Bon Scott remains one of the most beloved and celebrated singers in rock history.
Fronting AC/DC from 1974 until his untimely death in 1980, Scott’s legacy lies in a small, but mighty collection of albums that are essential building blocks for the hard rock genre.
In honor of Scott’s birthday (July 9), we break down those albums to his 25 best songs with AC/DC.
Whether you've successfully snuck into someone's bedroom past curfew or only dreamed of that happening in your youth, "Night Prowler" is the perfect soundtrack for that moment. The song closes out 'Highway to Hell' and ends with Scott quoting the ABC sitcom 'Mork & Mindy' catchphrase, "Shazbot, Nanu nanu." The moment has taken an odd poignant turn especially since the death of Robin Williams, who played the titular Mork.
AC/DC have never exactly been masters of subtlety. Some bands like a side order of raunch, but for AC/DC, it’s the main course, and “Go Down”…well…it’s pretty obvious what it’s about. It's an outstanding opening track on ‘Let There Be Rock’ with a bold riff to boot.
‘Powerage’ is an AC/DC fan favorite for a reason, but one of its most underappreciated songs might be “What’s Next to the Moon,” who’s murder plotline allusions can almost be overlooked thanks to its (ahem) killer groove.
“And I got patches on the patches/On my old blue jeans.” Simply put, “Ain’t No Fun (Waiting ‘Round to Be a Millionaire)” exemplifies the hustle and struggle of trying to make it. Think of it as the bluesy cousin of “It’s a Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll),” which will be coming up later on this list.
An anthem and middle finger to traditional lifestyles, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer,” like a lot of AC/DC songs, has a brilliant bridge: “Well you can stick your nine-to-five livin’/And your collar and your tie/You can stick your moral standards/’Cause it’s all a dirty lie/You can stick you golden handshake/And you can stick your silly rules/And all the other s---/That you teach to kids in school/’Cause I ain’t no fool.”
Let’s just be blunt: This is a song about a less-than-great relationship that should just call it quits, but the sex is outstanding. What’s a troubled-in-love person to do? Obviously, stick around. Did we mention the sex is outstanding?
Once again, AC/DC is far from subtle, but they sure were clever about it with “The Jack.” Who knew a poker metaphor about contracting some sort of STI could be so infectious? (Wait...strike that. Let’s just go with “fun and catchy.”) A highlight during every AC/DC show, “The Jack” has been on the setlist a total of 1,742 times making it the most-played song in the band’s history according to Setlist.fm.
The slower tempo of "Love Hungry Man" adds to its seduction and is about as close to crooning Scott ever got. Angus Young's solo drips with bluesy swagger and really put this underrated track over the top.
“Bring on the dancing girls and put the champagne on ice!” Sometimes, excess is best. “Sin City” proves that, and also features one of Angus Young’s most underrated, blistering solos ever.
As far as songs about unsuccessfully trying to pick up a woman at a bar go, "Shot Down In Flames" might just be the coolest, most unapologetically badass one of all time. Sure, Scott didn't get the girl, but he still seems to be having a blast in the process. "Ain't it a shame" this track was never released as a single! Its big chorus is super radio-friendly.
Despite AC/DC’s debut international release being panned by some critics, ‘High Voltage’ is brimming with straight-up bangers. The title track is one of them, and it brings the LP to a boisterous close, particularly during the final pre-chorus when Bon Scott lets out an electric scream that would offer a glimpse of the vocal brilliance he’d lay down on AC/DC’s next four albums.
When it comes to AC/DC, it’s often the case that the dirtier the lyrics, the better the song. "Touch Too Much" might be one of the prime examples of that train of thought, especially when the first verse contains the lyrics, "I was so satisfied/Deep down inside/Like a hand in a velvet glove." A fan-favorite, "Touch Too Much" famously was never performed live... until 2016, and we can thank Axl Rose for that. Rose filled in on vocals on AC/DC's last tour after Brian Johnson was forced to exit due to hearing issues. Rose, a big AC/DC fan himself, helped introduce some deeper cuts to the setlist, and "Touch Too Much" might just be his finest achievement on that front.
AC/DC ought to have a collective PhD in writing amazing grooves. One of their finest was “Gone Shootin’,” which was also featured in the 1996 film ‘Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.’ Fun fact: The film isn’t the only Beavis and Butt-Head connection that “Gone Shootin’” has. In the film’s IMDb profile, Mike Judge is cited saying on the film’s DVD commentary that Beavis and Butt-Head's TV theme song is the riff from “Gone Shootin’” played backwards. To quote Beavis, “Kick ass!”
From its grizzly premise to its video, everything about “Jailbreak” is pretty perfect. It was first featured on the Australian release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, but it finally received a proper release in the US, Canada and Japan on the 1984 EP ’74 Jailbreak. (Better late than never.) Also, the bridge is just outstanding: “Heartbeats, they were racing/Freedom, he was chasin’/Spotlights, sirens/Rifles firing/But he made it out...with a bullet in his back.”
“Gimme a Bullet” presents a unique scenario as a fan. It makes you wonder who broke Bon Scott’s heart so badly that led him to write these lyrics. (“Gimme a bullet to bite on, something to chew/Gimme a bullet to bite on, and I’ll make believe/I’ll make believe it’s you.”) However, it also makes you thankful for said person, because they helped inspire one incredibly brutal, badass breakup song.
Built on a backbone of a bold, minimalist riff, “Problem Child” exudes danger and swagger out the gate and it never lets up even as the track comes to a close. After all, even the “Problem Child” makes a point to say that even their mother hates them. That *really* says something.
The closest AC/DC has ever gotten to a ballad, “Ride On” just makes you ache. Most of us can relate (perhaps a little too well) to “another empty bottle and another empty bed.” Bon Scott’s gravely vocals are hair-raising, as are Angus Young’s sustained blues solos.
The gospel according to AC/DC, “Let There Be Rock” has a little fun with the inherent bombast of some religious sermons by telling the story of how rock and roll came to be. “The white man had the schmaltz/The black man had the blues/No one knew what they was gonna do/But Tchaikovsky had the news.” Those lyrics were so prolific, Brian Johnson recited them at the opening of his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech back in 2003 as a nod to Bon Scott who wrote them.
The opening track on ‘High Voltage,’ “It’s a Long Way...” proved two things: AC/DC were not to be messed with and bagpipes, when accompanied by the guitars of Angus and Malcolm Young, can be incredibly badass. Songs like this can only be written when a band is just starting out and fighting tooth and nail for their big break. Unlike other bands, however, AC/DC didn’t lose the edge of “It’s a Long Way...” as they continued to put out subsequent albums. They stuck to their guns and have maintained their grit for decades.
AC/DC is all about lust, but they were as visceral as any punk band of the day, and "If You Want Blood (You've Got It)" is the proof. The track is famously used in the 1995 film ‘Empire Records’ that served as equal parts anger release and record store employee jam session. If you're looking for the perfect song to blare with the windows down after a rough day at work, you've got the song you're looking for right here.
Structurally speaking, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation” sticks out in the AC/DC catalog because there is no guitar solo to be found and relies heavily on the rhythm track, which also contains the rarities of maracas and handclaps. The track was the final one recorded to be included on ‘Powerage’ at the request of AC/DC’s label, who wanted a more radio-friendly track as a lead single. The track would go on to be AC/DC’s first song to chart in the U.K. Now, if only this outstanding song could take off on classic rock radio in the United States.
The definitive rock anthem for plus-size ladies everywhere, the story behind “Whole Lotta Rosie” is a bit murky. Some accounts point to “Rosie” being a very enthusiastic groupie while others cite Bon Scott having a fetish for big women. Whatever the *real* story is, here's what is likely safe to presume: Bon had sex with a not-so-thin woman, and he had such a good time that he wrote a now-iconic song about it. The fact that “Rosie” has evolved into a stage prop during AC/DC shows only further lends to her legend.
Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi!
Murder! Sex! More murder! What more could you want from a rock song? For AC/DC on “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” they’ll give you that *and* a massive riff *and* a bold chorus *and* one of the best examples of the brilliance of Phil Rudd’s minimalist drumming. Seriously, Rudd’s drum track is just perfect. Go back and listen, because that will be time well spent.
Sure, it might seem like an obvious choice, but it really is the right choice to top this list. As soon as those first three gritty notes rattle off in the intro, it's nearly impossible to turn away from this song and, by extension, the entire ‘Highway to Hell’ album. An ode to the rigors of tour life, "Highway to Hell" was practically a classic out the gate with its undeniable riffs, sing-song chorus and overall tough-as-nails attitude. As far as rock anthems go, it is the promised land.