The Axl Rose-fronted AC/DC are about to kick off their tour in Europe. But forgot the controversy – we’ve canvassed the biggest names in rock, from Slash and Alice Cooper to members of Soundgarden, Judas Priest and more, to pick the Aussie legends’ most greatest ever songs. Cannons at the ready…
30. Rock’N’Roll Train
A simple beat, a simple guitar riff and even simpler lyrics. Yup, AC/DC returned after a lengthy hiatus with a good time groove and a belter of a rock single, proving there’s only one way to rock.
Randy Bachman (Bachman Turner Overdrive): Rather than pick an old fave like everyone else is doing, I would pick Rock’N’Roll Train from Black Ice. Again, it illustrates their uncanny ability to make the basic three chord essence of rock’n’roll into something new and fresh. You fall into the groove and can immediately sing along and play your dashboard drums and air guitar. Long live AC/DC.
29. Fire Your Guns
A short sharp burst or primeval power from the band’s most polished album, 1990’s The Razor’s Edge. A taut reminder of what AC/DC felt they were about amidst the clamour for hit singles like Money Talks and Thunderstruck.
Ryan O’Keefe (Airbourne): From a drummer’s perspective, Fire Your Guns is pretty hard to beat. Being from The Razor’s Edge it’s not one of their better-known songs, but I love it. It was also recorded at Donington [in 1991, appearing on the Live At Donington DVD, 1992], and that’s better still. As one of the band’s faster tracks, It shows a good side of AC/DC – I love it when they up the tempo and really let rip. On record it’s really good, but live it’s incredible.
28. Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be
Always prefaced live by Angus presenting his devil’s horns, this staple from 1977’s Let There Be Rock may have got the band in trouble with the clergy, but in fact relates to the mundanities of life on the road.
Ginger (The Wildhearts): My god how you pick one ’DC track?!? The riff of Riff Raff that feels so satisfying when you learn to play it. The memories of snogging in the youth club disco while You Shook Me All Night Long played in the background. Experiencing the cannons every night on tour with them on For Those About To Rock. The live version of The Jack with the rude lyrics… AC/DC have been the soundtrack to most of the great memories in my life. But I have to choose Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be because it’s just my favourite. No reason really, it just goes to all the places I want a rock song to go to. Band tight as fuck, Bon being awesome, huge riff… tick, tick, tick. They’re just fucking amazing in every way, aren’t they?
27. If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
First used as the title of ’DC’s 1978 live album, before being immortalised in song on the following year’s Highway To Hell.
Frank Bello (Anthrax): Its got an amazing guitar riff matched up with great vocals from Bon Scott that makes you want to break something near you.
26. It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock’N’Roll)
Opening blast of the band’s second album, the Australian-only T.N.T. (and later appearing on their international debut, High Voltage), it heralded their Scottish roots with bagpipes. A much covered tale of what life was going to be like for the fledgling band, the video, featuring the Rats Of Tobruk Pipe Band, was shot in what is now AC/DC Lane in Melbourne. Last performed live in 1979.
Alex Skolnick (Testament): Musically, it features one of the best guitar riffs ever written, and a clever use of two guitars, something which was new to hard rock at that time. Malcolm Young is highly underrated as a rhythm player, and Angus Young, while one of the most visible figures in rock, is actually underrated as a soloist. He has a feel, tone and technique that should be studied by more guitar players. As if that’s not enough, these guys throw bagpipes into the mix. Bagpipes! Something that should be so uncool and unrock becomes totally metal. It’s one of those songs that will uplift you, no matter what mood you’re in.
25. Night Prowler
Another song that landed the band in trouble, when it was linked to notorious US serial killer Richard Ramirez. The final track on Highway To Hell, it ends with Bon Scott’s vocal tribute to the comedy TV show Mork And Mindy. Shazbot, Nanu Nanu!
Matt Pike (High On Fire): It’s a little hard to elaborate on any one song; after all they are one of the greatest bands of all time. But I’ve always really liked Night Prowler. The mood is dark and bluesy, it gives you an eerie sort of feeling, and the guitars are tremendous.
Back in 1976, lurid tales relating how the innocence of youth could be corrupted were de rigueur for DC.
Dweezil Zappa: Here’s what I love about AC/DC. They write and arrange songs so that they can deliver them to their audience with massive electric intensity. They have always focused on capturing the true raw sound of their instruments on all of their recordings. I really like a song from their first record. I’ve never heard it played on the radio or played live, it’s called Squealer. In the solo, Angus pulls off one of the best examples of pinched harmonics ever recorded. There is so much attitude in that solo and I love his vibrato. I think it’s his real sonic signature, it’s instantly recognizable.
This overlooked gem from 1977’s Let There Be Rock is a slow-building rocker that ends up driving on relentlessly and telling the tale of one man’s obsession with the lady in his life.
Guy Griffin (The Quireboys): Overdose was the first AC/DC song I ever heard, when I was 11 years old. It changed everything there and then! Bon Scott had that rare blend of menace and humor in his lyrics and you could believe he actually lived that life. They came to London in the middle of the punk scene. They were more ‘punk’ than anything Malcolm McLaren could ever create – the real deal.
22. Shoot To Thrill
Bon may have been the Shakespeare of smut, but with lines like ‘I’ve got my gun at the ready, gonna fire at will’ new boy Brian Johnson proved he could leer with the best of them, as on this Back In Black classic.
Rachel Bolan (Skid Row): Everything about Shoot To Thrill rocks! The energy. The lyrics. When Angus comes back in after the breakdown with the guitar line in the low register. Jeez! That lit me up the first time I heard it and it still lights me up now. Greatest air guitar line ever.
21. Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution
Like Let There Be Rock, Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution is AC/DC’s homage to their own brand of rock. The lyrics were made up on the spot in the studio and this slow rocker was the band’s highest charting UK single (No.15) at the time.
Rik Emmett (Triumph): I used to help coach my son’s baseball team, and he loved to crank the classic rock tunes in the car on the way to games. Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution just had the best build of grinding rock guitars – such great, classic rock guitar sounds. Definitely to be enjoyed played loud!