Top 50 AC/DC Songs: 20 to 11
This song defines AC/DC's raison d'être: playing “high-voltage rock 'n' roll” while paying homage to their 1950s rock influences. After all, what is ‘High Voltage’ if not a souped-up Chuck Berry number? Its signature lick references any number of ‘50s jukebox hits, especially Berry's classics, and the band’s pulsing power groove makes duck-walking almost a necessity. Bon Scott ups the ante by wailing like a banshee above it all.
This popular Australian single, for which AC/DC recorded a music video and everything, wasn’t heard by most folks outside of Australia until 1984 ... more than eight years after its debut! Atlantic Records flat out rejected the ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ LP for U.S. release in 1976, and then rushed it into stores five years later to capitalize on ‘Back in Black’'s commercial breakthrough.
This underrated monster from the ‘Highway to Hell’ LP boasts everything we love about AC/DC. The sinister opening power chords and Phil Rudd drum blasts augur one of the band’s best here-comes-the-pain moments. The seismic eruption around the one-minute mark delivers that pain and hurts so good all the way through Angus Young’s fret-demolishing solo. And Scott’s threatening tone and rough-love lyrics banish the song from Valentine’s Day playlists. But we’re fine with that.
This song encapsulates AC/DC’s indomitable drive to achieve their rock 'n' roll dreams, whatever the cost, so it's all too fitting that it should kick off the international version of ‘High Voltage’ (after doing the honors on the sophomore Australian LP from 1975, ‘T.N.T.’). The song’s novelty use of bagpipes references the Scottish heritage shared by the Young brothers and Bon Scott.
‘Hells Bells’ wasn’t the first, and it’s certainly not the last, rock 'n' roll song introduced by tolling bells, but it’s the one everybody on the planet seems to know. A somber signal alerting AC/DC fans that 1980’s ‘Back in Black’ would simultaneously serve as a musical wake and celebration of fallen singer Bon Scott, ‘Hells Bells’ continues to fulfill that role on an almost nightly basis in concert. Every time Scott’s replacement, Brian Johnson, gets to hammering that totemic iron-cast, big-ass bell prior to Angus and Malcolm’s interlocking guitar parts, Scott's memory is always in the room.
The title track from AC/DC’s sophomore Australian LP, later introduced to most fans through the international version of ‘High Voltage,’ ‘T.N.T.’ coalesces the band’s explosive brand of hard rock down to its tightest, most straightforward definition: short, sweet and potent. A regular concert staple ever since its release -- even throughout the Brian Johnson era -- the song glorifies AC/DC’s outlaw-rocker image and never fails to rouse concertgoers once Angus Young gets to croaking his signature “Oi! Oi! Oi!” It's worth noting that those chanting words were uttered before U.K. punks claimed them as their own.
Angus Young’s naughty-schoolboy persona was mythologized to perfection on ‘Dirty Deeds’’ ‘Problem Child,’ but that didn’t stop AC/DC from exploring the concept further -- and with even more electrifying results -- on the following year’s self-explanatory ‘Bad Boy Boogie.’ One of ‘Let There Be Rock’s’ embarrassment of classic hard-rock riches, the song reasserts AC/DC’s anti-authoritarian ways through a slew of contrarian couplets based on the tried-and-true Seventh Son folklore. Onstage, ‘Bad Boy Boogie’ evolved into a showstopping performance piece fueled by Angus Young’s wildest lead guitar work and, for many years, his nightly striptease ritual.
Although its title track has enjoyed more staying power through the years, ‘Highway to Hell’s’ third single, ‘Touch Too Much,’ best showcases the commercial possibilities brought to bear by the band’s new producer, Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lang. The melodies grow more prominent and backing vocals are bought to the fore here, but AC/DC’s hard-rock essentials remain stubbornly untainted. Malcolm Young’s riffs still bruise, brother Angus’ leads still sting and Bon Scott’s lyrics certainly lose none of their lurid, menacing charm. The song may have fulfilled its goal of luring more women to AC/DC’s concerts, but they still knew what horrors awaited if they dared venture backstage.
It’s time to give the drummer some! On ‘Shoot to Thrill,’ longtime AC/DC timekeeper Phil Rudd is thrust front and center like never before, and this master of reliable but unselfish (and decidedly anti-flash) rock 'n' roll percussion seizes the opportunity to drive the song’s tribal bridge for almost a minute (starting around the 3:25 mark), before his bandmates come crashing back in. On top of that, ‘Shoot to Thrill’ backs up its lyrical braggadocio with some of AC/DC’s fiercest riffs and licks, ensuring its standing among the band’s most exciting and perfectly wrought songs.
AC/DC were devoted rock 'n' roll scholars first, ladies' men second and gamblers only inasmuch as it came to gambling their lives away for a shot at rock 'n' roll immortality. With ‘Sin City,’ they go all in, as Bon Scott and company show that they have more than enough firsthand experience to paint a vivid portrait of Las Vegas and any other gambling town where the heart of darkness lies just beyond the glare of the bright boardwalk lights. Along the way, they also give bassist Cliff Williams a rare platform to pump out the song’s unforgettable signature riff, following Angus Young’s blistering solo and beneath Bon Scott’s cautionary lyrics.