‘Let There Be Rock’
The title track from their 1977 LP, AC/DC have played this at every gig since 1978. It was recorded so loud that Angus Young’s amp exploded. He recalls: “Malcolm watched it with crazed eyes, and he told me ‘Come on! Keep on playing!’ while the stuff was steaming.” Here’s Angus playing it an early gig to less than 100 people in 1979. (All images by Philip Morris)
‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’
Bon Scott is pictured here recording the song in 1976. The title was inspired by the cartoon ‘Beany and Cecil’, which Angus Young watched when he was a child. In a 2008 episode of ‘The Simpsons’ it transpires that Ned Flanders is a fan of a Christian AC/DC tribute band, and their censored version of the song, ‘Kindly Deeds Done For Free’.
From 1975’s ‘High Voltage’, this track was originally called ‘The Clap’. As that name suggests, it was about venereal disease, which the band had significant experience of when they shared a house in Australia in the early 1970s. This picture shows the band rehearsing ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ in 1976.
The opening track from ‘The Razor’s Edge’ (1990) was inspired by a near-death experience. Guitarist Angus Young was travelling in a plane that got caught in a violent thunderstorm. The terror he experienced inspired the song title. This picture was taken many years earlier, at AC/DC’s first ever headline gig in Victoria Park, 1975.
‘Whole Lotta Rosie’
From 1977’s ‘Let There Be Rock’, this tribute to a 19-stone woman who is amazing in bed was based on singer Bon Scott’s personal experience. Traditionally, at live shows the song is accompanied by a giant inflatable woman stalking the stage. Spinal Tap’s ‘Big Bottom’ is an affectionate parody of ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’.
‘You Shook Me All Night Long’
This was the first track vocalist Brian Johnson wrote with the band following the death of Bon Scott (pictured). Johnson says of the track: “To me, it might be one of the best rock songs ever written – if I do say so myself.” A 2002 version featuring Celine Dion and Anastacia was recently voted the worst cover of all time.
‘It’s A Long Way To The Top’
This 1975 single is notable for the inclusion of bagpipes. Singer Bon Scott (pictured here hell-raising during a break from the studio in 1976) had mastered the instrument as a child growing up in Kirriemuir, Scotland (he’d been a member of the Coastal Scottish Pipe Band).
‘Back In Black’
The title track from the biggest rock album of all time was based on a riff that Malcolm Young had been playing as a warm-up exercise for years. A tribute to Bon Scott, who died six months before its release (“Forget the hearse/’Cause I never die”), the track became a highlight of Glastonbury 2008 when Jay-Z used it as a soundbed for ’99 Problems’.
‘For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)’
The title/chorus is based on an ancient salute used by Roman gladiators (“Hail Caesar, we, who are about to die, salute you!”). The cannon sounds were inspired by Charles and Diana’s 1981 wedding celebrations: when AC/DC were rehearsing the song the royal wedding was on TV in the next room. Artillery sounds could be heard through the walls.
‘Highway To Hell’
AC/DC’s first monster hit (1979) is often said to be about the perils of touring (as well as an ironic reversal of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’). Actually, there is a more literal explanation. ‘Highway To Hell’ was the nickname given to Canning Highway, a stretch of road in Australia that led to singer Bon Scott’s favourite pub, The Raffles.