The Top 10 Best Post-Back In Black AC/DC Songs
Ignore anyone who tells you AC/DC’s career peaked with Back In Black – the Brian Johnson era is full of stone cold classics
A few days ago, I posted the following message on Facebook: “This might sound like a trick question. It is not. What is the best album AC/DC have made with Brian Johnson?”
The first person to answer was Andy Copping, Senior Vice President of Music at Live Nation UK, and the bloke who organizes the Download festival. With only weeks to go until Download, you’d think that Coppo would have more important things to do than dick around on Facebook, but apparently not. “There is simply no substitute,” he said. “Back In Black.”
Next up was Classic Rock’s own Jerry Ewing, who listed every album AC/DC have made with Johnson, in order of merit. Back In Black was first; 1985’s Fly On The Wall last. And so the same answer was repeated over and over: by various Classic Rock writers, musicians and friends. Only one person was not completely on-message – Paradise Lost guitarist Aaron Aedy. But this was because he couldn’t choose between Back In Black and its 1981 follow-up For Those About To Rock We Salute You.
The verdict was unanimous: Back In Black is far and away the best album AC/DC have made with Brian Johnson. For many – this writer included – the best album ever made, period. It’s also the second biggest selling album of all time, and of course, what it represented on a human level was something truly extraordinary: the rebirth of a great rock’n’roll band following the death of singer Bon Scott and the arrival of Johnson in his place.
But if Back In Black is the absolute peak of what AC/DC have achieved with Brian Johnson, there is a lot of great music they’ve made since then. And that’s what we’re focusing on here. If we simply picked the ten greatest songs from Brian’s 35 years in AC/DC, then at least half of them would be from that one album: Hells Bells, Shoot To Thrill, You Shook Me All Night Long, Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution and Back In Black itself. But really, that’s too easy; too predictable. So here, instead, is the best of the rest. Ten great tracks recorded between 1981 and 2014: some of them established AC/DC classics, others known only to genuine DC connoisseurs…
10. Rock Or Bust (2014)
If ever a picture spoke a thousand words, it’s the photo inside AC/DC’s latest album. Beneath the words ‘In Rock We Trust’, a line from the title song Rock Or Bust, there is a shot of two guitars resting against amp stacks: guitars belonging to Angus and Malcolm Young. For a band not known for public displays of emotion, a band that closed its ranks following the death of Bon Scott, this was a heartfelt tribute to the man who had done so much to define the AC/DC sound before he was forced into retirement, suffering from dementia. And yet, for all the emotions in play, this album was, in every other respect, business as usual for AC/DC. The title track is an affirmation. Its riff is vintage DC. Phil Rudd – now also gone, for reasons of his own making – kicks it along as only he can. And Brian Johnson, of course, sings his ass off. 35 years after Back In Black, Johnson and AC/DC have still got it.
9. Let’s Get It Up (1981)
So many years down the line, only one song from the 1981 album For Those About To Rock has survived in AC/DC’s live set – the monolithic title track. But there are many other great songs on this album: Evil Walks, with its monstrously heavy and menacing opening; C.O.D. with its PMRC-baiting joke, “Care of the Devil”; Snowballed, a flat-out blaster; and Let’s Get It Up, a swaggering boogie with a king-sized hook and a lyric inspired by, well, what most AC/DC songs are inspired by. As Johnson said when the song was released as a single: “It’s filth. Pure filth. We’re a filthy band.”
8. Guns For Hire (1983)
No AC/DC album is as underrated as 1983’s Flick Of The Switch. It got a five-star review in Sounds, but over time it has been pretty much forgotten. It deserves better. Nobody in their right mind would call this a classic – and the production, by the band, is nowhere near as good as what ‘Mutt’ Lange achieved on their three previous albums – but there are some great songs on this album, and Guns For Hire is the best. The intro is brilliant: staccato bursts of guitar from Angus Young stuttering into a kick-ass riff. The lyrics are full of cheeky, gunslinger-themed innuendo: “Quick draw, on the floor...” And the chorus is the perfect no-brainer: “My gun’s for hire/Shoot you with desire.”