The Real Reason Cliff Williams Left AC/DC In 2016

As far as world-famous Australian heavy metal bands to come out of the '70s go, AC/DC is possibly the most well-known. They may also be the only band that fits that description, but any metal head could pick their classic sounds out of a lineup with no problem. They're iconic. From trailer parks to biker clubs to t-top Trans Ams, AC/DC blasted from everywhere through the '70s and '80s.

They didn't stop there. The band may not be as popular with the youth of today, but most of the living generations have banged their heads to "Highway to Hell" or "Thunderstruck." Even more, AC/DC has announced a new album release sometime in 2020. This band that's been rocking for over 40 years is still releasing albums. That's insane, right?

The band has stuck together through some harrowing times. In 1980, AC/DC frontman Bon Scott died due to a suspected heroin overdose while the band was recording Back in Black. Co-founder and guitarist Malcolm Young passed away in 2017. The band has been up and down and traveled some rocky roads, but all that time, bassist Cliff Williams stuck it out. Until that time he didn't in 2016, anyway. Why, after everything the band had gone through, did Williams decide to step away from the gig? He had his reasons, and it wasn't an easy decision.

Cliff 's time with AC/DC

Williams started with the band in the late '70s to record Highway to Hell. He wasn't one of the founding members and didn't get into the regular lineup until after AC/DC had moved to London, according to Britannica. It doesn't matter. He's the bassist most AC/DC fans know and love. He played with the band through all of their troubles until he absolutely couldn't go on anymore, which happened in late 2016.

His bass playing style is interesting to examine. Some music lovers wouldn't think much of Williams's playing. It's not over the top. It doesn't keep your subwoofer banging. All of that is actually what makes Williams such a talent from a musician's perspective. His basslines outline the guitar riffs and string the melody to the rhythm. They open up space for the more "exciting" instruments to do their thing, while keeping the whole groove together. A number of musicians will tell you that it's precisely the job of the instrument and the player.

As a performer, Williams isn't the most entertaining guy to watch. He isn't exciting onstage because he's playing his part. He stays towards the back and allows Brian Johnson (AC/DC vocalist) and Angus Young (lead guitarist) to excite the crowd, according to Guitar World. Playing without Williams must've been a sad event for the band.

An early retirement

The AC/DC bassist's retirement announcement came in 2016 following the band's Rock or Bust tour. It seems that Williams had been facing a disorienting health condition. "To be quite frank, it was not an easy tour to finish," the bassist told Rolling Stone. "I had some health issues that I won't bore you with the details of. But I had stuff going on while I was on the road, terrible vertigo. For me, I just thought that it was my time."

Most people will experience a little vertigo for various reasons at some point in their lives. The sensation makes you feel like the world is spinning or shifting. It's a common symptom of inner and middle ear disorders, along with anxiety. For most people, this passes quickly — a minor annoyance. For the minority, the symptom can last for hours, days, weeks, or even the remainder of their lives, making the most minor daily activities near impossible.

Even vertigo couldn't keep this rocker from rocking permanently. In 2019, Brian Johnson and Phil Rudd returned to the band after a few of years of their own retirement, and that sparked Williams to hop back on that heavy metal horse along with them. "It was like the old band back together," Williams told Rolling Stone. "It was not like starting over again, but as close to the band that's been together for 40-plus years as we can possibly make it. I didn't want to miss that."