It’s A Long Way to The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n Roll) (B Scott/A Young/M Young) – AC/DC 1975
George, Malcolm and Angus Young and their family of ten emigrated to Sydney in 1963, the oldest brother George went onto international success with the Easybeats and subsequently in partnership with ex-Easybeat Harry Vanda became a recording and production team of tremendous influence in Australia. The rise of the hard rock powerhouse AC/DC was initially the work of Vanda and Young who shaped the raw energy of the fledgling band within the context of the hard rock that they had been writing and producing for such local acts as the Colored Balls, Buster Brown, the La De Das, and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, at Alberts Music.
In Angus and Malcolm Young the band possessed talented bluesy, lead and rhythm guitarists and in Bon Scott the flashy sleaze of a front-man who could imbue a song with the right amount of innuendo and carnality necessary to connect with the fans, he also came up with the name of this song.
It captures the honest, straight ahead, uncomplicated, deliberately primitive sound that would characterize future AC/DC songs, better for not being as lewd, lascivious, or misogynistic as some future AC/DC outings and certainly unique among their records for the inclusion of a Bon Scott bagpipe solo.
Kevin Conlan belonged to a pipe band called the Rats of Tobruk when one day he got a call from Bon Scott, who asked him a series of questions which indicated that the caller had no idea how to play the bagpipes, for example – “can I learn to play them in three weeks (no it takes about eight months), can you do tricks with them like throw them in the air and continue playing (I wouldn’t recommend it).” Kevin Conlan’s band recorded the bagpipe solo on this song at the ABC’s Ripponlea Studio (Melb.) and a monochrome video memorably shows them accompanying AC/DC in a performance of the song on the back of a flatbed truck, wending its way down Melbourne’s Swanston Street to the delight of lunchtime office workers. The video was an homage to the Rolling Stones, who had performed Brown Sugar live on the back of a similar flatbed truck as it wended its way down New York’s Fifth Avenue about nine months before, it was a sensation when shown on Countdown, and the next day It’s a Long Way to the Top was released and became the band’s third top twenty hit.
The rhythm section of Dave Evans (bass) and Phil Rudd (real name Phillip Hugh Norman Wischke Rudzevecuis) (drums) was now in place and their metronomic riffs and beat perfectly complemented the Young brothers’ guitar pyrotechnics and Bon Scott’s lyrics, which he disarmingly described as “rude poems”.
It’s A Long Way to the Top has become an iconic and much-loved Australian song, the potent alchemy of Vanda and Young producing, mentoring, cajoling, and extracting the power chords and recognizable riffs from their talented charges, would come to shape and characterize both the AC/DC sound and the Albert sound in the future. Their unique riffing would echo down the years with Rose Tattoo, the Angels and the Choirboys and be imitated by such international rock acts as Status Quo, Aerosmith, Metallica and Sepulchra.
The record too proved to be irresistible, as “Acka Dacka” took the song to #9 in December ’75, it was also acknowledged by APRA as the ninth best Australian song of the 1926-2001 era.