Planet Rock presents the 10 best songs AC/DC recorded with Bon Scott.
While the Bon Scott vs. Brian Johnson debate will continue to rage for as long as the earth keeps revolving, what is beyond dispute is that the songs written by Bon Scott – in collaboration with Angus Young and the much-missed Malcolm Young – not only set the template for what was to follow, but also altered the history of rock music.
And in celebration, here are the 10 best Bon Scott AC/DC songs with which they did precisely that:
10. Ride On
About the closest that early AC/DC ever approached to balladry, ‘Ride On’ is a track that revels in the blues. A lament about overcoming late night loneliness by heading to where the red lights shine, the song is humanised by Bon Scott’s vulnerability and the band’s restrained yet sympathetically mournful delivery.
9. Down Payment Blues
With many aficionados declaring ‘Powerage’ as AC/DC’s high water mark, it’s worth considering the factors that contribute to this opinion. The only album not to marked by sexual innuendo, it distills AC/DC’s classic sound with the hardest and driest mix they ever created. And driving it all were Bon Scott’s most vulnerable and downbeat lyrics, of which ‘Down Payment Blues’ are among his very best. If you want a picture that sums them up, then the image of the “fifty cent millionaire” is it.
8. Gone Shootin’
The story of a doomed love affair with a junkie, ‘Gone Shootin’’ contains the starkest set of lyrics ever written by Bon Scott. Yet juxtaposed against them is the band’s ability to roll as much as it rocks with a groove that’s as deep as it is wide. Heavy without being heavy-handed, this satisfies the head as much as the hips.
7. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Leaving aside the questionable wisdom of a hitman advertising his home phone number, the title track of AC/DC’s second internationally released album hits the spot for all the right reasons. Fuelled by one of the band’s more memorable riffs, Bon Scott mischievously lists a range of dirty deeds in which to dispose of his victims. And is it a coincidence that two of them are AC/DC song titles?
6. Touch Too Much
Rarely played live (except when Axl Rose revived it in 2016), ‘Touch Too Much’ was AC/DC’s biggest hit to date upon its release. Performing the track on Top Of The Pops just 12 days before Bon Scott’s death, it’s satisfying to think of the image of “Venus with arms” being beamed into the living rooms of the nation while winning over new fans.
A song that’s remained firmly ensconced in AC/DC’s set list throughout their career, ‘TNT’ is very much the number that cements Bon Scott’s image as a lover and not a fighter. Because, as he warns you to lock up your womenfolk, it’s not really his fists you should be worrying about anyway…
4. Let There Be Rock
Widely regarded as AC/DC’s first truly great album, ‘Let There Be Rock’’s title track condenses 22 years of rock’n’roll history into just over six minutes of hi-octane brilliance. Everything here was bigger and better than what had gone before and from here on in, there was no looking back.
3. Whole Lotta Rosie (Live)
While the original studio version was recorded while Angus Young’s amp was slowly catching fire, this live reading from AC/DC’s first live album, ‘If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)’ is where they really turn up the heat. The ‘Angus! Angus!’ chants that usher in the number are arguably now as much a part of the song as the colossal riff that surrounds them and Bon Scott’s lascivious tale of an amorous encounter with a generously proportioned lover.
2. It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll)
The popular perception of Bon Scott songs is that they’re work of a toilet wall poet yet, as evidenced by ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll)’ – the opening track of AC/DC’s first internationally released album ‘High Volatage’ – nothing could be further from the truth. Stripping away the romantic view of life on the road, this is an uncompromising look at the realities of the journey from the gutter to the stars that reveals Bon Scott as a lyricist of perception and flair.
1. Highway To Hell
Bon Scott’s death in 1980 came at the moment at where he should’ve started the reaping the rewards of his groundwork, and in ‘Highway To Hell’ it seemed as if he’d finally made sense of the journey of which he’d embarked. Not only one of Angus Young’s most famous riffs but also that of the entire rock cannon, this is exactly what a verbal and aural statement of intent sounds like.