There is simply way too much awesome material for AC/DC fans and it doesn’t help to use the Billboard charts because the band has never broken the Top 20 on the Hot 100. Despite that they’ve been putting out consistent sounding hits for 40 years and they show no signs of stopping. Heck, they got their first number one on the Mainstream Rock charts, which ranks airplay rather than sales, with their 1993 single, “Big Gun.” Never heard of that song? That’s because they have too many hits to remember them all! Putting together the set list for a live show must be a nightmare for them.
# 10 – Problem Child
See? First item on the list and we’re already in trouble. “Problem Child?” Really? “Problem Child,” was the fourth track on the band’s 1976 release Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap but the best version of this song can be found on the Live From Atlantic Studios disc of the Bonfire 5-disc set. Give a listen to that stripped down and clean version and you’ll understand what makes AC/DC so incredible.
# 9 – Hells Bells
Okay, now we’re on more solid footing. The second single off the Back in Black record failed to chart in the US but is widely recognized as one of the band’s top recordings. Beginning with the gonging of a 2000-lb cast bronze bell, which many speculate was a sign of mourning for their previous singer, Bon Scott, the song was also used as entrance music for San Diego Padres un-hittable pitcher, Trevor Hoffman, which seems a little dark perhaps but probably effective at scaring the crap out of batters none the less.
# 8 – Shoot To Thrill
Get used to the words Back in Black because these #8 and #9 AC/DC Songs may be the first tracks on the record but they won’t be the last on this list. Never officially released as a single for the record, “Shoot To Thrill,” gained a great deal of attention as a single from their Live at River Plate album in 2011 as well as for being the featured recording on the Iron Man 2 soundtrack.
# 7 – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
The title track off their third album, the song failed to chart outside Australia, although a reissue broke the Top 50 in the UK. Regardless the song has become synonymous with the band and still receives enormous radio play around the world. Named after a cartoon Angus Young watched as a child, the album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap would go on to certify 6X platinum despite complaints from record company execs that nobody could understand Bon Scott’s singing.
# 6 – Money Talks
The band’s 11th studio album featured two tracks that make this Top 10, only one of which made the Hot 100 in the US. Money Talks made it all the way to number 23 and became the band’s biggest hit single. Critical reception for the album was mixed though with Rolling Stone declaring, “with The Razor’s Edge AC/DC sets a new record for the longest career without a single new idea,” but who needs a new idea when the old one is still so friggin’ awesome?
# 5 – TNT
From the first sustained power chord to the high-pitched vocals of Bon Scott this song couldn’t look and feel more like an AC/DC song if it tried. Simple, crunchy and butt kicking, this sound was cemented during the recording of the album of the same name, which dropped in 1975, only in Australia. While “TNT,” may have been their second studio album it left off any hints of experimentation or range. “TNT,” the song and the album, determined a sound for the band that has remained nearly identical 40 years later. Thank God.
# 4 – Highway To Hell
The opening and title track of their 5th international album, Highway to Hell was written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young, and Bon Scott but it’s Angus’ opening guitar riff that set this song apart as an instant classic. The song’s title was coined as a reference to the band’s years on the road promoting various recordings but it took on a prophetic connotation when Scott was found dead just six months after the song’s release. Breaking the Top 50 in the US for the first time was bittersweet as the band mourned the loss of their friend.
# 3 – You Shook Me All Night Long
Back to Back in Black and the first single to feature singer Brian Johnson after the death of Bon Scott. It’s not a bad way to start. “You Shook Me,” broke the Top 40 in the US reaching number 35, which just doesn’t seem that high for a song that you can still barely go 24 hours without hearing somewhere around you. The catchy riffs and classic rock and roll lyrics helped the song claim the number 10 spot on VH-1’s Top 100 songs of the 80s.
# 2 – Thunderstruck
The rankings start to get a little blurry down at this part of the list because any of the top 4 or 5 could legitimately be number 1 but someone’s got to make the call. The lead single off The Razor’s Edge, “Thunderstruck,” failed to make the Hot 100 in the US but reached number 5 on the mainstream rock chart. In Australia, however, “Thunderstruck,” was listed as number 1 on Triple M’s Ultimate 500 Rock Countdown. It should be noted that the top 5 of that list was comprised entirely of AC/DC songs, which says something about Australia. The song itself is not only famous for the classic AC/DC sound but for the recurring, noodling guitar riff that Angus plays throughout. He must get a good hand massage after each show because that can’t be easy to play for five minutes.
# 1 – Back in Black
There it is again. If you’ve learned nothing else from this list the knowledge that every person on the planet should own a copy of the album Back in Black is enough to justify all this work. What can be said about this song that hasn’t already? VH-1 declared it the second greatest hard rock song of all time in 2009, although the number one was Guns N’Roses Welcome to the Jungle, which I find a little suspicious. Jungle is a great song, don’t get me wrong, but “Back in Black,”is a staple, a must have, a sure-fire crowd pleaser whose lyrics are completely and utterly imprinted on our collective psyche. Jungle should be disqualified because of Axel Rose’s hair alone. Only reaching number 37 on the Hot 100, we see another example of an AC/DC song whose chart position seems to contradict its actual impact.
Obviously there are any number of songs that could have made this list but didn’t and an entirely different Top 10 list is completely feasible but that only goes to show the importance of Australia’s number one export. AC/DC isn’t just a band. They are a genre and with a catalog of songs like theirs, this genre is a powerhouse.
Updated August 20, 2020