The late Bon Scott is a legend and it's no surprise that once I put AC/DC's catalog through the Yahoo! Music Mathematical Calibrator that it served up no less than six Bon Scott moments. Not in any way to discount the great contributions of lead screamer Brian Johnson, who has made the most out of sounding like a cat whose paw is caught on a barbed wire fence, who pulls in with four contributions, three of which come from his debut with the band on their now legendary 1980 album Back In Black, best known as the hard rock album most owned by people who don't even like hard rock. (Well, this and Metallica's "Black" album.)
Sure, complain that your favorites didn't make the list. What can I tell you? There were ten slots and tough decisions had to be made. "Live Wire," "T.N.T.," "Love at First Feel," "Problem Child," "Rock n' Roll Damnation," "Night Prowler," "Walk All Over You," the list of omissions is serious. But that's what happens when you only have ten slots. The competition has to GO HOME.
10) You Ain't Got A Hold On Me: As an example of Bon Scott's pure defiance, this tune heard in the U.S. on '74 Jailbreak, shows you why these guys were destined to leave Australia and take the rest of us by storm. Holding is serious business.
9) Hells Bells: Heck, Trevor Hoffman, a legendary relief pitcher in Major League Baseball, has used this song as his "introductory music." Which is a lot more menacing than using, say, Morrissey's "You're the One for Me, Fatty."
8) For Those About To Rock, We Salute You: Any song that uses canons to make its point is almost automatically destined for greatness. It beats the cowbell. It trumps the gong. And not just anyone can convincingly use such a weapon. R.E.M. would look foolish. U2 would look hypocritical. And we're not in the business of encouraging Ted Nugent to do anything.
7) Let There Be Rock: The best part of this song is how Bon Scott thinks he's quoting the Bible here. Let there be guitars and there were guitars! Let there be drums! Imagine if the Good Book had actually called for Let There Be Accordions! Or Flutaphones! Music would've sucked.
6) It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock n' Roll): I like how about half the early AC/DC catalog seems to read off like a "Rock n' Roll Instructional Manual." It's a good thing they became famous and successful because otherwise they'd be like all those other fools who write books about How to Get Rich, which they apparently haven't done since they're peddling these stupid books instead of sitting on an island they recently purchased. I'm hoping to take my riches someday and buy Guam.
5) You Shook Me All Night Long: This is the song that even people who don't know anything about these guys know. You're sure to here it requested at parties when people want to prove they know how to rock. People also request Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," obviously oblivious to the fact that the song takes forever and is clearly not party material.
4) Back In Black: Bon Scott dies and the band pays tribute. They weren't about to quit. But they had to be nervous. Not many bands can survive losing an iconic lead singer. Then again, this is the pre-Van Hagar days and had you told me or anyone for that matter that Van Halen would not only survive losing David Lee Roth but actually thrive with a journeyman such as Sammy Hagar, you would've been exiled to rock n' roll jail for sure. (There is such a place. We're not allowed to talk about it. It's where Jim Morrison got sent after he "died.")
3) Rock N' Roll Singer: Another one of AC/DC's great instructional tunes. The spoken word part, the soliloquy if you will, is particularly affecting, as Bon Scott lets loose against the world and it's 9 to 5 living and the moral standards and golden handshakes...beats Van Hagar's Sucker in a Three-Piece by a mile! (Who knew this column would be so anti-Hagar? Not me!)
2) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: This became a hit in the U.S. after Back In Black proved these boys had staying power. And yet it didn't confuse people too much that this tune and the resulting album was cut with Bon Scott, the band's original singer. It's almost as if no one actually noticed. Or maybe they couldn't tell the difference. My dad thought all rock music sounded the same. Maybe he had a point after all.
1) Highway To Hell: What better tune than the one that stands as Bon Scott's final stand? I've seen a number of cover bands nail this tune where they fail at other material. There's something universal about this sentiment. Maybe it's that inner belief that no matter what you do, you're bound to end up screwed in some way. That George Constanza moment where you know that God will never let you be successful.
- Bon Scott