DC was meant to symbolize the raw power and energy of their music, not any sexual or ideological implications.

Beyond the issues of sexuality, the name AC/DC became a fertile ground for various speculations and interpretations, particularly among fans and conspiracy theorists. Some of the more outlandish theories included suggestions that the name stood for “Anti-Christ, Devil’s Child”. These interpretations, while baseless, aligned with a broader narrative common in the rock and metal scenes. Many bands in these genres, due to their dramatic stage personas and the edgy nature of their music, found themselves entangled in rumors related to Satanism and demonic imagery.

These conspiracy theories were not unique to AC/DC but were part of a larger trend where rock and metal bands were often subject to speculative and sometimes sinister interpretations. The band, particularly lead guitarist Angus Young, has repeatedly addressed these rumors, vehemently denying any such sinister connections. They have consistently emphasized that the name’s true origin lies in the mundane: the phrase “Alternating Current/Direct Current” seen on a sewing machine. This choice, they clarified, was intended to symbolize the raw power and energy of their music, devoid of any ideological, sexual, or sinister implications.

The band’s journey through these webs of rumors and misunderstandings highlights not just the challenges they faced but also the broader cultural contexts and misconceptions surrounding rock music during that era.