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Mar 21 2017

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock

AC/DC logo (pinterest.com)

AC/DC logo

Preface

40 years ago the album Let There Be Rock by AC/DC was released. I bought it at the time and absolutely loved it. Besides the album’s title Let There Be Rock is used as title to a song and a (concert) video.

Introduction to AC/DC

AC/DC is an Australian hard rock/blues rock band, founded by the brothers Malcolm and Angus Young in 1973. AC/DC is often labeled as a heavy metal band; the brother Young themselves call their music “rock and roll”.

The Young family moved from Glasgow to Sydney in 1963. The children’s eldest, George, was the first to learn the guitar, and became a member of The Easybeats, the most successful Australian band in the 1960’s. Much of what he learned then, he successfully applied to his production skills, which he utilized for AC/DC (among others).

Angus

AC/DC Angus Young (pinterest.com)

AC/DC Angus Young

Malcolm and Angus learned to play the guitar as well. Early on it was evident that the youngest, Angus, had a natural gift for the instrument. The brothers decided to form a band. In the beginning the band focused on glamrock, but that swiftly changed to a blues-rock sound.

School-uniform

Angus Young developed his characteristic outfit during the glamrock days: his school-uniform. The idea was introduced by his sister Margaret. Angus had tried different costumes before: Spider-Man, Zorro, a gorilla and a parody on Superman (called Super-Ang).

AC/DC - Let There Be Rock ad (flickdriver.com)

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock ad (with the old logo)

Popular

Between 1974 and 1977, in part due to many tv-performances, AC/DC became one of the most popular and successful bands in Australia. In 1976, the band signed an international deal with Atlantic Records: the rest of the world was going to hear AC/DC.

First albums

The first AC/DC album to appear on the international market was High Voltage; it was a compilation of songs from the, before then exclusively Australian releases, albums High Voltage and T.N.T.. The next album, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, was released in an Australian and an international version. The first album on which AC/DC found its sound (lots and lots of guitar) is released in 1977: the fantastic Let There Be Rock (see below). Heavy blues rock with hard riffs played at full volume. The next albums albums Powerage, If You Want Blood You’ve Got It (live) and Highway To Hell follow the same pattern. The last album propels the band. The title-song was a steady choice at school parties when I was young.

Death Bon Scott

AC/DC singers: Bon Scott / Brian Johnson (youtube.com)

AC/DC singers: Bon Scott / Brian Johnson

Early 1980 AC/DC started with a follow-up. However, on February 19th, 1980, Bon Scott apparently passed out after excessive alcohol-use. The next morning he was pronounced dead. AC/DC career seemed to be over before it was properly started. The band contemplated on disbanding, but, after encouragement from Bon Scott’s parents, they decided to continue.

Back In Black

Prior to his death, Scott once mentioned the singer of the band Geordie, named Brian Johnson. He was impressed by his qualities. The band went looking for him en let him audition for the job. Johnson sang Whole Lotta Rosie and Ike & Tina Turner’s Nutbush City Limits and was consequently asked to replace Bon Scott. Together with Johnson the band commenced with recording the new album: Back In Black. It would turn out to be the AC/DC album with the highest sales numbers and a classic in the history of hard-rock. The album stayed on the American Billboard 200 album list for a staggering 131 weeks.

After Back In Black

AC/DC - Live (amazon.com)

AC/DC – Live

AC/DC - Stiff Upper Lip (discogs.com)

AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip

After Back In Black the albums For Those About To Rock We Salute You, Flick Of The Switch, Fly On The Wall and Blow Up Your Video followed, each being less successful than the previous one. In 1990 AC/DC made a spectacular come-back with The Razors Edge, which contained the fantastic song Thunderstruck. Recordings of the following tour were released on Live, which proved to be highly successful and is regarded as one of the best live-albums of the 1990’s . After Ballbreaker and the boxset Bonfire, the great album Stiff Upper Lip was released in 2000. Afterwards Black Ice (2008) and Rock or Bust (2016) were released.

In the year 2017

Meanwhile the original AC/DC has diminished:

  • On April 16th, 2014, it was announced that Malcolm Young was seriously ill (dementia), followed by a statement on September 23rd that he had left the band;
  • Malcolm Young was replaced by Malcolm and Angus’ nephew Stevie;
  • On November 6th, 2014, drummer Phil Rudd was arrested for planning a murder, death threats and possession of methamphetamines and cannabis. The murder planning was withdrawn the next day. After Rudd pleaded guilty on the remaining charges, the band confirmed Rudd’s leaving in April of 2015;
  • On April 19th, 2016, during the Rock or Bust tour, singer Johnson announced that he was unable to complete the tour due to hearing loss problems;
  • AC/DC announced that Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose would be Johnson’s replacement ;
  • On July 8th, 2016, bass-player Cliff Williams announced his retirement from the band.

Despite the fact that AC/DC barely survived, a statement was released after the last show (September 21st,2016) stating that Axl Rose was to be the regular singer and that he and Angus would continue using the name AC/DC.

AC/DC Live 1977 (cnn.com)

AC/DC Live 1977

Name

Wat does the name AC/DC mean? According to the reli-fundamentalists, who play records backwards in search of hidden satanic messages, it’s either Anti-Christ / Devils Children or After Christ / Devil Comes.

As exotic as it sounds, the truth is far less appealing. AC/DC stands for Alternating Current / Direct Current electricity. The idea comes from (Malcolm and Angus’) sister Margaret, show saw AC/DC on a sowing-machine. Both brothers thought the letters (and meaning) perfectly reflected the band’s raw energy. Australians regularly refer to the band as Acca Dacca.

Logo

The band’s logo (see first image to this article) was designed in 1977 by Gerard Huerta. It was used for the first time on the (international) edition of the album Let There Be Rock.

Let There Be Rock (album)

AC/DC - Let There Be Rock (Australian edition) (discogs.com)

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock (Australian edition)

On March 21st, 1977, 40 years ago (!), Let There Be Rock was released. The Australian edition, that is. This album contained the song Crabsody In Blue, referencing crabs, otherwise known as pubic-louse. This song was left off the international edition. Crabsody In Blue was replaced by Problem Child, coming off the Australian edition of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Crabsody In Blue was officially internationally released in 2009 on the boxset Backtracks.

The edition I bought was (of course) the international one (see image below), which was released on July 25th, 1977. I don’t exactly recall when I bought the album, but I know I was 12 years old. Most likely I bought the album in the second half of 1978. because the single Whole Lotta Rosie was released in June 1978 in the Netherlands. It was certainly before the release of Highway To Hell.

 

AC/DC - Let There Be Rock (joesalbums.com)

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock

All songs are written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young (music) and Bon Scott (lyrics).

In 1977 AC/DC was fairly popular in Australia and, because of their impressive live-shows, somewhat known in England and Europa. America had no clue about AC/DC. Atlantic hadn’t released the previous album, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, in America, because the production was deemed insufficient (according to Atlantic). AC/DC had something to prove. In the VH1 (American television music station) program Behind the Music Angus Young said in 2000: “Me and Malcolm said, ‘Well, we really want a lot of guitars,’ you know? ‘Big guitars'”.

Recording process

The studio where recordings were done for the album was perfect. All instruments and, particularly, amplifiers were placed in the same room as the drums. The sound of the individual instruments ‘bled’ unto other recording-channels, making mixing virtually impossible, but the end-result was exciting: hard, direct and passionately played blues rock/hard rock with sparks (literally) flying off. During the recording of a guitar-solo Angus’ amplifier started to generate smoke and electricity-sparks. The producers encouraged Angus to keep on playing, for whatever was happening, it was magic.

The entire album was recorded in a period of two weeks and was, creatively and sonically a giant leap forward. Production duties were, once again, performed by George young & Harry Vanda.

Let There Be Rock (song)

Let There Be Rock video (hq-music-videos.com)

Let There Be Rock video

The song Let There Be Rock turned out to be a classic, not just in AC/DC’s body of work. It was released as a single in September (internationally) and October (Australia) of 1977.

The song’s lyrics were written in the studio by singer Bon Scott, aided by a bible(!). It entails the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. Referencing a line from Chuck Berry’s song Roll Over Beethoven: “… tell Tchaikovsky the news”, Let There Be Rock continues: Tchaikovsky did get the message and started to preach it, resulting in the rise of rock ‘n’ roll. After the last verse the song ends in a long Angus Young solo (when the amplifier exploded), which keeps on building and building in intensity. The result is electrifying!

In July of 1977, at a church, a video was made to the song. Scott was dressed up as a priest and the rest of the band as altar boys.

Let There Be Rock (lyrics)

In the beginning
Back in nineteen fifty five
Man didn’t know about a rock ‘n’ roll show
And all that jive
The white man had the smoltz
The black man had the blues
No one knew what they was gonna do
But Tchaikovsky had the news
He said

Let there be sound, and there was sound
Let there be light, and there was light
Let there be drums, and there was drums
Let there be guitar, and there was guitar
Let there be rock

And it came to pass
That rock ‘n’ roll was born
All across the land every rockin’ band
Was blowing up a storm
An the guitar man got famous
The businessman got rich
And in every bar there was a super star
With a seven year itch
There were fifteen million fingers
Learning how to play
And you could hear the fingers picking
And this is what they had to say

Let there be light
Sound
Drums
Guitar
Let there be rock

One night in a club called the shaking hand
There was a ninety two decibel rocking band
The music was good and the music was loud
And the singer turned and he said to the crowd

Let there be rock

© AC/DC, 1977

Whole Lotta Rosie (song)

AC/DC - Whole Lotta Rosie (single) (45cat.com)

AC/DC – Whole Lotta Rosie (single)

Whole Lotta Rosie is about an obese woman, named Rosie. In the beginning of the song her measurements are sung. Halfway through her weight is even mentioned: nineteen stone (= 266 pounds = 133 kilo’s).

The main riff to the song is part of another, previously recorded, song: Dirty Eyes.

At the time I heard (and saw) AC/DC at the Dutch tv-music-show Toppop. I thought it was a great, and loud, (!), song. I remember Van Halen releasing Runnin’ With The Devil around the same time. Equally good! Whole Lotta Rosie inspired me to buy the Let There Be Rock album.

Whole Lotta Rosie (part of the lyrics)

Wanna tell you story
About woman I know
When it comes to lovin’
She steals the show
She ain’t exactly pretty
Ain’t exactly small
Fourt’two thirt’nine fiftysix
You could say she’s got it all

© AC/DC, 1977

Other songs

Go Down was inspired by “supergroupie” Ruby Lips. Overdose isn’t about drugs, but about a woman (Judy King). Dog Eat Dog is essentially about “survival of the fittest”.

Songs

The album Let There Be Rock contains the following songs:

  • Go Down
  • Dog Eat Dog
  • Let There Be Rock
  • Bad Boy Boogie
  • Problem Child
  • Overdose
  • Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
  • Whole Lotta Rosie

Singles

The following singles were culled from the album:

  1. Dog Eat Dog
  2. Let There Be Rock
  3. Whole Lotta Rosie

Bonfire (boxset)

In 1997 the boxset Bonfire was released. The set contained, among others, Live From The Atlantic Studios and Let There Be Rock: The Movie.

Live From The Atlantic Studios was recorded on December 7th, 1977 in New York and was released as an LP at the time. This album was made available on the cd-format for the first time as part of the Bonfire boxset. The album contains the following songs:

AC/DC - Live From The Atlantic Studios (bestlivealbums.com)

AC/DC – Live From The Atlantic Studios

  • Live Wire
  • Problem Child
  • High Voltage
  • Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
  • Dog Eat Dog
  • The Jack
  • Whole Lotta Rosie
  • Rocker

Let There Be Rock: The Movie is a double-album that was recorded at Pavillon de Paris in Paris on December 9th, 1979. The recordings were released as soundtrack to the film AC/DC: Let There Be Rock (released in 1980). This album was made available on the cd-format for the first time as part of the Bonfire boxset. The album contains the following songs:

AC/DC - Let There Be Rock - The Movie - Live In Paris (coveralia.com)

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock – The Movie – Live In Paris

  • Live Wire
  • Shot Down in Flames
  • Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
  • Sin City
  • Walk All Over You
  • Bad Boy Boogie
  • The Jack
  • Highway to Hell
  • Girls Got Rhythm
  • High Voltage
  • Whole Lotta Rosie
  • Rocker
  • T.N.T.
  • Let There Be Rock

In closing

Many feel that Let There Be Rockis the first real AC/DC album: the band had found its true sound and identity. This is absolutely true, but why is this album this good? It’s a loud album, but still full of soul. Like I mentioned in my earlier article containing the best Australian singles, all records on which Phil Rudd plays the drums, have some kind of swing to them. The song Let There Be Rock for instance, is really loud and hard and contains very heavy guitar work, but still it swings. I think it’s the combination of the somewhat ‘lazy’ drumming combined with the ultra-tight guitars by the Young brothers that makes AC/DC be AC/DC.

Do you have AC/DC music at home? What do you think about it? Let me know! It’s highly appreciated!

 

Compliments/remarks? I´d love to hear them!