I’m about to commit blasphemy. To many rock fans, AC/DC are simply untouchable, rock ‘n’ roll royalty beyond either reproach or criticism. It’s true that the veteran Aussie rockers have been responsible for some of the greatest riff-oriented earworms ever. With a catalogue of almost 200 songs including Riff Raff, Hell’s Bells, Sin City, Live Wire and Whole Lotta Rosie, only a fool would argue against the idea that the Aussie band’s legacy is both immense and hard-earned. And the slowly degenerating collective health of these standard bearers for supercharged, overdriven Chuck Berry riffs means Angus et al are clearly fully deserving of our respect.
But sentiment and emotion shouldn’t blind the eyes or dull the ears to the fact that AC/DC’s reputation was founded almost exclusively on an incredible run of eight albums, beginning with 1975’s High Voltage and running through to their game-changing magnum opus, Back In Black, just five and a half years later.
In the following 36 years AC/DC have never produced a straight A classic album, where song after song, riff after riff delivers undeniable rock’n’roll genius. They’ve undeniably turned out great songs in that period. Heatseeker, Hard As A Rock and Thunderstruck spring to mind as examples. But let’s face it, the band have never again hit the creative peak they were operating at in the ‘70s. And there have been turkeys. Lots of them. Songs that sound lazy, songs that sound like tired re-treads, songs that are barely worth being called songs at all. So here are my 10 worst AC/DC tracks of all time and the reasons why they suck. Don’t get mad. I’m just being real. And before you start emailing ‘Johnson is a heretic’ and ‘Burn the witch’, put these tunes up against literally anything on Back In Black and tell me that I’m not right. I dare you…
NIGHT OF THE LONG KNIVES (For Those About To Rock, 1981)
Perhaps the first sign that the band were really going to miss Bon Scott’s contribution after his death in 1980. Night Of The Long Knives is a song utterly devoid of charm. The riff is dialled in, the lyrics are poor, the chorus just a repeated shout with no melodic interest. There’s a lot of bluster here, but strictly zero content. This wouldn’t have come within a country mile of making the cut on previous release, the unassailable Back In Black. The fact that it appears on follow-up For Those About To Rock at all is a strong as statement as you can imagine of the band’s already waning powers.
LANDSLIDE (Flick Of The Switch, 1983)
Quite simply bad pub rock. The kind of tune that you’d move out of a room to avoid. Landslide sounds like old men trying to come across as hard-bodied and failing miserably. It has no charm in its fast-paced riff, no style in its arrangement and no honesty in its soul. AC/DC’s greatest charm was in taking the moronic and repetitive and turning it into something visceral, exciting and utterly irresistible. This track takes something moronic and repetitive and turns it into… something even more moronic and more repetitive. Nasty.
DANGER (Fly On The Wall, 1985)
Track four from Fly On The Wall is an insomniac’s dream. Redefining the term ‘plodder’, Danger about as dangerous as icing cup cakes. The track tries to build a sense of impending menace, but Simon Wright’s walking pace beat just makes you wish he’d bloody wake up! Beano sounds understandably disinterested, while Angus’ and Malcolm’s guitar interplay comes across as dull and, worst of all, po-faced. If AC/DC were having any fun in 1985, then they certainly weren’t letting on here.
PLAYING WITH GIRLS (Fly On The Wall, 1985)
Starts with Brian sounding like he’s having a particularly tough time laying a log in Trap Number One, then we’re quickly off into something so forgettable you’ve forgotten the whole thing before you’ve got to the end of the number. Brian tries to cover up the lack of substance with some misguided attempts at Robert Plant ‘Oooh hoos’, while the fast riff going into the chorus sounds like an ill-advised Whole Lotta Rosie re-tread. Really quite poor.
MEANSTREAK (Blow Up Your Video, 1988)
The bit where AC/DC inexplicably dabble with something suspiciously close to funk. And like all rock bands – with the honourable exceptions of Aerosmith and Led Zep (remember Extreme?) they make an absolute horse’s arse of it. The track centres on a walking riff that is every bit as annoying as it’s tedious; the track goes round in circles desperately searching for a way out, while Brian suggests “they” (whoever “they” are) call him Meanstreak. But they don’t do they, Brian? Not really.
MISTRESS FOR CHRISTMAS (The Razor’s Edge, 1990)
A mistress for Christmas? Maybe. A hand with the lyric writing in the New Year? Most definitely. While Bon Scott had an intuitive working class poet’s feel for cheeky, clever, insightful words, the wordplay on this tune sounds forced, put together with the help of a rhyming dictionary to heap cliché upon cliché. Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round To Be A Millionaire) from Dirty Deeds shows how it should be done, with love and humour. This, by comparison, is embarrassing. “Slippin’ up high, Slippin’ down low, Love ‘em and leave ‘em, On with the show.” Really? The tune’s slow bluesy riff seems reasonable enough on first listen. But put it up against anything from Powerage and you’ll soon realise that this should have been cutting-room-floor stuff.
COVER YOU IN OIL (Ballbreaker, 1995)
Brian would have been 48 years old when he confessed that he wanted to make an unspecified young girl “wet”, before covering her in oil. Not a pretty image, is it, especially when raffled up with a sound that feels sloppy (never something you’d associate with DC’s super-tight rhythmic feel), thin and uninspired? This is a Grade A ho-hummer, the stuff an AC/DC covers band would put at around number 162 in their “tunes we really must put in the set” list. Beano says “cover you in oil” 17 times on this one. That’s 17 times too many in my book.
COME AND GET IT (Stiff Upper Lip, 2000)
I’d rather leave it, if it’s all the same to you. Brian sounds like he’s singing in the next room, while this supposedly creepy blues groove comes across as slow and tedious. The band try to recreate that prison chain gang call and response vocal they invented so brilliantly on Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap here. Trouble is, they forget to bring the all-important bucket with the tune in. “These are the finer things in life,” Brian tells us. Sorry mate. No, they’re not.
SHE LIKES ROCK N ROLL – (Black Ice, 2008)
Not if she’s forced to listen to this, she doesn’t. Featuring one of those ‘stop-start’ Angus riffs that Bon would have laughed out of town as nothing more than a finger-exercising warm-up, the Young brothers must have spent downwards of two and a half minutes coming up with these lyrics. “She digs rock’n’roll, she likes rock’n’roll. You want rock’n’roll, I need rock’n’roll.” Sounds like some silly drunk men shouting in a pub at closing time.
MISS ADVENTURE (Rock Or Bust, 2014)
Poor play on words for a title, fourth division relegation zone main riff, chorus conscientiously avoiding melody, horribly clichéd “na na na na” gang backing vocals. This track that sounds like it was written in a mad panic when the band suddenly realised they were four songs light for an album that had to be delivered by close of play today. Its only saving grace is the fact that it mentions “hot cross buns” in the lyric. At least Greggs the bakers will be pleased.