This will be the first of a three part series recognizing the three eras of AC/DC: the Bon Scott era, the Brian Johnson era, and Axl Rose/RIP Malcolm Young era.
Three chords. Some of the most thunderous and memorable riffs in the history of rock music. Songs that are played in sports stadiums everywhere. Packing stadiums and arenas around the world. My readers, the attributes I listed are just a few of the attributes that arguably one of the most legendary bands in rock history possess, and that is AC/DC. Not to mention a crazy guitarist that dresses up like a schoolboy for every show and his antics would inspire Jack Black’s movie “School of Rock”.
I’m fast forwarding past the Dave Evans era(which was very brief and discusses the formation of the band), and heading into the Bon Scott era of AC/DC. Bon Scott, had a timely and convenient audition as he was the band’s chauffeur and in 1974, the Australia only album “High Voltage” was recorded. The Australia exclusive release showcased a bit of glam rock elements in the AC/DC sound and the Australia release included an old blues cover of “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, which was originally done by Joe Williams’ Washboard Blues Singers. After this, the band recruited Phil Rudd on the drums and Mark Evans on the bass. Then AC/DC would catch fire for the rock anthem(one of many rock anthems) “It’s A Long Way To The Top”, which they released as a single and video for the show “Countdown”. The song is considered to the number 3 greatest rock song in Australian rock history, was featured in the credits of “School of Rock”, and it’s been heard at rugby matches, the 2010 Tour de France, and even the Golf Channel. The song has been covered by numerous bands including Iced Earth, Motorhead, Dropkick Murphys, and even Hanson! The song even has bagpipes, check it out!
In 1975, AC/DC released their second Australia/New Zealand exclusive release entitled “T.N.T.”. The album was recorded in Albert Studios in Sydney and this album showcased the permanent direction of AC/DC from glam rock to their trademark rock-n-roll sound. Seven of the nine songs were written by the Young brothers. The album included the smash “It’s A Long Way To The Top”, “T.N.T.”, and the blues hit “(She’s Got) The Jack”, which was created after a false rumor that a member of AC/DC gave a woman VD. The album also included a cover of “School Days”, originally done by Chuck Berry. Check out “T.N.T.” below.
The success of “High Voltage” and “T.N.T” caused AC/DC to sign an international record deal with Atlantic Records, and they released “High Voltage”, which was a compilation of the aforementioned Australian releases. Despite only peaking at Number 146 on the Billboard 200, the album would eventually sell three million units in the United States alone, and this was accomplished despite scathing reviews by the likes of Rolling Stone magazine.
In 1976, AC/DC would release “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”, it was released in Australia and Europe in 1976, however, not released in the United States until 1981. The title track is one of AC/DC’s most famous songs and it actually features an Australian phone number “36-24-36”, and it was written in inspiration to a cartoon called “Beany and Cecil” that Angus Young used to love watching. The song “Problem Child” was written about Angus Young and there was a lawsuit over 36-24-26 in “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” where a couple from Illinois would somehow receive hundreds of prank phone calls due to the numbers in the song. The album also features an original version of “Jailbreak” and a song about ballrooms entitled “Big Balls”. “Big Balls” and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” would both chart at No. 26 and No. 4 respectively on the Billboard Mainstream Rock tracks and the album would sell over six million copies in the United States, including going platinum in Australia and Germany. The album would peak at No. 3 in the Billboard 200. Check out the title track below.
As a result of this success, AC/DC would perform at a residency at The Marquee in London, United Kingdom, setting attendance records. In 1977, they would tour Europe with Black Sabbath and legend has it that Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath pulled a knife on Malcolm Young of AC/DC after an argument. They would also tour with Rainbow later on in 1977. Mark Evans was fired from the band and Cliff Williams would replace Mark on bass.
In 1978, AC/DC would release “Powerage”. The album features more of a blues side to AC/DC. Despite no major singles, the album would sell over a million copies in the United States and it charted at No. 136 on the Billboard 200. It included the single “Rock & Roll Damnation/Sin City”. AC/DC would also release in Europe a live compilation album entitled “If You Want Blood, You Got It”, and it would peak at No. 13 on the U.K. Pop Charts.
In 1979, AC/DC would tap Mutt Lange as their producer and they would write their biggest album in the Bon Scott era entitled “Highway To Hell”. Much to Atlantic Records chagrin, they would release the title track as the lead single. The song is rumored to be talking about Bon Scott’s alcoholic and partying lifestyle, which ultimately led to his death in 1980. The song “Night Prowler” was rumored to be about serial killer Richard Ramirez. The title track would peak at Number 47 on the Billboard Pop Charts and number 4 on U.K.’s Top 40 Pop Charts. This album showed a different direction from “Powerage”, as a lot of the songs were essentially a celebration of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. The album would peak at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 as well. The album also featured the single “Girl’s Got Rhythm”, and the album would sell over seven million copies in the United States. The title track would be featured on numerous movies such as Empire Records, Final Destination 5, The Longest Yard, and Iron Man 2. Check out the title track below.
On Tuesday, February 19th, 1980, tragedy struck the band. After a night of partying, Bon Scott was left in a flat to “sleep it off” after a night of drinking in Camden Town. Bon Scott never woke up, he was pronounced dead at the scene due to alcohol poisoning. Malcolm Young took the liberty to notify Scott’s parents. AC/DC had the idea of disbanding but Scott’s parents insisted that the band go find a new singer to replace Bon Scott. Brian Johnson would replace Bon Scott as the vocalist for AC/DC. We will have part two of AC/DC.
Madness To Creation’s take: I always preferred AC/DC with the Bon Scott era as opposed to the Brian Johnson era. I just enjoyed his vocals more, as I’ve always felt that Brian’s voice seemed forced whereas Bon’s voice sounded more natural. There is no denying AC/DC’s place in rock history with those memorable riffs and they are classified in my view as the quintessential stadium rock band. 10 out of 10 for Bon Scott era AC/DC.