It's a Long Way to the Top: The Story Behind AC/DC's Classic Song

It's a Long Way to the Top: The Story Behind AC/DC's Classic Song

AC/DC is one of the most iconic and influential hard rock bands of all time. Their songs are known for their catchy riffs, powerful vocals and rebellious attitude. One of their most famous songs is It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll), which was released in 1975 as the first track of their second album T.N.T.

The song was written by the band's founding members, brothers Angus Young and Malcolm Young, along with their charismatic lead singer Bon Scott. The song chronicles the hardships and challenges faced by a rock band on tour, such as getting robbed, beaten up, cheated and exhausted. However, the song also expresses the band's determination and passion for playing rock 'n' roll, despite the difficulties.

One of the most distinctive features of the song is the use of bagpipes, which add a unique and memorable sound to the hard rock instrumentation. However, Scott had never actually played the bagpipes before. He bought a set of bagpipes at a high price from a music store and tried to learn how to play them in the studio. The band had to improvise and adjust their tuning to match the bagpipe. The result was a unique and catchy call-and-response between the bagpipes and the guitar in the middle section of the song.

The song was released as a single in Australia and New Zealand on December 8, 1975, and later in the UK on April 15, 1976. It was also included on the internationally released album High Voltage in April 1976. The song received positive reviews from critics and fans alike, who praised its originality, energy and humor. 

The song also became a signature song for Bon Scott, who delivered an unforgettable performance with his raspy voice and charismatic personality. Unfortunately, Scott died in 1980 at the age of 33 from acute alcohol poisoning. His replacement, Brian Johnson, has never performed the song out of respect for his predecessor. 

It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll) is a song that celebrates the spirit of rock 'n' roll, with its honesty, humor and passion. 
Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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