AC/DC feature on the cover of the brand new issue of Classic Rock, marking the band’s 50th anniversary. Inside the magazine, and all-star array of musicians talk about their favourite AC/DC albums, from Kiss’s Paul Stanley praising Back In Black and Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott celebrating Powerage to Cheap Trick‘s Rick Nielsen looking back at Highway To Hell and Wolfgang Van Halen showing some love to Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Buy the new issue of Classic Rock now and have it delivered straight to your door an.
Bon Scott was AC/DC’s original and greatest singer – and that’s with all due respect to his successor, Brian Johnson. A Scottish-born ex-pat with a voice that sounded like it had been soaked in whiskey, Bon’s roguish charisma and a lived-in worldview fitted perfectly alongside Angus Young’s livewire energy. When a journalist asked if he was the ‘AC’ or the ‘DC’, he famously replied: “Neither – I’m the flash in the middle.”
Bon fronted AC/DC for just six years and seven albums, but his legacy is stronger than ever today – just ask Axl Rose, whose performances with the band evoked the spirit of Scott far more than they did Johnson.
Here are the 57 AC/DC songs he recorded with the band, ranked in order of greatness.
57. Fling Thing
It was just a joke, really. A version of the traditional Scottish song Bonny Banks Of Loch Lomond, recorded in tribute to the band’s heritage, and knocked out in the manner of a pub singalong. It was released as the B-side to Jailbreak in 1976.
56. Love Song
The only ballad in the entire catalogue, Love Song was a mistake that was not repeated. Written when Dave Evans was the singer, it was reworked for the debut album, High Voltage, but sounded twee and out of character. Bon was not cut out to be a romantic crooner.
55. You Ain't Got A Hold On Me
Of the eight tracks on the original High Voltage only two were included on the international version. Among those dropped was You Ain’t Got A Hold On Me, which, very simply, lacked balls.
54. Stick Around
The riff was punchy but the chorus was a dud, so it was dumped after it appeared on the Aussie High Voltage.
53. Baby Please Don't Go
For a new band on their debut, this was a strange choice for an opener – a cover of a blues standard written by Big Joe Williams in the 1930s and later popularised by Them. But AC/DC knew how to make it work for them. They played it fast, and they played it hard.
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap was once memorably described as AC/DC’s most “deviant” album, and it ends with their sleaziest song. Squealer is the sordid tale of Bon’s struggle to seduce a nervous virgin, played out over an insistent riff. There was only one way this was going to end, with Bon gloating: ‘I fixed her good.’ For all his qualities, political correctness was not among them.
51. Can I Sit Next To You, Girl
The first version of this song, with Dave Evans on vocals, was released in 1974 as the band’s debut single. Once Bon had got his teeth into it it took on a far more decadent flavour.
50. School Days
The band’s second album, T.N.T., ended with a cover of a song by Chuck Berry originally released in 1957. As one of the pioneers of rock’n’roll, Berry was a hero to AC/DC. Their version of School Days stayed true to the spirit of the original, with Bon yelling the immortal refrain ‘Hail, hail, rock’n’roll!’ with the conviction of a true believer.
49. Carry Me Home
In this drinking song, released in 1977 as the B-side to Dog Eat Dog, there was humour of the blackest kind. Bon sang it as if plastered, but it didn’t sound like much fun: lying in a pool of beer on a barroom floor and throwing up. Just a throwaway song, perhaps, but in it is a grim foreshadowing of his own end.
48. There's Gonna Be Some Rockin'
In some respects this was their laziest song, a simple boogie shuffle with lyrics about a rock’n’roll show – the kind of thing they could have written in their sleep. The beauty is in the way they play it. It’s all about feel – you’ve either got it or you haven’t.
47. R.I.P. (Rock In Peace)
In this rowdy song there was a simple message. In Bon’s words: ‘Fuck off while I’m playing.’ R.I.P. was originally included on the Australian Dirty Deeds, but on international versions of the album it was replaced by the superior Rocker.
46. Show Business
From Bon’s pre-AC/DC early career came a hard-earned wisdom handed down in this ballsy track from the first High Voltage. In a business run on bullshit, here was one guy who spoke the truth.
45. Soul Stripper
On this standout track from the debut album, Bon cast himself in the unlikely role of victim – the mind games of a manipulative woman messing with his head. The song’s rhythmic tension gave it a mesmeric quality.
44. Ain't No Fun (Waiting Round To Be A Millionaire)
On a key track from Dirty Deeds, the band kept it simple, just plugging away, as Bon indulged himself in the classic poor boy’s fantasy – to make it rich in a rock’n’roll band. As he explained in an interview: “It takes a long time to make enough money to be able to fuck Britt Ekland.”
43. Big Balls
It wasn’t so much double-entendre as single. Big Balls was one long, extended joke, on which Bon adopted a posh accent as he mused: ‘Some balls are held for charity and some for fancy dress/But when they’re held for pleasure, they’re the balls that I like best.’ With the band playing as if drunk, it ended with a chorus of ‘Bollocks! Knackers! Bollocks! Knackers!’ Like farting, it’s still funny after all these years.
42. Love Hungry Man
This sleeper track from Highway To Hell is a funky little number. Malcolm Young dismissed it as “too pop”, but it’s one of the band’s coolest songs.
41. Love At First Feel
Everything about this song is so classically AC/DC, from the cheeky title down to the badass groove. From the Dirty Deeds album, it has all the swagger of a saddle-sore John Wayne.
40. Cold-Hearted Man
There’s a darkly atmospheric quality to Cold-Hearted Man: a sense of foreboding in its slow, creeping riff and its story of a mysterious loner with ‘ice in his eyes’. But it’s a song that has slipped through the cracks: included on the original European Powerage but omitted from later editions.
39. Little Lover
From the original Aussie version of High Voltage, this priapic heavy blues number included one of Bon’s naughtiest asides: ‘Killed me when I saw the wet patch on your seat/Was it… Coca-Cola?’
38. Dog Eat Dog
No other song is as downright gnarly as this: a blast of bludgeon riffola from Let There Be Rock, on which Bon spoke of the fight for survival but with tongue in cheek: ‘Dog eat dog/Eat cat too/Frenchy eat frog/ And I eat you.’
37. Beating Around The Bush
AC/DC never played faster than on this white-knuckle ride from Highway To Hell. And as Bon bitched about yet another troublesome woman, he held nothing back in a performance of manic intensity.
36. Crabsody In Blue
It’s The Jack, Part II, another dirty blues, the subject of which was laid out in that punning title. You can almost feel the itch as Bon croons: ‘Well they moved on down, and they crawled around.’ Included on the original Let There Be Rock, it was later replaced by Problem Child.