Today we have the next release from AC/DC, in what would prove to be their last album with singer Bon Scott, who sadly died from alcohol overdose just a few months after the release of “Highway to Hell”. I believe my friend Jim used to make the case that this was AC/DC’s best album. I’m not quite sure I’m ready to make that leap, but I do think it is their best overall record in the Bon Scott era, and it contains one of my absolute all-time favorite AC/DC songs (no, not the title track).
However, starting with that infamous riff and title track, it certainly is a brand-defining song from the band. Most of their music has always centered around an excess in lifestyle with a hint of darkness, and this song is certainly no exception. Meant more figuratively than literally, it was certainly misinterpreted by many, particularly with Scott’s unfortunate demise. No matter how many times I have heard this song, which is certainly in the thousands, I still reach for the volume, and I don’t personally feel I’m headed for an eternity of damnation. I just like good rock and roll music.
The AC/DC formula is almost painfully simple. Opening riff from Angus and/or Malcolm Young, verse one, chorus one, verse two, chorus two, Angus guitar solo, chorus three, chorus four, outro and/or explosive last chord. On rare occasion they do mix it up a bit, and sometimes with great results, but this formula has served them as successfully as any band ever. The one reason I would shy away from rating this as their best album is the majority of the songs are slightly bland, and not as exciting to me. Don’t get me wrong, I could listen to Angus and Malcom play all night, even with these songs, and be very happy, but many of them I wouldn’t go out of my way to play on repeat. One interesting observation on this set of songs, other than the fact they are all dripping with double-entendre, or maybe just… entendre. On the song “Beating Around the Bush”, the riff is pretty much a carbon copy of the song “Oh Well” by Fleetwood Mac.
Let’s talk more about some of the standout tracks on the record. “Walk All Over You” is a great riff and a step outside the norm. One of my favorite songs, along with a great solo, is “Shot Down in Flames”, and another really good one, fully adorned with the AC/DC horror show, is “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)”. And speaking of horror shows, let’s turn our attention to my favorite song on the album and perhaps in their catalog, “Night Prowler”, a lovely ode to a nocturnal serial killer. Is it a bit macabre and gruesome? Of course, but we are close to Halloween. Somewhat similar to “Ride On”, it has a very bluesy feel. Phil Rudd’s drumming is fantastic, Bon Scott’s chilling story-telling fits the mood perfectly, and the building terror and groove of this song is just so good. Even as a relatively familiar AC/DC fan you may not know this song, but be sure to get it on to your Halloween playlist ASAP.
Bon Scott was notably older than the Young brothers, but his confidence and prowess got him into the band. His tawdry and bold style fit the band and their sound well, and his untimely passing left a major hole in the band, just as they were hitting their stride and finding worldwide success. Only time would tell if they could overcome this loss.
“No stop signs, speed limit, nobody’s gonna slow me down. Like a wheel, gonna spin it, Nobody’s gonna mess me around. Hey Satan… Payin’ my dues, Playin’ in a rockin’ band… Hey mama, look at me… I’m on my way to the promised land…”