Top 100 Hard Rock Groups
By James West, The-Rocker.com
Dedicated to Douglas (The King) Winchester
Ask any music lover on this planet about AC/DC and you'll get a thumbs-up from everybody- male, female, kids, adults, grandparents... Hell, I bet even our dearly departed find a way to rattle a bone or two when Thunderstruck comes on the radio! Ha!
It was 1975 and I was heavy into Aerosmith at the time, so the early AC/DC sound with Bon felt a little “campy” to me, kind of tongue in cheek. So, I initially dismissed them as kind of a joke believe it or not. But, later in ’79 everything changed when I first heard Highway To Hell. I came to really know what AC/DC were all about with a little help from both Elvis and Chickens!
A Hunka Hunka Burning Elvis!
Enter one of my best friends Doug, who is the quintessential Elvis fanatic and entertainer! He used to keep me and my aunt Charlene entertained singing and performing Elvis for hours under the carport of her house in the boonies of Arkansas. Doug and I worked at the chicken plant in the nearby town where we did everything from packing frozen boxes to hanging
live chicken for processing. It was the worst job I ever had in my life, so any escape, even coming from The King, was more than welcome!
One day Doug asked me to stop by and pick up a co-worker he knew on the way to chicken hell. We walked in and I saw this monster of a muscle head named Jerry lifting weights and listening to the album Highway To Hell. He threw on a shirt and we were headed out the door when I brought up AC/DC, and he said, “What, you don’t like AC/DC? Who doesn’t like
AC/DC?” Then I thought, me = scrawny ass nerd; Him = kick your ass, cool guy. Suddenly I felt the urge to maybe give the band another listen. Needless to say, Highway To Hell has since become one of my “Deserted Island” albums that I cannot live without! Hell AC/DC even has Elvis’ seal of approval, just ask Doug!
The Bon Scott Era of
After my run-in with Mr. Cool, I immediately had a new agenda-- To check out everything AC/DC. After wearing out Highway To Hell, I dove headfirst into their catalog going backwards, starting with Powerage, then Let There Be Rock, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and High Voltage.
As with any artist still to this day I soon found there was more to this little ol' band from Australia other than the hits "Dirty Deeds" and
"Whole Lotta Rosie"! The sheer balls-out Hard Rock of Powerage immediately appealed to me. Songs like Down Payment Blues, Gimme A Bullet, Sin City, and Gone Shootin' were my album favorites, and they still are to this day!
In an interview with Bass Frontiers, Cliff Williams recalls the sessions fondly: "The guys had already been in the studio for a while and we went in to do what turned out to be the Powerage album. Great work environment. Albert Studios there in Sydney was a great little rock and roll room...Great producers. Obviously a lot of chemistry there being brothers. Just a real fiery, energetic work environment. And we had about three weeks to do it, 'cause that's about all the money we had...It was really a tremendous experience."
I also enjoyed Let There Be Rock! Dog Eat Dog, Let There Be Rock, Whole Lotta Rosie, and Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be also had that raw in-your-face presence that I had found on Powerage.
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap seemed a little more laid back, which made the songs groove a little more to my liking. Songs like Ain't No Fun (Waiting 'Round To Be A Millionaire), There's Gonna Be Some Rockin, and of course, Ride On all were great "Chillin' and Grillin' after Fishin' music to listen to! What? was I starting to like slower tempo rock songs all of a sudden? But Hey! These songs had Swing!!!
It Ain't Got A Thing Unless It's Got That Swing!
Suddenly I realized the secret to AC/DC's success! Everything had that cool swing and groove to it- some of it was fast, some was slow, but when it hit that right tempo with you... Lookout! You were hooked forever to the AC/DC groove!
Even the harder stuff had that groove and swing in the riffs and beat. Gee, this band had more in common with Elvis and Chuck Berry than it did with Zep or Sabbath. Even the songs on High Voltage had it, and had it in spades. All of sudden I started really getting into songs like Rock And Roll Singer, The Jack, and Little Lover. From that point on I never considered them campy anymore. But tongue in cheek... Hell Yeah! It was Bon Scott I was listening to after all!
Riding On That Highway To Hell!
My favorite AC/DC album to this day is Highway To Hell! Even though Elvis Doug and The Cool Dude were instrumental in me discovering its brilliance, the album speaks for itself- It's got that perfect blend of the balls-out Rock of Powerage combined with the swing and groove of High Voltage. And the vocals are awesome! When it came out in the summer of 1979 I was just
turning 16 and dealing with all the normal struggles of that age: School- sucked; Parents- sucked; Working A Job- sucked; Driving A Piece Of Crap Car- sucked. Should I continue? Ha, you get the general idea! Highway To Hell just about summed up my life at the time...
You don't really realize the power of a good riff until you really need it, and the power and intensity of that Highway To Hell riff kept me sane and rockin' through all my troubles. But it just wasn't that one song from the album. Hell, every track from that album gave me strength and release from teen life! My favorites from Highway To Hell include Walk All Over You, Touch Too Much, and Shot Down In Flames. Also, that cool funky bass riff in Love Hungry Man and the eerie presence of Night Prowler are timeless classics from this classic Band!
Of course the album's most famous song is its title track. From the outset, Atlantic Records hated the idea of using the song as the album title, with Angus recalling to Guitar World's Alan Di Perna in 1993: Just because you call an album Highway to Hell you get all kinds of grief. And all we'd done is describe what it's like to be on the road for four years, like we'd been. A lot of it was bus and car touring, with no real break. You
crawl off the bus at four o'clock in the morning, and some journalist's doing a story and he says, "What would you call an AC/DC tour?" Well, it was a highway to hell. It really was. When you're sleeping with the singer's socks two inches from your nose, that's pretty close to hell.
The Death Of A Hard Rock Icon
As 1980 began, the band began work on a new album that would eventually become Back in Black, but Bon Scott would not live to see it finished. On February 19th 1980, Scott passed out in the car on the way back to friend Alistair Kinnear's house after a night of heavy drinking at the Music Machine club in London. Upon arrival at his home, Kinnear was unable to move Scott from the car into his home for the night, so he
left him in the car overnight to sleep off the effects of the alcohol. Unable to wake Scott late the next morning, Kinnear rushed him to King's College Hospital in Camberwell, where Scott was pronounced dead on arrival. Pulmonary aspiration of vomit was the cause of Scott's death, and the official cause was listed as "acute alcohol poisoning".
Scott's family buried him in Fremantle, Western Australia, the area they emigrated to when he was a boy.
Inconsistencies in the official accounts of Scott's death have been cited in conspiracy theories, which suggest that Scott died of a heroin overdose, or was killed by exhaust fumes redirected into the car, or that Kinnear did not exist. Scott's asthma has also been cited as playing a role in his death, but this has been challenged more recently.
The Greatest Comeback In Rock!
Music news didn't spread like it does nowadays; I literally had no idea that Bon Scott had passed until after I saw a new album in the music store rack called "Back In Black"! I knew something was up with the dark, mysterious cover, so I asked some friends who let me know what had happened. Of course I was devastated, but at the same time, I was intrigued as
to what this new singer had in store for the band. Immediately upon first listen to Hells Bells I was blown away! Surprisingly, Brian Johnson was able to pay homage to the Bon Scott era but also to bring the songs and sound into new territory. AC/DC didn't miss a step musically, with the exception of the slow blues delivery than only Bon could bring, but the songs sounded just as raspy and powerful, especially on killer tracks like the title track and on You Shook Me All Night Long. Even though we lost a Hard Rock Icon in the process, It was business as usual for the Young brothers- maybe it was their way of dealing with the death of their beloved Bon.
The Rocker's Tale:
For Those About To Rock- Let’s blow up a bridge!
In early 1982 I was in San Francisco at Treasure Island going through shipboard firefighting training before getting shipped off to the aircraft carrier Midway (CV-41) in Yokosuka, Japan. Needless to say, with big changes in my life coming up I needed to relieve some stress! I found out that AC/DC was playing at the Cow Palace, and luckily I had the night off to go witness Angus and Malcolm in all their glory!
This was during the For Those About To Rock tour and at the height of AC/DC’s glory, and I was the luckiest SOB alive for that one night… in more ways than one!
I can still remember being physically moved uncontrollably at least five feet in every direction due to the packed crowd pit swaying up near the stage.
I can also remember the cannons going off during For Those About To Rock We Salute You and they were deafening! This band may have been on the highway to hell, but I was definitely in heaven that night at the Cow Palace. And then I had to get back to Treasure Island…
Per my poor planning I didn’t realize the taxis stopped at 2 a.m. from going over the Oakland Bay Bridge! With no Uber back in the day nor cell phone to
easily call someone I was screwed big time. So, being a true Southerner, I do what true Southerners do when they “ain’t got a ride”- I started hoofing it across the bridge! I used to walk over bridges all the time back home, so what was the big deal, right?
Well, I had also purchased an AC/DC t-shirt at the concert and had it stuffed under my jacket while I was walking over the bridge. I didn’t think much about the distance as I had just survived the pit at an AC/DC concert, so I felt INVINCIBLE! Also, all I could think about was not wanting to get in trouble for being late for muster the next morning at Treasure Island.
I had made it about half-way over the bridge when suddenly blue lights started flashing and a siren went off, and then a voice over a loudspeaker yelled, “What the Hell are you doing?” Then he yelled, “What’s under your shirt?” followed with “Put your hands on the rail, spread ‘em and DON’T MOVE!”
Of course by this time I was almost shitting myself when the officer approached and asked
what my intentions were. Maybe in hindsight I guess he may have thought I may have had a bomb or something under my jacket-- Ya think? LOL I then showed him the t-shirt and explained my situation and that I was just walking over the bridge to Treasure Island, and he said in the most polite way he possibly could, “YOU DON’T WALK OVER THIS BRIDGE YOU IDIOT!” After a good laugh and a hard lesson learned he escorted me back to the base just in time for muster and a helluva night to remember.
If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It!
The timeless formula found on any AC/DC album hasn’t changed, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s like an old pair of favorite jeans or t-shirt or your favorite steak or beer. You know it’s always there when you need it, and it’s not going to let you down. Especially now that the great Hard Rock artists are almost gone with the arrival of the no album one hit wonders who
simply just have to hit “enter” on a keyboard to get the latest forgettable hit on the web and in your ear.
The last couple of years have been a struggle for me with this band. We’ve all had to deal with Brian having hearing issues, Axl filling in, and of course, the horrible loss of the soul of AC/DC- the late great Malcolm Young.
Here’s what I’ve got to say: Rock On Angus! You people have 17 albums of pure kick ass rock and roll from AC/DC to turn to when you need a reminder of just what Hard Rock and Roll is all about. Angus and Mal to me WERE AC/DC. Sure, It’s sad that Mal is no longer with us, but I know he would want Angus to keep the schoolboy rockin’ as long as he wants and feels like rockin’. So, bring on Axl and let’s
make another great kick ass Hard Rock Album for the next generation to fall in love with- just like I had the honor of witnessing in my lifetime. Hell, if you don’t like it, I personally know Elvis, a Muscle Head, and a bad-ass Cop who will tell you otherwise!
Rockers United Speaks Out!
I'm so thankful for all the members and comments from Rockers United! I started this cool Facebook Group just a month or so ago and it has grown to well over 1,000 members as of this writing!
The best part about being surrounded with people in a group setting who share the same love for classic rock and metal is the diversity
within the group! We have members from all over the world who are willing to share their opinions and experiences about the same groups that I grew up witnessing and enjoying!
For those of you interested in joining this "Super Group" of music fans, musicians, and music business professions just simply click The Rocker logo here and find the group off of my Facebook Rocker page!
What true AC/DC Fans have to say!
During the creation of this AC/DC Band Review I invited Rockers United Members to provide feedback on several topics related to AC/DC. Here is what I discovered....
Bon Scott Rules! While Brian Johnson had great praise for his role in AC/DC for the past 35 years or so, fans still prefer their Bon over anyone else, including original singer Dave Evans.
Fielding Fowler from Michigan USA: Bon Scott era certainly was better but the material was also better. If Bon era is an A+ then maybe give Brian era an A-. Love them both, just like Bon era more.
Ricardo Zea from Mexico: AC/DC epitomizes the Rock spirit and energy, the sound is so básic and primal that it gets deep into you, they are brutally simple, yet incredible powerful, and what I like most is the true rebel yell, "I'm on a highway to hell, my friends are going to be there too"!
What did come as a surprise though is that the group chose Highway To Hell over Back In Black as their favorite slab of AC/DC. Vote was 60 to 40 in favor of Highway. Even though Highway to Hell is my favorite AC/DC album as well, it's interesting how it beat out The Greatest Selling Hard Rock Album Of All Time! It was also cool to see Powerage at the top of a lot of lists.
Jürgen Lang: Favorite AC/DC albums: 1. If you want blood, 2. Highway to Hell
3. Back in Black -- Favorite AC/DC songs: 1. For those about to rock, 2. Touch Too Much, 3. Thunderstruck "Saw them a couple of times, always a great gig…no matter what line up was at the Highway to hell tour with Bon, Back in Black tour with Brian…as well a unique voice…saw them in total 8 times.
Being who I am I always HAVE TO GO THERE! lol So, Here's what the group had to say about Axl Rose and the bands current status:
Billy Hayes from Kentucky, USA: No way, they need to hang it up.
And finally, I asked the group about me ranking AC/DC as #7 on my Top 100 Greatest Hard Rock Groups Of All Time list:
Marco Peerdeman from Grootebroek- a town in the Dutch province of North Holland: In the USA always Led Zeppelin is the major band. But in Europe, The Stones and AC/DC are one and two.
Jim Murphy: I'm a little concerned of the lack of presence of bands outside Britain and America, many that would totally wipe the floor with most I see on the countdown. AC/DC were second only to Zeppelin on stage while Bon lived.
Anne Woollon from Glasgow, United Kingdom: Spot on with #1 LED Zeppelin. I’d have AC/DC before Aerosmith and Kiss. It’s just a case of personal choice though as all good bands.
Douglas Winchester from Arkansas, USA: Yes James they should be ranked #2, then Aerosmith!
YOUR OPINION COUNTS TOO! PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW!