It’s almost damn near impossible to not think of AC/DC when you think of bands who are kings of the memorable guitar riff. AC/DC is up there with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath when I think of some of the most memorable guitar riffs. I mean, even the most casual of AC/DC fans can sing the guitar riffs of “Back In Black”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, and “Highway to Hell.” There’s just something about AC/DC that always scratched an itch that I had.
My first introduction to AC/DC was back in 1985 or so. I had already heard songs like “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “For Those About to Rock” on the radio but when I heard “Hells Bells” on the radio, I remember thinking it was a pretty fucking scary song. It was so ominous yet it was memorable and it had this riff that just seemed to cut through me like a hot knife to butter. It immediately lead me to the record store where I bought my first AC/DC record, Back in Black.
I was so into this record. At this time I had just started learning how to play the guitar and this album really spoke to me in a huge way. I found myself able to recognize certain chords and all of the sudden the impossible seemed possible. I was playing AC/DC songs and that rhythm guitar, those chords being locked down by none other than Malcolm Young were the gateway for me discovering that I could truly be a guitar player.
Malcolm also taught me that it wasn’t so much about the lead solos. I mean, yeah, the solos are great and everything but while Angus is out there dancing around and ripping out these solos, there was Malcolm, standing in the back and out of the spotlight keeping the fort down with a tight, relentless, locked in rhythm. When you hum an AC/DC song, are you humming the lead solos of Angus? No way bruh. You are humming that infectious rhythm; those unforgettable chords. The intro to “Highway to Hell”, “Back in Black”, “High Voltage”, etc.
The older I got, the more I distanced myself from some of that later era Brian Johnson AC/DC material. In my opinion, Bon Scott is without a doubt where it’s at but at the same time, how can you deny the awesomeness of tracks like “Flick of the Switch”, “That’s the Way I Wanna Rock N’ Roll”, “ Thunderstruck”, and “Money Talks” just to name a few. As corny as some of them are, one thing never changed and that was the fact that AC/DC understood and utilized the power of the rhythm guitar.
The recent passing of Malcolm Young really put me into a nostalgic phase and revisiting some of these old AC/DC songs has been an absolute blast “to” the past. The legacy of Malcolm Young is forever preserved in so many great recordings. I have no doubt that the guitar playing of Malcolm Young will continue to wow many more generations of young (pun intended) guitar players. I’m just thankful that Malcolm isn’t around to see AC/DC being fronted by Axl Rose. That is a whole other topic for a whole other time but for now, I’ll just say thank you Malcolm for all you left behind. It truly is a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’ roll.