Big Balls!!! Hey there folks. Recently, AC/DC announced they will be releasing a brand new album in late 2014 called Rock Or Bust. Needless to say, I’m f*cking stoked! Here’s hoping it sounds as good as Black Ice. Anywayz, while I wait with bated breath for Rock Or Bust to sexify my ear holes in a couple of months, allow me to reflect back on AC/DC’s tremendous back catalog from the years 1980-1990. Here’s a list of ten songs from that era that I would consider to be AC/DC’s most “underrated”. Now, we all know that “underrated” is a very overrated word, so just play along, okay? Anyway, to qualify as underrated, said AC/DC tune must meet two criteria. First, the song must kick ass. Easy enough. And second, in my view, the song must be lesser known or lightly regarded in the AC/DC canon. (Very subjective I know.)
Because of the second rule mentioned above, you won’t see any songs from Back In Black on this list. That is because every last song on Back In Black is a stone cold classic, and everybody knows that every last song on Back In Black is a stone cold classic! So I can’t really call anything on Back In Black underrated, can I? NO! (It is, after all, the biggest selling hard rock album of all time!) So we’ll skip Back In Black (which came out in 1980) and head right to 1981 and the For Those About To Rock We Salute You album…
Night Of The Long Knives and Spellbound from For Those About To Rock We Salute You (1981)
For Those About To Rock We Salute You is a killer album. It spawned two singles in For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) and Let’s Get It Up. As far as underrated tracks go, I would have to cast my vote for the last two cuts on the album; Night Of The Long Knives and Spellbound.
First, lets talk about Night Of The Long Knives. Here we have a great lead riff (first appearing at the 20 second mark), a HUMONGOUS chorus refrain, some very cool lyrics, and Brian Johnson screaming his ass off! What more do you need? The lyrics here are a little different from the usual AC/DC fare (re: sexual innuendo and/or the majesty of ROCK). Instead, this song seems to be about betrayal. The title alludes to a very specific historical event that occurred in Germany in 1934. (Listen to Night Of The Long Knives here.)
Next up on the list is the album finale from For Those About To Rock We Salute You, a song called Spellbound. This song has a very menacing vibe and a slow burning character. Lyrically, Spellbound is another AC/DC outlier. The words to this song are somewhat depressing (quite rare for the Brian Johnson years). “Spellbound, my world keeps-a-tumbling down!” This evil little ditty perfectly caps off what I consider to be AC/DC’s most evil album. (Listen to Spellbound here.)
Landslide and Badlands from Flick Of The Switch (1983)
Let’s move on to the Flick Of The Switch LP. This 1983 album wasn’t a commercial blockbuster, or even a critical success for AC/DC. However, a lot of hardcore AC/DC fans love this album’s raw energy (myself included). Flick Of The Switch just might be AC/DC’s heaviest album. Many call Flick Of The Switch their most underrated record, too. It’s definitely a hidden gem in their catalog. I guess that means that any song on Flick Of The Switch could technically qualify as underrated, but since the songs Flick Of The Switch, Nervous Shakedown, and Guns For Hire were actually released as singles, I will disqualify them from this list. So from the remaining seven tracks on Flick Of The Switch I’ll cast my vote for Landslide and Badlands as this album’s resident underrated cuts.
Landslide is rock ‘n’ roll so pure that you just want to chop it into lines and snort it up your nose. It’s one of the fastest AC/DC tunes of all, and it rips unmercifully! Queue up Landslide on the ol’ car stereo and you’ll be driving 110 mph in no time. (Listen to Landslide here.)
Badlands has a greasy slide riff and a nasty-ass groove. Oh how I miss the days when Brain had his full voice! He could scream like no other. Flick Of The Switch was the last album before Johnson’s voice took a steamy dump. He used to write his own lyrics too, which I also miss because he was a pretty witty writer. (Listen to Badlands here.)
Stand Up from Fly On The Wall (1985)
Fly On The Wall was a disappointment for a few key reasons. First, the production was awful. Second, Brian Johnson’s voice was in bad shape. Finally, Fly On The Wall was the first AC/DC album without Phil Rudd manning the drum stool. AC/DC just didn’t sound the same without Rudd. It’s hard to explain, but Rudd’s drumming always provided that special something to the AC/DC sound. Nevertheless, Fly On The Wall had some good songs (despite the inferior audio quality). Most fans and critics agree that two songs in particular stand out; Shake Your Foundations and Sink The Pink. Great tunes indeed. I won’t consider these two cuts underrated because they are widely considered the album’s best. (Both songs, incidentally, were released as singles, as was the track Danger.) So looking elsewhere, allow me to call attention to a nice little nugget hiding on side two of Fly On The Wall called Stand Up.
Side two of Fly On The Wall has become an oft-forgotten destination for many an AC/DC fan. I must admit that I neglected this side of the LP for many years. So it would only be appropriate that I picked a tune from the ass-end of Fly On The Wall for this list. Think of it as an atonement for my years of delinquency. Stand Up is a good choice. For me, this song is all about the verse sections, which I’ve always enjoyed. That steady groove just flows like wine. (Listen to Stand Up here.)
We’ll skip 1986’s Who Made Who album. This LP only had three new songs, two of which were instrumentals (Chase The Ace and D.T.). The other new song was Who Made Who, which is hardly underrated, as it’s one of AC/DC’s (many) greatest hits.
Meanstreak and Nick Of Time from Blow Up Your Video (1988)
Like Fly On The Wall, 1988’s Blow Up Your Video suffered from lousy audio quality. The whole album is absolutely swimming in reverb! Blow Up Your Video also featured Brian Johnson in his worst voice ever. Was he gargling boiling acid? Eating razor blades? Who knows. Brian actually sounds better nowadays than he did way back in ’88! Despite these flaws, Blow Up Your Video sports some really cool songs. Heatseeker and That’s The Way I Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll were the album’s two singles. Both were pretty good cuts. As for underrated songs on Blow Up Your Video, I’ve got to go with Meanstreak and Nick Of Time.
Meanstreak features an obtuse main riff that first appears at the 5 second mark. This sleazy little riff gives the song a cool, laid back vibe. The pre-chorus elevates the song nicely, too. Brian’s wise-ass lyrics are also a big highlight. “I’m the guy they just can’t teach, and I always kick the castle that’s been built up on the beach. Ha Ha!” (Listen to Meanstreak here.)
Nick Of Time has a few tasty guitar licks. My favorite part is the pre-chorus lick (appearing at the 1:10 mark). It sounds like Angus is doing a succession of quick string pull-offs without picking, making his guitar sound almost like a keyboard. Angus has used this technique quite a bit through the years (check out Who Made Who for a prime example). Good stuff. (Listen to Nick Of Time here.)
Rock Your Heart Out, Shot Of Love, and Let’s Make It from The Razors Edge (1990)
A few changes this time around for AC/DC. Malcolm and Angus took over the lyric writing from Brian Johnson, and Chris Slade joined as the new drummer. Thankfully, the production on The Razors Edge was much crisper than the previous couple of albums. As for Brian Johnson’s voice, well, by this time we all realized that he was never going to regain his Back In Black form. But we love him anyway! At least his voice can be heard clearly, without a butt load of reverb getting in the way. The Razors Edge was a big hit for AC/DC, spawning the classics Thunderstruck and Moneytalks. Are You Ready was also a successful single, and Fire Your Guns is a fan favorite. In terms of underrated tunes, I’ll take Rock Your Heart Out, Shot Of Love, and Let’s Make It.
Rock Your Heart Out is a nifty little composition. The first part of the verse is backed by only drums and bass. No guitars. For the second half of the verse section, Angus and Malcolm join in on guitar, each playing different, complimentary riffs. This kind of dual riffing is a trademark of the AC/DC sound. My favorite part of the song first appears at the 1:46 mark, when everyone chants “Rock! Rock your little heart out!” (Listen to Rock Your Heart Out here.)
Shot Of Love is a fairly simple AC/DC tune. AC/DC have a tried and true song formula that has always worked to perfection. AC/DC does not know how to make a bad song. Shot Of Love is pretty typical of the kind of song that Malcolm and Angus could write in their sleep. This why we love ’em! (Listen to Shot Of Love here.)
We’ll end this list with Let’s Make It. There’s nothing complicated about this little gem. Simple riffs feed the simple song structure. But GOD DAMN I have always loved this song! It’s very melodic. The verses in particular are deliriously catchy. (Listen to Let’s Make It here.)
Well there you go! The ten most underrated AC/DC tunes from 1980-1990! Apologies to the songs that I may have missed like Breaking The Rules, Inject The Venom, Kissin’ Dynamite, Playing With Girls, and… well… ALL OF THEM! Nobody does it better than AC/DC! Bring on Rock Or Bust!