The legendary Australian band loves the word ‘rock’ but don’t always use it wisely.
Using the word “rock” in the title of a rock song is often a red flag. It’s often a sign of laziness or lack of imagination. Not so with AC/DC. The legendary Australian rockers have turned to the subject of rock time and time again in their decades-long career. Each time they’ve approached, they’ve discovered new variations and made new observations. For AC/DC, rock can be a metaphor for sex, a stirring tale of triumph over adversity, a key to world history and something that warrants a salute.
But not all of AC/DC’s “rock” songs were created equal. The quality ebbs and flows. You’d need a guide to sort out the rock gems hits from the rock misses. Here is that guide.
“Rock Your Heart Out”
“Rock Your Heart Out” is a deep cut from The Razor’s Edge, AKA the album with “Thunderstruck.” “Thunderstruck” is an epochal moment in art and culture but AC/DC must’ve written it first and phoned in the rest of the album. The title sounds like dialogue from Will Ferrel and Sheri Oteri’s SNL cheerleader sketches, which is as damning a case against a rock song as there could possibly be.
“Rock or Bust”/”Rock The House”/”Rock The Blues Away”/”Got Some Rock ‘n’ Roll Thunder
In 2014, AC/DC released their most recent album, titled Rock or Bust. Four out of 11 tracks contain the word “rock” in the title. With that kind of song title monotony, even devoted AC/DC fans had to wonder if bust might be the better option.
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” is probably the worst song on Back in Black, AC/DC’s tightest album — this is the closest thing to filler on an otherwise 100 percent all killer musical statement. The opening guitar line is an all-timer. But it’s confusing. Did someone call rock ‘n’ roll noise pollution, forcing AC/DC to defend its honor?
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation”
Now we’re talking. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation” is a Bon Scott-era track from Powerage, recorded when AC/DC hadn’t yet perfected their singular sound. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation” has a glam rock groove but the band’s instinctive snarl keeps it from going full “Ballroom Blitz.”
RIP (Rock in Peace)
This is an OK Bon Scott-era boogie, as far as AC/DC boogies go (they found their swagger when they put boogie on the backburner) but the title’s a dud. The title works on a conceptual level (death and rock/acronym twist) but doesn’t track if you think about it even for a second. Isn’t rock antithetical to peace?
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)
AC/DC wrote a whole song to justify shooting cannons on stage during their concerts. That’s amazing. “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” isn’t a perfect song. The intro’s killer and it peaks pretty hard at the end but lumbers in between. Also, the phrase it’s taken from, “for those about to die, we salute you,” arose from Roman gladiator battles and colosseums didn’t have cannons. But who cares? It’s the song that grants AC/DC the legal right to equip their concerts with the defensive capabilities of pirate ships, so it’s forever great.
Ratty little thrasher rooted in ‘50s rock. It’s a boogie groove but played fast enough to become a statement of purpose for a band put on earth to create and embody rock.
It’s a Long Way to The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)
Like John F. Kennedy imploring Americans to reach for the moon, AC/DC doesn’t attempt things because they’re easy. They do things because they’re hard. They love rock ‘n’ roll so much they celebrate its Sisyphean challenges and how it to harness it. “It’s a Long Way to The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll), the band’s tribute to the rise and grind rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, is such oversized bad-ass swagger that it even somehow makes bagpipes seem cool and fun for a moment.
Let There be Rock
It’s impossible to overstate how much this song rules. The opening riff is drunk, hungry, bloody and boiling hot. Describing the chemical components of rock as white man’s shmaltz and black man’s blues is inspired and accurate. Each instrument sounds like it wants to play the song louder and faster.