Synopsis of Pop Music
"Back in black, I hit the sack,
I've been too long, I'm glad to be back..."
Few bands in rock and roll are as reliable as AC/DC. No matter which album a listener picks up, they can always count on the fact that they will be on the receiving end of a pile of butt-kicking guitar riffs, some raunchy humor, and a straight-up dose of rock and roll attitude. While other pop musicians of the 1970’s were experimenting with the frills of genres like art-rock and disco, this heavy-metal outfit carved out a style that represented rock at its purest, combining a bare-bones style with a frenetic sense of energy and drive. As a result, they became the kings of the hard-rock heap.
AC/DC was formed in 1973 by guitar-playing brothers Angus and Malcolm Young. Music ran in the family: Their brother George found fame as a member of The Easybeats, who scored a worldwide hit in the 1960’s with “Friday On My Mind.” As they began playing live, 15-year-old Angus began wearing his school outfit (black jacket and shorts plus tie) on stage. This unique look would eventually become his trademark. Tough-guy vocalist Bon Scott joined up the next year, his raw vocals adding the crowning touch to the band’s raucous, guitar-driven sound. They recorded rough and ready albums like High Voltage and TNT over the next couple of years as they perfected their mix of power chords and in-your-face attitude.
By 1976, AC/DC was ready to take on the world. High Voltage was given its first release in America (including several tracks lifted from TNT). They also began touring the U.S. and the U.K. As Bon Scott’s macho swagger and Angus Young’s schoolboy antics won the crowds over, they released Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap back home in Australia (the U.S. release wouldn't arrive until four years later). In 1977, AC/DC released Let There Be Rock. The classic title-track was a rock and roll history lesson driven by power chords and played at lightning speed. This album boasted one of AC/DC’s biggest fan favorites in a stomping, lusty rocker called “Whole Lotta Rosie.”
In 1978, AC/DC continued to build their fan base with Powerage. This album was full of lean, riff-driven songs like “Rock and Roll Damnation” and “Sin City.” Meanwhile, their persistent touring had made them a live favorite. A good example of their live sound from this era can be found of the smoking live album If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It. In 1979, AC/DC took a step towards the pop mainstream with Highway To Hell. Although this album still had power chords to spare, it also boasted a carefully-produced sound and some well-placed pop hooks like the sing-along choruses in “Touch Too Much” and the title track. As a result, Highway To Hell became the hit that raised AC/DC to international fame.
As the 1980’s began, AC/DC was dealt a severe blow when frontman Bon Scott died an alcohol-related death. Just the same, the band knew Scott would have wanted them to move on. They quickly recruited new singer Brian Johnson and returned to the studio to record the last songs they had penned with Scott. The result was one of the all-time classics of hard rock, Back In Black. This hard-rock epic that covered all the bases: partying hard (“Shoot To Thrill”), chasing women (“What Do You Do For Money Honey”), and the love of rock music (“Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”). By the end of the year, Back In Black had become a multi-million seller and even launched a Top-40 hit in “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
AC/DC were firmly established as the kings of hard rock by the time they issued For Those About To Rock We Salute You. It became their first #1 album, and its title track, which featured the sound of a cannon firing, became a radio and concert favorite. AC/DC continued to score big throughout the mid-1980’s with albums like Flick Of The Switch and Fly On The Wall. They also did some original tunes for Stephen King’s directing debut, Maximum Overdrive. These songs were paired up with other AC/DC classics used in that film on a compilation album called Who Made Who. The blood-pumping title track became another radio favorite. In 1988, AC/DC closed out the decade with Blow Up Your Video, which featured the MTV fave "Heatseeker."
1990 brought a hit for AC/DC in the form of The Razor’s Edge. This hard-rocking yet slickly-produced album harkened back to the glory days of Back In Black and produced notable pop hits in “Thunderstruck” and “Moneytalks.” The band followed this success with an well-attended international tour that was documented in album and video form as AC/DC Live. In 1995, AC/DC teamed up with Beastie Boys and Slayer producer Rick Rubin to create Ballbreaker, a hit that was also one of their most critically well-received albums. In 1997, AC/DC took a look back by releasing a box-set tribute to the Bon Scott era called Bonfire.
As the new millennium begins, AC/DC carries on with their tried-and-true hard rock style. Most recently, they have released the album Stiff Upper Lip. That album's success proved that AC/DC’s no-frills combination of riffs and attitude is something that will never go out of style.
"All my friends are gonna be there too,
I'm on the Highway to Hell..."
Artist Release History10/76 - High Voltage
07/77 - Let There Be Rock
05/78 - Powerage
12/78 - If You Want Blood, You've Got It
08/79 - Highway To Hell
08/80 - Back In Black
05/81 - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
11/81 - For Those About To Rock We Salute You
08/83 - Flick Of The Switch
10/84 - '74 Jailbreak
07/85 - Fly On The Wall
05/86 - Who Made Who
02/88 - Blow Up Your Video
09/90 - The Razor's Edge
10/92 - AC/DC Live
09/95 - Ballbreaker
11/97 - Bonfire
02/00 - Stiff Upper Lip
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music AlbumsHighway To Hell (Atlantic)
Back In Black (Atlantic)
Band MembersBon Scott vocals (1973-80)
Brian Johnson vocals (1980- )
Angus Young guitar
Malcolm Young guitar
Mark Evans bass (1973-77)
Phil Rudd drums
Cliff Williams bass (1977- )