Where To Start With... AC/DC
One of the world's most iconic rock bands and surely the most successful act that Australia has ever produced, AC/DC have been churning out their unique brand of hard rock for almost four decades and next week will see the release of their 16th studio album, Rock or Bust.
Just let that sink in for a moment: 16 albums. That's more than the Beatles managed. It's more than Pink Floyd managed. It's more than pretty much anyone had been able to produce across the length of their careers, and even though they've had the best part of 40 years to achieve that feat, it's still an incredible achievement and one that so nearly didn't happen.
When the band's original singer Bon Scott was pronounced dead in 1980 at the age of 33, the band were just beginning to prepare a follow-up to 1979's Highway To Hell, their biggest-selling album to date. So devastated were they by the loss of their lead vocalist they were seriously considering calling it a day right there and then. They probably would have too, had it not been for an outpouring of support from their loyal fans, not to mention a few words of encouragement from the late singer's mum, who persuaded them that Scott would have wanted them to continue.
So, just a few months later and with a new frontman - the ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson – signed up as Scott's replacement, in July 1980 they released Back in Black, their most successful album and still the world's second-biggest selling LP of all time, after Michael Jackson's Thriller.
With in excess of 200 million album sales under their belts, AC/DC aren't about to start messing with a winning formula, so there are no real surprises to be found on Rock or Bust, but that's unlikely to bother their legion of loyal fans; they'll know exactly what to expect from the new LP, so rather than picking through it track by track, we've picked our five favourite moments from AC/DC's long and distinguished career...
'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap'
Technically the third studio album AC/DC recorded, the title track from 1976's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap is AC/DC by numbers – Angus Young's trademark guitar riffs underpinned by steady, pounding drums and Bon Scott's screeching, howling vocals. It's dirty, it's sleazy, it's pure filth from start to finish. It's also brilliant.
Fun fact: both the album title and its eponymous lead single took their name from a character in Bob Crampet's animated cartoon series Beany & Cecil, a villain named Dishonest John who carried around a business card that bore the words “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Holidays, Sundays and Special Rates.”
'Whole Lotta Rosie'
There is a proud rock tradition of writing songs about girls with a fuller figure: Queen's 'Fat Bottomed Girls', The Smiths' 'Some Girls are Bigger Than Others', Howlin' Wolf's 'Three Hundred Pounds of Joy'... we could go on, but AC/DC's contribution to the plus-size lexicon of songwriting is this cut from their 1977 album Let There Be Rock.
Featuring the killer opening lines “Wanna tell you a story / 'bout a woman I know / When it comes to lovin' / Oh she steals the show”, it's the highlight of the album and still a live favourite over 30 years later.
'Highway To Hell'
The biggest single from their 1979 album of the same name and the last time Bon Scott would front the band after his tragic death from alcohol poisoning the following year, 'Highway to Hell' remains one of their most recognisable anthems, and rightly so.
The entire framework of the song is built around that huge chorus, a formula that the band would go on to perfect on their next full-length release.
'You Shook Me All Night Long'
Now, before we start on this one let's just explain that when we sat down to write this we set ourselves a rule that we would only include one song from each album. The problem is, when it comes to a masterpiece like Back in Black, any omission is a crime in somebody's eyes and even though the title track is the obvious choice, after much discussion we came to the conclusion that 'You Shook Me All Night Long' is the one track that we couldn't leave off this list.
90s grunge act Veruca Salt named their debut album, American Thighs, after one of its lyrics. That may be anecdotal, but it does offer an illustration of just how far the band's influence reaches and it has, in our opinion, one of the biggest and best rock chorus ever written. It's huge, it's euphoric and if it doesn't get your head nodding you may want to check your pulse to make sure you're still alive.
'For Those About To Rock, We Salute You'
Last but by no means least, rounding off our list is this little beauty. The title track from AC/DC's 1981 album is one of their best moments and no live set, no 'greatest hits' compilation would be complete without it.
It has everything that is good about AC/DC. Guitar riffs aplenty? Check. Screeching vocals? Check. Pounding, no-nonsense backbeat? You bet there is.
AC/DC, we salute you...