“Bon Scott was a bit of a gangster, and that stuff is very linked with rock music”: Saxon’s Biff Byford on how AC/DC changed his life

Bon Scott in 1977, Biff Byford in 2010
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Mick Hutson/RedfernsGetty Images/)

Classic Rock issue 317

(Image credit: Future)

The latest issue of Classic Rock, out now, is a salute to 50 years of AC/DC. To mark the occasion, we asked rock’s finest to talk about their favourite albums by the Australian icons and the celebration is kickstarted by Saxon’s Biff Byford telling us how Angus & co.’s 1976 debut High Voltage changed his life.

“Someone gave me a cassette of High Voltage, and the second I heard It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock’N’Roll) I immediately ran to the boys [in Saxon] to show it them,” said the singer. “I played it in our van for about five months straight!”

Byford adds that High Voltage altered the DNA of his own band, who were a few years from releasing their debut album and still trying to perfect their sound. “We liked the energy of punk, because it was fast and furious, but we needed AC/DC for that groove,” he recalled. “Put the two together and you get Saxon.”

The Saxon singer reckons that It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock’N’Roll) tells you everything you need to know about being in a rock band and says the rogue-ish menace of Bon Scott’s lyrics were key to what made early AC/DC tick. “Bon wrote great lyrics,” he said. “He was a bit of a gangster, and that stuff is very linked with rock music somehow. When we started out it was a dangerous place! A lot of people from dodgy upbringings, for want of a better word, were always attracted to rock music.”

To read the full piece, including Byford on the time Saxon went on to play with AC/DC after the release of Back In Black and his memories of the first time he saw AC/DC live, plus stars including Paul Stanley, Rick Nielsen, Joe Elliott and more on their favourite AC/DC albums, get the latest issue of Classic Rock here.

Classic Rock AC/DC issue

(Image credit: Future)
Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.