Since forming in Australia in 1973, AC/DC have defied the odds time and again to become one of rock’s biggest success stories. The band’s iconic comeback album, ‘Back In Black’, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, is one of the best-selling albums in history. The band have aso churned out more bluesy rockers with some form of the word “rock” in the title than any other.
Every one of these songs boasts big chords, big choruses and those signature Angus Young guitar solos – but some just stand out more than others. In the spirit of rock‘n’roll, here’s a definitive list of the whole rockin’ lot of ’em.
23‘Rockin’ In The Parlour’ (1974)
Upon hearing this song you may be thinking, “What sort of cruel trick is this? This isn’t AC/DC!” Sorry to break it to you, but it is technically AC/DC, only the Young brothers hadn’t discovered the rock god that was Bon Scott and had some guy named Dave Evans singing with them. Lyrically, it’s not that far away from so many of the band’s later songs, but for your sanity, it’s probably best to just pretend this song isn’t part of the band’s library.
Does it rock, though? The only way this would rock is if we lived in a universe were songs like ‘T.N.T.’ and ‘Hells Bells’ didn’t exist.
22‘Rock The Blues Away’ (2014)
If glossy country singer Luke Bryan were tasked with writing an AC/DC song, this is what it would sound like. AC/DC have many songs about having a good time, but this sounds a little too much like Angus was simply trying to write something that might make for a good beer commercial. It has the standard Angus solo and big Brian Johnson chorus, but lacks the personality of so many of their other songs.
Will it rock your blues away? Eh – it’ll make for background noise while waiting for your hot wings to arrive.
21‘Rocking All The Way’ (2008)
This song isn’t bad, it just isn’t nearly as strong as other songs AC/DC has delivered over the years – it’s not even as good as the other cuts on the ‘Black Ice’ album. Consider this: the song’s chorus is “She’s rockin’ all the way” and, while it’s not terrible, they already have a better song called ‘She Likes Rock ‘N’ Roll’ on the same album.
Does it really rock all the way? Let’s just say that if it had been dropped from the album, the rock wouldn’t have suffered.
20‘Whiskey On The Rocks’ (1995)
Alcohol has played a part in AC/DC since the beginning. While ‘Whiskey on the Rocks’ certainly delivers on big power chords and the promise of a good time, the lyrics aren’t what one imagines when hanging at the bar with AC/DC. With references to Lemon Drops, Mai Tais and Singapore slings, you can’t help but wonder if AC/DC wrote this while on a Caribbean cruise.
Is it a shot of rock? Yes, but it leaves a weird taste.
19‘Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll’ (2000)
Just in case fans didn’t get the memo that “Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t never gonna die” with 1980’s ‘Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution’, AC/DC thought it was a good idea to issue a reminder 20 years later. The pre-chorus of “Don’t you give me no lies” and chorus of “You can’t stop rock ‘n’ roll” make up 90% of the song, but it’s an effective message.
Rockability: It rocks… just very repetitively.
18‘Rock Your Heart Out’ (1990)
‘Thunderstruck’ and ‘Moneytalks’ were the big hits from this multi-platinum comeback album, and this track gets buried along the better-known singles. Unlike its predecessors, Johnson handed off lyrical duties to the Young brothers, but you really can’t tell from the song’s command to keep rockin’ at all costs necessary. It seems to be a trend in AC/DC songs, in case you hadn’t noticed.
Will it rock you? Sure, just not as hard as others.
17‘Rock Or Bust’ (2014)
How AC/DC made it 40 years without using the lyric “In rock we trust” is sort of a miracle. A lesser band would have surely relied on that lyric by the third album. If it sounds like AC/DC were kind of going through the motions with this album, that perhaps because they had to make it without the aid of longtime rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young, due to his ill health. The song doesn’t deliver any surprises, but it also doesn’t fall short when compared to many of the band’s biggest Brian Johnson-era hits.
Is this song a bust? Nah, it still rocks.
16‘There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin’’ (1976)
AC/DC have always been a blues band pushing their amps to maximum volume, but early songs like ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ track make it incredibly apparent how much of an influence Elvis and Chuck Berry had on the band. ‘Jailbreak’ and the title track might have more headbang appeal, but this track showcases the band’s musical foundation.
Will there be some rockin’? Yes, but it’s more of the toe-tappin’ variety.
15‘Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder’ (2014)
With lyrics like “Hey, hey, hey / I got some rock and roll thunder”, the band might not be trying to stretch their lyrical chops, but so what? Props to them for still finding catchy ways to incorporate “rock” into a chorus more than 38 years into their career. The song is a bit of a paint-by-numbers AC/DC jam, but it still manages to get the job done and rock the listener.
Rock scale: Six out of 10 devil horns.
14‘That’s The Way I Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll’ (1988)
Big guitars aside, this song is worth a listen if for no reason other than to hear Brian Johnson growl out nonsense lyrics like “Oh be bopper lubba baby.” Perhaps he was trying to channel the late, great Little Richard? The song’s lyrics about wanting to turn off the rest of the world and simply rock out should appeal to anybody who needs a break from the responsibilities of everyday life.
Will it make you wanna rock out? A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-rock!
13‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Dream’ (2008)
Contrary to popular belief, rockin’ isn’t always about getting laid and partying your ass off. As AC/DC show us with this sombre, bluesy number, sometimes it’s about trying to make sense of life’s ups and downs. Malcolm Young’s arpeggiated guitar work, complementing Angus’ lead fills in the verse, make for a refreshing departure from the band’s typical hard-hitting chords. Don’t worry, though, they don’t stray too far and still come back big for the chorus.
Will you be rockin’? Sure, but you’ll be thinkin’ and contemplatin’ at the same time.
12‘Rock The House’ (2014)
If you’re keeping score, this is the fourth song from ‘Rock Or Bust’ with “rock” in the title, and it’s definitely the best one. Angus Young kicks right into the sort of looping guitar riff that Joe Perry had abandoned by 1977. Even with the absence of Malcolm, cousin Stevie Young and rhythmic duo Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams hold down a fast-paced rhythm for the song’s 2:42 runtime. With lyrics like “Hold on tight, she plays a tease / Squeeze you around, she aim to please,” the song fits right in with the band’s other tongue-in-cheek numbers.
Will your house be rocking? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is – very much so.
11‘R.I.P. (Rock In Peace)’ (1976)
Much like AC/DC’s previous entry ‘That’s The Way I Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll’, the song is all about wanting to shut off the rest of the world and crank up the rock. This time, though, the lyrics are courtesy of Bon Scott and the music delivers more of a boogie feel than the power chords of the 1980s jam. While Scott doesn’t borrow any of Little Richard’s lyrical style, he does reference the late singer, as well as Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry.
Will you be rockin’? Again, the answer here is a definite “yes.”
10‘She Likes Rock n Roll’ (2008)
This song was a track on AC/DC’s massive, massive-selling Black Ice album, but could have easily been written 28 years earlier as a B-side for ‘You Shook Me All Night Long.’ A real highlight of the song is Malcom Young’s “She digs rock ‘n’ roll/ She gives rock ‘n’ roll” background vocals that ring like a nod to ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.’
Does it rock? Considering that “rock” is mentioned 21 times in the song –um, yes.
9‘Hard As A Rock’ (1995)
From the simple intro Angus plays over the guitar’s ringing B and high E strings to Malcom’s pounding chord shuffle, ‘Hard As A Rock’ does indeed rock quite hard. Like so many AC/DC songs, Johnson is singing about a woman he has the hots for and you can probably guess what he’s talking about in the chorus when he sings “Well, it’s harder than a rock.” ‘Ballbreaker’ was somewhat of a lacklustre album, but this song is a clear standout amid some more forgettable tunes.
Does it have rock power? Yes, it rocks harder than… well, you know.
With rockabilly swing and punk attitude, ‘Rocker’ is one of AC/DC’s few songs that isn’t mid-tempo, but instead is a fast-paced jolt of chaotic energy. Bon Scott describes himself as a “wheeler… dealer… woman stealer… a bruiser… a cruiser” and it’s easy to believe every word he says. Angus Young’s guitar solo is straight out of the Chuck-Berry-on-speed playbook, and the band set the stage early that they were rockers ready to bring the rock.
Is it a rocker? Damn straight it is.
7‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Singer’ (1975)
This ‘T.N.T.’ track didn’t take off the way the album’s other singles did, but paints a biographical picture of singer Bon Scott’s aspirations to be a musician. Scott, of course, nails it with the chorus, but it’s also the little details that make the song – like when he quips “I had other plans” and “I’m all ears,” before belting out his destiny of becoming a rock star. In a similar vein to Waylon Jennings’ and Willie Nelson’s ‘Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,’ Scott testifies that “nine to five livin’” isn’t for him.
Does it bring the rock? The song brought it 45 years ago and it still brings it in 2020.
6‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Train’ (2008)
It’s a damn shame that classic rock radio doesn’t occasionally give ‘Highway to Hell’ a break to play this all out rock monster. As we’ve already noted, ‘Black Ice’ was the band’s biggest album in years and this was one of their catchiest tunes in a long, long time. It might not have a chance at claiming the rock ‘n’ roll title for train songs from ‘Crazy Train,’ but with its can’t-help-but-sing chorus, this is a train ride worth taking.
Is this song’s engine built to rock? There’s no stopping this rock locomotive.
5‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Damnation’ (1978)
‘Powerage’ has some great songs like ‘Sin City’ and ‘Down Payment Blues’ – and you’ll never hear any of them on the radio. ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Damnation’ was the only single released from the album and how it failed to become an instant classic is a mystery. It’s unclear what kind of song the listener is in for upon the opening chords, but once that drum beat kicks in, it becomes apparent that the song is going to be three minutes of good time, rock‘n’roll bliss.
Is this rock damnation worthy? From Scott’s and Malcom’s dual vocals on the chorus to the guitar solo, it’s one hell of a fun tune.
4‘It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)’ (1975)
Dropkick Murphys may be the premier rock band when it comes to using bagpipes in their songs, but AC/DC did it first (reportedly at the suggestion of Angus and Malcom’s older brother). Whether you’re in a band trying to make it big, or paying your dues in an entry-level desk job, this anthem about slugging it out in the trenches is one of rock’s greatest pep rallies. Surely just about everyone can relate to the lyrics “Gettin’ ripped off/ Underpaid” at some point in their life, right?
Is it rock worthy? Go ahead and turn it up to 11.
3‘Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution’ (1980)
So many AC/DC songs start off loud right out of the gate, but Angus and company take a step back with a bluesy intro that could have easily been written on an acoustic guitar. Add to that Brian Johnson’s casual way of speaking his lyrics in the beginning, and the song sets the listener up perfectly for its bombastic chorus. Critics have been warning of rock’s demise for years, but as Johnson testifies “It will survive / Yes it will.”
Is it noise pollution? No noise pollution here, just A+ rock ‘n’ roll.
2‘Let There Be Rock’ (1977)
Another rare uptempo gem in AC/DC’s catalog with unbelievable rhythm playing from drummer Phil Rudd. With Bon Scott playing the role of a rock ‘n’ roll preacher, he delivers his own electrified gospel to the masses and it’s impossible not to be swept up in it. Oh, and as far as guitar solos go? Godspeed to any aspiring guitarists who want to match Angus Young’s ferocity lick-for-lick here.
Is it a blessing from the rock gods? It rocks straight from the heavens.
1‘For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)’ (1981)
From Angus’ lead riff in the song’s opening to that first drum fill, it’s instantly apparent with this song that AC/DC has set out to do one thing and one thing only: rock their balls off. There isn’t an AC/DC fan alive who doesn’t sing out Johnson’s call of “Stand up and be counted/ For what you are about to receive.” One couldn’t be faulted for declaring this to be rock’s greatest ode to itself. The band could have easily dropped the ball after their hugely popular comeback album ‘Back In Black’, but instead delivered one of their best songs.
How hard does it rock? 10 out of 10 cannons. Fire!