Top 10 AC/DC Deep Tracks and Most Underrated Songs

ac/dc deep tracks and underrated songs

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If there’s one thing listeners can expect from legendary Australian rockers AC/DC, it’s consistency. From the hit singles to the hidden gems, this award-winning outfit can always be depended upon to deliver the goods in their signature blues-infused rock & roll. Here are (in no particular order) 10 AC/DC deep cuts sure to get listeners powered up.

# 10 – If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)

Taken from 1979’s Highway to Hell – the final album to feature lead singer and songwriter Bon Scott – “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)” is propelled forward on the strength of drummer Phil Rudd’s unwavering beat. While never released as a single, the track is notable for having been the namesake of 1978’s nearly identically titled live album, If You Want Blood You’ve Got It – the only live album of the band’s to have been released during Scott’s lifetime.

Lyrically, “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) serves as an acute representation of AC/DC’s approach with Scott at the helm, with connotations of sex and violence over heaping helpings of the guitar. This tune deserves a spot on any AC/DC playlist.

# 9 – Evil Walks

In 1981, AC/DC was coming off of what could arguably be considered the most significant album of the band’s career – 1980’s Back in Black. The group wasted little time in returning to the studio to craft a follow-up, releasing For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) just over a year later. The album would be the band’s second with lead vocalist Brian Johnson, who replaced Bon Scott following Scott’s death the year prior at 33. The record continued the band’s collaboration with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange. It would be the final collaborative effort between the two parties to date.

Like much of the band’s discography, For Those About to Rock did little to disrupt the by-then distinct musical formula implemented by the group. However, while the musical interplay between the Young brothers and the Williams/Rudd rhythm section remained fully intact, the lyrics and production throughout the album demonstrated a noticeably more hard-edged approach. The drums, in spots, were maximized to have the impact of cannons – a trend that would permeate popular rock music as a whole throughout the 1980s – and the lyrics and titles of songs frequently doubled down on implications of violence, resulting in a noticeable darker affair.

Such changes were particularly noticeable on tracks like Side B opener: “Evil Walks.” With a tension-building intro not dissimilar to Back in Black standout “Hells Bells,” the number finds Johnson wailing like a hellhound, spinning tales of lingering black shadows and wicked notions spun by black widows. This newly accentuated edge allowed the band to broach new sonic territory while retaining almost all of the elements that had made Back in Black such a compelling statement just a year prior.

# 8 – Danger

Released as the lead single from 1985’s Fly on the Wall, one might call into question the designation of “Danger” as a “deep cut.” After all, the track was released as a single, and a music video was even produced to promote the song. Much had changed, however, since the Australian rockers had shaken the foundations of the rock world half a decade prior. Firstly, the departure of producer Mutt Lange following 1981’s For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) had done no favors for the band’s commercial prospects. The band would elect to begin self-producing their records, with production for Fly on the Wall having been credited to guitar-wielding brothers Angus and Malcolm Young. Longtime drummer Phil Rudd had also departed by this point, taking the distinctly in-the-pocket groove that had become a memorable part of the AC/DC sound.

Replacement drummer Simon Wright – who would go on to work with heavy hitters such as DIO, UFO, and Michael Shenker – filled the role adequately, but his contributions, for many, left something to be desired. Also worth noting is that the song was purportedly an immense failure in a live setting, having reportedly been played just once in 1985 before being permanently excised from subsequent setlists.

Despite being at what some would consider to be a commercial nadir for the group, however, “Danger” managed to encapsulate many of the element that had made AC/DC such a musical force up to that point. A brief and ominous palm-muted intro gives way to verse and bridge sections chocked full of playful allusions to having one to many and landing oneself in a precarious situation – passages that would have sounded at all out of place in the Bon Scott iteration of the group.

The chorus sections hit heavy with a refrain that is equal-parts dark and sing-along-able, warning of the titular danger and urging the listener to avoid interactions with unfamiliar souls. The most effective elements of the band’s sound in the Brain Johnson era up to that time seemed to make their way into the DNA of this one, and the track is all the better for it.

# 7 – Kicked in the Teeth

No AC/DC list would feel complete without at least one cut from 1978’s Powerage, an album that would go on to amass immense praise from names such as Eddie Van Halen, Joe Perry, Slash, Keith Richards, and others as a high point in the band’s career. Album closer, “Kicked in the Teeth Again,” is classic Bon Scott and sees the singer rebuking a “two-faced woman with your two-faced lies” over the type of balls-to-the-wall riffage that could only have been a product of the Young brothers.

The chorus section finds Scott characteristically driving home the severity of his situation while dismissing problems as unworthy of his time or consideration. After all, fate often significantly influences the winners and losers in the game of life more so than action or intention.

# 6 – The Furor

AC/DC have developed a reputation over the decades as curators of high-energy, good-time rock and roll. However, something is to be said of the group’s ability to conjure up musical tension through nervous and occasionally dissonant harmonics. Such is the case with “The Furor,” taken from the band’s 1995 Rick Rubin-produced effort, Ballbreaker.

Descending melodic lines in the verse atop delightfully bare-bones drumming from the then-recently reinstated Phil Rudd create the ideal sonic canvas for declarations of getting one’s hands dirty on the killing floor. Malcolm remains calculatedly restrained throughout, allowing his signature open chords to ring out as lead lines from Angus are traded with delirious cries from Johnson that are visceral to such a degree as to incite violence from the listener nearly. The band makes excellent use of sonic dynamics throughout “The Furor,” a number in which the crackling, turbocharged electricity inherent within the AC/DC sound is unleashed in full force.

# 5 – House of Jazz

“House of Jazz” may strike some observers as odd based on the title alone. Were Australia’s most beloved rockers branching out into previously uncharted musical territory? Would Angus Young’s tried-and-true blues licks be swapped out for flatted ninths and diminished sevenths? Would Phill Rudd’s underlying swing become the central rhythmic focus for the group? To the relief of longtime fans, this would not be the case.

Following a commercial renaissance of sorts during the 1990s – thanks in no small part to the success of The Razor’s Edge lead single, “Thunderstruck” in 1990 – the band kicked off the 2000s with the release of their fourteenth studio album, Stiff Upper Lip, which hit number seven on the U.S. Billboard charts.

Produced by the Young brothers – this time including older brother George, who had also done production for the band early in their careers as well as during the late 1980s – Stiff Upper Lip more or less saw the band sticking with the musical approach they had taken for 1995’s Ballbreaker, albeit in conjunction with the use of somewhat cleaner guitar tones. Stiff Upper Lip continued a trend in the 1990s when brothers Angus and Malcolm were responsible for writing all album tracks, including lyrics. From his arrival in 1980 until this point, singer Brian Johnson had received co-writing credit for tracks on the band’s albums.

“House of Jazz” makes its appearance roughly halfway through Side A of Stiff Upper Lip and makes use of playful hammer-ons from Angus, which engage in a sonic push-and-pull of sorts with Malcolm’s towering chords and sparse yet precise rhythmic accents from the rest of the band. Much like “Safe in New York City” from the same album, the track sees Johnson getting wordier than usual in his vocal delivery and stacking rhymes atop one another in a manner distant from, but not entirely dissimilar to, the rhythmic techniques implemented in classic hip-hop.

The counterpoint of the vocal, rhythm and lead guitars merge to form a satisfying sonic whole. But in typical AC/DC fashion, the enormity and simplicity of the chorus sections truly drive the point home about the M.O. of the tune.

# 4 – Emission Control

Though by the 2010s, AC/DC was more than established enough to rest on its output from past decades as a legacy act, the symbolic train kept right on a-rolling with the release of 2014’s  Rock or Bust. The album, notably, is the first in the band’s discography not to feature Malcolm Young as part of the recording personnel. The elder Young brother retired that same year due to health concerns relating to a dementia diagnosis, though he does receive writing credit on every track released as part of the album.

Rock or Bust would be the first album recorded by the band to feature Stevie Young filling the role of his uncle on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Despite losing a founding member in the studio, Rock or Bust would prove to be effective from the near-classic lineup of the band.

The closing track, “Emission Control,” sees the band approaching its classic sound from a slightly varied perspective. It employs a hypnotic, looping guitar riff whose accents land directly on the downbeat and endow the drums with the perceived force of anvils. Keeping true to the blues tradition, the tune ventures away from its central motif only briefly and in sections that don’t quite feel like choruses but are distinct from the main riff and verse sections.

# 3 – Rocker

Released as part of 1976’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, “Rocker” if one were to hyper-stimulate the central nervous system of a classic 12-bar blues structure and set it loose on the freeway. A snarling Bon Scott is in his element here as he conducts a balancing act atop a train, threatening to fly off the tracks at any moment.

The tune is so melodically rooted in the blues that one might not notice the striking aesthetic similarities of the track to the classic punk rock music that was picking up steam in the 1970s. The band goes at it hard and fast, wrapping up the song as initially presented in under two minutes with a false finish.

The “final” chord is disrupted prematurely, however, as the riff comes right back around, prompting the entire band to fall back in for one more go-round that eventually requires a fade-out to bring the rollicking rhythms to a conclusion finally.

# 2 – Code Red

AC/DC made a triumphant return with the release of 2020’s Power Up, the first album to date to be released by the band since the passing of founding member Malcolm Young in 2017. Despite the guitarist’s absence, he snags a writing credit on each of the album’s twelve tracks, along with brother Angus.

The album itself was nearly bewildering in how effectively the music contained within was executed, despite the band members themselves all having been in their 60s and 70s, respectively, at the time of the record’s recording. Tracks like “Shot in the Dark,” “Systems Down,” and “Demon Fire” demonstrated that the legendary musicians still had plenty of gas left in the tank.

The sparsely propulsive and heavy-hitting closing track, “Code Red,” was also indicative of this phenomenon, with the boys showing a continued mastery of counterpoint and deft control of the art of the groove. Stuttering guitar licks and a particularly rhythmic vocal delivery throughout the verses draw listeners in for a massive, gang-vocal chorus – emphasizing the notion that, save possibly for the Rolling Stones, no rock and roll act on the scene are touching AC/DC in terms of awareness and utilization of space for dramatic effect.

# 1 – Ride On

Perhaps not considered exceptionally unknown amongst AC/DC’s core fanbase, “Ride On” remains an outlier in the band’s catalog and is likely not familiar to many casual listeners. Released on Side B of 1976’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap, “Ride On” marks a stark departure from the hard-rock sound upon which AC/DC would establish themselves. It embraces an understated 6/8 blues feel that sees frontman Bon Scott getting introspective about his own experiences and anxieties.

Confessions of loneliness, worry, substance abuse, and mistruths keep the song rooted in the blues tradition, albeit in a much different respect than was typical of the band at that point or even going forward. Passages detailing the passage of time and a hyperawareness of one’s own situation can come across as particularly jarring given the manner of Scott’s passing just four years later.

“Ride On” is unique in that it displays a versatility and subtlety inherent within a group of musicians who seldom elect to demonstrate such characteristics, opting to continue along the established path of what many would say they do best. The song is also significant because it brings to light a vulnerability in wild-man singer Bon Scott, which is not readily apparent after considerable time spent with much of the band’s early work.

Tracks such as “Ride On” add greater dimension to the respective legacies of both AC/DC as a band and of Scott himself. Also posited by way of the track is the question, “What if?” Had circumstances been different and Scott had not passed in 1980, how might AC/DC’s music have evolved throughout the 1980s and beyond? Might there have been the chance of more delicate material making its way onto the group’s records? How much deeper in the well might Bon Scott have been able to go as a writer?

All these questions are hypothetical exercises of the mind, of course, and definitive answers are unlikely to emerge any time soon, if ever. But “Ride On” remains an active part of AC/DC’s legacy and demonstrates what was, in many ways, the untapped potential of one of the most electrifying lead singers and frontmen in rock and roll history.

Top 10 AC/DC Deep Tracks article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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