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.
35. What's Next To The Moon
This deep cut from Powerage has a seriously badass riff and a wickedly funny lyric from Bon with references to Superman and Casey Jones. ‘I didn’t mean to hurt that woman of mine,” he protests. “It was a heart attack.’
The unsung classic from Let There Be Rock is not a drug story as the title might imply, but one of sexual obsession: “I overdosed on you.” It begins in shambolic fashion – a false start and a bum note – but once the Young brothers are lock in it all coalesces into a thing of hypnotic power.
33. Gimme A Bullet
On the Powerage album AC/DC made it all sound so easy, and no more so than on this track. Nothing fancy, just a great rock’n’roll band playing a great rock’n’roll song.
32. Girls Got Rhythm
Of all the raunchy songs this band recorded, this is the raunchiest. Bon boasted of the girl in question: ‘She’s enough to start a landslide/Just a-walkin’ down the street.’ The ‘back-seat rhythm’ he referred to is replicated in a bouncing, bump-and-grind riff.
31. Kicked In The Teeth
Powerage’s last track is a real bruiser. It starts with Bon, alone, howling in indignation: ‘Two-face woman with your two-face lies!’ Between volleys of power chords and some aching blues licks from Angus, the singer lays it on thick: ‘Told me baby I was your only one/While you been runnin’ round town with every mother’s son.’
And when the band piles in behind him it’s mayhem. From such a noted swordsman as Bon, who had at least one girl in every town, there’s a whiff of hypocrisy here. But every word was delivered with utter conviction.
30. Go Down
It says a lot about AC/DC’s brass balls that in 1977, at a key stage of their early career, they opened the Let There Be Rock album with a track as loose as Go Down. This is rock’n’roll in its most raw form. In the first few seconds the band are heard warming up, before being counted in by Bon.
With the first big power chords there’s a wail of feedback. And while the track is based around a hard, driving riff, it also breaks down midway through into a funky jam in which Bon and Angus play call-and-response with mock-orgasmic wailing. It’s a song about blow jobs, after all
29. If You Want Blood (You've Got It)
The title was so great that they used it for their 1978 live album and also for this bullish track from Highway To Hell: a song pumped up with a violent energy and full of piss and vinegar.
28. Get It Hot
From Highway To Hell, it’s about cruisin’ and boozin’ – two and a half minutes of pure groove propelled by a floor-shaking bass line. It also has Bon taking a swipe at the big-nosed king of schmaltz, Barry Manilow. It was so typical of Bon: that sense of mischief that never left him.
27. Rock 'N' Roll Singer
This was Bon sticking it to The Man: to ‘nine-to-five livin’’, to ‘moral standards’, to ‘silly rules’ and, of course, to ‘all the other shit that you teach to kids in school’. He was nearly 30 when the band recorded it in 1975, and he delivered it with the cockiness of a man who knew that his time had come. The final line is his funniest fuck-you: ‘Gonna be a rock’n’roll star. Yes I are!’
Recorded in 1974 and first released two years later as an Aussie-only single, Jailbreak is a true cult classic. Powered by a stinging riff, it’s the tale of a killer banged up and plotting his escape. There is no Hollywood ending: ‘He made it out,with a bullet in his back!’ Bon cries. According to George Young, Bon was so drunk when he cut it, and put so much into his performance, that he passed out at the end.
25. She's Got Balls
This was the first song the band ever wrote with Bon, and its subject was his ex-wife. The title was not an insult; quite the opposite. There was genuine fondness in what he sang about her, albeit with a degree of candour she might not have appreciated: ‘She’s got balls, my lady/Likes to crawl, my lady/Hands and knees all around the floor/No one has to tell her what a fella is for.’
This bawdy humour, coupled to a grinding boogie, is much-loved by the man who replaced Bon: Brian Johnson says it’s his favourite AC/DC song.
24. Night Prowler
It was always sinister, this creepy blues song from Highway To Hell, on which Bon adopted the persona of a murderous stalker. But in 1985, six years after that album was released, Night Prowler came back to haunt AC/DC. American serial killer Richard Ramirez – dubbed the Night Stalker – claimed after his arrest that it was this song that had driven him to commit 16 murders.
Only when separated from this context can the song be viewed for what it really is: a deeply flawed yet immensely powerful piece of music. Angus never played a better blues solo than the one on Night Prowler. And for all the grisly imagery in the lyrics, the song ended with a weird joke, as Bon quoted alien language from 70s sitcom Mork & Mindy: ‘Shazbot! Nanu nanu!’
23. Up To My Neck In You
While the Powerage album has long been overshadowed by what came before and after it – Let There Be Rock and Highway To Hell – it is home to some of the band’s most ass-kicking tracks. One such track is Up To My Neck In You: rock’n’roll as an all-out assault on the senses.
22. High Voltage
With its no-brainer mission-statement chorus – ‘High voltage rock’n’roll’ – this is one of the band’s defining early songs, the title track for their second Australian album and also for their first international release. No frills, no bullshit, just heavy boogie. It ain’t rocket science.
21. Walk All Over You
It might be one of the lesser-known album tracks from Highway To Hell, but Walk All Over You is a monster. It starts at a crawl, with drummer Phil Rudd ratcheting up the tension, then it all kicks off like a pub brawl. And if the title of this song suggested a Neanderthal attitude towards the fairer sex, there was a clever twist in Bon’s sly payoff: ‘I’m gonna walk all over you/Do anything you want me to.’
20. Rock 'N' Roll Damnation
On this rollicking lead-off track from Powerage, Bon delivered a classic put-down: ‘You say that you want respect/Honey, for what?’ On every level, it was a song that kicked ass.
As Angus Young has always maintained, AC/DC are a rock’n’roll band, nothing more, nothing less. And this is their purest rock’n’roll song. It channels Chuck Berry in 2’46” of blistering ramalama, with Bon creating his own mythology in the opening line: ‘I’m a rocker, roller, right-out-of-controller.’
18. Down Payment Blues
Although he’s remembered as a legendary rock star, Bon spent most of his 33 years living hand-to-mouth. As such he gave a gritty authenticity to this song – in his lyrics, and in the way he sang them.
From Powerage, this was not a blues song in the conventional sense, but over a relentless, visceral riff Bon laid out the harsh realities of a life on the breadline: ‘Can’t even feed my cat on social security.’
17. Sin City
It’s Powerage’s most famous track, and for Aerosmith’s Joe Perry the best thing AC/DC ever did. As implied, Sin City is a gambler’s song, and in Bon’s words there’s a powerful sense of the danger and the thrill of it all: ‘Spin that wheel, cut that pack and roll them loaded dice/Bring on the dancin’ girls and put the champagne on ice.’
16. Shot Down In Flames
For all his swinging-dick machismo, Bon could admit that even he got blown out sometimes. The title was self-explanatory, but this track had an undeniable groove.
It was George Young who suggested that the band write a song with the chord progression: A, C, D, C. From this they created an anthem. The title track of their second Australian album, T.N.T. is hard rock with a hooligan mentality. The gang chant of ‘Oi! Oi! Oi!’ is idiotically brilliant.
14. Bad Boy Boogie
With a title that spoke volumes about the band and their rough-arsed sensibilities, this was one of many killer tracks on Let There Be Rock. But it was on stage that Bad Boy Boogie really came alive: extended to more than 10 minutes, with Angus hoisted on to Bon’s shoulders and soloing like a motherfucker.
13. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Bon loved to play the bad guy, and he did it best of all on this track from 1976. The riff sounds like a gunslinger riding into town, and Bon revels in the role of contract killer, with various means of disposal: ‘Concrete shoes, cyanide, T.N.T…’ It’s a song that has taken on a whole new level of meaning following the arrest of Phil Rudd in 2014 on a threat to kill charge.
12. Gone Shootin'
Keith Richards said of AC/DC’s 1978 album Powerage: “The whole band means it, and you can hear it.” Gone Shootin’ is that album’s best track and the funkiest they ever did. And it wasn’t just the sound that Keef dug. He would also have related to the subject matter: Bon’s doomed relationship with a junkie girlfriend. The devil was in the detail, as he sang sadly: ‘I stirred my coffee with the same spoon.’
11. Riff Raff
Simply, this track is AC/DC at their most electrifying. Riff Raff is the ultimate AC/DC piledriver – full-throttle, take-no-prisoners stuff. And while it sounded great on Powerage, it was even better as the brutal opening salvo on If You Want Blood You’ve Got It. In this live recording is all the raw power of a band at its peak, and the white-hot atmosphere generated by a fanatical, baying crowd.
From the low hum of warming amps, the intro builds to a deafening crescendo: Angus cranking the riff in spasms, Phil Rudd’s drums sounding like rumbling thunder. And for a thrilling five minutes the intensity never drops.
10. The Jack
It’s not only the band’s most celebrated blues track. It’s also the best song ever written about venereal disease. It came to them in a flash of inspiration after Malcolm Young caught a dose of the clap – in Aussie parlance, ‘the jack’ – from a girl in Melbourne. Bon was well versed in this subject: he was on first-name terms with the staff in his local VD clinic.
His filthy lyrics were an extended pun on playing poker. “If I’d know what she was dealin’ out,” he growled, “I’d have dealt it back.” Performed live, The Jack would be enlivened by a striptease from Angus. Even funnier is the studio cut, which ends as if played to a hostile club audience. Over the sound of booing and catcalls, Bon exclaims: “Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the show!”
9. It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)
It was the song that introduced AC/DC to the world in 1976: the opening track on their international debut High Voltage, which culled the best material from their first two Australian albums.
The crunching riff was the template for so much to follow, as did Bon’s straight-talking, streetwise lyric. And in a nod to his and the Young brother’s Scottish roots, he topped it off with a bagpipe solo. Somehow, it was a perfect fit.
8. Live Wire
There’s a heavy vibe about Live Wire. Cut in 1975 for the band’s second album T.N.T., it has an air of menace about it. The mood is set in the intro: a throbbing one-note bass line, guitars easing in slow, the hiss of a hit-hat pushing it along, and then everything locking together in a riff that’s as mean as they come.
It’s the cue for Bon to play the hard man: “Cooler than a body on ice/Hotter than a rolling dice.” Apart from a brief moment of levity – Bon’s exclamation, “Stick this in your fuse box!” – it’s all bad vibes. For several years, AC/DC opened their set with Live Wire. What that said was very simple: these guys weren’t fucking around.
7. Problem Child
It was a song so good they used it twice: first on Dirty Deeds, then on Let There Be Rock. The riff is a shit-kicker, the lyrics full of tough-guy bravado: “With a flick of my knife I can change your life.” The version on Dirty Deeds is the best, with a false ending that’s brilliantly off-the-cuff.
6. Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be
A fixture in the band’s live set for almost forty years, Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be is archetypal AC/DC, with its bumping riff and witty story of a bad girl who gave Bon the runaround, spending his money and, worst of all, drinking his booze.
For such a great song, it was strange that it was recorded for the Let There Be Rock album with guitars out of tune. The whole thing sounds off-kilter. It was with the live version, from If You Want Blood, that they absolutely nailed it.
5. Ride On
If there is one song on which Bon Scott bared his soul, it’s this melancholy blues from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. He loved to brag about all the women he’d had, but in Ride On he reflected upon the loneliness of a life on the road. “Got another empty bottle/And another empty bed.” It’s AC/DC deepest song. More than that, it’s the most honest song ever recorded by a rock’n’roll band.
4. Touch Too Much
The hit single from Highway To Hell proved that AC/DC and producer Mutt Lange were made for each other. On previous albums, the production team of Harry Vanda and George Young – former starts of Aussie rock group The Easybeats, George the elder brother of Malcolm and Angus – did a great job in making AC/DC sound like the baddest rock’n’roll band in the world.
But what the band found in Lange was someone who could get their songs on the radio without cutting off their balls, and with Touch Too Much it all came together. It was a great song, with lyrics that were vintage Bon: “She had the face of an angel/Smiling with sin/The body of Venus with arms.”
And what Mutt brought to it – in the way the chorus and backing vocals punched through – just took it to a whole new level.
3. Let There Be Rock
On the title track from their first classic album, AC/DC were on fire: literally, when Angus’ amp went up in flames during the recording of this riotous rock ‘n’ roll sermon, delivered by Bon with missionary zeal.
In a rudimentary promo video, he wore a priest’s dog collar. And in 1977 – famously recorded as the year of punk rock – this was a song that separated the men from the boys.
2. Whole Lotta Rosie
When Classic Rock’s Geoff Barton launched a new heavy metal magazine in 1981 – named, of course, Kerrang! – it featured a poll of the 100 greatest HM tracks of all time, as voted by the public. At number one, ahead of Stairway To Heaven, Free Bird, Smoke On The Water and Stargazer, was Whole Lotta Rosie.
The original version of the song was on Let There Be Rock, but the definitive version is on the live album If You Want Blood You’ve Got It, where the first blasts of riffing are interspersed with chants of “Angus! Angus!” from a rowdy Glaswegian audience. And if the song is legendary, so is the story that inspired it: Bon’s grapple with a heavyweight groupie.
As Angus recalled: “Rosie was from Tasmania, and she was no skinny puppy. She dragged Bon off to bed and he done his duty, so to speak.”
1. Highway To Hell
It’s not just AC/DC’s greatest song. It’s the ultimate rock anthem, period. And for the man who sang it, Highway To Hell would become an epitaph: a defining statement of devil-may-care rock’n’roll attitude from a legendary hellraiser.
The genius of Highway To Hell is its simplicity: a staccato riff, a thumping beat, and a route-one chorus. When Angus Young came up with that riff, his brother Malcolm knew it was something special.
“There were hundreds of riffs going down every day,” Mal said. “But this one, we thought, that’s good. It just stuck out like a dog’s balls.” The song’s title also came from Angus. Asked to describe the band’s 1978 tour, he said: “It’s a fucking highway to hell.” And Bon ran with it in a lyric that raised two fingers to the so-called moral majority: “Hey Satan/Payin’ my dues/Playin’ in a rockin’ band/Hey mama/Look at me/I’m on my way to the promised land.”
Highway To Hell was the title track for the last album that Bon Scott ever made. In this song, more than any other, his spirit lives on.