With the Axl Rose-fronted AC/DC gearing up to hit the stage, we reach the end of our countdown with help from Slash, Alice Cooper and more. Ready, aim, fire…
About a time when a plane carrying guitarist Angus Young was struck by lightning, this slow building rocker from The Razor’s Edge was a massive hit for the band.
Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy): Thunderstruck has gotta be the AC/DC song for me. Great guitar playing, cool groove, and tight production. What more can you ask from a classic rock song?
Joe Satriani: Thunderstruck is unique in the way the Young brothers arrange their guitars. The two main guitar riffs are syncopated, yet bone crunching. Their entire catalogue of recordings contain the most absolutely wonderful sounding electric guitars ever! How do they do that?”
9. Problem Child
An anti-establishment hymn from 1976’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Bon would tell audiences it was actually about Angus. Inexplicably, the song also crops up on some versions of 1977’s Let There Be Rock.
Glenn Hughes: The song is Problem Child. This was the first song that brought me to their attention. Ozzy was over at my house back in ’76, and we were watchin’ the BBC and on comes this ballsy band, with a little lad in his school uniform. We both knew that they would go all the way, and this song stood out for me.
Kim Thayil (Soundgarden): We used to do Problem Child as part of our encore when we toured Europe in ‘89/’90. It has a cool riff, cool lyrics and a great groove, which pretty much describes all of AC/DC’s songs.
8. Girl’s Got Rhythm
An unashamed paean to the glory of the finer sex, all in delightfully lurid detail. When Bon Scott sang ‘I’ve been around the world, I’ve seen a million girls…’ you believed him. And were slightly jealous to boot.
Peter Frampton: I love AC/DC so to chose one track is hard. I don’t drive without AC/DC loaded on the iPod. It’s the orchestral guitar parts that are so great for me. I’ve thought about wearing the shorts but I think I’ll leave those to Angus!
7. 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.
Slash (Guns N’ Roses): Down Payment Blues is one of my all time favorite AC/DC tracks from a catalogue of many favorites. 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.
6. For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
Everybody knows the bells and the cannons, but it wasn’t about the gimmicks. The title was taken from a book that Angus had read about Roman gladiators: For Those About To Die, We Salute You.
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.
5. Dirty Deeds Done Dirty 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.
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.
4. Whole Lotta Rosie
Bon’s lurid tale of loving a large lady, the definitive version comes from the band’s first live album, If You Want Blood, You Got It, featuring the crowd chants of “An-GUS!” during the opening riffing.
Alice Cooper: It’s a love song to a fat girl, and fat girls need love too. It’s one of their catchiest riffs ever. They really are flawless in their approach to rock’n’roll. If they were any more sophisticated, they’d lose their edge.
Ted Nugent: These rabble rousing sons-a-bitches could have been from Detroit with all their hi-energy piss and vinegar, plus the intense soulfulness in their authoritative, animalistic throttling tight delivery. The boys have got it all – magic, infectious guitar signature theme line, squaloring screaming banshee, defiant and believable lead vocals, pummeling black rhythm section and enough attitude for any 100 rock ‘n roll bands. God bless AC/DC. They rock supreme. This song defines pure primal rock’n’roll.
3. You Shook Me All Night Long
The first single AC/DC released after Bon Scott’s death didn’t sound like the work of a grieving band. ‘She was a fast machine, She kept her motor clean’ leered Beano in a manner Bon Scott would have been proud of. Not the most politically correct song of all time, though a stone-cold classic.
Ronnie James Dio (speaking in 2007): You Shook Me All Night Long is the ultimate kick ass anthem, showing how perfectly Brian Johnson made his presence known inside the band. It was a brilliant transition from the Bon Scott era to the AC/DC we know today.
2. Highway To Hell
Angus on the cover with devil’s horns and a Satanic tail? Highway To Hell? Devil worshipping metallers eh? Nope, a song about what life is like being in a band. “I sometimes wear black underpants,” retorted Angus when asked about the band’s supposed fondness for Old Nick.
Tom Araya (Slayer): That song springs to mind because it reminds me of the first time I saw them on the American TV show The Midnight Special at the end of the 1970s. I couldn’t believe my eyes when their scrawny little guitarist [Angus Young] spun around on his back like a maniac, then got on the singer [Bon Scott]’s shoulders. I thought, ‘What the hell is that?’ and went out and bought the album. They went on to become one of my favourite bands. I believe that their first five or six albums are all-time classics.
Mick Box (Uriah Heep): I first heard Highway To Hell on the tour bus on the radio in the USA. It blew me away. The opening riff is so powerful and being on a bus which felt like we were actually on a highway to hell after three months of touring it all fell into place. A fantastic arena song that the crowd delight in shouting, singing and screaming along too. Angus is in the groove on the lead breaks and at one point it was never off American radio and it summed up the whole rock’n’roll lifestyle.
Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top): My favorite AC/DC song would have to be Highway To Hell. Quite to my amazement, I heard my grandmother singing along with it, on key and with all the words! When asked how she came onto the song, she replied, “Oh my! Sounds like a fun highway to be traveling on!” How you gonna top that?
1 Back In Black
Thunderous Zep-like riffage and so immediately recognisable as AC/DC that even GAP used it for a TV ad, this was the perfect send-off for the late Bon Scott.
KK Downing (Judas Priest): For me, Back In Black has deep emotional components. It was our privilege to open for AC/DC in 1978-’79 on their tour in Europe. Sadly, this was the tour that was to be Bon’s last. He was a real gentleman and so were the rest of the band. They were very friendly and gracious to us, and even let us ride on their luxurious bus on long journeys. We were devastated at the tragic news and really felt for the guys knowing what a mountain they had to climb for them to be able to continue. So when the Back In Black album finally emerged and I heard the title song it was a moment of real emotion for me.
Steve Morse (Deep Purple): The rhythm part is heavy, of course, but it emphasises the exact muting of each chord (E, D, A) in order to give the guitar part more drive. Heavy, stark and insistent. The little blues riff at the end starts on the upbeat after each of the three chords before going on the downbeat, and gives a satisfying change. I also love the strong solo guitar lines.
Phil Collen (Def Leppard): I first got hooked on AC/DC when I heard Highway To Hell. But I think they perfected their game when they recorded Back in Black, which I reckon is the ultimate rock song. It has a sexy groove that hardly any rock band could get close to, amazingly restrained, confident guitars that are pure rock, outrageous drums and a vocal meter that is almost a rap but very rock and roll. And considering the song is based on a blues format it’s extremely original.
Gary Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd): Back In Black’s riff is so cool and simple. Whenever I heard that one it always stopped me, it was like a cool Keith Richards lick. They will always be the No.1 groove machine of all time.