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The Enthusiast's Guide: AC/DC


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Dave Cockett meanders down memory lane to revisit the back catalogue of one of the most successful bands the Rock world has ever seen.


Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, AC/DC, at least for Rock fans of a certain age, are as much a rite of passage as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Status Quo. Heretics claim that “everything sounds the same”, whilst self-proclaimed purists will decry the post ‘Back In Black’ era in deference to their 70s output – different for sure, but to these ol’ lugholes there’s plenty of room for both.


The story of AC/DC is a long and complex one, yet in essence can be distilled down to the dogged determination of one family: the Young’s. Originally from Glasgow, their journey to global superstardom began in 1963 when the family took advantage of the “ten pound pom” scheme offered by the Australian government of the day and moved lock, stock and barrel to the other side of the world. Always a musical bunch, elder brother George would be the first to find some success with The Easybeats, a band who became one of the first Australian acts to score an international hit with ‘Friday On My Mind’ in 1966.


By the end of the decade however The Easybeats had had their day, and it would be through guitar toting younger brothers Malcolm and Angus that the Young name became a dynasty. In late 1973 the brothers put together the first incarnation of AC/DC and started to make a name for themselves on the local gigging circuit, the novelty of Angus dressing up as a schoolboy on stage (something he does to this day) helping their energised shows reach an ever wider audience. Within a year however original vocalist Dave Evans (whom Malcolm had never particularly bonded with) was out and ex-Fraternity vocalist Ronald Belford “Bon” Scott (ironically also originally from Scotland) had joined the band... and so a legend was born!


After recording and releasing a pair of albums for Albert Productions in 1975, the band signed with Atlantic and headed to London to take their brand of “Rock and Roll” to the rest of the world. A high profile tour with Back Street Crawler was cancelled at the eleventh hour following the death of guitarist Paul Kossoff, so the band simply hit the pubs and clubs to build up a grassroots following just like they’d done back home. And, over the course of the next four studio albums, that’s exactly what they did, their emotionally charged shows and the on stage chemistry between Angus and Bon Scott winning them an ever bigger army of loyal followers with every passing year.

Sharpening their attack with each new album, they locked into an unassailable groove with ‘Let There Be Rock’ and ‘Powerage’ yet somehow cracking the all- important American market still seemed beyond their grasp. However, ditching the production team of Harry Vanda and George Young in favour of the more commercially focussed Mutt Lange proved to be a masterstroke, 1979’s seminal ‘Highway To Hell’ finally convincing the powers that be in America that they had something... then tragedy struck.

On 19th February 1980, Bon Scott, a notorious heavy drinker and “alleged” heroin user was found dead in a car parked on a street in East Dulwich; he was just 33 years old. The circumstances surrounding his death are intriguing to say the least, although this isn’t the forum for speculation. Obviously this was a massive blow to the band, but the steely determination of the Young’s won the day and after recruiting former Geordie front man Brian Johnson, they went on the re-write the history books. Released within six months of Scott’s death, ‘Back In Black’ saw AC/DC finally take on the world on their own terms, it’s spectacular success (currently estimated at well north of 50 million copies sold) a total vindication of their unshakeable self- belief. Debate has raged ever since as to who actually wrote most of the lyrics – the band have always maintained it was Johnson, an assertion reaffirmed in his recent autobiography – although to these ears it has the tantalising poetry of Bon Scott all over it. In truth, we may never know the real story as the Young’s are notoriously protective of their secrets.

How do you follow such a massive hit? In truth the answer is you don’t, and whilst 1981’s ‘For Those About To Rock...’ had its moments – it even gave them their first US #1 album – it marked the beginning of a decade of decline for the band. A rush- release (finally) of ‘Dirty Deeds...’ in the US by a record company keen to capitalise on the success of ‘Back in Black’ can’t have helped, but it would be the best part of a decade before ‘The Razors Edge’ and the brilliant ‘Thunderstruck’ finally brought about a reversal of fortunes.

Since then the Hall Of Fame inductees have gone from strength to strength, gigs getting bigger and more impressive although understandably, a lot less frequent. They’ve continued to have their ups and downs most notably when Malcolm, the real driving force behind the band, was diagnosed with dementia which required him to step down. His death in November 2017 was a loss felt by millions around the globe. Brian Johnson was forced to call time for a while due to hearing problems in April 2016 – his “temporary” replacement for touring commitments was Guns N’ Roses man Axl Rose – but he re-joined the band two years later in time for ‘Power Up’, their first new album in six years. Nowadays you only have to go to the movies or turn on your TV set and sooner or later you’ll come across one of those oh so familiar riffs... AC/DC really have become the epitome of cross- generational cool.

This article concentrates on the band’s seventeen studio albums – including the first two Australia only releases ‘High Voltage’ and ‘T.N.T.’, the best tracks off which were later then merged onto a single album (confusingly also called ‘High Voltage’ ) for the first official European release – and their three live albums. Honourable mentions should however go to the two magnificent boxsets –‘Bonfire’ from 1997 and ‘Backtracks’ from 2009 – as they pull together most of the rare material not included in certain territories on the studio albums. The former especially features the first official release of the sought-after ‘Live From The Atlantic Studios’ set recorded in New York in December 1977.

 

STUDIO ALBUMS

AC/DC Scorch
AC/DC Sizz
AC/DC Toast
AC/DC Tepid
 

The Ultimate AC/DC Mix Tape

She’s Got Balls

Soul Stripper

from High Voltage


For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)

Let’s Get It Up

Evil Walks Snowballed from For Those About To Rock... We Salute You


It’s A Long Way To the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) Live Wire

T.N.T. from T.N.T.


Flick Of The Switch

Nervous Shakedown

Guns For Hire

Bedlam In Belgium

from Flick Of The Switch


Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round To Be A Millionaire)

Shake Your Foundations

from Fly On The Wall


Dog Eat Dog

from Let There Be Rock


Heatseeker That’s The Way I Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll

from Blow Up Your Video


Down Payment Blues

Sin City

Gone Shootin’

Up To My Neck In You

from Powerage


Moneytalks Got You by The Balls

from The Razors Edge


Thunderstruck

Who Made Who

Hells Bells

Jailbreak

from AC/DC Live


Riff Raff

Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be

Bad Boy Boogie

The Jack

Problem Child

Whole Lotta Rosie

Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation

High Voltage

Let There Be Rock

from If You Want Blood... You’ve Got It


Burnin’ Alive

from Ballbreaker


Stiff Upper Lip

House Of Jazz

Satellite Blues

from Stiff Upper Lip


Rock ‘N’ Roll Train

Big Jack

War Machine from Black Ice


Highway To Hell Girls Got Rhythm Walk All Over You Touch Too Much Shot Down In Flames

If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) Night Prowler

from Highway To Hell


Let There Be Rock (extended version)

from Live At River Plate


Rock Or Bust

Dogs Of War

Rock The House

from Rock Or Bust


Shoot To Thrill What Do You Do For Money Honey

Given The Dog A Bone Let Me Put My Love Into You

Back In Black You Shook Me All Night Long

Have A Drink On Me Shake A Leg

Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution

from Back In Black


Realize

Shot In The Dark

Witch’s Spell

Systems Down

from Power Up

 

This article appeared in Fireworks Rock & Metal Magazine Issue #102

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