20. Who Made Who
Who Made Who worked on many levels. On the surface it’s a just a classic AC/DC riff’n’roller, effortlessly tough and swaggering. But the lyrics reflect not only the man-versus-machine plot of the Stephen King movie it soundtracked, but also the band’s stature in rock’n’roll at that particular moment in time.
The song was a fairly big and surprising hit for the fellas. And once it clicked in folks’ heads that the soundtrack was also an AC/DC hits compilation it flew off the shelves and ultimately went platinum – five times over
"We were asked to provide the soundtrack music for the film Maximum Overdrive," said Malcolm Young. "There was some old stuff in there, like Hells Bells, as well as Who Made Who.
"We had the old [original producers] Vanda & Young back producing the title track, and I think that was what we needed. Who Made Who was a return to form for the band and it’s become one of our most popular live tracks. We even used it as the opening song on our tour that year."
19. Sin City
Bon Scott’s ode to the lure of Las Vegas, the song features that rarity for AC/DC, a bass solo.
Joe Perry (Aerosmith): I’d pick anything off Powerage but leaning towards Sin City. When our manager asked if we wanted to have AC/DC open for us I said, “No problem. No one could be that good live.” And they were. When Angus would drop to the floor, he’d do a couple of moves with his body flailing away. One we called “the frying bacon” where he laid down on his back and played. We’d often run from our dressing room and watch him do that from the side of the stage. The other one we called “the Curly dance”, which had him drop to his side and spin in a motion reminiscent of Curly from The Three Stooges.
Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins): When Bon sang about going down to Sin City to get into God knows what, you knew absolutely without a doubt he knew what he was talking about.
Michael Anthony (Van Halen): Sin City blazed on the VH tour bus all through Europe on our first tour. I think of that song every time I think of touring over there…
18. 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 song they ever did, with the band displaying a discipline, control and restrained power that only the most mature and confident of players can attain. It's little wonder Richards liked it so much.
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…
17. 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.
On If You Want Blood, the best song on Highway To Hell nobody usually mentions, Bon Scott sounds truly vitriolic, screaming about ‘the shit that they toss to you’ – who’s tossing this shit? We never find out – over a riff so spine‑tingling, AC/DC recycled it a year later on Shoot To Thrill.
When the band played this song at the 2003 Hammersmith show, Brian Johnson couldn’t muster the same venom or conviction. There are some AC/DC songs that are just Bon’s, and this is one of them.
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."
The pounding title track of the band’s second album was an early indication that the band’s name was derived from raw, electric power, rather than a hint at bisexuality, as some early Australia commentators suggested at the time.
Jean Paul Gaster (Clutch): "Malcolm Young’s rhythm guitar, along with the four-on-the-floor kick, makes for a real deep groove. When the snare drum finally comes in, it sounds so heavy. There are great lyrics here, too. Bon Scott could say anything and you would believe it. Nobody comes close to matching his tone or delivery.
"The same can be said for Angus’ leads. The best players are the one who can pay homage to the tradition without losing their own identity. Angus does with ease. Then there’s that weirdo free jazz ending. What’s that about? These records are timeless. Killer production too!"
15. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Riotous title track from the band’s third album, noted for being the only AC/DC song to feature a line (the title line towards the song’s end) sung by Malcolm Young and also to feature backing vocals from brother Angus.
Bon loved to play the bad guy, and did it best of all on this piece of skullduggery 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…’
Biff Byford (Saxon): "As a fairly early convert to AC/DC, I discovered them in 1976. The simplicity of their guitar riffs was what really impressed me. They way they used those repetitive chords really changed my outlook on songwriting.
"That’s where Saxon songs like Wheels Of Steel, 747 (Strangers In The Night) and Strong Arm Of The Law came from. It made such an impact on me I took the band to see them play in Sheffield in 1977. There wasn’t a massive amount of people at the show, but those that did come were really pumped up."
Corky Laing (Mountain): "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap is one of my faves. It has a great title, a great feel, an undeniably great vocal and a relevant title. And you can dance to it."
14. 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, one of the very few times when he opened up about how he dealt with the loneliness of touring.
“Got another empty bottle/And another empty bed.” It’s AC/DC's deepest song. More than that, it’s the most honest song ever recorded by a rock’n’roll band. And the end result is somewhat dark without ever getting maudlin.
Classic Rock’s Geoff Barton once claimed that “Dirty Deeds is a tremendous record, arguably Scott’s best with AC/DC. That claim hinges on a song that’s atypical for the band: Ride On, the best bluesy ballad you’re ever likely to hear."
13. Riff Raff
The ultimate AC/DC piledriver sounded great on Powerage and even better as the thunderous opening salvo on If You Want Blood You’ve Got It. Full-throttle, take-no-prisoners stuff, Riff Raff is AC/DC at their most electrifying
Joel O'Keefe (Airbourne): "Riff Raff is my all-time favourite AC/DC riff ever, specifically from the live album If You Want Blood. You can hear the guitar and bass amps humming at the start, and you can hear the crowd coming in as well, but the amps humming are even louder than the crowd.
"And once the fucker starts, it’s a real Angus-Malcolm showdown. It’s like Deliverance with the duelling banjos, except it’s fucking loud, electric guitar driven rock ‘n’ roll. It’s more energy and balls than anything you’ve ever heard, and once the fucker kicks in you can’t stop. It’s like a freight train that won’t stop, and it doesn’t even need tracks.
"And when Bon Scott comes out and starts fucking howling over the crowd, this raw capturing of this particular take of Riff Raff is just phenomenal. It’s classic, primitive AC/DC. It’s a simple riff with raw power, done extremely fucking loud and hard. You can’t beat it. And then there’s name itself.
"To me, Riff Raff just says, ‘This in the pinnacle riff.’ That’s the one. And the album is as raw, hard, vicious and boozy as it gets. The band sounds right on the razor’s edge. But simply put, it’s the band going, ’If you want fucking blood then you’ve fucking got it!’ I’m sure there was blood all over the strings the night they made that one."
David Ellefson (Megadeth): "I bought a lot of albums just because the cover artwork looked cool, and this was definitely one of those albums! Seeing Angus stabbing a guitar in his chest (and the back cover showing him lying dead on his face with the guitar neck sticking out of his back) was so over the top I knew the band must be amazing! I took the album home, and right from the opening of Riff Raff I was hooked."
12. Down Payment Blues
A wonderful driving blues number from Powerage, telling the tale of a man driven to debt trying to impress a lady. Simple, repetitive, but wholly effective.
Although he is remembered as a legendary rock star, Bon spent the majority of his thirty-three years living hand to mouth. As such, he gave a gritty authenticity to Down Payment Blues – 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.'
Slash (Guns N’ Roses): "Down Payment Blues is one of my all time favourite AC/DC tracks from a catalogue of many favourites. But, this particular track is one of the most gritty and at the same time, one of the most melodically articulate AC/DC songs of all time. Plus, the premise of the lyrics read like my life story."
11. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)
The title track from the follow-up to Back In Black has ended up becoming the mother of all AC/DC anthems. With a title based on the warrior code of Roman gladiators – ‘For those about to die, we salute you’ – the song begins at a slow march before speeding up to a frenzied climax amid deafening cannon fire.
On stage, with prop cannons and eardrum-shaking pyrotechnics, this only a singer of Brian Johnson’s power could make himself heard. And for decades now, For Those About To Rock has remained immovable as the final song in every AC/DC performance.
Eddie Ojeda (Twisted Sister): "For Those About to Rock has a great message, a great groove and production sound. From the slow menacing beginning to the cannon fire. It rocks! To me its AC/DC’s 1812 Overture."