Top 50 AC/DC Songs
Over the course of their 40-year career, AC/DC have recorded approximately 175 songs -- more than we could count, to be honest -- so when the time came to select the Top 50, happy agreements and carefully laid plans soon fell by the wayside, replaced by impassioned shouting, stamping of feet and pouting of lips. And that was just to figure out who would get to compile the list. That problem solved, it's now our pleasure to share with you the Top 50 AC/DC Songs … and let you do the fighting for us. Have at it.
‘Shake Your Foundations’ is the biggest single from 1985’s ‘Fly on the Wall,’ which is unlikely to go down in history as AC/DC‘s career high point. This is despite a game attempt to join the MTV revolution with a 'Foundations' music video that unfortunately breaks AC/DC Rule No. 1: Never dance to AC/DC. Don’t expect any other 'Fly' tracks to buzz around our Top 50 AC/DC Songs. But we will say that the title cut, 'Sink the Pink' and ‘First Blood’ might qualify for an AC/DC Top 100.
Phil Rudd’s final swing of the drumsticks with AC/DC (until returning like a homecoming savior 12 years later for 1995’s ‘Ballbreaker’), 1983’s ‘Flick of the Switch,’ isn’t a terrible album by any means. But the slow-burning ‘This House Is on Fire’ seems to have aged better than most ‘Flick’ songs, and is one of the few to meet the high standards set on predecessor ‘For Those About to Rock,’ never mind ‘Back in Black.'
Resuming their cushy familial production relationship with big brother George Young and his partner Harry Vanda unfortunately led to a somewhat complacent songwriting attitude throughout AC/DC’s 14th album. But the title track’s bluesy swing and cheeky double entendres stand head and shoulders above the remaining results, and no back-alley, traffic-jam-induced street concert (seen on the song's official video) can disguise that.
AC/DC made their rabid fans wait nearly a decade for the 'Stiff Upper Lip' follow-up ‘Black Ice,’ which showed a concerted improvement in songwriting. Best of the bunch, without a doubt, is first single ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Train’ -- a textbook feel-good, get-drunk, feel-better AC/DC tune if ever there was one. Plus, it's a hearty reminder why, even well past their ‘70s and ‘80s glory days, the world’s greatest hard-rock band was still, uh, the world’s greatest hard-rock band.
This overlooked ‘Ballbreaker’ nugget comes pretty close, almost more so than any other Brian Johnson-era AC/DC tune, to capturing the Bon Scott period’s hallowed spirit -- something producer Rick Rubin delivered on, as promised, even though his perfectionism nearly drove the band crazy. But it's totally worth if for fans. Which is why, after starting off on a rather portentous note, ‘Burnin’ Alive’ locks into a continent-sized groove powered by the inimitably steady beat of a recently reinstated Phil Rudd, and never lets up through to the finish.
Perhaps the most celebrated and sought-after “lost” track in AC/DC’s canon (“lost” until it was finally released in the U.S. decades later, that is), ‘Carry Me Home’ welcomes the inimitable Bon Scott into our Top 50 AC/DC songs. If you’ve ever wondered what it would have been like to hit the local bar with Scott, an everyman rock star if there ever was one, this song is your best chance until you reach “the other side.” Just listen to the great man’s bar-stool poetry, and you’ll happily do as he asks and carry him home.
The second half of the '80s were not exactly a friendly environment for AC/DC. At a time when music videos pimping younger, prettier rockers were dictating radio playlists, it was all they could do to feed their touring machine. But even the albums from this era had their share of standouts, and arguably none triggered as much kinetic energy as ‘Heatseeker,’ with its humorous spin on Cold War politics. Ironically, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down a little more than a year after this single’s, err … deployment. Coincidence?
We’ve resisted the perfectly justifiable temptation of squeezing every last ‘Back in Black’ track into our Top 50 AC/DC Songs. The all-time AC/DC heavyweight ‘Shake a Leg’ (featuring not one but two of Angus Young’s most devastating guitar solos) could have easily been replaced in this slot by the same album’s ‘Givin’ the Dog a Bone’ and ‘What Do You Do for Money Honey.’
Like almost every song on AC/DC’s deepest album, ‘Gone Shootin’’ (one of the band's most understated tracks) finds Bon Scott spinning some of his most compelling yarns. In this case, he veils the true meaning of the song's lyrics -- basically, it's about heroin addiction -- behind surprisingly oblique storytelling imagery.
Our first dip into the abundant riches of 1979’s ‘Highway to Hell’ LP comes via this frenzied six-string blowout of quite epic proportions. The amazing thing about ‘Beating Around the Bush,’ though, is that its wicked guitar lick was instigated by Angus Young’s love of anything bluesy -- in this case, Peter Green-period Fleetwood Mac. You recognize the underlying presence of the Mac’s ‘Oh Well’ beneath ‘Beating Around the Bush’s’ manic thrust, right?