Earlier this week, we spoke to AC/DC drummer Chris Slade about his first stint in the band in early early Nineties and his surprise return for the Rock or Bust tour of 2015 and 2016. “We always got on as people, so it wasn’t that different,” he said of his return to the group after a pause of more than 20 years. “Everybody got a bit older, including myself, but it felt great.”
Slade initially joined AC/DC right before the recording of The Razor’s Edge in 1990 after working with Eighties supergroup the Firm and former Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore. The group had been on a bit of a downward trajectory since prior two records (1985’s Fly on the Wall and 1988’s Blow Up Your Video) failed to connect with a mass audience. In an era of hair metal and poppier rock bands like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, they seemed dangerously close to being past their prime. But Malcolm and Angus Young put together a killer collection of songs for The Razor’s Edge and singles “Thunderstruck” and “Moneytalks” became their biggest hits in many years.
The album infused AC/DC with a whole new life, and they toured all over the world to support it. Here’s video of them playing “Moneytalks” at England’s Donington Park on August 17th, 1991. The show was part of the Monsters of Rock festival where they headlined a bill that included Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Queensrÿche, and the Black Crowes. AC/DC released the show on VHS and DVD as Live at Donington and songs from it appeared on their 1992 LP AC/DC Live.
The band began plotting out its next album after the tour wrapped up, but during the demo process, Slade got a phone call from Malcolm Young telling him that classic-era drummer Phil Rudd was returning to the fold. “He was incredibly nice,” Slade said. “I remember him saying, ‘This is not anything you have done or anything that you haven’t done, but we’re going to try Phil out again.’ I went, ‘Oh, wow. That’s a biggie. So I’m gone then.’”
Malcolm originally proposed a scenario where Slade would stick around for a little bit until they figured out whether or not Rudd would work out, but he didn’t want to face that indignity and bowed out. Rudd was indeed behind the kit for the 1995 Rick Rubin–produced LP Ballbreaker, but it failed to live up to the commercial success of The Razor’s Edge. Rudd stuck around for 1999’s Stiff Upper Lip, 2008’s Black Ice, and 2014’s Rock or Bust. None of those albums produced a genuine hit single on the level of “Thunderstruck” or “Moneytalks,” but by that point it didn’t matter. Nobody going to see AC/DC during the past 25 years came for their new music and they packed every arena and stadium they booked on the strength of their catalog.
Rudd had to sit out the Rock or Bust tour due to pressing legal problems in his native New Zealand, so they brought Slade back for the tour. Nobody knows exactly where things stand at the moment, though Rudd was spotted near a Vancouver recording studio with others in the band and many fans believe he’s back yet again. Slade isn’t so sure. “Nobody has ever called me and said, ‘By the way, you’re not the current drummer,’ or, ‘By the way, Phil’s been in the band for three years,’” he said. ”Nobody has ever said that. God, I’m philosophical enough to realize that Phil may well be back in the band. I have no idea.”
Rumors were flying last year about a 2020 AC/DC tour, but that’s not going to happen for obvious reasons. They may just be waiting for the pandemic to blow over until they tell fans what their plans are. In the meantime, though, someone should give Slade a call to tell him what’s up. He’s served them well at two crucial points in their career and deserves at least that.