Underrated AC/DC: The Most Overlooked Song From Each Album
AC/DC has been among the most popular rock bands on the planet for decades – and they've always placed a high value on consistency.
These two factors make it particularly difficult to identify the most underrated tracks from each of the legendary Australian group's studio albums. But it's not an impossible task; you'll find our list of the most overlooked song from 16 different AC/DC albums below.
"We want them to instantly recognize it's AC/DC and no one else," guitarist Angus Young has previously said of their easily recognizable approach. "[Each song] had to immediately have that AC/DC sound that jumps out at you."
They've stayed remained true to that aesthetic, apart from occasional nods to era-specific production values. Unlike many of their peers, AC/DC didn't have a disco or a grunge phase.
Of course, there have been natural ups and downs in songwriting quality and band popularity over the years: It's nearly impossible to pick an overlooked track from 1980's Back in Black, because they're all so great and well known. But almost the entirety of 1988's spotty Blow Up Your Video was quickly forgotten by all but the band's most loyal fans.
Either way, hopefully this list gives you an excuse to explore the hidden corners of AC/DC's catalog.
(Editor's note: We're setting aside 2020's 'Power Up' for now, so that it can be evaluated with proper distance and perspective.)
From: High Voltage (1976)
Largely composed of the best songs from the group's first two Australian-only albums, the international version of AC/DC's High Voltage is practically a greatest-hits collection. About half of these tracks – including "The Jack" and "T.N.T." – still had regular homes in the band's concert set lists decades later. Of the remaining songs, "Little Lover" is most worthy of extra attention. It shows how AC/DC has always been much more than just the Angus Young show. Instead of dominating with his riffing and soloing, Angus largely provides accents while big brother George's supple bass line serves as the foundation for a prototypically creepy and humorous Bon Scott tale of lust.
"Ain't No Fun Waiting Round to Be a Millionaire"
From: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976 / 1981)
While the short, punchy title track from this album got most of the airplay, it's interesting to hear AC/DC stretch out and get cinematic on this autobiographical seven-minute epic. Bon Scott's half-spoken, half-sung lament about the woes of poverty and the touring life unfolds at a very leisurely pace: The first chorus doesn't arrive until the 2:30 mark. The last three minutes of "Ain't No Fun Waiting Round to Be a Millionaire" are basically a coda, as the pace picks up considerably and the verses are completely abandoned.
From: Let There Be Rock (1977)
AC/DC tightened up their game considerably with the consistent Let There Be Rock. There aren't any filler tracks that can be easily ruled out, and most of these songs have earned a high degree of love from the band's fans. One lesser-known song that can't be praised enough is "Overdose," which features a primal riff that slowly but steadily builds momentum like a muddy snowball rolling down a long slope.
"What's Next to the Moon?"
From: Powerage (1978)
Powerage is sometimes unfairly lost in people's minds because of the more obvious advances made on Let There Be Rock and Highway to Hell. But there's a very good reason this record is so beloved by hardcore fans: AC/DC would never be this gloriously lo-fi and sleazy again. There's probably about six viable candidates for "most underrated song" here, but "What's Next to the Moon" stands out because of Bon Scott's atypically surreal lyrics.
"Beating Around the Bush"
From: Highway to Hell (1979)
The massive commercial breakthrough producer Mutt Lange helped AC/DC achieve on Highway to Hell means none of these songs have been hidden from public view. But the dynamic "Beating Around the Bush" might not have gotten quite enough sunshine. As Angus and Malcolm Young drop in and out with bursts of southern-fried boogie, drummer Phil Rudd's dynamic but never overwhelming approach proves why he's so indispensable to AC/DC's classic sound.
"Shake a Leg"
From: Back in Black (1980)
It's pretty difficult to pick an overlooked song from Back in Black, one of the most beloved and best-selling rock albums of all time. The choice might have been "Shoot to Thrill" before it became Iron Man's theme song. Now, relatively speaking, the most under-appreciated track is "Shake a Leg," which is so strong another band could have built their entire career around it.
From: For Those About to Rock We Salute You (1981)
AC/DC didn't exactly nail their big Back in Black follow-up. For Those About to Rock We Salute You certainly isn't a bad album, and the title track has gone on to become a fan-favorite set-closer. But this is where the band's riffs, arrangements and especially lyrics start to get a bit repetitive and uninspiring. "Spellbound" is a notable exception, closing out the record in high style by building a genuine atmosphere of dread and danger.
From: Flick of the Switch (1983)
The problems that reared their head on For Those About to Rock We Salute You continued to escalate two years later on Flick of the Switch. Aiming for a back-to-basics album, AC/DC instead sounded lifeless and short on new ideas. They struck a rare spark on "Landslide," a boogie-on-amphetamines that sounds like a lost '70s classic from Ted Nugent.
"Playing with Girls"
From: Fly on the Wall (1985)
AC/DC's often-overlooked mid-'80s comeback gets knocked for its glossy hair-metal production, but Fly on the Wall features some of the band's catchiest riffs and choruses in years. If you somehow haven't heard the singles "Shake Your Foundation" or "Sink the Pink," be sure to seek those out first. "Danger," which seems like their oddly compelling take on Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," is worth a curiosity listen at least. But the most overlooked song is "Playing With Girls." The track's barreling guitar riff dominates the proceedings so greatly that singer Brian Johnson is mixed down almost as low as Metallica bassist Jason Newsted was on ... And Justice for All. You won't understand a word he's saying, but you won't care.
"Chase the Ace"
From: Who Made Who (1986)
There are just three new songs on AC/DC's soundtrack for the Stephen King movie Maximum Overdrive. Of those, only the title track included any vocals. "Who Made Who" was a hit and therefore clearly not underrated, so we probably could have gotten away with skipping this album altogether. But both instrumentals are a lot of fun, particularly "Chase the Ace." The song leaps out of the pen like a rodeo bull on fire, building up to something big. Naturally, Angus Young provides that release. What you might not expect is just how unhinged and borderline psychedelic he becomes.
From: Blow Up Your Video (1988)
The "Who Made Who" single put AC/DC back on a winning commercial track – not that they'd fallen all that far – and Blow Up Your Video's lead single "Heatseeker" maintained that momentum. But the best song on the band's 11th studio album just might be "Go Zone," which features a dazzling R&B / funk-inspired groove, strut and swagger. Take the rhythm guitar that runs through the verses, replace it in your head with a horn section and you'll see what we mean.
"If You Dare"
From: The Razor's Edge (1990)
The last song on AC/DC's most popular album in a decade sputters to life with clean jazzy chords, somewhat aimless bass plunking, and singer Brian Johnson exploring an even more unusually nasally vocal approach than usual. It's enough to briefly make you wonder if they're taking a piss. But everything quickly kicks into a much higher gear, turning "If You Dare" into a song that lags behind only the big hit singles "Thunderstruck" and "Moneytalks" in terms of thrills and spills.
From: Ballbreaker (1995)
Despite the welcome return of Phil Rudd, AC/DC and producer Rick Rubin slightly overshot the mark on 1995's Ballbreaker, making things a bit too spare and dry. Still, there were scattered highlights – including the blues-drenched "Boogie Man," which became a 10-minute showcase for Angus Young's guitar playing and strip-tease abilities on AC/DC's 1996 world tour.
"Hold Me Back"
From: Stiff Upper Lip (2000)
As much as we'd like to send extra love to the sublime "Safe in New York City," that unexpectedly relevant post-9/11 song got plenty of attention as a single. So, the underrated crown goes to their self-affirmation anthem "Hold Me Back." This remarkably peppy song probably would have been called "Can't Hold Me Back," if two of the next three tracks weren't titled "Can't Stand Still" and "Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll."
From: Black Ice (2008)
Wow, is this album too long. AC/DC deliver about the same number of great and good songs on Black Ice as they did on their last few records. They released 15 tracks instead of 9 or 10 this time out, however, perhaps because it'd been eight years since Stiff Upper Lip. Lead single "Rock N Roll Train" provided a reliably effective kick off, then a sense of overwhelming sameness creeps in pretty fast – even if nothing else is flat-out bad. "Skies on Fire," "Big Jack," "Decibel" and in particular the menacing "War Machine" are all worthy of your time, but the joyously sunny "Anything Goes" leaves the most lasting impression.
From: Rock or Bust (2014)
AC/DC's first album since the health-related departure of founding guitarist Malcolm Young was a frustratingly spotty affair, with obvious highlights such as the title track and lead single "Play Ball" outnumbered by less memorable tracks. But there's a gem buried deep on Side Two. "Sweet Candy" opens with some Jimi Hendrix-inspired feedback and a thumping bass line. As long as the idea of a then-67-year-old Brian Johnson still visiting strip clubs doesn't rattle you, things never let up from there: AC/DC locks into a fearsome groove punctuated by some particularly strong rhythm guitar work, especially the brief refrain that turns up just before Angus' guitar solo.
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