2020 has been a strange year for many of us, filled with change and uncertainty, but a few weeks ago rock legends AC/DC swooped in just at the right time and delivered some much-needed familiarity with their brand new song ‘Shot In The Dark’. A lot has happened in the weeks following AC/DC’s return, but with the UK now back in lockdown AC/DC will be saving us once more with the release of their first new album in six years tomorrow! As I write this we have still only heard ‘Shot In The Dark’, ‘Realize’ and a snippet of ‘Demon Fire’, but I’m so far impressed and very excited to hear the rest of PWR/UP!
Since the release of ‘Shot In The Dark’, I’ve been listening to AC/DC more than ever before! I’ve delved into albums that in the past had only entered my peripheral – Who Made Who, Ballbreaker and Powerage to name a few – and it’s been so much fun. I’m under no illusion that AC/DC are a one trick pony, but my appreciation for the band as a concept has grown a lot lately and my admiration for Angus Young in particular is at an all-time high. With seventeen albums under their belt it’s no surprise that AC/DC have a plethora of great songs, but here are my top 10:
10. Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be
I was in two minds about putting this song in the top 10 over T.N.T…but the live versions of this song (River Plate, Donington etc.) are superb and for that reason it makes it on the list! The song is the penultimate track on Let There Be Rock, a fantastic album but one that, in my opinion anyway, doesn’t quite nail the legendary AC/DC guitar tone as well as subsequent albums. Hell Ain’t A Bad Place is nonetheless a fantastic song with a dramatic intro and one of my favourite AC/DC chord progressions in the verses.
9. Hells Bells
Hells Bells is the opening track of Back In Black, the first AC/DC album with lead singer Brian Johnson and the first without Bon Scott, who passed away in 1979. It has one of the most iconic openings of any AC/DC track with the ringing church bell, which cleverly acts as a metronome before Angus kicks in with the riff. The lyrics (‘I’m a rolling thunder, a pouring rain’ etc.) have a great backstory too – inspired by a storm that took place in Barbados during the recording process, Brian was having writer’s block and has stated in interviews that he believes this storm was Bon’s way of helping him find inspiration at the start of his AC/DC journey.
8. If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
If I’d put this this list together even six months ago you wouldn’t find this track on it. I would like to say it was a track that grew on me over time – shamefully though it’s just one of those songs that slipped through the net! As an AC/DC fan I know it’s criminal of me to admit that, but all I can say is I’m glad I have listened to it properly now…and I really have! It’s been on repeat for weeks and is my favourite AC/DC track at this moment in time! One of Bon Scott’s finest moments.
7. Highway To Hell
I recently made a reference to this specific part in the film School of Rock, but the way Jack Black reacts to Zach playing Highway to Hell when he’s forming the school band really is the way everyone should feel when listening to this song! Simple but instantly recognisable, Highway To Hell is one of the band’s best-known anthems. It’s the title track from the final Bon Scott album and is the song that set AC/DC on their way to global domination. Not a firm favourite of mine but definitely not one I could leave out of this list!
6. Shoot To Thrill
Another track from Back In Black, Shoot To Thrill has quite rightly cemented its place on AC/DC setlists and at 5.17 minutes is one of the longest songs in the top 10 too. I love the breakdown in this song around the 3.30 minute mark – like Back In Black did with its riff, it adds a new dimension to the band and shows what they’re capable of doing. The song in general though never fails to make me feel pumped and has been one of my favourite AC/DC tracks for a long time!
5. Whole Lotta Rosie
I’m not convinced the lyrics from this song would go unnoticed had it been released in 2020, but inappropriateness aside this song has everything you’d want in a rock song – fast paced, great riff and killer chorus. The riff is just an old school blues riff with the tempo cranked up a notch and distortion added on top, but it sounds fantastic! Whole Lotta Rosie has also become renowned among fans as a chance for them to show their appreciation for lead guitarist Angus Young (for those that aren’t aware of what I’m talking about, check out a live performance of this song and you’ll know what I mean).
4. Back In Black
Back In Black is the title track from the 1980 album that started the rebirth of AC/DC. The riff is incredible and injected a whole new dimension to the band’s sound – in my opinion a definite contender for one of the greatest rock riffs of all time. Johnson really shines on this track too and the last ‘back in black’ at the end of the chorus is impressively high – it’s no surprise his hearing has been damaged after so many years performing this song (fortunately he’s recovered and back in the band)! Fantastic track and another anthem that couldn’t be left out.
3. It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)
If you were to ask me to define this song with one word, I would have to say bagpipes. I don’t know the backstory behind the decision to include bagpipes, other than maybe the fact the band originate from Scotland, but they really work! They don’t just make a cameo appearance either…there is a lot of bagpipes in this song! There’s so much more to this song than bagpipes though – a simple but brilliant guitar rhythm, underdog lyrics and overall just a great opening track from the first AC/DC album to make its way outside of Australia! What a way to show the world AC/DC had arrived and meant business.
2. Shook Me All Night Long
Shook Me All Night Long is the first song Brian Johnson wrote for AC/DC, and boy is it a hell of a first song to write! Fantastic vocal melody and incredible solo. Angus apparently wasn’t too keen on the lyrics when he thought they were about cars, but when Johnson explained they had a double meaning (inappropriate and more in line with other AC/DC lyrics) he was on board! Perhaps one of the more commercially friendly songs in the AC/DC catalogue, Shook Me has one of the catchiest choruses and is also one of my favourite songs to play on the rare occasion I perform at an open mic night!
Can you imagine the look on Johnson and co’s faces when Angus came into the studio one day and said ‘check out this new riff I’ve got’? The Thunderstruck riff is not only one of the most insane riffs of all time and a demonstration of just how technically proficient Angus Young is on the guitar, but it manages to transition very well from being the star of the show throughout the 2 minute build up to a subtle but welcomed constant for the next phase of the song too. Thunderstruck is an air guitar enthusiast’s dream, a rock-‘n’-roll classic and in my opinion the last great AC/DC song.
That brings us to the end of my top 10 favourite AC/DC tracks! I’ve had so much fun writing this and any excuse to listen to the Thunder from Down Under for hours on end is fine by me. If you agree or disagree with my top 10 I’d love to know – comment below with your favourite AC/DC tracks!