AC/DC are set to lose another of their number – the fourth core member of the group in two years. Bassist Cliff Williams, who joined in 1978 has said that after the band’s Rock or Bust tour ends, “I’m backing off of touring and recording.”

Williams, 66, was talking to Gulfshore News, a Florida paper, in a feature about rock stars who live in southwest Florida. “It’s been what I’ve known for the past 40 years, but after this tour I’m backing off of touring and recording,” he said. “Losing Malcolm, the thing with Phil and now with Brian, it’s a changed animal. I feel in my gut it’s the right thing.”

The three members he referred to were founding guitarist Malcolm Young, whose departure was announced in September 2014, following the news that he was suffering from dementia and had not played on the Rock or Bust album; drummer Phil Rudd, whose time with the band came to an end in November 2014 after he faced criminal charges in New Zealand, for which he was sentenced to home detention; and singer Brian Johnson, who left earlier this year after doctors told him he faced irreversible hearing loss if he carried on touring.
Young and Rudd were replaced with Stevie Young – Malcolm’s nephew – and Chris Slade, while Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose has replaced Johnson for the rest of the Rock or Bust tour.

That means that of the five members who first played together on 1980’s Back in Black album, and last played on 2008’s Rock or Bust and its subsequent tour, which lasted until June 2010, only lead guitarist Angus Young will be left.

Johnson’s departure had particularly angered fans. On AC/DC messageboards the manner of his leaving – a terse statement on the band’s website – was questioned, and many wondered whether the band should continue without him, including the Guardian’s music editor. However, he was one of many to change their tune after Rose took his place in the group, with his performances winning rave reviews.

AC/DC’s publicist said the band had no comment on the story.